German and Brazilian Perspectives
Edited By Luiz Estevam de Oliveira Fernandes, Luísa Rauter Pereira and Sérgio da Mata
“Aesthetical Representation of Natural History Objects”: Narrative Strategies in A. v. Humboldt’s Ansichten der Natur
Humboldt’s work as hybrid discourse
Alexander von Humboldt is mainly considered as a scientist. He was honored by colleagues during his lifetime as the “Prince of science” and he still is commemorated as one of humanity’s greatest researchers and explorers. His works, however, are “special” even if we contextualize them within the very beginning of institutionalized disciplinary academic research. Humboldt’s discoveries and the way he documented them in his publications seem to occupy a particular place in science’s history which might be called a transitional one. As Hans Blumenberg (1996, 274) observed, he was a figure on the threshold, who “still wanted to keep together contemplation and measurement, description and analysis, pleasure and exploitation of nature, as if in a losing battle”.2 Since his long, active life ranged from the latter decades of the 18th to the second half of the 19th century, it accompanied the growing divide between natural and human sciences and the accelerating specialization of the different branches of academic research. In the words of Hartmut Böhme (2001, 17), Humboldt was guided by a sort of “will to the whole” (“Wille zum Ganzen”) and he always tried to maintain a universal and holistic view of natural and human phenomena, even in later years when this already seemed to be an impossible endeavor in the opinion of his contemporaries.
His refusal to make divisions in knowledge seems to go along with a rejection of that division of language that separated...
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