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Johann Karl Wezel

From Religious Pessimism to Anthropological Skepticism

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Johann Karl Wezel (1747-1819), satirist, novelist, and «anthropologist», has become one of the most widely read and discussed authors of the German late Enlightenment. This book focuses on Wezel's pedagogical endeavors and on his Robinson Krusoe (1779/80), a satirical, anti-utopian adaptation and continuation of Defoe's novel. Wezel's works are examined within the context of a general discussion about philosophical and pedagogical developments in eighteenth-century Europe, particularly with regard to: (1) views of history and possible social progress; (2) «reformed» or «enlightened» religion; (3) the «philanthropic» educational movement based on ideas of Rousseau and Basedow; and (4) the great concern in the late Enlightenment about mental imbalances and other problems supposedly caused by improper education. Rousseau, Kant, Albrecht von Haller, Wieland, and their views on pedagogy, history, religion, and satire are also treated.