The dissertation investigates how anthropological discourses in lexica, novels, moral weeklies, and essays shaped the constitution of the moral individual during the Enlightenment. By integrating historiography and methods from the history of religions, philosophy, the history of medicine, and literary scholarship, the project addresses anthropology's interdisciplinary nature and European heritage. German-language texts published between 1719 and 1798 are featured, in particular those published between 1740 and 1770. During this period, scholars questioned how body and soul interacted, analyzing sensory perception, bodily motion, memory, imagination, psychological and physical illness, genius, and emotion. Though anthropology as a term first appeared in the title of a German-language work in Platner's Anthropologie für Aerzte und Weltweise (1772), I maintain that anthropological discourses appeared in popular literary media beginning in the 1740's.
The main thesis of this dissertation is that anthropological knowledge spread not only through academic writing, but also through new modes of writing and reading in novels and moral weeklies. Thus, in addition to Platner's famous work, Herder's Ideen zur Philosophie der Geschichte der Menschheit, and Kant's Anthropologie in pragmatischer Hinsicht, the dissertation argues anthropology develops in works by Halle intellectuals: Stahl's Negotium Otiosum, Wolff's Vernünftige Gedanken von Gott, der Welt und der Seele des Menschen, Pietist Joachim Lange's Bescheidene und ausführliche Entdeckung, Meier's Theoretische Lehre von den Gemüthsbewegungen, and Unzer's Neue Lehre von den Gemüthsbewegungen. This continuity is further manifest in the European novel of sensibility (Richardson's Pamela), followed by Gellert's Leben der schwedischen Gräfin von G*** and Hermes' Miß Fanny Wilkes as predecessors to Wieland's Geschichte des Agathon. Halle moral weeklies Der Gesellige and Der Mensch popularized humankind's double nature as defined in Walch's Philosophisches Lexicon.
Many of these sources did not refer to anthropology by name, but they investigated the interrelation of body and soul, of the physical and the moral via the following anthropological discourses: (1) occasionalism, preestablished harmony, physical influence; (2) dietetics; (3) observation, self-observation; (4) theories of emotion; (5) polyperspectival narration and the combination of essays and stories in fictional texts; (6) physical sensibility.