Who was Alexander von Humboldt? Was he really a lone genius? Was he another European apologist for colonialism in the Americas or the father of Latin American independence? Was he a roving Romanticist, or did his sensibilities belong to the Enlightenment?
Naturalist, philosopher, historian, and proto-sociologist--to name just some of the fields to which he contributed--, Humboldt is impossible to contain in a single identity or definition. His voluminous writings range across so many different fields of knowledge that his scholarly-scientific personae multiplied even during his lifetime, and they have continued to proliferate since his death in 1859. A household word throughout the nineteenth century, Humboldt was eventually eclipsed by Charles Darwin (whose own travels had been motivated by Humboldt’s) and disappeared from view for much of the twentieth century, notably in the United States. The essays in this collection testify to the renewed interest that Alexander von Humboldt’s multi-faceted work is inspiring in the twenty-first century, especially among cultural and literary historians from both sides of the Atlantic.
This book was originally published as a special issue of Atlantic Studies.
1. Introduction: Alexander von Humboldt’s Transatlantic Personae. Vera M. Kutzinski. 2. Everything is interrelated, even the errors in the system: Alexander von Humboldt and globalization. Ottmar Ette. 3. Skewering the Enlightenment: Alexander von Humboldt and Immanuel Kant as fictional characters. John Pizer. 4. Welcoming Alexander von Humboldt in Santa Fé de Bogotá, or the Creoles self-celebration in the colonial city. Rodolfo Guzmán M. 5. Reading Juan Francisco Manzano in the wake of Alexander von Humboldt. Marilyn Miller. 6. Humboldt’s Translator in the Context of Cuban History. Fernando Ortiz (Translated from the Cuban by Vera M. Kutzinski). 7. Translations of Cuba: Fernando Ortiz, Alexander von Humboldt, and the Curious Case of John Sidney Thrasher. Vera M. Kutzinski. 8. About an Attempt to Climb to the Top of Chimborazo. Alexander von Humboldt (Translated from the German by Vera M. Kutzinski).