Rethinking Lessing’s Laocoon: Antiquity, Enlightenment, and the ‘Limits’ of Painting and Poetry.

Research output: Book/ReportBookpeer-review


Gotthold Ephraim Lessing published Laokoon, oder: Über die Grenzen der Mahlerey und Poesie (Laocoon, or: On the Limits of Painting and Poetry) in 1766. Over the last 250 years, Lessing’s treatise has exerted an incalculable influence on western critical thinking. not only has the essay directed the history of post-Enlightenment aesthetics, it has also shaped practices of `poetry’ and `painting’ in myriad ways.
This anthology—the first-ever edited book on the Laocoon in English —brings together a range of leading critical voices to reassess Lessing’s essay on its 250th anniversary. The volume combines perspectives from multiple disciplines, including classics, intellectual history, aesthetics, comparative literature, and art history. Chapters discuss Lessing’s inter- pretation of ancient art and poetry, the cultural backdrops of the eigh- teenth century, and the validity of his observations in the fields of aesthetics, semiotics, and philosophy. The Laocoon’s attempt to delineate the spatial and temporal `limits’ of `poetry’ and `painting’, the volume demonstrates, is rooted in the critique of Graeco-Roman materials, while also drawing on Enlightenment theories of art, perception, and historical interpretation: by looking back to classical antiquity, Lessing forged a whole new tradition of modern aesthetics.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherOxford Univerity Press; Oxford
ISBN (Print)9780198802228
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2017


Dive into the research topics of 'Rethinking Lessing’s Laocoon: Antiquity, Enlightenment, and the ‘Limits’ of Painting and Poetry.'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this