Hermann Theodor Hettner

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1870 photo of Hermann Theodor Hettner

Hermann Julius Theodor Hettner (March 12, 1821 – May 29, 1882), was a German literary historian and writer on the history of art.

He was born at Leisersdorf (Uniejowice), near Goldberg (Złotoryja), in Silesia. At the universities of Berlin, Halle and Heidelberg he concentrated on the study of philosophy, but in 1843 turned his attention to aesthetics, art and literature. In order to progress with these studies, he spent three years in Italy, and, on his return, published a Vorschule zur bildenden Kunst der Alten (1848) and an essay on Die neapolitanischen Malerschulen. He became Privatdozent for aesthetics and the history of art at Heidelberg and, after the publication of his suggestive volume on Die romantische Schule in ihrem Zusammenhang mit Goethe und Schiller (1850), accepted a call as professor to the University of Jena where he lectured on the history of both art and literature.

In 1855 he was appointed director of the royal collections of antiquities and the museum of plaster casts at Dresden, to which posts were subsequently added that of director of the historical museum and a professorship at the Royal Saxon Polytechnic. He remained there until his death.

Hettner's chief work is his Literaturgeschichte des achtzehnten Jahrhunderts ("Literary History of the 18th century"), which appeared in three parts, devoted respectively to English, French and German literature, between 1856 and 1870 (5th ed. of I. and II., revised by Alois Brandl and Heinrich Morf, 1894; 4th of III., revised by Otto Harnack, 1894). Although to some extent influenced by the political and literary theories of the Hegelian school, which, since Hettner's day have fallen into discredit, and at times losing sight of the main issues of literary development over questions of social evolution, this work belongs to the best histories that the 19th century produced. Hettner's judgment is sound and his point of view always original and stimulating.

His other works include Griechische Reiseskizzen ("Greek Travel Sketches") (1853), Das moderne Drama (1852)--a book that arose from a correspondence with Gottfried Keller--Italienische Studien (1879), and several works descriptive of the Dresden art collections. His Kleine Schriften were collected and published in 1884.


  • Wikisource-logo.svg Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Hettner, Hermann Theodor". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.  which in turn cites:
    • A. Stern, Hermann Hettner, ein Lebensbild (1885)
    • H. Spitzer, H. Hettners kunstphilosophische Anfänge und Literaturästhetik (1903)