chapter  2
28 Pages

Prometheus and Orpheus

This chapter discusses Friedrich Schlegel's reception of classical antiprimitivist myths, which were personified in two mythical characters: Prometheus and Orpheus. Both myths agreed with hard primitivism that the first humans were simple animal-like creatures, without idealising this original stage, and the Prometheus and Orpheus myths offer alternative narratives to explain how humankind had progressed from its initial savage stage to its present state of cultivation. The chapter also discusses Schlegel's relationship to the myth of technological victory of humankind in the sign of Prometheus. The argument is that Schlegel's relationship to this myth was much more ambivalent than its reception had been in the Enlightenment and Sturm und Drang. The chapter suggests that Schlegel associated Prometheus' artificial culture with the negative aspects typical of early industrialism and utilitarianism, in contrast with the myth of Hercules who presented the idleness of the Golden Age.