Ernst Robert Curtius

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Ernst Robert Gustav Tassilo Curtius (born April 14, 1886 in Thann , Reichsland Alsace-Lorraine , † April 19, 1956 in Rome ), grandson of the philologist and archaeologist Ernst Curtius , was a German literary scholar and Romanist .

Curtius established the study of the Latin Middle Ages in literary studies, is considered one of the outstanding experts in the field of medieval literature and is one of the most important representatives of German-language Romance studies.


Ernst Robert Curtius was the son of Friedrich Curtius and the Swiss patrician Louise Curtius, b. Countess of Erlach-Hindelbank. His sister Greda (1889–1972) married the sociologist Werner Picht , their son Georg Picht . The sister Olympia (1887–1979) married the physician Viktor von Weizsäcker . The younger brother Friedrich Curtius (1896–1975) was a medical professor. This resulted in a network of diverse funding. There were also good contacts to his colleague in Bonn and later Prussian Minister of Education, Carl Heinrich Becker .

Curtius spent his school and study time in Colmar and Strasbourg , where he also studied Romance languages ​​and received his doctorate in 1910 under Gustav Gröber ( introduction to a new edition of the Quatre livre des reis ). Three years later he completed his habilitation in Bonn in 1913 ( Ferdinand Brunetière ). During the First World War he served as an officer on the Western Front and was seriously wounded near Ypres . After the war he became an associate professor in Bonn in 1919, a full professor at the University of Marburg in 1920 and a full professor at the University of Heidelberg in 1924 .

In 1929 Curtius returned to the University of Bonn as a professor of Romansh and later also of Middle Latin Philology , where he taught until his retirement in 1951. In 1930 he married Ilse Gsottschneider (1907–2002), a Romanist, 21 years his junior. From 1947 to 1951, the later literary critic Walter Boehlich was his assistant. Curtius admired Goethe above all , but also maintained close contact with contemporary European authors such as André Gide , TS Eliot and José Ortega y Gasset . He was an early advocate for Marcel Proust and sharply criticized the first German translations by Rudolf Schottlaender . During the time of National Socialism he dealt with the unsuspecting subject of Latin poetry of the Middle Ages and kept his chair. With his publication European Literature and the Latin Middle Ages in 1948, he established himself as one of the leading European literary scholars of the post-war period and main exponent of Topos research. After his retirement in 1951, the couple moved to Rome in 1954. But before that, he suffered a stroke and liver infection in 1952 and could hardly speak. The award of an honorary doctorate by the Sorbonne in 1954 he could not arrive. He died in a Roman clinic.

In 1930 Curtius was a member of the advisory board of the German Abraham Lincoln Foundation (ALS), an offshoot of the Rockefeller Foundation , which Carl Heinrich Becker presided over. In addition to this academic understanding, Franco-German relations were important to him. In 1922 and 1924 he took part in joint meetings of intellectuals organized by Paul Desjardins in the Pontigny Monastery , the Decades of Pontigny , but, like Arnold Bergstraesser , defined the relationships as strictly elitist, both in terms of initiators and participants in the exchange and at other events. When, after 1928, a Ligue d'Études Germaniques was created on the French side , especially among teachers, and one of the co-founders, the historian Christian Sénéchal , had criticized the concept of the elite, Curtius insulted the critic as a “subaltern scribe” who was merely “of vanity "Stupidity and resentment born insinuations ".

The Ernst Robert Curtius Prize for Essay Writing , donated in 1984 by the Bonn bookseller and publisher Thomas Grundmann , not only honored his scientific work. The foundation's statutes said: “With his essays in particular, he (also) contributed to a new understanding of a common European intellectual history.” The prize was awarded until 2015, initially annually, from 2001 every two years.



  • 2017: elements of education ; from the estate edited by Ernst-Peter Wieckenberg and Barbara Picht, Beck, Munich 2017, ISBN 978-3-406-69760-9 .
  • 1960: Book diary (columns).
  • 1952: French spirit in the 20th century: Gide , Rolland , Claudel , Suarès , Péguy , Proust, Valéry , Larbaud , Maritain , Bremond .
  • 1952: Marcel Proust .
  • 1950: Critical essays on European literature (ext. 1954).
  • 1948: European literature and the Latin Middle Ages. Bern / Munich (last reissued in 1993 in the 11th edition).
  • 1932: German spirit in danger .
  • 1931: French culture .
  • 1929: James Joyce and his Ulysses .
  • 1925: French spirit in the new Europe .
  • 1923: Balzac (2nd edition 1951).
  • 1921: Maurice Barrès and the intellectual foundations of French nationalism .
  • 1919: The literary pioneers of the new France .
On the Mannheim-Curtius controversy
  • Curtius: Sociology - and its limits. In: Volker Meja and Nico Stehr (eds.): The dispute about the sociology of knowledge. Volume 2: Reception and Critique of the Sociology of Knowledge . Frankfurt 1982, pp. 417-426. First published in: Neue Schweizer Rundschau 22 (October 1929), pp. 727–736.
  • Karl Mannheim : On the problem of sociology in Germany. In dsb .: sociology of knowledge . Selection from the factory , initiated. and ed. by Kurt H. Wolff , Berlin 1964, pp. 614-624. First published in: Neue Schweizer Rundschau 22 (November 1929), pp. 820–829.


(Newest first)

  • Ernst Robert Curtius. Half a century of letters. A selection. Edited and commented on by Frank Rutger Hausmann. (= saecvla spiritalia 49) Koerner, Baden-Baden 2015, ISBN 978-3-87320-449-2 [1]
  • Kai Nonnenmacher: Ernst Robert Curtius: Europeanization of Historical Topics or French Contemporary? . In: Germany and France in the 20th Century - Academic Knowledge Production about the Other Country, ed. von Grunewald, Michel / Lüsebrink, Hans Jürgen / Marcowitz, Reiner / Puschner, Uwe, Bern, Peter Lang 2012, ISBN 978-3-0343-1203-5
  • Sebastian Liebold : Strong France - unstable Germany: Cultural studies by Curtius / Bergstraesser and Vermeil between the Peace of Versailles and Berlin emergency ordinances. 1st edition 2008, ISBN 978-3825810306 .
  • Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht : On the life and death of the great Romanists. (Edition Akzente). Carl Hanser Verlag, Munich 2002, ISBN 3-446-20140-8 .
  • Stefan Gross: Ernst Robert Curtius and German Romance Studies of the Twenties. On the problem of national adults in literary studies. Bouvier, Bonn 1980 ISBN 3-416-01583-5 .
  • Kian-Harald Karimi: Ernst-Robert Curtius' epistemological turning point at the end of the twenties. In: Romance journal for the history of literature. 1995, Issue 1-2, pp. 98-119.
  • Dirk Hoeges : Controversy on the brink: Ernst Robert Curtius and Karl Mannheim. Intellectual and free-floating intelligentsia in the Weimar Republic. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 1994, ISBN 978-3-59610967-8
  • Heinrich Lausberg:  Curtius, Ernst Robert. In: New German Biography (NDB). Volume 3, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1957, ISBN 3-428-00184-2 , p. 447 f. ( Digitized version ).

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Member entry by Ernst Robert Curtius (with a link to an obituary) at the Bavarian Academy of Sciences , accessed on January 21, 2017.
  2. ^ Deceased Fellows. British Academy, accessed May 18, 2020 .
  3. Table of contents, excerpt