Gregory D. Alles on Wilhelm Bousset

FROM: Gregory D. Alles
TO: Kelley L. Ross
DATE: 08-19-96 11:10 PM

At 01:34 AM 8/19/96 EDT, you wrote: "Dear Greg, I don't know about Bousset. What's his connection [to the Friesian School]?"

Wilhelm Bousset (1865-1923): major NT scholar in religionsgeschichtlicher Schule in Goettingen.

Otto converted him to neo-Friesianism around 1908. Very active in left-liberal politics, he was probably closer to Nelson politically than Otto (who was a little further to the right). For example, in the 1910 volume, Was ist Liberal?, Nelson wrote the opening essay from the perspective of philosophy; Bousset wrote the next essay (if my memory is good) from the perspective of theology. In 1910, Bousset presided over the merger of all left-liberal political parties. Also in 1910: Bousset, Otto, and, I believe, Nelson were involved in a fiasco of a public meeting of the Akademischer Freibund, Goettingen. The question for discussion: is it possible to revive the old spirit of liberalism among German students today? The meeting fell apart. Actually, it caused a riot.

Bousset and Otto both had difficulties getting professoriates. They were popularizers, and they were too liberal (by the standards of the day). Both finally succeeded in 1915: Bousset went to Giessen, Otto to Breslau.

Bousset's major contribution to Friesian studies was perhaps editorial (MELVYL listing--with spelling errors!):

Fries, Jakob Friedrich, 1773-1843.
Julius und Evagoras : ein philosophischer Roman / von Jakob Friedrich Fries; neu hrsg. u. mit Einleitung versehen von Wilhelm Bousset. Gottingen: Dandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1910.

You might look up the page on Bousset at Archiv "Religionsgeschichtliche Schule" (link on my page, right above the link to your Abhandlungen; also under "Archives").

You might also look at the following brief article (contemporary with the movement):

Weiss, Georg. "Die neufriesische Schule in der Theologie. Rudolf Otto und Wilhelm Bousset." Die christliche Welt 25, no. 31 (August 3, 1911): cols. 729-732.

If I'm not mistaken, there is some correspondence between Bousset and Nelson in the Nelson Nachlass at Archiv der sozialen Demokratie, Bonn. (I have electronic copies of two letters by Nelson to Bousset, one from 1908 and one from 1909, from Archiv "Rels.gesch. Schule." In general, I've found Alf Oezen there to be extremely helpful. You might want to contact him by email.)


FROM: Gregory D. Alles
TO: Kelley L. Ross
DATE: 08-20-96 08:33 AM

At 02:47 AM 8/20/96 EDT, you wrote: "Dear Greg, Thanks for the information. Why did the meeting in 1910 cause a riot? Were the students already very rightist, as they were during the 20's & 30's?"

Near as I can remember, Otto et al. were suggesting that the Burschenschaften were degenerate and incapable of responsible patriotism. Members of the fraternities found this highly insulting. Since I was never a fraternity member, a public reaction fits well within my stereotype of such groups. I'd have to go back and check the sources to make sure I've got this right.

Perhaps "riot" is too strong a term. Public demonstration may be more apt.

I'd suspect that the students involved were conservative. I can't imagine they were Social Democratic or Communist, but simply because those two parties appealed more to workers than to members of the educational elite--or aspiring members of that elite.

Just to speculate: the political situation in Goettingen gets very complicated. The kingdom was forcibly annexed by Prussia in 1866. There was still opposition to Prussian rule. Indeed, although the National Liberal Party dominated Goett. politics at the time (with the concurrence of the left liberals), its major opposition came from the pro-Hannover, anti-Prussian party. Otto et al. were in effect appealing to traditions that led to Prussian hegemony in the opposition to Napoleon. Did this have something to do with the reaction? At the same time, government officials seemed to have some suspicions about the Akademischer Freibund. Certainly the university administration did. So it's possible that the movement was seen as antimonarchical in general. Paradoxically, these two orientations would not be antithetical. In 1913, at least, the pro-Hannover party had entered into an electoral alliance in opposition to the NLP.

Just some thoughts off the top of my head. Take them for what they're worth.

Gregory D. Alles, Chairperson
Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies
Western Maryland College
Westminster, MD 21157
(410) 857-2561 (office)
(410) 857-2729 (FAX)

Interested in what I'm thinking about? Check out my site on Rudolf Otto: [dead link]
(Nothing profound. Just information.)


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