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I read into Ossian and its surrounding materials for the Basismodul-Lecture last winter and was greatly surprised. The title offers an ancient epic poem - and does not keep its promise. Instead we get a dissertation about the qualities of this poem and what is called a translation of the original Scottish work.

The text was everything but that translation - it was much rather a fake, the original epic was never found. It became, nonetheless, influential: as an early work of original northern poetry (before such works came to be discovered). Ossian inspired imitations, versifications and translations, and the preface had done a good job to kindle this fire.

The seminar might focus on

  • the textual history,
  • the complex European reception history,
  • the influence on real discoveries such as Beowulf
  • the question why scientists like Johann Gottfried Herder could read this book as authentic,
  • the parallel between the Ossian discovery and the fashions of 20th century fantasy fiction