Levent Yilmaz is a professor of intellectual history at Istanbul Bilgi University. His research focuses on European historiography (14th-18th centuries). He received his Ph.D from EHESS (2002) with a dissertation on the Quarrel of the Ancients and Moderns and the emergence of modern time. He also directed the Turkish translation of Yves Bonnefoy's Dictionnary of Mythologies. His publications include Le Temps Moderne (2004) and an edited volume, Giambattista Vico and the Basic Concepts of The New Science (2007). His current research is on the historical-legal sources of the New Science. He was a Senior Braudel Fellow at the European University Institute and Directeur d’études invité at the EHESS.
In this research project, I will build on the arguments that I developed ten years ago in my book Le temps moderne: variations sur les Anciens et les contemporains (Gallimard, 2004). However, I will extend these arguments into other fields. What I propose here is a new history of the new regime of historicity and time, which came about in the 19th century. This history will endeavour to connect the origin of this new regime to the origins of modernity. At the heart of this investigation, we find Giambattista Vico and his New Science. The extraordinary history of this Neapolitan thinker, as Eric Auerbach noted a long time ago, played a decisive role, more than that of any other author, in creating a modern view of time and history. This view gave rise to new forms of historiography, either fictional or factual, that are known as Historismus, or historism. What I propose here is archaeological research about Vico. I will dig deep into his work and the period to see the routes wherein his ideas developed. Thus, we can reconstruct the encounter of the two champions of modernity, the two diverging figures Herder and Coleridge, around this strange professor of rhetoric, for example. This encounter caused a profound transformation of their opinions about the world and about time. In Vico’s bibliography, I have chosen several “cases” in order to see this new form of historical expression in the 18th and 19th centuries. Thus, a large number of texts on this subject must be consulted, and the history of German philology must be studied in depth (beginning in the late 18th century and up to the 1930s). This is a difficult project. Yet it is also a project that is related to recent research on the Enlightenment in Europe, works by Dan Edelstein and Dmitri Levitin that extend the historical view of the Enlightenment to the boundaries of late Renaissance historiography. While these works are impressive – as is Jonathan Israel’s parallel undertaking – Vico is remarkably absent. So I will try to repair this shortcoming of the current debates.