Shipwreck with Spectator traces the evolution of the complex of metaphors related to the sea, to shipwreck, and to the role of the spectator in human culture from ancient Greece to modern times.
This elegant essay exemplifies Blumenberg's ideas about the ability of the historical study of metaphor to illuminate essential aspects of being human. Originally published in the same year as his monumental Work on Myth, Shipwreck with Spectator traces the evolution of the complex of metaphors related to the sea, to shipwreck, and to the role of the spectator in human culture from ancient Greece to modern times. The sea is one of humanity's oldest metaphors for life, and a sea journey, Blumenberg observes, has often stood for our journey through life. We all know the role that shipwrecks can play in this journey, and at some level we have all played witness to others' wrecks, standing in safety and knowing that there is nothing we can do to help, yet fixed comfortably or uncomfortably in our ambiguous role as spectator. Through Blumenberg's seemingly inexhaustible knowledge of letters, from ancient texts through nineteenth-century reminiscences and modern speeches, we see layer upon layer revealed in the meaning humans have given to these metaphors; and in this way we begin to understand what metaphors can do that more straightforward modes of expression cannot. This edition of Shipwreck with Spectator also includes Prospect for a Theory of Nonconceptuality, an essay that recounts the evolution of Blumenberg's ideas about metaphorology in the years following his early manifesto Paradigms for a Metaphorology.