"La Rivista di Engramma (open access)" ISSN 1826-901X

198 | gennaio 2023


Dromenon, as ritualised behaviour

A definition of the Warburg Library’s section

Salvatore Settis

English abstract | Versione originale
Introduction, edited by Ada Naval and Giulia Zanon

In this Engramma issue, we publish an anthology of texts that retrace the history of the Warburg Library since its establishment, written by the protagonists of its history such as Gertrud Bing, Fritz Saxl, and Edgar Wind. By doing so, we deem it fundamental to give a prominent place to what is, without doubt, the first and most comprehensive critical study on the Warburg Library. As Saxl wrote in the 1930s “the Library and its writings constitute the unity of Warburg’s oeuvre”, Salvatore Settis reminds us of the value of the Bibliothek as a complete (and living) part of Aby Warburg's intellectual body of work. 

In 1985, Salvatore Settis publishes Warburg continuatus. Descrizione di una biblioteca, in Quaderni storici n.s. 58/a. xx, 1 (April 1985), 5-38. This essay is, to this day, one of the reference points for Warburgian studies: it illustrates a path by which to understand the development of the Library and the hermeneutic importance of the location of its volumes, following four plans and four reference points. We also publish here a brief reflection, extrapolated from the Final Note that Settis added in 1995 to his original text (in Le pouvoir des bibliothèques. La memoire des livres en Occident, ed. par M. Baratin et C. Jacob, Paris, 1996, 150-163) on the meaning of Dromenon, one of the ‘key-words’ corresponding to Warburg's ‘living thought’, which refers to action or even better, as Settis suggests here, to ‘ritualised behaviour’.

The text of Warburg continuatus (1985) and of the Final Note (1995) are translated into English in M. Centanni (ed. by), Warburg and Living Thought, Dueville 2022, 171-230.

Dromenon, as ritualised behaviour

As the four-floor division was gradually drafted by architects, and the transfer of books implemented, the idea of matching the physical sequence of books with a small number of key ideas that corresponded to Warburg’s ‘living thought’ began to take shape. The key ideas, which can partially be traced back to Warburg’s own writings or earlier testimonies of his Library (as I have tried to show above), were condensed into four terms (Orientierung, Bild, Wort, Handlung), which would remain constant in all subsequent relocations of the Library; in England, they became Orientation, Image, Word, Action, respectively. Another word, Ausdruck, appears, transparently, behind these: ‘Expression’, which can naturally take the form of images (Bild) or words (Wort).

Scheme for the evolution of the four 'key-words' sections of the Warburg Library.

Finally, a point that is not clear to me in terms of terminology is when exactly the word Drōmenon, which corresponds to German Handlung or Handeln and the English Action, appeared for the first time. It certainly drew on the Greek language of the mysteries, the Eleusinian mysteries in particular. Ancient texts distinguish in them, ‘what is shown’ during the mystery rites (deiknymenon), ‘what is said’ (legomenon), and ‘what is performed’ (drōmenon) the purpose was probably to allude to Bild and Wort through implicit references, respectively, to deiknyme­ non and to legomenon.

English abstract

In this note following his magisterial essay, Warburg Continuatus, Salvatore Settis questions the meaning of one of the ‘key words’ of the Warburg Library: Dromenon as ritualised behaviour.

keywords | Orientirung; Wort; Bild; Dromenon.

Per citare questo articolo / To cite this article: S. Settis, Dromenon, as ritualised behaviour. A definition of the Warburg Library’s section, “La Rivista di Engramma” n. 198, gennaio 2023, pp. 179-181 | PDF of the article 

doi: https://doi.org/10.25432/1826-901X/2023.198.0025