Thursday, August 28, 2014

World literature post-Goethe

Gillnet fishing at Bere Point
In his book on world literature, Peter Goßens discusses the reinterpretation of the concept in the years after Goethe's death, especially under the influence of Karl August Varnhagen, who saw in Goethe's last Wilhelm Meister novel a prefiguration of the doctrines of Saint-Simon. Varnhagen was a strong influence on other admirers of Goethe in Varnhagen's Berlin circle and had an effect on pre-1848 proposals for societal reform, which were strongly utopian. Thus, Marx's reference in The Communist Manifesto to world literature and Engels' ridicule of utopian socialists in Anti-Dühring (1878) were reckonings with such "amateur" socialists. In some earlier posts, I had doubted that Goethe had any utopian inclinations, in contrast to many of the thinkers of the 18th century, particularly in France. According to Cyrus Hamlin (quoted by Goßens), Varnhagen’s reading of the Wanderjahre are a “Gebrauchsanweisung für die zukünftige soziale Ordung Europas in 19. Jahrhundert,”

Mounty and Goethe Girl
The term was already widespread after Goethe's first reference in print in Über Kunst und Alterthum in 1828 and subject to discussion in European periodicals. Theodor Mundt, one of the writers influenced by Varnhagen,  mentions that knowledge of Goethe's term was so widespread in England in 1837 that he feared it would be brought up in conversation:

Auf allen meinen Reisen, wo ich mit geistreichen Menschen in irgend ein Gespräch gerathen, habe ich stets große Furcht gehabt, daß Einer von der sogenannten Weltliteraturidee, die durch Goethe in die Mode gekommen zu sprechen anfangen könnte, und meide dies Thema, zu dem man auf Reisen so leicht veranlaßt werden mag, immer mit sichtlicher Angst.

At the Sointula Salmon Days parade
The pictures here are some scenes and people from the past week or so. Only three more days before I return to New York.

Leaving Telegraph Cove in search of whales
On the lookout

With Heather and Joe

I was envious of these kayakers also on the lookout


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