Sunday, October 12, 2014

Goethe and Europe

Jean Cousin the Elder, The Abduction of Europa (1550)
 I am preparing my presentation for the Goethe Society of North America conference, which takes place in Pittsburgh from October 23 to 26. The panel I am on concerns "space": domestic spaces and cosmic space in the papers of my co-panelists. My paper concerns Europe, its construction as a unified cultural space by the 19th century and the implications of that unity, in particular universalist aspirations.

As is usual in my presentations, I come equipped with a "slide show." Herewith some opening images. (Click to enlarge.)

As Anthony Pagden has written (among his publications are The Idea of Europe: From Antiquity to the European Union), "Europe" is an ambiguous place. As the painting by Jean Cousin indicates, the origins of Europe are not in geography, but in myth. The abducted Europa was a Phoenician, thus an "Asian." As Pagden writes, "An abducted Asian woman gave Europe her name; a vagrant Asian exile [i.e., Aeneis from Troy] gave Europe its political and finally its cultural identity; and an Asian prophet gave Europe its religion." Frankly, I find this "Asian" emphasis a bit thick. What, after all, constitutes "Asia," everything south and east of the Aegean Sea?

In connection with my presentation, however, this assimilationist tendency is characteristic of what has become "Europe." More postings on this subject follow.

Picture credit: Counter-Currents Publishing

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