Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Blogging Goethe: a Question for Readers

I will be traveling to Pennsylvania State University in a few weeks to take part in the triennial Atkins Conference of the Goethe Society of America. As always at these gatherings, there will be lots of panels and lots of interesting subjects. The title of this year's program is "Re-Orientations Around Goethe," Goethe Girl will participate on the panel "Afterlives: Goethe and Community" on the subject of "reorienting Goethe in the digital age." In other words, I will speaking about my blogging experience.

The blog has been in business since 2008 and has attracted almost half a million visitors. When I began I thought of the site as a place to post about my own work on Goethe. I discovered that  a blog is something that must be tended to and that invites opinion. Initially, I wasn’t sure how to approach the large subject “Goethe,” and I would often simply write about what was going on in my life. Since I live in New York, there were always plenty of interesting things to report on, especially art openings or street sights. It took me a while to get my bearings, but I think it was the GSNA conference in Pittsburgh in November 2008 that set me on the right path. After that I started posting regularly on Goethe, reporting on my own work or research, but also connecting Goethe to things going on around me or to something I was reading. In fact, since I have been blogging, I have become aware of how often and in how many unexpected context Goethe crops. Moreover, in the absence of any other online “fan” forums devoted to Goethe, even in Germany, it turns out that a lot of people “stumble” across goethetc.blogspot.com.

When I look at the stats concerning visitors to the blog, I have come across something that strikes me as an anomaly, and I would like to know if anyone out there who is reading this post can help me clear up my perplexity. Since early this year the number of page views from Russia has increased way beyond any other country. In a week, for instance, there may be over 1,000 page views from Russia, with only a few hundred from Germany or the U.S. in the same time. I would be interested to know how these page views are being generated. Mark me suspicious, but is there really so much interest in Goethe in Russia? Or the Ukraine, from which I have also had lots of visitors lately. There was even a blip in page views from Saudi Arabia during the summer, but those have now stopped.

Picture credit: Hoover.com

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Goethe in Cologne

Le Brun, Everhard Jabach and His Family (MMA 2014.250)
Goethe seems to have visited Cologne only twice. The first time was in the summer of 1774, the last time in 1815, when he was visiting the Rheingau region, of which I reported in an earlier post. The first visit seems to have been personally more important. He traveled there with the poet J.J.W. Heinse and Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi. On the way to Cologne they stopped for dinner, during which, according to Nicholas Boyle, Goethe and Jacobi had their first "heartfelt conversation about Spinoza." Driving on to Cologne, they visited the art collection of the Jabach family and inspected what Boyle calls the family's "eerily uninhabited house." They then retired to an inn for the night, and later that evening Goethe and Fritz Jacobi had a moonlight, midnight conversation sealed with tears of friendship.

In a letter to Jacobi a month later, Goethe writes: "Offt wohn ich mit Jappachs Geist." He seems to have been very impressed with what he saw at the Jabach house, as can be seen from his recollection in book 14 of Poetry and Truth of his visit to the house and of the Le Brun portrait of the Jabach family. This painting, long thought to have disappeared, turned up in a storeroom outside London in 2013 and was quickly acquired by the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It is now in the Charles Wrightsman collection of the European Paintings Galleries at the Met and has been given the title Everhard Jabach (1618–1695) and His Family. The Museum has just published a Bulletin discussing the painting and its conservation, and the opening essay by Stephan Wolohjian quotes Goethe's reaction, as recorded in his autobiography, to the Jabach house and the painting. Here is the quote from Poetry and Truth:

The former wealthy owner of this dwelling sat depicted there with his wife, surrounded by his children, all alive, fresh, and vivid, as if painted yesterday, indeed today, and yet they had all passed away. Even these fresh, round-cheeked children had grown old, and without this artistic representation not a memory of them would have remained. I find it difficult to describe my response to these impressions, so overwhelmed was I by them (translation from Robson-Scott, The Younger Goethe and the Visual Arts).

Everhard Jabach, from a very wealthy merchant family in Cologne, amassed a huge art collection, beginning his collecting activities as a young man traveling first in Flanders and the Netherlands and then in England, where he became acquainted with works by Leonardo, Raphael, Dürer, and Holbein. He was a friend of the artist Van Dyck, who executed two paintings of Jabach. After moving on to France, he continued to amass art while also embracing the world of commerce. In 1664, he was one of the first directors of the French East Indian Company and was installed by Colbert as director of the Aubusson tapestry workshop. Jabach also had a close relationship at this time with the painter Charles Le Brun.

Holbein the Younger, Study for Family Portrait of Thomas More
Attention has been drawn to the "Northern" quality of Le Brun's portrait of the family, of its "un-Frenchness." It seems that Jabach, in his youth in England, had been impressed by the works of Holbein, in particular a painting of Thomas More and his family that now survives only in a drawing (Kupferstichkabinett, Öffentliche Kunstsammlung, Basel). As Wolohijian writes: "The memory of [Holbein's] extraordinary painting of a family posing with their pets in a richly furnished room must have seared itself into Jabach's mind."

The effect on Goethe of the Jabach house had much to do with the meeting with Jacobi in Cologne. The best account is the letter addressed to Jacobi mentioned above, written on August 21, 1774, a month after the meeting in Cologne. It is full of the rapturous sentiments of that time. For instance, this famous utterance:

Sieh lieber, was doch alles schreibens anfang und Ende ist die Reproduktion der Welt um mich, durch die innere Welt die alles packet, verbindet, neuschafft, knetet und in eigner Form, Manier, weider hinstellt, das bleibt ewig Geheimniss Gott sey Dank, das ich auch nicht offenbaaren will den Gaffern u. Schwäzzern (Der junge Goethe, letter 262).

Decades later, in Poetry and Truth, he still seems to be in touch with the feelings of that time. As he writes, Cologne was a place where the past could have an "incalculable effect" on him. That included the ruins of the cathedral, awakening sentiments similar to those in Strassburg, but the sight of which in Cologne plunged him into sadness when he considered that "this building of world importance had been abandoned in the midst of construction." It was at such a moment that he connects his visit to the Jabach house.

This family had evidently died out long ago, but we found nothing altered in the ground level, which opened into a garden. ... Everything was typical of those earlier days, and there was nothing new or modern in the whole room except ourselves. Our feelings, already strangely stirred by these things, were immensely heightened and culminated when we saw the large family portrait over the fireplace (Robert Heitner translation).

This is followed by the description of the painting mentioned above that is quoted in the Met's Bulletin. According to Wolohojian, there is only one other recorded instance of the painting before its rediscovery in the 21st century. In 1789, the painting was still in the same spot in Cologne, when, three weeks after the fall of the Bastille, it was viewed by Louis Joseph, Prince of Condé, who found it a "très grand tableau." It apparently made no further impression on the count, but Goethe, as he writes in his autobiography, was moved, with the result that "every good and loving force in my inner self must have opened up and gushed forth, because from that moment on, without further investigation and deliberation, those excellent men [the Jacobi brothers and Heinse] gave me their trust and affection for life."

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Blind spots

Volume 24 of the Goethe Yearbook  includes a special section on “The Poetics of Space in the Goethezeit.” The essay by Tove Holmes, “Blindspots as Projection Spaces in Die Wahlverwandtschaften,” also suggestively conjoins that novel with The Sorrows of Young Werther as well as Goethe’s Farbenlehre to discuss issues of vision, of seeing the world. The world includes the “real world” that exists outside of ourselves, as well as inner worlds that we imaginatively produce. The latter in particular can be a site of illusions and fancies, of “mis-visions,” of limited vision.
Mobile landscape viewing device
At the beginning of Elective Affinities, when Eduard visits the new summer house, Charlotte positions him in such a way that the prospect before him, viewed through windows and doors, appears “like a sequence of framed pictures.” The prospect, however, is not described. In the course of the novel, we glean that Eduard in any case only sees what he wants to see. Thus, the “blind spots” of Holmes’s title. As is well known to those familiar with the novel, reconfiguring the environs of the estate plays a large role in the activities of the four main characters. Again, however, Goethe does not describe what the characters actually see when they discuss their plans. As Holmes writes, “landscape viewing in the novel frequently turns the focus back to the subject, positioning her or him in relation to the scene.”

The English visitor at Charlotte and Eduard’s estate has created drawings during his travels using a camera obscura, a framing device used by artists to convey proper perspective. The drawings are never described. We learn only that Charlotte and Ottilie are much edified by “sights” of different parts of the world. Their perceptions are different. Charlotte is interested in historical details, while what Ottilie cares about is the regions in which Eduard had traveled.

The article is interesting for the conjunctions it introduces, for instance, Goethe’s transferring of his ideas on optics to the characters in Elective Affinities. If Werther withdraws into himself and finds a world, something similar goes on with Ottilie when the object of her affection — Eduard — is removed from view. Here is the passage from the novel:

Wenn sie sich Abend zur Ruhe gelegt … schien es ihr, als wenn sie in einen ganz hellen doch mild erleuchteten Raum hineinblickte. In diesem sah sie Eduarden ganz deutlich … jedesmal in einer anderen Stellung, sie aber vollkommen natürlich war und nichts Phantastisches an sich hatte: stehend gehend liegend, reitend. Die Gestalt bis aufs kleinste ausgemalt bewegte sich willing vor ihr, ohne daß sie das mindeste dazu tat, ohne daß sie wollte oder die Einbildungskraft anstrengte. Manchmal sah sie ihn auch umgeben, besonders von etwas Beweglichem, das dunkler war als der hellen Grund; aber sie unterschied kaum Schattenbilder, die ihr zuweilen als Menschen, als Pferde, als Bäume und Gebirge vorkommen konnten.

Viewing platform, Bonsecours, Belgium
In a review of 1824, Goethe takes what Holmes calls a “step away from outward stimuli as the cause of visual effects.” He refers there to the “activity of his eyes” as ‘productive,’ yielding a primary creation rather than a representation.” Thus, the last sentence in the above quote: "Sometime she saw him surrounded, especially by something in motion which was darker than the light background…"

In a similar vein, I just came across an article by Rosellen Brown in the recent issue of the journal New Letters. It is entitled “Offstage: Scenes You Will Not See, People You Will Never Meet.” Brown considers the practice of painters who hold up a hand in front of their drawings and paintings “to see what changed when they blotted out something.” This practice is a way of imposing “a kind of provisional silence.” She proceeds to discuss several literary works in which important things happen offstage. An example is the figure of Michael Furey whom the protagonist’s wife, Gretta, pines for in James Joyce’s story “The Dubliners.” We see Michael Furey, as Brown writes, “caught in time, standing beneath [Gretta’s] window, catching his death in cruel weather.” But the story is not actually about Michael, lying dead in a snowy graveyard, but about conflicts in the life of the protagonist, Gabriel Conroy. By moving the action offstage, the story acquires its poignancy.

Picture credit: Stephen Hugart; Serge Brison

Monday, September 4, 2017

Autobiography and novel in Goethe

A review by Thomas Keymer in the London Review of Books (August 7, 2017) of A History of English Autobiography by Adam Smyth has got me thinking about Goethe. Dichtung und Wahrheit (Poetry and Truth) certainly fulfills the definition of the genre offered by the French critic Philippe Lejeune, quoted by the reviewer: "A retrospective prose narrative produced by a real person concerning his own existence, focusing on his individual life, in particular on the development of his personality."

That Goethe wrote an autobiography was in keeping with the interest in the genre by the early 19th century. Keymer notes that it was not only "great men" who were expected to write about their lives. The times were what Carlyle called "Autobiographical," and "memorabilia" were part of a democratic trend. What characterized these writings was their "self-consciousness." Thus, the outward circumstances of a life as lived was the soil in which the inner life of a distinctive individual was nourished or just as often stultified. As Keymer writes, "subjectivity" is central to these autobiographies. Despite the presence in Dichtung und Wahrheit of Goethe's assessment of his own personality, even of his subjective motivations for certain behavior, the work does not indulge in the self-lacerating confessions of many autobiographies, for instance, those of Augustine and of Rousseau.

I have not seen it discussed anywhere, but it strikes me that the autobiographical trend documented in Smyth's study was concurrent with the rise of the novel. Autobiography and the novel are both "Western" phenomena. Whatever purely literary criteria can be applied to characterize it, the novel, like autobiography, arose from circumstances that were unique to the nations of western Europe beginning in the early modern period. The capitalist marketplace began to erase traditional ways of life, and a  dominant theme of works by 19th-century novelists was the dilemmas that deracinated and alienated — even merely “exceptional” — individuals faced in a world in which all the old resources had become superannuated. The position of people in traditional societies was set out for them from even before their birth. There could be no personal development, except of a religious nature. It was only with the breakdown of traditional hierarchies that, for instance, a man (usually it was a man) could break out of such bonds and work his way up in life by his own "bootstraps."

The novel's rise marks this struggle, and the genre's identificatory possibilities made rich men of certain writers, Charles Dickens foremost among them. What makes a novel really successful is the possibility of empathizing with the struggles and triumphs of the individuals portrayed. For this reason, so many contemporary American novels, with their portrayals of dysfunction, are such a turn-off, even if the media continue to hype what are considered exemplary works of the genre, e.g., Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections. "Romance," in contrast, sells. Prime exhibit: Jane Austen.

Brontë country
But to return to Goethe. Dichtung und Wahrheit as well as his other late novels reject the "subjective isolation" that characterizes, on the one hand, the confessions of Rousseau, and, on the other, the soul-wringing of the Brontës. As we know, The Sorrows of Young Werther is evidence that Goethe was able to write a Brontë-like novel (had Emily read Goethe?), yet he abandoned this path. For Goethe it was more important to portray the individual as coming to terms with the objective facts of life, what Klymer calls "social, political, and economic engagement." This somewhat bloodless characterization does not do justice to the engagement described in Goethe's Wilhelm Meister novels. The Bildungsroman–style plot of those novels would seem to have greatly influenced the succeeding history of the German novel in the 19th century.

Eduard and Charlotte's country home
I recall that when I first read the opening pages of Die Wahlverwandtschaften (Elective Affinities) so many years ago, I thought that Goethe was heading off on an English-novel path. And yet, despite the number of elements that situate that novel in the kind of country estate setting of Jane Austen, ultimately the demands of the heart -- and, in Eduard's case, excessive subjectivity -- are rejected. So even if Goethe claimed that his works constituted "fragments of a great confession" (HA 9, 283), that confession was always formally mediated, especially in his poetry. One could best identify if one respected the language in which the confession was composed.

Keymer notes in his review certain "fundamental questions raised by autobiographical writing: about the coherence of identity the play of memory, the gap between narrating and narrated selves ..." What, he asks, if "the self is not only relational, but also plural"? He cites examples discussed in Smyth's study, e.g., Katherine Mansfield's skepticism about "our persistent yet mysterious belief in a self which is continuous and permanent." I would hazard to guess that Goethe believed in such a unitary self, thus, again, that comment about "fragments of a great confession." However fragmentary, his life and his work represented a coherence. I would only add here that the law does not yet recognize "plural selves." If you commit a crime, you are judged as a single entity. Goethe, as a lawyer, would have seen the matter that way. Like it or not, DNA and iris scanning also "presuppose absolute uniqueness," a singular self,  and a habitation in the body (these insights are from another LRB review, this one a book on the history of the body).

Picture credits: Plastic Mind; Alison Robinson; Life as Myth; Bernd W. Seiler

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Goethe im Rheingau

First there was one
 We all hear of free-range poultry and meat, but in Sointula one sees “free range” concretized. The daily experience of all these cows grazing in my back yard, roaming from their homestead further up the road, has put me in mind of Goethe. Cows in yards and on public ways was probably a common sight in the small town of Weimar, if not on the meadows of the ducal residence,  perhaps along the Ilm, where Goethe had his cottage.

Then there were two

And three
As I mentioned in an earlier post, a couple of weeks ago I traveled in the Rheingau with friends. We stopped at the Brentano House in Winkel, which was once part of the large estate of Franz and Antonia Brentano. Franz, a wealthy Frankfurt merchant, was the half-brother of Clemens and Bettina Brentano. Goethe spent the first eight days of September of 1814 at their estate, which allowed him also to visit other Rheingau points of interest. Antonia Brentano wrote later of this visit:

Als Goethe bei uns zu Besuche wohnte, veranstaltete er immer selbst die Landparteien, die Mittags vorgenommen werden sollten. Er sagte z.B. "Heute Nachmittag anspannen und nach Johannisgrund fahren," denn zum Gehen bequemte er sich nicht gerne. Oder bestellte er eine Nachenfahrt.

Don't forget me!
Along with his interest in the Rochus Chapel, Goethe noted the following in his diary of Septmber 6:  “Spaziergang erst allein, dann mit Mad. Brentano und Dlle Serviere. Frl. v. Güngerode Leben und Tod. Ort ihres Selbstmordes. Kurz vorhergehend.”

He visited the vineyards of Vollrat Castle as well as those of Johannisberg. As he would write at the time to his son, he got to know the region well.

Sointula pastoral
Hier bin ich sehr gut, schön und bequem, man thut mir alles zu Lieb und Lust. Ohne die Aufmercksame Gefälligkeit dieser Familie, hätte ich die Gegend im ganzen Umfang nicht kennen lernern, welche sehr der Mühe wert ist. Man kann lange in der Erinnerung dieser Bilder genießen.

One image he did not record, however, no doubt because it could scarcely be a memorable one, was that of livestock wandering around the countryside, even if by then much farm land would have been fenced. For those of us in the West today, the sight in my back yard is of course an unusual one, prompting me to thoughts about the prominence of the pastoral genre in earlier centuries.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Home again

A visitor in my back yard
I got back from Germany on Monday, so happy to be back on my small island and also back to work on my novel. Many of you will not know that Goethe Girl once published novels, back before Goethe came into her life in a big way. I am now returning to my literary persona and my days in Sointula, so full of peace and quiet, are conducive to novelistic labors.

Herewith follow a few scenes from my final days in Germany, spent in Marburg with my friends Eberhard and Uschi Leyendecker. Marburg was where I studied so many years ago and met up with my old friends from those days at the reunion in Mannheim. (Click on photos to enlarge.)


Eberhard prepares an evening collation

Marburg was also home to a Romantic circle

The castle in Marburg
All over Germany there are Reformation exhibitions. Our group attended one in Mannheim on the papacy and its role in the "founding," to so speak, of Europe. The exhibition in the castle in Marburg laid emphasis on the role of education in the Reformation. Philipps-Universität in Marburg was the first protestant university founded after the Reformation, in 1527. Pictured below is its founder, Philipp I of Hessen (1504-1567).

Philipp I of Hessen



Friday, July 28, 2017

Goethe in Rheingau

Almost 213 years ago, on September 2, 1814, Goethe visited the Rheingau region. I learned this from a lovely exhibition catalogue I bought at the Goethe-Museum in Frankfurt on Tuesday: Goethes Zeitschrift Ueber Kunst und Alterthum: von den Rhein- und Mayn Gegenden zur Weltliteratur. The first chapter concerns "Im Rheingau Herbstages," with Goethe's visit at the country estate of the Brentano family in Winkel on the Rhine. And 213 years later, I visited the Brentano house with friends from the outing in Mannheim. Unfortunately, we had not checked to see if the house was open.It was not, and is very much in needs of patrons to rehabilitate it. We went next to the nearby Vollrads castle, which Goethe visited on September 2. It was very much open for a visit, at least the grounds. Here is what Goethe wrote about his visit to Vollrads:



Ohngefähr in der Mitte von Winkel biegt man aus nach der Höhe zu, um Vollrath zu  besuchen. Erst geht der Weg zwischen Weinbergen, denn erreicht man eine Wiesenfläche, sie is hier unerwartet, feucht und mit Weiden umgeben. Am Fuß des Gebirges, auf einem Hügel liegt das Schloß, rechts und links fruchtbare Felder und Weinberge, einen Bergwald von Buchen und Eichen im Rücken.

Schloß Johannisberg
 I will not repeat the entire account here (see KuA), suffice it to say that Goethe Girl was able to purchase a bottle of the Goethe wine at Schloß Vollrads. We also made a stop at Schloß Johannisberg. The next time I have a glass of Johannisberg Riesling, I will know from where it originates.

Near the Brentano house in Winkel


Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Friends of his youth

Goethe Girl has made a quick (!) trip from Vancouver to Frankfurt. The purpose was a reunion with friends of mine from university days in Marburg back in the Stone Age. We meet very five years for a reunion, which takes place in the town of the organizer. This year we are in Mannheim. After my arrival at Frankfurt International Airport, I headed into the city and went to the Goethe-Museum for a very short visit, before heading on to Mannheim. The works below include two paintings that represent works with which Goethe was familiar and which he discussed in his autobiography, Poetry and Truth (Dichtung und Wahrheit).  The other paintings are of people who were of influence  in his youth. The dates indicate the way they might have looked when Goethe knew them.The paintings of Oeser, Stolberg, and Gellert are by Anton Graff. The painting of Carl August is by Johann Ernst Heinsius. According to the museum label, Carl August decided in 1780 to chop off the customary Prussian pigtail in favor of a "Schwedenkopf." (Click on pictures to enlarge.)

Adam Friedrich Oeser (1776)
Christian F. Gellert (1769)
Friedrich Leopold Graf zu Stolberg (1785)
Carl August, Duke of Weimar (1781)

Justus Junckner, Visit to an Artist's Studio (1854)










Monday, July 17, 2017

Sointula days

At the other end of Malcolm island, reached after travel on a logging road, is Mitchell Bay. Back in the Sixties, some folks from the U.S. settled this part of the island, living, as we now say, "off the grid." (It is amazing how interminable the road to Mitchell Bay is when you are driving in second gear.) In the meantime, some beautiful houses have been built, as exemplified by that of Thelma and Murray, who invited me to go out in their boat to look for whales. (Click on pictures to enlarge.)

The best part of the excursion was the sight of a huge pod of dolphins. They came close to the boat, swam and dived under it, but mostly they were in search of herring. They travel fast. I could not help thinking at the time how mysterious they seemed and that they would find a prominent place in Greek mythology. It just so happened that yesterday a correspondent of this blog wrote to me about the frequent appearance of dolphins in Greek mythology. He mentioned a depiction of them, dated 1600 B.C., on the walls of a bathroom in the palace at Knossos. The picture here shows these marvelous water creatures.

Whales were seen as well. Afterward, Thelma showed me her beautiful quilts.

Goethe Girl is also working while here, as will be revealed in further posts.

Departing Mitchell Bay to view whales

White-sided dolphins too fast to photograph

Goethe Girl enjoys the ride

The ocean

Thelma's quilt reminded me of Goethe's color wheels

Thelma herself

Photograph credit (Knossos): Te Ara

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Gone fishing

I am back in Sointula for my summer sojourn. It has been a busy first week, with a day trip to northwest Vancouver Island. The painting of the logger (detail only) was taken at the Scarlet Ibis Pub in Holberg on the way to Grant Bay, where the beach pictures were taken. Goethe Girl can be seen standing in front of a wonderful outcropping of basalt. Click on photos to enlarge.

Going on 10 p.m. it is 12.3 Celsius. More news to follow.






Saturday, June 17, 2017

Goethe and the Cult of Personality in 19th-Century Britain

Female preacher at a Quaker meeting
My friend and colleague Gregory Maertz, professor of English at Saint John’s University, reminds me of the men and women interviewed on HR2 “Doppelkopf,” one of my favorite German podcasts. Alongside his expertise in 19th-century British literature, he has recently published a volume of essays on the influence of Goethe in Britain in the late 18th–early 19th century. The title of the volume, Literature and the Cult of Personality, is a hint of the importance of Goethe, especially for Thomas Carlyle, at a time that the latter referred to as “these hard unbelieving utilitarian days.” In an age bereft of spiritual certainties, literature replaced the role of religion for Carlyle, and it was Goethe who became the prophet of the new dispensation, with his texts comparable to the Acts of the Apostles for people of faith. Thus, Goethe became “the Uniter and Reconciler” of “the inward spiritual chaos” of “the most distracted and divided age .. since the introduction of the Christian religion.”

It has been pointed out that Carlyle’s criticism is decidedly lacking in formal evaluation of Goethe’s works.  Instead, Goethe’s “oracular significance” was based to the greatest extent on what Carlyle perceived as his “sincerity” (or maybe “authenticity” as per Lionel Trilling?): Goethe was not simply some painter of words or imitator of poetic formulas. He lived what he wrote, which was suggested to Carlyle by Goethe’s own oracular pronouncement in Dichtung und Wahrheit: "Everything that I have published previously consists of fragments of a great confession."

While Carlyle is the best-known mediator of Goethe’s influence in Britain, the first chapter of Literature and the Cult of Personality concerns the first translators of German literature, writers loosely identified with the Godwin circle. They were among the earliest and most fervent supporters of the French Revolution, which very quickly made them marginal, not only with respect to the dominant politics (which were anti-Jacobin). The stance of being ideological outsiders may have been second nature to them, as many were Dissenters (e.g., Quakers, Methodists) or female, thus, with little access to what Greg calls the Oxbridge or public school education based on Latin and Greek.
Thomas Holcroft

A member of this circle, Thomas Holcroft, was so sympathetic to the French Revolution that he was effectively banished from publishing under his own name, even after his acquittal for treason in 1794. The appeal to him of Goethe’s Hermann und Dorothea is not surprising, and he  produced the first translation to appear in Britain.  As Greg writes, the text allowed Holcroft to center himself “in a foreign otherness,” while the conflict within Hermann’s family mirrored that of the Godwin circle “in the wake of war hysteria and government reaction.” Goethe himself praised Holcroft for his translation in a letter of May 29, 1801, in which he distinguished two approaches to translation.

Because of my own work on the reception of Milton in Germany in the early 18th century, I was interested to learn of the many contacts of Germans in Britain already by then. Several German scientists and Enlightenment figures became members of the Royal Society on its founding in 1663, and throughout the following century German musicians and painters worked in England. The youngest Bach son, Johann Christian, organized concerts of Mozart’s music in London and arranged his appearance at court in 1764. John Wesley transmitted many German hymns into the Methodist musical inventory.

Thus, Goethe was not the first or only German writer whose works appeared in translation. Fuseli, who arrived in England from Zurich in 1760, produced the first translation of Winckelmann in English, and Henry  Hudson’s translation of Lavater’s Physiological Fragments appeared in a lavish edition of three volumes (1789, 1792, 1798). The plays of Kotzebue were wildly popular on the London stage (in contrast to those of Lessing or Goethe). Indeed, as Greg writes, the dominant literary public felt “nearly universal antipathy toward Goethe,” precisely for the lack of moralism in his works. In the words of the Anti-Jacobin Review, “he has attained that divine morality which looks down on all forms of human conduct, with equal eye, and sees in the lewdness of Faustus, or the purity of Iphigenie, but that exact adaptation of effect and cause of conduct and motive, which he characterizes the constitution of things.”

There is much of interest here. I liked William Taylor's characterization of Dichtung und Wahrheit (Poetry and Truth) as a "biographical novel," revealing (quoting here Schopenhauer) the inner significance of everyday life, in contrast to the outer significance. Further chapters discuss the reception of Kant, Henry Crabb Robinson, the Romantic idealization of the artist, the influence of Goethe in New England, and Goethe’s role in the literary formation of George Eliot.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Safranksi biography of Goethe in English

A reader of this blog wrote to inform me of the appearance of the English translation of Goethe: Life as a Work of Art by Rüdiger Safranski. I wrote a review of Safranski's book for the Goethe Yearbook when it appeared in German a few years ago and even devoted a few posts to it, including this one.

The translation is by David Dollenmayer, a professor of German at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. I do not know Professor Dollenmayer, but a little internet research has turned up quite a bit of praise for his translations from German. The Other Press features several of these translations on its website. In 2010 he was the receipient of an Austrian Cultural Forum in New York award for his "translation-in-progress" of Michael Köhlmeier's Idyll With Drowning Dog (Idylle mit ertrinkendem Hund), first published in 2008.

In a statement regarding NEA funding in 2014, for Michael Kleeberg's A Garden in the North (Ein Garten im Norden), Dollenmayer wrote that, in a career of teaching German language and literature, translation seemed like an extension of close reading.

The review of Goethe: Life as a Work of Art by Ben Hutchinson appeared in the above-pictured June issue of The Literary Review. According to Hutchinson, Dollmayer "has boldly decided to translate all quotations from Goethe’s works and letters himself, rather than use existing translations. Occasional anachronisms aside – Goethe the ‘whiz kid’ – this works surprisingly well, giving a single, unified voice to a diverse body of work."

Congratulations to David Dollenmayer on this publication and for its contribution to wider acquaintance with Goethe in the English-speaking world.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Goethe's Lotte in Seoul

Lotte adored by Goethe, Lotte Hotel Seoul
Global Goethe is a site recently inaugurated by the Goethe Society of North America to serve (as per the website) "not just as a repository of translations, adaptations, performances, and visualizations of Goethe and his works from around the world, but also as a place for collaborative scholarship that examines the many representations of Goethe across languages and cultures." One of its first features concerned a Korean company, Lotte Co. Ltd., which was founded in 1948 by the South Korean businessman Shin Kyuk-Ho, who had a fondness for Goethe's novel The Sorrows of Young Werther. (Go here for Global Goethe's first post on the Lotte company.)

Lotte is a major manufacturer of sweets, and its corporate message, "Sweetheart in Your Mouth," is resonant in connection with Charlotte. According to a Wall Street Journal article of April 17 (behind a paywall) on the Lotte company, the founder was struck by the intensity of the passion Werther felt for Lotte. In the words of one of Lotte's directors: "We want Lotte to be beloved by everyone, like Lotte was."

This link to the Lotte group indicates that the company is much larger than chocolates. It is involved in the chemical and construction industries, and there are baseball teams bearing Lotte's name, in Korea and in Japan, not to forget a chain of luxury hotels around the world. According to the WSJ article, a copy of Goethe's novel is placed in each room of the hotels. The 123-floor Lotte World Tower in Seoul boasts a 17-foot statue of Goethe, a replica of the marble one in Berlin's Tiergarten.

As soon as I read that there was also a two-story-tall illuminated gold-hued statue of Lotte at the Lotte Department Store in downtown Seoul, I got in touch with the New York City publicist for the Lotte Group, asking if she could obtain a photo of the statue for me. After weeks of back and forth emails, a photo arrived today, for which I am most grateful. The statue, pictured at the top of this post (click to enlarge), is located on the rooftop park of the department store. I think this statue of Lotte must be a first.

Also posted here is the photo of the statue of Goethe, situated in Arena Square of Lotte World Tower in Seoul, which was also sent to me by the Lotte publicist. I wonder how many Goethe statues there are around the world, erected because someone felt a passionate attachment to Goethe's work. I would be interested in hearing from anyone (with photos, please) concerning Goethe statues worldwide. With thanks for this first installment from the Seoul and New York City representatives of Lotte.