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THE #ME TOO MOVEMENTS assumed specific national and
regional characteristics while they circulated
globally. In Germany, few powerful men fell from
prominence owing to allegations and proof of sexual
harassment and predation. #MeToo did, however,
reframe a debate about systemic sexism that revived
and expanded the agenda of twentieth-century
feminism. Still underexamined is the transhistorical
normalization of the female body as object of a
predatory, prurient gaze and the site of sexual
violence as spectacle. In Sexuality, State, and Civil Society in Germany,
1700–1815 (1996), Isabel V. Hull
elaborates the “sexual system” of Germany as its
leaders negotiate the transition from absolutism to
the modern state, with a focus on “the patterned
ways in which sexual behavior is shaped and given
meaning through institutions.” Specifically, she
marks a semantic shift in the meaning of Dirne (prostitute), a
transformation from the eighteenth-century model of
the innocent victim seduced by a male villain to the
prostitute, indicative of a nineteenth-century
revision in which the man becomes the victim of the
promiscuous, sexually incontinent woman. Hull's
argument underscores the exclusion of women from
civil society. Though objectively true, this thesis
is open to criticism, as James Van Horn Melton's
intervention reveals. He notes in Hull's work the
absence of women writers, salon hosts, and works
about intellectual politics and practices that
interrogate gendered exclusions. Moreover, as I
argue, the issues of female desire and pleasure—and
their regulation—elude these analyses. Indeed, there
are few narratives in Western modernity that
acknowledge female sexuality without relegating it
to the realm of innocent purity, sanctioned and
contractual reproductivity, or prostitution—that is,
transactional sex, for whatever reason, subject to
civic regulation. In this chapter, I examine the
representation of female sexuality and its
syntactical place in a range of texts that do not so
much challenge Hull's analysis as capture
post-Enlightenment obsessions with women as sexually
active yet innocent victims. First, I examine the
construction of female submissiveness and
victimhood. With reference to two engravings, the
Prussian legal code, and Immanuel Kant's moral
justification of marriage, I explore three texts by
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe to demonstrate how female
desire around 1800 is coded as sacrificial or
transactional. Finally, the displacement of
seduction, prostitution, and possible violence is
mapped onto distant topographies, away from the
This volume of new essays represents a collective, academic, and activist effort to interpret German literature and culture in the context of the international #MeToo movement, illustrating and interrogating the ways that 'rape cultures' persist.
Ich, der ich immer gehört
hatte, auf die Ohrfeige eines Mädchens gehöre ein
derber Kuß, faßte sie bei den Ohren und küßte sie
zu wiederholten Malen. Sie aber tat einen solchen
durchdringenden Schrei, der mich selbst
—Goethe, “Der Neue Paris,” Dichtung und Wahrheit,
[I, who had always heard that a girl's slap
should be followed by a rough kiss, took her by
the ears and kissed her repeatedly. But she gave
such a piercing scream that it startled even
ON OCTOBER 5, 2017, Jodie Kantor and Megan Twohey of
the New York Times
published an article that detailed how, for decades,
the movie producer Harvey Weinstein had paid off and
thus silenced women who accused him of sexual
harassment. On October 15, the actress Alyssa Milano
retweeted the suggestion of a friend: “If all the
women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted
wrote ‘Me too.’ as a status, we might give people a
sense of the magnitude of the problem.” In the next
twenty-four hours, twelve million Facebook posts
responded to this invitation. Through her tweet,
Milano introduced to a mainstream audience a
movement founded in 2006 by Tarana Burke in order to
support young women of color who had experienced
sexual abuse. In the weeks and months after Milano's
tweet, #MeToo resonated around the globe, including
in France as #BalanceTonPorc, in China as
#RiceBunny, in Spain as #YoTambien, and as #ichauch
in Germany, where the most prominent cases involved
accusations of sexual assault against the director
Dieter Wedel and against Siegfried Mauser, the
president of the Musikhochschule Munich.
The worldwide resonance of #MeToo drastically
illustrates the ubiquity of sexual abuse and sexual
violence and of the failure to acknowledge their
impact publicly. It shows that there is a great need
not only to hold perpetrators accountable but also
to raise public consciousness. All too often,
attention is directed exclusively to the
victimization of white middle- class women, while
neglecting the experiences of women from lower
socioeconomic backgrounds, women of color, members
of LGBTQ and immigrant communities, and also of men,
including, but not limited to, the rape of male
Volume 29 features articles on 'Anton Reiser'; the legacies of German romanticism; Goethe's morphology and computational analysis; Goethe commemorations in Argentina; and Goethe's 'Weltliteratur'; in the context of trade with China, along with two special sections and the book review.
IN THE MIDST of another challenging year, we are grateful to our authors, manuscript evaluators, and book reviewers—the latter so ably corralled by Sean Franzel—and, last but not least, our indefatigable copy editor, Monica Birth, who have all enabled us to put together another fascinating volume. Like the predecessors it has been our honor to edit, volume 29 of the Goethe Yearbook represents continuity and innovation; what sets it apart is the fact that several essays seem to continue the conversation begun in last year’s issue.
Edward Potter's essay on Anton Reiser speaks to both the unabating pursuit of scholarship on Karl Philipp Moritz (which we have featured frequently over the past two years) as well as the renewed interest in questions of sentimentalism as a literary period and eighteenth-century style. But Potter also turns to questions of sexuality and gender. These questions, focused in concepts of patriarchy and its disruption, are at the core of Birgit Jensen's essay, which branches out into broader concerns about cultural legacies and myth and invites their ongoing consideration. Befittingly, two more essays revolve around such questions, albeit in vastly different ways. History of philosophy and science scholar Oriane Petteni introduces a novel model of reading Goethe's morphology, reminding us that questions of algorithms and pattern recognition are no longer confined to digital humanities and computational studies of literature but have arrived as part and parcel of our methodological toolkit. And Robert Kelz takes us again to Argentina. In a fascinating prequel to last year's essay on Goethe commemorations, he invites us back into the complex politics of Buenos Aires in the twentieth century and the role of a German cultural icon. Equally compelling, Kelz invokes a transnational fascination with archival material and the cultural policies both hidden and exposed in them—particularly welcome at a time when onsite research ceased being an option for so many of us, unable to physically access the treasure troves of our work. The penultimate freestanding essay in this volume, Barry Murnane's reconsideration of Goethe's Weltliteratur in the context of Handelsverkehr (trade) with China continues a conversation about the worldliness of eighteenth-century German literature and culture that has been vigorous for some time now and gestures well beyond the uptake of individual concepts or motifs. Coincidentally, it also invites further dialogue with forthcoming or fresh-off-the-press books (at the time of this writing).
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Faust, A Tragedy, Part I: A New Translation with an Introduction and Notes. Translated and introduction by Eugene Stelzig. Lewisburg, PA: Bucknell University Press, 2019. 231 pp.
When one discovers a new translation of Goethe's Faust, especially when researching the large number of Faust texts available for course adoption, one may indeed need to assess many points of comparison with the other available translations. While I was still teaching, I did this on several occasions, especially for general education classes for undergraduates (in which the students seem to desire a “good read,” which I have usually taken to mean “an understandable text”), as well as for a liberal studies course in which graduate students, eager to engage with this profound work, desire a certain thematic depth that the translation does not hamper. Eugene Stelzig's new translation of Faust I can be recommended on both scores: the themes and complexities come through with minimal loss via Stelzig's most readable text.
Stelzig begins with an informative, albeit brief, introduction to interesting aspects of the author's life and the play. He emphasizes that Faust I is, in fact, two plays: first, it is a philosophical inquiry into the nature of human dissatisfaction with existence and evil, and second, it relates the Gretchen tragedy. With regard to the former, Stelzig is more perceptive than many a translator or critic, especially in terms of crucial issues, such as the dynamic between “becoming” and “negation.” This dialectic encompasses far more than merely the human condition and diabolical opposition on the surface level; the polarity extends to nature and science as well, and in fact to all areas of human experience. Stelzig recognizes this, and it comes through in his translation.
Faust has, of course, undergone numerous translations into English by some of the great and most adept translators of German literature, such as David Luke, Martin Greenberg, Walther Kaufmann, and others, as well as by a number of eminent Goethe scholars; each of these presents virtues that recommend it. Thus, today one discovers numerous choices when it comes to Faust translations available to the anglophone reading public. Stelzig's Faust I competes satisfactorily with them all: it is modern and notably unstuffy, earthy, and humorous where the original is humorous as well. But it also reflects elegance in the places where Goethe's language achieves high registers.