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What does it mean to think “I,” to say “I,” to write “I”? These foundational questions of subjectivity inform Annette von Droste-Hulshoff's literary production to such an extent that one might arguably define her oeuvre in terms of the early German Romantic notion of autopoiesis, the self-reflexive, self-critical self-creation of the subject, das Ich (the I), in and through poesy. Yet in contradistinction to the unitary structure of early Romantic subjectivity, for Droste the self frequently is presented as an object, an object often watched by—and at times watching—the subject, an object that is irreconcilable with the subject. significantly, many of these scenes of objectified self-definition are explicitly presented as aesthetic events, indicating their programmatic status in Droste's poetics, and they recur emblematically throughout her writing.
The following analysis seeks to elucidate Droste's object-driven conception of subjectivity and poetic production through a series of examples. The first section considers the early prose fragment Ledwina (1818/19–26). The second presents brief readings of a selection of her more famous poems and ballads, written between 1840 and 1844: “Das Spiegelbild” (The mirror image), “Im Moose” (In the moss), “Das Fraulein von Rodenschild” (Lady von Rodenschild), “Das erste Gedicht” (The first poem), “Das alte schloss” (The old castle), “Im Grase” (In the grass), “Die todte Lerche” (The dead lark), “Die Taxuswand” (The yew wall), “Die Mergelgrube” (The marl pit) and “Lebt wohl” (Farewell).
In 1807 Goethe formed a small chamber choir in Weimar, which he referred to on occasion as his “Singschule” (singing school), “Singechor” (singing choir), or “Singstunden” (singing class); in his diary he would often simply write that he spent time with “die Sänger” (the singers). Thanking Bettine Brentano for a packet of music she had sent him, he called the choir “meine kleine Hauscapelle” (my little chamber group) in a 24 February 1808 letter to her, and with irony he called the choir “meine kompendiose Hauskapelle” (my compendious chamber group) in a 22 April 1814 letter to his friend and musical advisor Carl Friedrich Zelter (MA 20.1:343). Years later in the Tag- und Jahreshefte he once again and more seriously referred to it as his “Hauskapelle” as he recalled its most successful season, 1810-11.
That the name recalls an earlier Hauskapelle, which Goethe created in the fictive world of Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre, is not accidental:
Serlo, ohne selbst Genie zur Musik zu haben, oder irgend ein Instrument zu spielen, wußte ihren hohen Wert zu schätzen; er suchte sich so oft als möglich diesen Genuß, der mit keinem andern verglichen werden kann, zu verschaffen. Er hatte wöchentlich einmal Konzert, und nun hatte sich ihm durch Mignon, den Harfenspieler und Laertes, der auf der Violine nicht ungeschickt war, eine wunderliche kleine Hauskapelle gebildet.
As many of his enemies have repeatedly emphasized, laughter is the devil. A long line of humorlessness, and especially a demonization of laughter, runs through the history of Christianity. Above all, it was the ancient Christian monkhood and the Church Fathers who accused laughter of being incompatible with human dignity. This tradition of an conservative hatred of laughter reaches from the seventeenth century's Jesuit and Jansenist critique of the comedy of the seventeenth century to Charles Baudelaire's essay De L'Essence du rire (1855), in which he reveals laughter to be the signature of fallen humanity, the trait of the satanic in mankind: “un des plus clairs signes sataniques de l'homme” (one of the clearest satanic signs of man). In paradise, laughter would have been unknown, and Christ never laughed—but he did cry—which, for Baudelaire, confirmed the antidivine character of laughter.
Two major works of modern art and literature, not least inspired by Baudelaire, have moved laughter into the sphere of evil. It is in Wagner's Parsifal that Kundry, the female main character, laughed at the cross-bearing Jesus on his journey of suffering and, as a result, was condemned like Ahasuerus, the eternal Jew, to wander through history until the end of days in “cursed laughter” (verfluchtem Lachen).
Jane Brown'sThe Persistence of Allegory (2007) brilliantly rethinks the history of the neoclassical aesthetic in literature and the visual arts over the past three hundred years. The study's interpretive frame, which Brown describes as “morphological in Goethe's sense of the word,” allows her to revisit the fluid relationship between the mimetic interests of an array of neoclassicisms from Shakespeare to Wagner and the disruptive allegorical interests of a variety of nonillusionist stage-practices. The following comments on Goethe's architectural idea are indebted to Brown's analysis of how the allegorical impulse “persisted” by adaptively reinscribing itself within the practices of neoclassical drama. Despite the enlistment of Aristotelian mimesis by the practitioners of literary neoclassicism, who displaced allegory with the illusion of reality, Brown repeatedly shows how allegory found ways to survive. Ultimately, allegory came to “haunt” the neoclassical stage for Brown in the sense that it unsettled the closely regulated household of dramatic verisimilitude, whether grounded in Aristotle's “material causality and psychological realism” or Vitruvius's perspectival stage-illusion (Persistence 113).
Following a similar line of argumentation, I contend that even after Goethe fell under the spell of Italy's ancient monuments, the gothic persevered in his system of architectural accounting whenever he took stock of what buildings are and how they should be perceived.
Es wird unmöglich sein, aus dem Modernismus von Hegels Diagnose neuerer Kunst die Prognose von deren Zukunft zu tilgen, ohne seine Theorie insgesamt umzuformulieren. An ihre Leistungen kann nur der anknüpfen, der die Bedingungen erkennt, unter denen ihre Defekte zustande kamen. Und seiner Fundamente kann man sich nur bedienen, wenn man erkennt, auf welchen Grund sie gelegt sind.
[It will be impossible to cut away the aspect of Hegel's forecast about the future of art from the general modernity of his diagnosis of recent art without reformulating his theory of art as a whole. Only one who knows the conditions under which its defects arose can begin this task of reformulation; one can make use of its foundations only when one understands the grounds on which the foundations were laid.]
“History” is a paradigm that emerges from what the conceptual historian Reinhart Koselleck calls the Sattelzeit, the period between 1750 and 1850; in other words, the concept of history itself has a history. For although history “als Kunde, Erzählung und Wissenschaft” (in the form of tidings, storytelling and scientific inquiry), as he explains, has been “ein alter Befund europäischer Kultur” (a part of European culture since antiquity), and although “das Geschichten-Erzählen zur Geselligkeit des Menschen [gehört]” (the telling of stories is inseparably bound up with human sociability), the notion that “es in der Geschichte um ‘Geschichte selber’ geht und nicht um eine Geschichte von etwas” (what is at stake in history is “history itself,” and not the history of something or other), is “eine moderne, eine neuzeitliche Formulierung” (a formulation specific to the modern era).
Invoking Goethe's name has become fashionable again. With new methods and technologies of reading threatening to render literature virtual and insubstantial, we have the sense that "Goethe's ghosts" - the otherwise neglected voices and traditions that, finding their most trenchant expression in Goethe, inform the Western storehouse of literature - can show us long-forgotten dimensions of literature. Inspired by the distinguished Goethe scholar Jane Brown, whose life's work has called attention to the allegorical modes haunting the mimetic forms that dominate modern literature, the contributors to this volume take a rich variety of approaches to Goethe: cultural studies, history of the book, semiotics, deconstruction, colonial studies, feminism, childhood studies, and eco-criticism. The persistence, omnipresence, and modalities of the "ghosts" they find suggest that more than influence or standards is at issue here. Goethe's work informs current debates on nineteenth-century nationalism, while his Faust increasingly serves to express contemporary culture's anxiety about new technologies. The stubborn reappearance of these revenants testifies to more fundamental issues concerning the status of literature and the task of the reader. As the contributors demonstrate, these questions acquire renewed urgency in writers as diverse as Hegel, Adorno, Benn, Droste-Hülshoff, and Nietzsche. Each of the essays testifies to the enduring salience and presence of Goethe. Contributors: Helmut Ammerlahn, Benjamin Bennett, Richard Block, Dieter Borchmeyer, Franz-Josef Deiters, Richard T. Gray, Martha B. Helfer, Meredith Lee, Clark Muenzer, Andrew Piper, Simon Richter, Jürgen Schroeder, Peter Schwartz, Patricia Simpson, Robert Tobin, David Wellbery, Sabine Wilke. Simon Richter is Professor of German Literature at the University of Pennsylvania. Richard Block is Associate Professor of German at the University of Washington.
Commentators have been practically unanimous about the general atmosphere of Goethe's little poem “Über allen Gipfeln.” Release of tension, imminent repose, harmony, and so on, make up the general view. My own sense of the poem—at least of its final version, as it appeared in print from 1815 on—is different. I find in it mainly nothing but dissonances, incongruities, and contradictions. And in the end, I think, the recognition of these qualities produces a distinctly better overall reading of the text than most others.
1. The first jarring element is the title: “Ein gleiches” (Of the same sort). Ordinarily we do not expect a poem's title to present interpretive difficulties—or if it does, then only after we have worked our way through the poem itself, as in the case of “Ganymed.” But the title “Ein gleiches”—with lower-case “g,” hence requiring to be completed by an understood noun—compels us to look elsewhere to discover what it refers to. For most commentators, “look elsewhere” means simply “look elsewhere on the same page”—in either the 1815 edition or the “Ausgabe letzter Hand”—where we find above our poem the poem “Wandrers Nachtlied” (Wanderer's night-song).
Hans Blumenberg's early historical examination of the metaphorology of the shipwreck, Schiffbruch mit Zuschauer (Shipwreck with spectator), lays out the existential import this image held for Western thought from antiquity through to philosophical modernism. For Blumenberg, the metaphor of the ocean voyage assumes a place along-side that of air flight and the Promethean theft of fire as one of the staple concretizations of human arrogance in its attempts to challenge and tame the laws of nature (14–15). The sea voyage in particular encapsulates, according to Blumenberg, a paradigmatic moment of human blasphemy, codified in the attempt to transgress those natural conditions that bind human existence to terra firma, and to venture out into that element that paradigmatically embodies the forces of incalculability, lawlessness, and total lack of orientation: the infinitely vast and wholly unpredictable ocean (10). Blumenberg identifies precisely that liminal space between terra firma and the immeasurable expanse of the ocean as the place that embodies and symbolically invokes this constant human drive toward transgression of its existential limitations. Blumenberg's language points immediately to the relevance this model holds specifically for Faust in part 2 of Goethe's drama: “Daß hier, an der Grenze vom festen Land zum Meer, zwar nicht der Sündenfall, aber doch der Verfehlungsschritt ins Ungemäße und Maßlose zuerst getan wurde, ist von der Anschaulichkeit, die dauerhafte Topoi trägt” (11; The fact that this border between firm land and the sea marks the place where, to be sure, not the fall from grace per se, but the first transgressive step into inexpedience and immoderation was taken, has the vividness that only lasting topoi possess).