International Society for the Study of Narrative & the Goethe Society of North America
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Narratologist?
Modern Languages Association Annual Convention
Austin, Texas 7-10 January, 2016
Although constituting an innovative and influential narrative corpus, the prose works of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe are not often invoked in either the core texts of classical narratology or in contemporary narrative theory. According to Martin Swales, however, Goethe maintained a life-long interest in narrativity that significantly shaped his narrative practice. The inattention to Goethe’s work on the part of narrative theorists thus represents a significant oversight. We invite papers to consider how narrative theory can illuminate Goethe’s prose works—in particular his four novelistic masterworks Die Leiden des jungen Werthers (1774, The Sorrows of Young Werther), Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre (1795-1796, Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship), Die Wahlverwandschaften (1809, Elective Affinities), and Wilhelm Meisters Wanderjahre (1821/1839, Wilhelm Meister’s Journeyman Years). We also wish to explore the ways in which Goethe’s narrative work enacts its own particular narrative theory. Possible presentations might address the following questions: How can narrative theory be productively deployed in analyses of Goethe’s works? How does an examination of his works help us to better understand the narrative conventions of the novel as they developed in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, whether in the context of German-language literature or transnationally/translinguistically? How do his prose works invite or resist narratologically inflected readings? How can insights into the narrative dynamics of Goethe’s texts enrich existing narratological paradigms? We invite papers that either narrow in on particular narrative theoretical aspects of Goethe’s works or broaden their focus to consider Goethe’s narratives alongside the work of other writers.