Category Archives: News

From the President

Members of the Goethe Society gathered this year in San Diego at the German Studies Association convention where there were inspiring panels on Goethe, some sponsored by the Society such as “Goethe at Play,” others emerging spontaneously. Vice President Catriona MacLeod together with the Directors at large, Heidi Schlipphacke and John Smith, awarded prizes for the best essay at the annual reception. This year we thank Elizabeth Powers, long-time Goethe Society member and scholar, for her endowment of the Richard Sussman Essay Prize for the best essay on Goethe’s contribution to the sciences and the history of science during the Goethezeit.

Many of us are sad to see Simon Richter step away from the editorial board of the Goethe Book Series at Bucknell University Press. Simon has had tremendous influence on the growth of the Goethe Society. He was the first editor of the Goethe Yearbook after Thomas Saine retired. Later he became president of the Society. Simon has always been very conscious of his responsibility to carry forward the intellectual aspirations of the first members of the Goethe Society and he has been kind in passing along that sense of continuity to the scholars who have come after him. With an ear to Simon’s recollections about the older generation, we sent out a call for recollections about the first years of the Goethe Society. Meredith Lee and Ehrhard Bahr have gathered together their memories to recount the practical and intellectual goals in founding the North American Goethe Society. You can find their histories included here in this newsletter.

The next conference of the Goethe Society will be held November 3-4, 2017 at Penn State University. A full description of the overarching topic “Re-Orientations around Goethe” was included in the previous newsletter and a formal Call for Papers will be published later this fall. We look forward to your joining us next year. Penn State University is serviced by the University Park Airport (SCE), which has connections to major airline hubs. We look forward to proposals for individual papers and collective panels. More information will be coming soon.

Daniel Purdy
Pennsylvania State University

From the Executive Secretary

Greetings from Maine (where we have another gorgeous fall)!

Writing this note, I am still inspired by the great panels on “Goethe and Play” at this year’s GSA (organized by Elliott Schreiber and Edgar Landgraf). But it is already time to think ahead to next year! GSA will meet in Atlanta, October 5-8, 2017. Please send me proposals for GSA panels no later than November 15th, 2016!

Meanwhile, we can look forward to two exciting panels at the MLA 2017: one, on “Goethe and Refugees,” organized by Karin Schutjer and me, and one on “What Goethe Heard,” organized by Mary Helen Dupree in collaboration with the Executive Committee on 18th and early 19th century literature. Panel proposals for MLA 2018 will be due December 1st, 2016!

Informal discussions at GSA suggested that there are many ideas for new initiatives, as well as questions and suggestions, hibernating among you! Please send all of them my way, including but not limited to new programming, ideas on recruiting more members, collaboration and support. Email me at btautz@bowdoin.edu.

Best wishes, Birgit

Birgit Tautz
Bowdoin College

2016 Business Meeting

On October 1, 2016, members of GSNA gathered at the GSA conference for our annual business meeting and cash bar. President Daniel Purdy ran the business meeting, beginning with a report on overall standing of the society, programming initiatives such as Global Goethe and the preparation of the next Atkins Goethe Conference. The conference will take place November 3-4, 2017 on the campus of Penn State University. Daniel, and our two directors-at-large, Heidi Schlipphacke and John Smith, have begun the planning process. Heidi and John are looking forward to paper and panel submissions on “Re-Orientations around Goethe.”

Heidi, John, and Vice President Catriona MacLeod formed the Prize and Awards committee this summer, reading many excellent essays on Goethe, his century, and interdisciplinary inquiries of Goethezeit. Catriona read the wonderful citations detailed in her report. She presented the prizes to two winners in attendance, Heather Sullivan and Howard M. Pollak-Milgate. We all were gratified to honor such robust and exciting scholarship, not only in the award-winning essays but also in the Goethe Yearbook and in the book series.

Elisabeth Krimmer reported on the upcoming volume of the Goethe YB, and I read Karin Schutjer’s report on the book series. Please see Catriona’s, Elisabeth’s, and Karin’s reports in this newsletter to read about all the recent and forthcoming innovative projects.

Finally, Christian Weber assured us of the society’s financial strengths in his report, including discussions about introducing multi-year membership options. Attendees floated various ideas of interest and concern to the GSNA, and we wrapped up by my calling attention to recent books by members and upcoming, society-sponsored conference panels at MLA and ASECS, all of which are an excellent complement to the stellar panel series at GSA (on Goethe and play, organized by Elliott Schreiber and Edgar Landgraf).

Birgit Tautz
Bowdoin College

News from Members

Proserpina by Goethe and Seckendorff had not been performed since its 1778 premiere in Weimar. But on October 14 it was heard again on the Weis Center Stage at Bucknell University along with a new electro-acoustic composition on Goethe’s text by Paul Botelho. This is all part of GSNA member Annie Randall’s project Proserpina: Two Monodramas (1777 and 2016).

proserpina

Here’s what Proserpina looks like in the Goethe/Seckendorff version of 1777-78—not seen by anyone since that time (!!)—played by the New York Baroque Orchestra: www.youtube.com/watch?v=XmpfI0A2d0s. And here’s what she looks like in the 2016 electro-acoustic version: www.youtube.com/watch?v=AqL2hhyNLSs.

See an overview of the project.

In other news, we are pleased to announce that Past President W. Daniel Wilson has been awarded the Reimar Lüst Award for International Scholarly and Cultural Exchange from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. Supported by the German Foreign Office and the Fritz Thyssen Foundation, the award carries a prize of 60,000 euros. It also entails an invitation to collaborate with other scholars at the University of Göttingen and the Foundation for Weimar Classicism.

Dan Wilson’s research focuses on literature, culture and society of eighteenth and nineteenth-century Germany. He is currently researching a book on the politics of the Goethe-Gesellschaft in the Weimar Republic and the Third Reich. He reports that he has come across some interesting things about the Goethe Society of America (in New York), which was an Ortsgruppe of the Goethe-Gesellschaft. It turns out that the American “branch” was very important for Nazi cultural politics. More to come!

www.royalholloway.ac.uk/aboutus/newsandevents/news/newsarticles/danwilsonmajoraward.aspx

 

 

From the Editor of the Book Series

The monograph series currently has several projects at different stages in the pipeline. Meanwhile we were very busy over the summer reviewing proposals.

We have one announcement:  Simon Richter has resigned from the board because of his workload related to other important commitments. The choice was hard for Simon: he has been involved with the series since its founding. He deserves our tremendous thanks for this service as well as for all of his many other contributions to the ongoing vitality of the GSNA. I’m also very grateful to our continuing hardworking board members: Jane Brown, Martha Helfer, and Astrida Tantillo.

We remain, as always, very eager to see your proposals. Please send a prospectus and sample chapter to me by email. You’re also welcome to send an optional introduction, if available. Our entire editorial board evaluates proposals and generally responds within 4-6 weeks.

Please direct proposals or inquiries to me at kschutjer@ou.edu. I hope to hear from you!

Karin Schutjer
University of Oklahoma

From the Yearbook Editors

Vol. 24 of the Goethe Yearbook is currently being copy-edited and will be on its way to the printer soon. This volume will feature a special section co-edited by John Lyon and Elliott Schreiber on the “Poetics of Space in the Goethezeit,” with contributions on blind spots as projection spaces in Goethe’s Elective Affinities (Tove Holmes); on the topography and topoi of Goethe’s autobiographical childhood (Anthony Mahler); on disorientation and the subterranean in Novalis (John Lyon); on selfhood, sovereignty, and public space in Die italienische Reise, “Das Rochus-Fest zu Bingen,” and Dichtung und Wahrheit (Joseph O’Neil); on Goethe’s theater of anamnesis and the exposure of the temporal subject in Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre (Colin Benert); and on spatial mobilization and tactical displacements in Kleist’s Berliner Abendblätter and the “Tagesbegebenheiten” (Christian Weber).

In addition, there are original contributions on the horror of coming home in Caroline de la Motte Fouqué’s “Der Abtrünnige” (Sara Luly) and on Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi’s Eduard Allwills Papiere (Monika Nenon); on genre and mourning practices in two poems by Karoline von Günderrode (Stephanie Galasso) and on absolute signification and ontological inconsistency in E.T.A. Hoffmann’s Der Sandmann (Gabriel Trop).

We are extremely pleased that the Goethe Yearbook is able to collect so many far-ranging contributions from a diverse group of scholars year after year. Thank you to all who have submitted, thank you to all who read submissions for us. We are now accepting contributions to Vol. 25. As always, we hope to hear from many of you and particularly welcome contributions by younger scholars.

Manuscript submissions should reach us by late May, preferably earlier. Submissions should follow the Chicago Manual of Style and confine themselves to less than 35 pages. For specific questions about scholarly citations, please consult the Yearbook’s style sheet.

Note that the entire run of back issues is available on Project MUSE.

Adrian Daub
Stanford University

Elisabeth Krimmer
University of California at Davis

2015 Essay Prizes

This year we were in the fortunate position to be able to award two prizes for the Goethe Society Prize for the best essay on Goethe or the Goethezeit published in 2015. (Find previous award winners here.)

Our first of two prizes goes to Stephanie Hilger for her original and fascinating article “Orientation and Supplementation: Locating the ‘Hermaphrodite’ in the Encyclopédie,” published in Volume 22 of the Goethe Yearbook (2015). In her essay, she looks closely at entries on the hermaphrodite in various editions of the Encyclopèdie, ou Dictionnaire rasionné des sciences, des arts et des métiers (1751-72). Hilger deftly situates her analysis of attempts to represent the hermaphrodite within the contemporary discussion of queer phenomenology, that is, positionality and orientation. In an elegant, bold and convincing manner, Hilger highlights the tortured project of defining and representing the hermaphrodite, a figure that, according to Enlightenment thought, should not really exist. Hilger masterfully lays out the placement and optics of various entries on the hermaphrodite, revealing the seemingly competing tendencies of referencing mythical representations of hermaphrodites and representing ambiguously gendered anatomies in accord with the 18th-century scientific turn. In light of her nuanced readings of Enlightenment attempts to fix and understand the intersex body, Hilger concludes that the “Encyclopedic Age – what Foucault calls the Classical Age – is classical also in the sense that it reveals its anchoring in those Western foundational myths that it purports to transcend” (183). For those of us interested in encylopedism and the organization of knowledge as well, we will find here intriguing observations concerning the hybrid/ hermaphroditic form of the encyclopedia itself. Hilger’s essay provides a compelling intervention into scholarly discussions of the hermaphrodite that usually focus on this figure in the 19th– and 20th centuries, offering a window onto this figure’s pivotal place within shifting paradigms for understanding the human body, sex and gender.

The second winner of this year’s GSNA prize for best essay will not come as a surprise to most of us who have been reading new work in Goethe studies these past years, indeed decades. The prize goes to Heather Sullivan for her essay, “Nature and the ‘Dark Pastoral’ in Goethe’s Werther,” also published in the Goethe Yearbook 22. Heather has been at the forefront of employing ideas from “ecocriticism” and demonstrating the mutual benefits of reading Goethe through its lens. Far from a rote “application” of a method, however, she simultaneously thinks with Goethe’s own conceptions of nature. Most important in this essay, as in many of her others, she looks not just at Goethe’s theoretical pronouncements on science but on his literary production. She takes Timothy Morton’s statement seriously that in writing and thinking about ecology, the form matters as much as the content. In this essay in particular, she concentrates on what she terms “dark pastoral” in Goethe’s Werther—a term she coins after Morton’s “dark ecology.” This focus allows her to bring out the deep ambivalences in Goethe’s conception of nature (echoed in the varieties of natural descriptions). Furthermore, her reading challenges the typical subjectivist approach to the novel and to nature in the novel (as a mere reflection of poor Werther’s states of mind). Precisely her fusion of theory, science, and literature makes her essay stand out.

gsna-essay-prize-winner-heather-i-sullivan-with-vice-president-catriona-macleod
Heather I. Sullivan and Catriona MacLeod

We also decided to award an honorable mention to an exceptional paper by Jacob Denz, “Rigorous Mediacy: Addressing Mother in Hölderlin’s ‘Am Quell der Donau,’ ‘Die Wanderung,’ and ‘An die Madonna,’” which appeared in MLN.

Denz convincingly interprets the womb, via analyses of this figure in Kant and Hegel, as a synecdoche for the maternal, ultimately a synecdoche itself for a notion of organic totality that presents a crisis for Hölderlin. Denz’s sophisticated and highly original close readings of the Hölderlin poems are each a tour-de-force, offering a model for the kind of sustained close work with literature that yields profound insights into the creative and reading processes alike. Denz situates nuanced close analysis within a discussion of some of the pressing philosophical questions of the time in a manner that provides a riveting and utterly enlightening reading experience.

We are extremely fortunate to have a new prize this year, the Richard Sussman Prize for scholarship on Goethe or the Goethezeit more generally and science.

Howard M. Pollack-Milgate’s highly innovative essay “Gott ist bald 1 ∙ ∞ – bald 1/∞ – bald 0”: The Mathematical Infinite and the Absolute in Novalis” appeared in the journal Seminar in February 2015. In lucid prose, Pollack-Milgate offers an elegant exegesis of Novalis’ understanding of the infinite. Novalis’s concept of Potenzierung is daunting.  This essay is a tour de force of sorts, for it makes a clear and compelling case to scholars of Romanticism and lay readers alike for a reconceptualization of Romantic notions of the infinite in terms of an emerging science of calculus. Pollack-Milgate shows us that Novalis studied early texts on calculus and that he then borrowed the language and thought presented by mathematicians to conceive of the infinite in a dual manner, as the meeting, so to speak, of the curve and the line, of the differential and the integral. Pollack-Milgate deftly connects mathematical and philosophical conceptions of the infinite to poetic ones, showing us that “the infinite allows for contradictions to be resolved (as in the meeting point of parallel lines or asymptotes)” (68). As complex as this topic sounds, Pollack-Milgate’s masterful presentation of it manages easily to convince that calculus serves as an illuminating allegory for Romantic notions of the infinite.

gsna-with-howard-pollack-milgate-and-catriona-macleod
Howard Pollack-Milgate and Catriona MacLeod

Thanks to the special section of the Goethe Yearbook 22 on “Goethe and Environmentalism” there were numerous excellent essays on Goethe and science and so we are happy to offer, in addition to the inaugural Sussmann Prize, an honorable mention to Fred Amrine for his essay, “The Music of the Organism: Uexküll, Merleau-Ponty, Zuckerkandl, and Deleuze as Goethean Ecologists in Search of a New Paradigm.” Amrine brings together a wonderful range of 20th-century thinkers—the subtitle of his talk is quite a mouthful!—in order to demonstrate the way they have been exploring and “normalizing” a “paradigm shift” (à la Thomas Kuhn) that Goethe helped to initiate. All of them offer a different, non-mechanistic, non-binaristic approach to nature. In this essay, as in so much of his other work that likewise deserves honorable mention, Fred has made a powerful case for the Aktualität of Goethe. We could say that Goethe planted the seeds that have blossomed in so many later thinkers, or that Goethe played the theme that has undergone many wonderful variations. Indeed, that latter metaphor is particularly apt in this case because the specific way Fred ties these thinkers together is through their use of music as a way of talking about natural phenomena.

Catriona MacLeod
University of Pennsylvania

From the Editor of the Book Series

As I step into this new position, I’m thrilled to announce that not only will our three current editorial board members—Martha Helfer, Simon Richter, and Astrida Tantillo—continue to serve, but our outgoing editor Jane Brown has agreed to stay on as well as a member of the board. We’re all very pleased that the series will continue to profit from Jane’s keen editorial judgment and marvelous intellectual insight. Both previous editors, Jane and Astrida, have built a strong, collaborative foundation on which the series can grow.

As a reminder, here is the series description from the Bucknell UP website:

New Studies in the Age of Goethe, sponsored by the Goethe Society of North America, aims to publish innovative research that contextualizes the “Age of Goethe,” whether within the fields of literature, history (including art history and history of science), philosophy, art, music, or politics. We encourage the submission of high-quality manuscripts and welcome all approaches and perspectives. We are especially interested in interdisciplinary projects, creative approaches to archival or original source materials, theoretically informed scholarship, work that introduces previously undiscovered materials, or projects that re-examine traditional epochal boundaries or open new channels of interpretations.”

Currently we have three manuscripts at various stages in the pipeline and are always eager to receive more. Consider submitting your own work and meanwhile spread the word! The series offers unique advantages for its authors: from our excellent board, a highly attentive, collegial review process; from the GSNA, supplementary funds for advertising and design, special opportunities for publicity, and, in general, the benefit of the society’s wonderful scholarly network.

Please direct proposals or inquiries to me at kschutjer@ou.edu. I hope to hear from you!

Karin Schutjer
University of Oklahoma

From the Yearbook Editors

As Volume 23 of the Goethe Yearbook is getting ready for publication, we are busy putting together what is looking to be an even larger 24th volume. A special section on “Space and Place in the Goethezeit,” guest-edited by John Lyon and Elliott Schreiber, will collect six essays by eminent and up-and-coming scholars. Eight contributions outside of this focus will bring together scholars from a broad range of disciplinary backgrounds and career stages. The review section, edited for the first time by Sean Franzel, will provide an overview of new publications on Goethe and his age.

We continue to be excited by the way in which the Yearbook manages to reflect the diversity among scholars of the Goethezeit, and the immense spirit of intellectual community that shines through in the reviews. In that spirit, we continue to ask scholars at any stage of their career to get in touch, to submit their work, and to review.

Manuscript submissions should reach us by late May, preferably earlier. Submissions should follow the Chicago Manual of Style and confine themselves to less than 35 pages. For specific questions about scholarly citations, please consult the Yearbook’s style sheet.

Note that the entire run of back issues is available on Project MUSE.

Adrian Daub
Stanford University

Elisabeth Krimmer
University of California at Davis

2016 GSA Panels

Special GSNA Sessions at the Annual Meeting of the German Studies Association
San Diego, Sept. 29-Oct. 2, 2016

Organized by Edgar Landgraf and Elliott Schreiber

Goethe at Play: Theories, Narratives, and Practices of Play in the Goethezeit (1)

Moderator: Elliott Schreiber (Vassar)
Commentator: Edgar Landgraf (Bowling Green)

  1. Ian McNeely (U of Oregon), “Kant for Kindergarteners: The Pedagogy of Play during the German Educational Revolution”
  2. Christiane Frey (NYU), “The Games of the Rule: Knowing and Playing 1799/1800”
  3. Nicholas Rennie (Rutgers), “Play with Memory: Faust
Goethe at Play: Theories, Narratives, and Practices of Play in the Goethezeit (2)

Moderator: Nicholas Rennie (Rutgers)
Commentator: Nicole Calian (U of Washington)

  1. Patricia Simpson (U of Montana), “Playthings: Goethe’s Favorite Toys”
  2. Elliott Schreiber (Bowling Green), “Literary Fairytales and Imaginative Play (Goethe, Tieck, Andersen)”
  3. Michael Powers (Tufts), “Play, or the First Poetry”
  4. Christian Weber (Florida State), “Erotic Play in Poetry: Uz, Klopstock, Goethe”
Goethe at Play: Theories, Narratives, and Practices of Play in the Goethezeit (3)

Moderator: Michael Powers (Tufts)
Commentator: Christian Weber (Florida State)

  1. Sam Heidepriem (U of Michigan), “Free Play in Kant, Schiller, and Poststructuralism”
  2. Christoph Rauen (U Kiel), “Das Spiel als Modell autonomer Kunst um 1800 (Nicolai, Musäus, Schiller, Goethe)”
  3. David Martyn (Macalester), “Authorship as Play: Schleiermacher’s Translingual Poetics”

 

From the Executive Secretary

I am delighted to continue my work for GSNA as your new executive secretary!

Let me start with many thanks: to Karin Schutjer, for doing such a marvelous job and helping along the transition, everybody at the executive committee and particularly Burkhard Henke for helping me keep deadlines and disseminate information. Thanks to all of you for sending me ideas, suggestions, and conference panel proposals – but please no books or reviews. Please send them to Sean Franzel, who is doing a marvelous job.

The call for panel proposals for MLA 2017 has gone out already, but here is a list of current and upcoming deadlines:

  • ASECS, 15 March 2016 for the 2017 convention
  • GSA, 15 November 2016 for the 2017 convention
  • MLA, 1 December 2016 for the 2018 convention

For the 2016 GSA, Elliott Schreiber and Edgar Landgraf have arranged an impressive series of panels on Goethe at Play. Three panels, sponsored by our society, have been submitted to the program committee. You can see details below. Clearly, we’ll be well represented in San Diego!

In the meantime, happy spring and please do not hesitate to contact me!

Birgit Tautz
Bowdoin College

From the President

As we commence this new term in the Goethe Society, I would like to thank the outgoing officers who have worked so hard over the last years. President Clark Muenzer initiated the Society’s international cooperation with Weimar, while organizing a wonderful conference in Pittsburgh, where after the lively panels we were able to visit the Andy Warhol Museum to contemplate Goethe as a Pop Art icon. For all his service to the Society from its very inception, we thank Clark and look forward to his continued presence in our gathering. As Executive Secretary, Karin Schutjer managed the Society’s many operations, maintained a clear memory of how we had done things in the past, and proposed elegant solutions to complex questions. As the Book Series editor, Jane Brown, set the standard for Goethe scholarship in the Society’s publications. In meetings, we always looked to her for the wise recommendation, just as we were inspired by her ground-breaking keynote address at the conference. Claire Baldwin kept us all honest, up-to-date, and running smoothly as Treasurer by maintaining the membership roll and tending the Society’s endowment. As Directors-at-large, Heather Sullivan and Horst Lange wore many hats to pull off multiple feats of administration and scholarship. They were instrumental in organizing the conference and adjudicating the essay prize. As Book Review Editor, Birgit Tautz encouraged and reminded the members of their scholarly commitments. By guiding the Yearbook’s reviews, she pulled together our republic of Goethe scholars.

The Society’s offices will be filled by both new and familiar colleagues. Catriona MacLeod brings her experience in Goethe scholarship and in the Society to the office of Vice President. She will organize the essay prizes, which are now growing in number, as well as the dissertation workshop for the upcoming conference. The new Directors-at-Large, Heidi Schlipphacke and John Smith, will contribute their expertise to organizing the Society’s conference and essay prizes as well. Christian Weber will bring his disciplined focus to the position of Treasurer. We look forward to Birgit Tautz serving as Executive Secretary. Adrian Daub and Elisabeth Krimmer will continue to edit the Goethe Yearbook. Their next volume will be much anticipated. Sean Franzel steps in as the new Book Review editor. Karin Schutjer will assume the responsibilities of the Book Series. And most subtly of all, Burkhard Henke will continue directing the Society’s media operations as Webmaster and Editor of the Newsletter.

Goethe Society History

As the Society has been in existence for more than a generation and the newest members have only a distant image of the Goethe Society’s founding, we will start writing a history of the Goethe Society. Thus we will call on the earliest members to send us their written memories or photographs of the first years. If you have any recommendations, please contact me at dlp14@psu.edu.

Global Goethe Initiative

The Goethe Society will undertake a new digital humanities project: Global Goethe.

Global Goethe will ask how Goethe operates as a transnational brand. How does the name translate into cultural capital? Does the invocation of Goethe ease the barriers to cross-border dialogue?

Global Goethe will ask if the discussion of world literature as a concept and a practice has turned Goethe into a new type of icon. To what extent do references to Goethe serve to legitimate world literature as an academic discourse? How important is the illusion that Goethe as an historical figure stood outside the current system of capital, migration, and global competition? To what extent was Goethe’s own writing already defined within an international reception of culture, from Tasso and Shakespeare onwards? Our well-honed instinct to resist culture industries should not prevent our appreciation of how literary prestige helps facilitate writing and art. Nor should we presume that our present has produced the first iteration of Goethe as global icon. The global representation of Goethe has its own history.

We will consider to what extent Goethe was engaged in creating himself into an international celebrity, at least along the lines of Byron’s nineteenth-century fame. How do global allusions to Goethe go beyond the familiar legends of cultural legitimacy? Do the familiar tropes of globalization overwhelm critical engagement with Goethe’s writing? What values and ideologies does the invocation of Goethe sustain? How many different cosmopolitan invocations of Goethe can we find? Are there variations between local, national, metropolitan, and international adaptations of Goethe’s writing? How important are translations in enabling these different cultural regimes? To what extent does the global Goethe operate in conjuncture with German institutions? Can we write a history of the many different Goethes that have been given official sanction since at least 1832?

While we surely must acknowledge the ideological investment in authenticity, we would ideally like to gather together an archive of multivalent local perspectives deploying Goethe’s work. What different interpretations of Goethe are being developed across Asia, Africa, Europe, South and North America? To that end, we will start to work together with other institutions, organizations, and German scholars to develop a network of comparative studies, performances and translations of Goethe’s work.

Over the next years, we will create a digital archive of performances, translations, critiques, and visualizations from around the world so that we can develop a multifaceted critical understanding of world literature in and through Goethe’s writing. At the same time the North American Goethe Society, in conjunction with allied organizations, will develop conferences, panels, seminars, and publications more precisely defining the global implications of Goethe’s work. Most importantly we will establish collaborations with partner institutions—other Goethe Societies, and not just those in Germany—with whom we could elaborate new projects on this theme. More information will be announced in the coming months. Anyone with specific proposals or questions, please write to me at dlp14@psu.edu.

Upcoming Atkins Conference

Re-Orientations around Goethe

The next tri-annual Atkins conference of the North American Goethe Society will be held November 3-4, 2017 on the campus of Penn State University.

From Kant’s Copernican Revolution and France’s political earthquake to Goethe’s rediscovery of the Orient, spatial metaphors, such as re-orientation allow us to examine how art, politics, philosophy, and science were redefined in the seminal decades around 1800. Not only does “Reorientation” invoke the important revolutions of the era, but it also encourages us to reconsider our understanding of the historical period’s distinguishing characteristics. How do we decide what the essential features of the Goethezeit are? By focusing on the artistic, social, and philosophic changes during Goethe’s lifetime, can we isolate the era’s unique qualities? The spatial focus of this tri-annual Goethe Society conference leads us to reconsider the intellectual practices that caused writers to set and erase conceptual boundaries, from Enlightenment epistemology to the Romantic fascination with losing one’s way, to the invention of World Literature. With an inevitable dialectical turn, the logic of spatial categories also invites us to reconsider the temporal organization of history, so that we may find different temporalities and experiences of time by looking back.

Reorientations will expand the already burgeoning scholarship on the relationship of German culture with Europe’s expanding domination over the globe. We will encourage scholars to re-evaluate the place of German thought within the broader discourses of science, trade, and colonialism throughout the world. Goethe’s espousal of world literature is most certainly a re-orientation of media networks away from the national.

Even as Reorientations urges us to explore spatial turns within literature, it also acknowledges that recent scholarship has also moved from the geographical to the atmospheric realm, so that meteorological and climactic concerns in poetry and prose have found a crucial new importance. By reconsidering these familiar terms we can draw connections between the culture around Weimar and our own environmental crises and informational ecologies. Reorientations will examine both how the era from 1749 to 1832 brought with it massive political, intellectual, and artistic revolutions, but also how scholarship on this period has refocused critical analysis on questions such as the interaction of humans with their environment, or the inter-dependencies between philosophy and science. Is the reorientation of aesthetics onto Naturphilosophie also a redeployment of images and terms from religious discourse? To what extent does the increasing prominence of concepts such as “fluidity,” “porosity,” or “plasticity” reflect a new orientation in the scientific study of nature and aesthetics?

Reorientations emboldens us to find a new understanding of Romantic irony and Idealist self-consciousness. The term speaks to Idealism’s critical self examination of philosophical consciousness: the basic notion that subjectivity is not only orientated towards the outside world, but also back onto itself so that it engages in observations about its own subject-object relationships.

Reorientations spurs us to reconcile the era’s devotion to Classical culture with modern notions of progress and advancement. We will consider how literature re-orients itself away from the conventions of established genres onto the experiences of subjectivity. How were the ends of the Enlightenment, which Kant, Lessing, and Mendelssohn considered far from attained, re-directed by subsequent generations? How were established literary genres, such as tragedy, rerouted from the misfortunes of monarchs to the misadventures of more humble individuals? How did the novel become ever more minutely concerned with the socialization of the individual? On the level of the text, Reorientations also calls attention to the sudden redirections in plot within familiar narratives—the unexpected turn of events that reveals previously unrecognized truths.

Reorientations rouses us to consider the demise of the Holy Roman Empire and the redrawing of Central European boundaries under Napoleon and the Congress of Vienna. Reorientations speaks to the domestic politics of an era that also called for the emancipation of women, Jews, and slaves. Anthropological thinkers fixated on previously unrecognized features in order to reorient the classificatory systems used to define the “human.” The era saw the discovery of childhood as well as the first formulations of racial theories organizing humans according to skin color. We will also question the extent to which literature reflects the era’s transformation of social institutions, whereby groups such as the nuclear family were re-codified in order to fulfill specialized biological and pedagogical purposes. To what extent did the literature of the Goethezeit reorient gender identity and sexuality?

In the end, a Goethe conference focused on Reorientations will find new objects of study, so that we may develop new viewpoints on familiar and well-established questions of the Goethezeit. It encourages us to look back for a sense of direction in overcoming the contradictions and dead ends in our own era, while also raising the expectation that we permit the present to set a new course in Goethe Studies.

Reorientation contains within itself a tension, even a contradiction, which we wish to exploit. On the one hand, it refers to the act of returning to one’s original path as a response to the ways in which modernity has led us astray, so that we might rediscover stable means of engaging with society, nature, and art. On the other, reorientation urges us to revive the Goethezeit’s revolutionary aesthetics, politics, and philosophy.

Please submit paper (250 words) and panel proposals to Heidi Schlipphacke, heidis@uic.edu, and John Smith, jhsmith@uci.edu, by April 15, 2017. Decisions about submissions will be announced by May 15, 2017.

Daniel Purdy
Pennsylvania State University

New Books by Members

Gustafson, Susan E. Goethe’s Families of the Heart. New Directions in German Studies. New York: Bloomsbury, 2016.

gustafson

Throughout his literary work Goethe portrays characters who defy and reject 18th and 19th century ideals of aristocratic and civil families, notions of heritage, assumptions about biological connections, expectations about heterosexuality, and legal mandates concerning marriage. The questions Goethe’s plays and novels pose are often modern and challenging: Do social conventions, family expectations, and legal mandates matter? Can two men or two women pair together and be parents? How many partners or parents should there be? Two? One? A group? Can parents love children not biologically related to them? Do biological parents always love their children? What is the nature of adoptive parents, children, and families? Ultimately, what is the fundamental essence of love and family?

Gustafson demonstrates that Goethe’s conception of the elective affinities is certainly not limited to heterosexual spouses or occasionally to men desiring men. A close analysis of Goethe’s explication of affinities throughout his literary production reveals his rejection of loveless relationships (for example, arranged marriages) and his acceptance and promotion of all relationships formed through spontaneous affinities and love (including heterosexual, same-sex, nonexclusive, group, parental, and adoptive).

Call for Papers: 2017 MLA

Panel sponsored by the Goethe Society of North America, proposed by Karin Schutjer (University of Oklahoma) and Birgit Tautz (Bowdoin College)

Refugees, Migrants, and Exiles in the Age of Goethe

This panel examines figurations, metaphors, and constellations of displacement, engaging with questions of belonging, home, and escape, broadly construed. Papers may explore these questions in Goethe’s as well as contemporaries’ works. While we consider biographical approaches, we are particularly interested in fictional, psycho-geographical, and historical treatments, including, for example, adaptation and reception of antiquity or the Bible, French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars, the Grand Tour, or resettlement due to environmental change, colonization or development projects.

1-page abstracts by 1 March to btautz@bowdoin.edu and kschutjer@ou.edu.