From the President

“Das Gebildete wird sogleich wieder umgebildet, und wir haben uns, wenn wir einigermaßen zum lebendigen Anschaun der Natur gelangen wollen, selbst so beweglich und bildsam zu erhalten, nach dem Beispiele mit dem sie uns vorgeht.”

Over the coming months, we will be seeing a number of changes: we will be selecting new officers and a new book series editor; inaugurating a new prize to promote research on Goethean science; and convening a new GSA Seminar on “Science, Nature, and Art.” The following record of the Society’s recent events and activities suggests the challenge of change for our organization should be understood, in true Goethean fashion, as part of a process of transformation that flexibly adapts the past and keeps it moving into the future.

2014 Atkins Conference at the University of Pittsburgh

For those who were unable to attend the conference, I would like to begin my summary with two announcements that I made during our Annual Business Meeting in Pittsburgh.

Our Essay Prize for 2013 was awarded to Professor Patricia Simpson for her article “Sacred Maternity and Secular Sons: Hölderlin’s Madonna as Muse.” Read Daniel Purdy’s laudatio below. Congratulations on your accomplishment, Patty, and many thanks to Daniel Purdy and the other two judges, Peter Höyng and Gail Hart, for their hours of work.

I was also extremely pleased to announce the establishment of a new prize that has been made possible through the generosity of one of our most dedicated and active members, Dr. Elizabeth M. Powers. Further details will be worked out over the coming months, but the Richard Sussman Memorial Prize, named to honor Elizabeth’s late husband, will promote research on Goethe’s scientific writings and activities, including his correspondence and contacts with important figures in the scientific community of his day.

Thank you again, Elizabeth. We are touched by your generous support and the trust you have placed in the Society to further knowledge in fields that were very dear to Richard and you.

Here is a record of our four days in Pittsburgh last October:

  • About eighty-five people attended the conference from across the United States and five European countries.
  • Generous financial and material support was provided by the following individuals, institutions, and organizations: Mr. Stuart Atkins (who has endowed the conference since 2011 in honor of his parents, Lillian and Stuart P. Atkins; the Max Kade Foundation (New York); the Andy Warhol Museum (Pittsburgh); the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts & Sciences, the Humanities Center, the University Library and the Department of Special Collections, and the Departments of English and German (all of the University of Pittsburgh).
  • Twenty panels were organized.
  • The panels included fifty-seven presentations on the conference topic: “Aesthetics and its Institutions During the Age of Goethe.”
  • A lively Presidential Forum, with talks by Ellis Dye, Simon Richter, and Astrida Tantillo, addressed issues around Goethe and the humanities today.
  • Two keynote addresses were offered by Jane K. Brown (University of Washington, Seattle) and Anne-Bohnenkamp Renken (Freies Deutsches Hochstift). Both speakers were honored with lifetime memberships in the Society. The title of Jane Brown’s address was “Building Bridges: Goethe’s Fairy-Tale Aesthetics.” Anne Bohnenkamp-Renken’s address was entitled “Mignon—Suleika—Helena: Museale Erkenntnis.”
  • In addition to an opening reception, we held a reception for an exhibition of rare books, manuscripts, and other Goetheana in the University Library that more than fifty participants attended. The title of the exhibition was “Reading Goethe: The Most Composite of all Creatures.” A separate catalogue is being prepared.
  • Our last public event was the banquet at the Andy Warhol Museum. All seven floors of the museum were opened exclusively to conference participants. In addition to an original animation based on Faust that was commissioned for the event, the museum displayed all four of Andy Warhol’s Goethe serigraphs. Following dinner, the museum’s chief archivist spoke about these works and answered questions.
  • Daniel Purdy organized two dissertation workshops with five graduate students for Sunday morning. Congratulations to the students who were chosen to participate: Mathew Birkhold (Princeton University); Lauren Nossett (University of California, Davis); Daniel Di Mossa (University of Pennsylvania); Jonathan Blake Fine (University of California, Irvine); and Joseph Rockelmann (Purdue University). Thanks also to the faculty who responded with comments and questions: John Noyes (University of Toronto); Daniel Purdy (Pennsylvania State University); John Smith (University of California Irvine); Thomas Beebee (Pennsylvania State University); Catriona MacLeod (University of Pennsylvania); and Fritz Breithaupt (Indiana University).
  • In addition to our Vice-President, I would also like to acknowledge and thank many times over our other officers, whose tireless work over the past two years made the conference possible. They include our Directors Heather Sullivan (Trinity University) and Horst Lange (University of Central Arkansas), who spent countless hours with me on the program; our Secretary-Treasurer Claire Baldwin (Hamilton College), who kept our finances and registrations in order; our Webmaster and Newsletter Editor Burkhard Henke (Davidson), who designed and managed the conference website and facilitated all of our communications; and our Executive Secretary Karin Schutjer (University of Oklahoma), who was always available with advice when we needed it and helped make things work when they were broken.

Two people at my own University, whom most will not know, deserve special mention. Thank you Alana (Dunn) and Samantha (Shipeck) for your dedication and skill in making the event happen.

With just thirty months now left until the next Atkins Conference, I want to extend my best wishes to Daniel Purdy, who will be organizing our tri-annual gathering in the Fall of 2017. Please mark your calendars. I’m certain your ideas and suggestions will be welcome, as will be your participation. Good luck, Daniel!

Elections and Nominations

We are now in the process of organizing our next election and appointing a successor to Jane Brown as editor of our book series. Let me therefore remind you to make your nominations by April 1.

International Initiatives

Over the coming years, I would like our Society to find ways to cooperate with Goethe institutions abroad on a more regular basis. I will therefore renew conversations at the end of May with members of the Vorstand of the Goethe-Gesellschaft in Weimar. At the top of my list of topics will be joint membership options for our societies and jointly organized Studienaufenhalte in Weimar/Jena. Following my stay in Weimar, I will be at the Freies Deutsches Hochstift in Frankfurt, where I will explore additional possibilities for cooperation, including jointly sponsored conferences and research projects.

To assist me in these exploratory conversations, I would ask interested members to send me their ideas and comments. And if you have professional contacts with colleagues who are active in organizations abroad, please let me know.

I will update you on these conversations in my final column as President next fall, as well as at our Annual Business Meeting, which will take place at the German Studies Association in Washington, D.C. in October.

Clark Muenzer
University of Pittsburgh