“Die Wanderjahre sind nun angetreten.”
In my March column I reflected on some of the changes we have witnessed over the past five years that have accompanied our Bildung as a scholarly society. And with an election upon us in a few weeks, there will be further change coming that again will poise us to explore new initiatives while sustaining what has worked so well in the past. But after more than three decades of growth and maturation, the Society might also be ready to declare the end of its Lehrjahre, which have been set largely on the North American stage, and plan for a future that increasingly includes “global” activities, in Goethe’s conceptual sense of the ubiquitous lexeme “world” as a utopian space of ongoing passages. “Daß wir uns in ihr zerstreuen, / Darum ist die Welt so groß.”
Toward the end of May I attended the Hauptversammlung of the Goethe-Gesellschaft in Weimar, where together with Jane Brown, who over the years has guided us through so many successful passages, I met with President Golz and Vice President Bohenkamp-Renken, as well members of the Vorstand, to discuss a range of new opportunities for cooperation between our societies. I am happy to report that these conversations were very promising. Among the topics we covered were (1) establishing a joint, or reciprocal, membership option between the GSNA and the Goethe-Gesellschaft; (2) identifying ways for the Goethe Yearbook and the Jahrbuch der Goethe-Gesellschaft to foster scholarly cooperation; (3) considering jointly sponsored events for younger scholars; (4) promoting opportunities for the leadership of both organizations to participate regularly in the other’s meetings and events; (5) working together and with other institutions (like the Klassik Stiftung Weimar and the Freies Deutsches Hochstift) to create opportunities for research and study in both Germany and North America; (6) working to expand current and create new study opportunities in Weimar/Jena for American undergraduates; (7) jointly sponsoring international events with a focus on Goethe and his Age.
With so many ideas on the agenda (even tentatively), we will need to set priorities and achieve a few successes. Here, then, are some of my thoughts. I invite all interested members to post their comments and suggestions. Feel free also to respond to the suggestions of others. The discussion will be threaded. We will begin prioritizing the focus of future discussions during our executive and business meetings at the GSA meeting this October.
Reciprocal Membership Option
Jane Brown and I discussed the advantages and possibilities for establishing a reciprocal member option for both societies with Jochen Golz and Anne Bohnenkamp-Renken. I also met with the administrative staff of the Gesellschaft (Petra Oberhauser and Cornelia Brendel), who together with the President and Vice-President brought the matter to the Vorstand. In our final meeting President Golz reported that the board had backed our initiative. We are currently working out the details and will have a final proposal off to the Goethe-Gesellschaft by the end of the year. The key issue will be the dues structure (which differs for the two organizations), but I expect the cost to be about €80 and $80 for regular members and about half that for student members and retirees. Reciprocal members would receive both yearbooks, and the dues could be paid online.
Professors Bohnenkamp-Renken and Golz agreed that we should seek ways to “link” our publications. Here are three possibilities that the editors might discuss. Some could happen quickly, while others would take more planning and time:
- Each publication could regularly publish the “Table of Contents” for the upcoming/current issue of the other.
- The book review sections could try to coordinate some of their work: this might involve reviewing and publishing dual reviews of “important” books. Or it could involve the Goethe-Jahrbuch reviewing English language books that might otherwise escape the attention of German readers.
- The editors could discuss devoting portions of issues to topics of mutual interest. These could develop from jointly sponsored conferences, workshops, or symposia, or they could focus on global issues during the Age of Goethe.
Jointly Sponsored Events for Young Scholars
Each society hosts a major event at its conference to assist younger scholars in their professional development. A next logical step would be to host a joint event in non-conference years that assembles younger colleagues from Europe and North America to share and discuss the results of their research. These events could alternate between the continents. Such events would help to establish networks of younger scholars from both sides of the Atlantic, thereby establishing a solid foundation for future cooperation.
The Klassik Stiftung Weimar has jointly sponsored courses in Weimar and Jena for students from abroad, who in addition to EU countries, have come largely from Asia and the Near East. That program is now in transition and its sponsors would welcome our thoughts about sending advanced American undergraduates and first- or second-year graduate students to an international summer program. I had an exploratory meeting with Dr. Thorsten Falk in Weimar to discuss this and related possibilities for bringing American students to Weimar and Jena. One option would be for the GSNA to sponsor a program that assembled the “best” students from a number of our institutions in order to help assure having the numbers and quality we need for success.
Possibilities for Cooperation with Other Organizations
Many of the possibilities for scholarly cooperation that were raised with the Goethe-Gesellschaft are also relevant for other institutions. Both Thorsten Falk (Klassik Stiftung Weimar) and Anne Bohnenkamp-Renken (Freies Deutsches Hochstift) were receptive to such conversations. A good place to start might be around the topic “Goethe/The Age of Goethe and Globality.” It could include “Romanticism” as a global phenomenon, since Romanticism is a pressing interest in Frankfurt, where the Museum of German Romanticism will soon begin construction of its new home next to the Goethe-Haus.
I have already distributed these thoughts about internationalizing our mission to our current officers and board members, and I am sure we will consider ways to move ahead at our upcoming meeting. Please let us know where you think we ought to move first.
Well aware of Goethe’s reminder that true thankfulness cannot be expressed in words, I will nonetheless conclude my last official note by acknowledging the many friends and colleagues who have so happily planned and guided our activities over the past three years and more. Adrian Daub, Elisabeth Krimmer, and Birgit Tautz, I’m both delighted and relieved to say, will continue their work with the Goethe-Yearbook, which encloses new riches each year within its familiar blue linen covers. And Burkhard Henke, thank goodness, is still prepared to lend us his knowledge of the virtual world, as well as his talent for design and effective communication, as our webmaster and editor of the newsletter. Along with me, however, our dedicated secretary-treasurer Claire Baldwin, whose tireless work is noticed by most only when their dues remain unpaid, will become a regular member after many years of dedicated service, as will my friends Heather Sullivan and Horst Lange, who got to know me better than most in their work as directors-at-large. No GSNA office, and especially this one, is honorific. And while I continue to receive kind words about last year’s conference, like everything we undertake, it required a collective effort, which meant countless hours for Horst and Heather. And what can I say about my two colleagues and close friends, Jane Brown and Karin Schutjer? After years of service in many roles, including the Presidency, Jane will be handing over the editorship of the book series to Karin next year. Thank you, Jane, for your willingness always to say “yes” when asked to promote the Society’s work with your administrative talent, your intellect, and your wisdom. You’ll be missed at our meetings, I’m sure, but somehow I know that when approached again, you’ll still be willing to help. And thank you, Karin, for your remarkable and selfless dedication during your years as Executive Secretary. No office of our Society is more crucial and less visible, especially when things run as flawlessly as they have under your leadership. You inspire trust, and I can imagine no one better suited to work as our book series editor than you. I’ll end my valedictory remarks by turning to Daniel Purdy, who will be leading the Society as our President through 2018. Like Jane and Karin, Daniel has served us in some of the most responsible, challenging, and time-consuming positions we have. There will be no learning curve here, only intellect and energy. Daniel, I wish you the best over the next three years. If they are anything like the past three years have been for me, they will bring you a full measure of professional joy. I offer heartfelt thanks to all the officers and members who gave me this wonderful opportunity. I look forward to seeing many of you in October and at our gatherings next year.