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South Atlantic Modern Language Association

Goethe and Europe


Author(s): Paul Michael Ltzeler
Source: South Atlantic Review, Vol. 65, No. 2 (Spring, 2000), pp. 95-113
Published by: South Atlantic Modern Language Association
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Goethe
and
Europe
PAUL MICHAEL LOTZELER
I WOULD LIKE TO BEGIN MY PAPER' BY PROPOSING THREE
theses:
first,
that Goethe's ideas on
Europe developed through
contacts with the Romantic
generation;
second,
that his con-
cept
of
European
culture is
pluralistic
and
dialogic
rather than
monistic and
exclusive;
and
third,
that in times of continental
crises,
the
leading
authors of the twentieth
century
have cited
Goethe's works as
convincing examples
of
European
culture.
Goethe was not a writer of
Europe essays,'
as were
Novalis,
Friedrich
Schlegel, Coleridge,
and Madame de Stael in that he
produced
no
utopias depicting
the
Continent's
cultural,
politi-
cal, social,
or
religious unity.
What he
brought
to the discussion
was his vision of world
literature,
and this vision laid the
ground-
work for new ideas that went
beyond
national
concerns,
ideas
of a
growing European integration.
Herder was the intellectual
patron
of the national movements of the nineteenth
century,
but Goethe was the
spiritual
father of
European
efforts toward
international
cooperation.
While Herder stressed the insurmount-
able differences between the various
cultures,
Goethe concen-
trated on what
they
had in common.
However,
we must take
into account the fact that Herder
proposed
his ideas in
expan-
sive
treatises,
while
Goethe's
thoughts
on the
topic
of world
literature were short
comments,
interspersed
in his
letters,
con-
versations,
and
essays.
Goethe would never have formulated a
thesis like this one of Herder's: "Each nation's
happiness
is cen-
tered in itself." In order to illustrate the difference between Herder
and
Goethe,
I would like to offer
you
a few more
quotes
from
Herder's
essay
Another
Philosophy'
of
the
Histot' of'the Edu/ca-
tion
ofJankiznd
"Everything
that fits
my
nature,
everything
that it can
assimilate,
is
something
I strive
for,
is
something
I
want to be
part of; everything beyond
that I am
protected against
by my
nature,
protected against by unfeelingness,
coldness and
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96
Paul Michael Litzeler
blindness;
this
negative
emotion can even turn into
contempt
and
disgust."
Then follows Herder's
praise
of national
preju-
dice:
"Prejudice
is
good
...
since it makes
you happy.
It
brings
the nations to their
centers,
makes them more concise as a
community,
lets their character
develop
more
freely,
makes their
desires and
goals deeper
and more
passionate."
Herder contin-
ues: "This is
why
the most
ignorant
and most biased nation
often is the
highest ranking
nation: the
age
of desire for
hope-
ful travels to
foreign
countries is
already
a
sign
of
sickness,
of
flatulence,
unhealthy
abundance,
foreboding
of death!" (44-
46). Goethe's ideas of
building
national identities were
entirely
different,
as his deliberations on
European
and world literature
showed.3 As
important
as Goethe's theoretical remarks on world
literature
were,
his
literary praxis
and his
correspondence
with
other authors from all
parts
of
Europe
were at least as relevant.
One must
keep
this
practical aspect
in mind. It is reflected when
Goethe muses that the terms
"European
literature" and
"general
world literature" indicate above all "that the
living
and
striving
writers will become familiar with each other and that
they
will
find themselves coerced
through
common interests and a com-
munal
spirit"(12:
363).1
Goethe believed that literature could
empower
nations to overcome the
racial,
linguistic,
and cul-
tural differences of millenia. He was convinced that
spiritual
exchange
and mutual influences could exist
beyond
the bound-
aries of
space
and time. He was sure that the various nations
should not be limited to
merely attempting
to
understanding
their own nature. These
cosmopolitan
views enabled Goethe to
place
the
concept
of world literature above that of national
literature,
and this
concept
had a
lasting
effect on the cultural
understanding
of the
Europe essayists
of the decades and cen-
turies to follow. The fact that Goethe
perceived
the term "world
literature" as a
step up
from and as a further
development
of
the term
"European
literature" is sometimes overlooked. This
perception
is evident from a comment he made in
1828,
in
which he stated that he had "dared to announce a
European,
indeed a
general
world literature." A transnational
European
literature would
provide
the
model,
as it
were,
for the next
level of the internationalization of literatures toward what Goethe
called the
"approaching
world literature" (12: 363),
that is, to-
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South Atlantic Review
97
ward a literature that would construct a
bridge
to other world
cultures. The choice of the word
"approaching"
is indicative of
the
progressive
nature of this
development
as well as of its
avant-garde
character. Goethe saw himself as the
promoter
and
agent
of this
burgeoning
literature. World literature would cross
national as well as continental
boundaries,
an idea reflected in
his well known comment to his assistant Eckermann: "National
literature is not of much
importance
now;
this is the era of
world
literature,
and
everyone
should
support
this
tendency"
(12:
362). Furthermore,
he stressed that the Germans would
have
"an
honorable role" (12: 360)
to
play
in the
process
of this
internationalization. While this stance must not be conceived as
a condemnation of national literatures
per
se,
it is obvious that
here Goethe
adopted
a
position
counter to
Herder's,
since he
emphasized
the
insuffiency
of a
nationally
limited
horizon within
the cultural realm.
With
regard
to their
perceptions
of a
European
literature,
there are similarities between
Goethe's
position
and that of
August
Wilhelm
Schlegel.
In his "Overview of the
European
Conditions of German Literature"
Schlegel
intended to demon-
strate
European
and international awareness of
contemporary
German literature. In this
summary
of German
literature,
which
was written for
English
readers in
1825,
he lamented the fact
that German literature was still
unmapped territory,
terra
incog-
nita,
and that the
works of
Klopstock, Lessing,
Winckelmann,
Wieland,
Btirger,
Goethe, Herder,
and Schiller were
largely
un-
known in
England. Schlegel
considered it a
typically European
aspect
of the intellectual
production
to examine the national
and continental
history
as it related to the
history
of mankind.
In
Schlegel's
as well as in
Goethe's
opinions,
it was the task of
the scholar "to
explain
the current circumstances of
humanity
in all
parts
of the world
by examining
the
past"
(9). It is in this
light
that one must see
Schlegel's
transnational declaration:
"It
has
always
been
my
endeavor to raise
myself
to a
European
perspective
on all occurrences of the
century"
(5).
Goethe's
perception
of world literature found resonance and
response
not
only among contemporaries
but even
today,
two
centuries later. In his
1994 book
7De
Location
ofJ'Culture
Homi
Bhabha demonstrates that even
today
theoreticians of
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98 Paul Michael Liitzeler
multiculturalism and
postcolonialism
consider world literature
a
very
useful
concept.
Bhabha believes that
hybrid
cultures are
representative
of the late twentieth
century.
His interest is
cap-
tured
by
the mixtures that have resulted from the confronta-
tions,
overlappings,
and interrelations of the various cultures
during
the course of colonization and
decolonization,
of wars
and
migrations.
With reference to
Goethe,
while mindful of the
current historical
situation,
Bhabha writes about the new
places
where one comes in contact with what is alien:
"Where, once,
the transmission of national traditions was the
major
theme of a
world literature,
perhaps
we can now
suggest
that transnational
histories of
migrants,
the
colonized,
or
political refugees-these
border and frontier
conditions-may
be the terrains of world
literature" (12). While Goethe
placed
the
greatest importance
on the
exchange
and interaction of national
literatures,
Bhabha
focuses on those literatures
manifesting
the cultural
displace-
ments that are the result of
today's dispossession,
exile,
diaspora,
and
migration.
In Bhabha's case we can refer to an
expansion
of Goethe's
concept
of world literature. It is obvious from one
of Goethe's commentaries on world literature that
he, too,
con-
sidered those cultural
dispossessions
that are the result of wars-
in his
case,
the
Napoleonic military campaigns:
"For
quite
some
time there has been talk of a
general
world
literature,
and
quite
rightly
so,
for all those nations that were first shaken
up
in
horrible wars noticed after a time of
recovery
that
they
had
become aware of
many foreign
elements,
that
they
had ab-
sorbed
these,
and that
they perceived
here and there hitherto
unknown intellectual needs"
(3: 364).
Goethe associated his idea of world literature
closely
with
his
concept
of
cosmopolitanism.
He
recognized
the "true cos-
mopolitan spirit perhaps
nowhere in a more refined form than
in the arts and in literature" (12: 55).
At a
point
he declared:
"Where we educate
ourselves,
there is our fatherland"
(JA:
280).2
It is
hardly possible
to find in Goethe's time a more
explicit
position against
narrow,
nationalistic
thinking,
and from this
position,
it seems to
me,
we can draw lines to the current dis-
cussion of
European
multiculturalisnm,6
which has been dis-
cussed, among
others,
by Edgar Morin,
Renmy
Brague,
and
Jacques
Derrida. The view of multiculturalism favored here is
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South Atlantic Review
99
that of a
dialogic,
not of a dialectic
nature, i.e.,
cultures that
come in contact with each other do not result in
pure syntheses
but rather
they
retain
contradictory
elements,
feelings
of un-
ease,
points
of
friction,
and the
potential
for conflict. We must
be aware that Goethe did not envision a neutral or
passive
tolerance toward other
cultures; instead,
he
pleaded
for the
constant
expansion
of horizons and a readiness to
examine, to
modify,
to
supplement,
or to revise our current
positions.
Intel-
lectual
growth
and the
recognition
of new
phenomena
were
the
goals
of Goethe's educational
vision;
in this context he tol-
erated no
regional,
national,
or continental boundaries. The
resurrection of the classical
concept
of
humanity played
an im-
portant, although
not an
exclusive,
role in this
process,
as evi-
denced
by
Goethe's late
work,
the
TWest-OstlicberDi,a-7
There
he described the interaction between different cultures in these
words: "The Orient has
beautifully
/
spread
across the Mediter-
ranean; /
Only
he who loves and knows
Hafis,
/ knows what
Calderon has
sung"
(2:
57). The interconnectedness of cultures
is even more
strongly expressed
when Goethe continues: "He
who knows himself and
others, / will
recognize:
/ Orient and
Occident / can no
longer
be
separated"
(2: 121). Goethe seems
already
to be
practicing
what has become the benchmark of
postmodern
culture: nomadic
thinking.
In
spite
of rootedness
in a
specific
culture,
the nomad stands for
mobility,
the
undog-
matic,
migration
between
worlds,
fascination with that which is
different,
a
willingness
to leave the
familiar,
a
Protean,
non-
fixed
identity,
but the nomad also stands for a return to the
origin,
which is never seen as a final
goal.
As Deleuze and
Guattari have
shown,
nomadic
thinking
shatters the one-dimen-
sionality
of an
identity
and creates or
propagates
instead new
identities,
overcoming
barriers in the
process
so that
spirit
and
body may explore
new
options.
We can
easily
trace Goethe's
geographical explorations,
and we are able to follow his intel-
lectual
journeys
in his work. It is the
very
essence of nomadic
thinking
that it is marked
by
travel and
by
the
crossing
of bor-
ders;
tendentially
it is anti-essentialistic and
anti-ftindamentalistic;
it is aimed at new
adventure,
new
knowledge,
and new defini-
tion;
it deconstructs traditional
layers
of consciousness, it is fas-
cinated
by
the transitional, and it thrives on the
acknowledg-
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100 Paul Michael Litzeler
ment of cultural
diversity.
The "home" of the nomadic thinker is
limited neither
by
national
space
nor
by
historic
time;
it
is,
so to
speak,
the world
itself,
including
the world of literature and
world literature. In its excursions
through
cultures,
nomadic
thinking
constructs for itself an
identity
of its own. In other
words,
the familiar and the alien are
juxtaposed
in
constantly
shifting configurations.
Goethe had two favorite
figures
from
mythology: Ulysses
and Proteus. He saw
Ulysses
as a "leader"
and
"patron"
(11: 307)
while Proteus-see Faust1I--is
equated
with
perpetual change,
that
is,
Proteus
represents
those
aspects
of
mobility
and
changeability
that are so characteristic of no-
madic
thinking
(3: 251). This is not a matter of
claiming
Goethe
for
postmodernism
and multiculturalism. It is rather the other
way
around: even our era is able to find ideas articulated in the
complex
works of
Goethe,
that
appear contemporary,
not
merely
of historical interest.
Returning
to the
topic
of Goethe and the
Romantics,
it must
be
pointed
out that not all Romantic
Europe essayists
were as
closely aligned
with Goethe's
concepts
of literature and culture
as was
August
Wilhelm
Schlegel.
Novalis's
Europe speech,
for
instance,
could not be
expected
to meet with Goethe's
approval.
Napoleon
and Novalis
belonged
to the same
generation,
and
the coincidence of the
completion
of Novalis's
speech
"Chris-
tianity
or
Europe"
at the time of
Napoleon's coup
d'tat
of No-
vember 1799
is
revealing.
With its frontal attack on the
philoso-
phy
of the
Enlightenment
and the cultural
concept
of Goethe's
Classicism,
Novalis's
speech
also contained the seeds of a
coup
d'etat. However,
in contrast to what
happened
in
Paris,
this
revolt,
aimed as it was at
Weimar,
failed because of the resis-
tance of the established
power,
i.e.,
Goethe advised
against
publishing
Novalis's
speech
in the
periodical
Athendurm.
In
truth,
the
speech
was not of a
visionary
nature. The achievements of
the
Enlightenment--pluralism
and tolerance--could not be coun-
teracted with a new universal
religion
without
regressing
to
outdated modes of
European thinking.
And in the field of
prac-
tical
politics,
no cultural vision of
perfect harmony
could be
construed
convincingly
in
light
of the conflicted enforcement
of interests. Goethe's reservations toward Novalis's
speech
were
probably
also connected with its distance from reality
and its
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South Atlantic Review 101
prophetic
Messianic zeal. Goethe could not
help
but
interpret
the
exemplary
character that was accorded to medieval culture
as a direct attack on his vision of
man,
which at that time was
characterized
by
classical ideals. Goethe's fascination with the
Gothic had
long passed,
and even in the most enthusiastic
moments of his
Strasbourg-Cathedral phase,
he had not been
carried
away
to the
point
of such
mythisizing
as had Novalis.
On the other
hand,
Friedrich
Schlegel,
with his
Europe essay
"Travels to
France,"
was somewhat closer to Goethe's
position.
Novalis had
expected
that the new Christian
religion
with its
peace
mission could be
universally
effective
beyond Europe.
Schlegel,
however,
denied that
Europe possessed any capabil-
ity
at all of cultural transference. "Since the times of
Alexander,"
he
stated, "all
attempts
... to
conquer Asia,
to rebuild it and to
Europeanize
it,
have
totally
failed" (76). Of
course,
here
Schlegel
also hinted at the debacle in
Egypt, Bonaparte's
failed Asia ex-
pedition.
Yet,
Schlegel
stated,
Europe
owed its
very
culture to
Asia. "We can
hardly
have
forgotten,"
he reminded his
readers,
"from
where
every religion
and
mythology
has come to us so
far, that is,
the
principles
of
life,
the
origins
of our
concepts."
In
the
attempt
to "build in
Europe
a new world from
destruction"
(77),
we must learn from
Asia,
in
particular
from India. Novalis
had mentioned India
only
in
passing,
since he felt that medi-
eval
Europe
had once had what
Schlegel
now associated with
India,
namely,
cultural
completeness
instead of dissolution and
harmony
instead of
disruption.
In
1803
Schlegel
did not
yet
share this view of the Middle
Ages.
He stressed that
"the
real
Europe"
in the sense of cultural
unity
had never
existed,
that it
"had
yet
to come about" (78). It becomes evident that Goethe's
reservations were not the
only
reason
Schlegel
blocked the
print-
ing
of Novalis's
Europe speech.
While
Schlegel
had little in
common with
Goethe's
respect
for Classicism he used Goethe's
veto as an instrument for his own interests. Novalis's view of
the Middle
Ages,
his
optimism concerning
the start of a new
European religion,
his
respect
for
European history altogether,
his
marginalization
of the India
theme,
which was central for
Schlegel-these
were all
grounds
for him to heed Goethe's
sug-
gestion
not to
publish
Novalis's
speech
on
Europe
in the
Athend/zm.
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102 Paul Michael Liitzeler
As far as the
Europe essays
of Novalis and Friedrich and of
August
Wilhelm
Schlegel
were
concerned,
Goethe was the cata-
lyst
as well as the
subject
of criticism. Wherever
Europe
was
discussed,
Goethe's views were in the forefront. This was
equally
true in Madame de Stael's case. Her
expansive
1810
essay
De
IAllemagne
has been called
by
Robert Minder the
"earliest,
most
brilliant
...
and most
congenial
cultural
history
of the Goethe
era" (94).
Madame de Stael said about Goethe and his contem-
poraries:
"One
might say
that the Germans form the
avant-garde
of the human
spirit; they
blaze new trails and
try
new
means;
how could one not be
eager
to hear what
they
.
.
. have to
tell?" (2, 9).
Madame de Stael
praised
the Germans as a
"people
whose
very
nature . . . is
literary
and
philosophical,
(1, 15) call-
ing
its writers "the most erudite
men,
the most intellectual heads
of
Europe" (2,
9).
The
positive
incentive for this book on Ger-
many
was
Goethe,
the
negative impetus
was
Napoleon.
For
Madame de Stael's work De
IAllemwagne
was not
only
a book in
which German culture was admired but also a means for deci-
sive criticism of
Napoleon's regime,
a document of
revenge
for
the shame she had suffered
by being
forced into exile. That a
French woman-or rather a Swiss-French woman
living
in
France-should bemoan the
sterility
of the
stagnating
French
literature of the
time,
the literature of a
country
that had as-
sumed the
leading political
role in
Europe,
that she could
fur-
thermore
compare
the literature of French
Classicism,
favored
as it was
by Napoleon,
to the literature of the
neighboring
coun-
try-all
of this was considered an
extremely unpatriotic
act in
France.
Madame de Stael's German
colleagues
were even less con-
strained in their criticism of
Napoleon.
Between 1800 and
1815,
the
Europe essays
of the German writers
crystallized
around
their
opposition
to
Napoleon's politics.
Goethe's
contribution
to these
essays
was
deafening
silence. At the crossroads of
parliamentarianism
and
dictatorship,
of a
European power
bal-
ance and French dominance in
Europe, Napoleon always
chose
the letter
option. Despotism
instead of
republicanism,
a univer-
sal
monarchy
instead of the formation of nations within a fed-
eration of states that was based on
equality-this concept
en-
raged
the rest of
Europe,
founded as it was on a
repressive
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South Atlantic Review
103
police system
and an
aggressive foreign policy.
Arndt, Gentz,
Coleridge,
Wordsworth, Gorres,
and Kleist were
among
the
declared
opponents
of
Napoleon; they
vented their
anger
in
sharp polemics
and hate-filled
pamphlets.
The
more bitter the
publications against
the French
emperor
became,
the more ob-
vious and more
enervating
became Goethe's silence on the
topic
of
Napoleon.
There were two main reasons for this behavior:
one
personal,
the other
political-ideological.
On October
2,
1808,
Goethe had been introduced to
Napoleon during
a breakfast
meeting
in Erfurt. The few
reports
of this event are
sparse,
and
Goethe himself was never
willing
to comment on this encoun-
ter in detail. It is certain that for Goethe the
meeting
was one of
the
great
moments of his life. At the same time
Goethe,
the
cosmopolitan European,
was
unhappy
with the national over-
tones
espoused by Napoleon's opponents.
Even at the zenith
of the
patriotic
movement in the course of the war of liberation
Goethe would not
join
the chorus of the
emperor's despisers
and demonizers.
Now,
their hatred of
Napoleon
became
aligned
with
antipathy
toward Goethe. This is evident in Kleist's
flanmingly
anti-Napoleonic pamphlets
of
1809
and his
increasingly aggres-
sive attitude toward Goethe.
During
the Restoration era after
1815,
the elder Goethe
gave
expression
to his admiration for
Napoleon.
The
emperor's
date
of
death,
May
5, 1821,
became the
day
of
Bonaparte's
rebirth in
legend
and
myth.
The
prisoner
of St. Helena had been dead for
only
two months when Alessandro Manzoni wrote the ode "The
Fifth of
May,"
which Goethe found so
touching
that he trans-
lated it in 1824. In the third and fourth stanzas he found his
silence about the French
emperor
confirmed and vindicated. In
his translation Goethe wrote:
The muse saw
him,
Radiant on his
throne,
Then saw the
change,
saw
Him
fall,
then
climb,
saw him
supine;
In a thousand voices that called
She did not
join
hers.
A
virgin,
innocent of
any praise
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104 Paul Michael
Liitzeler
Nor
guilty
of shameful
disdain,
She rises
suddenly, excitedly,
Because the
rays
are
waning,
And adorns his urn with
song
[ ... . (558)8
Hans
Blumenberg
described the
affinity
Goethe felt toward
Napoleon
thus: Goethe
projected
his favorite ideas of the
pro-
ductive,
artistically
talented,
Promethean man onto the French
emperor. Goethe,
the
"author
of the
word,"
liked to
compare
himself to the
"author
of the deed." This
comparison
struck at
the
very
heart of
Napoleon's being,
since he tended to
compare
his
ability
as a warrior with that of an author or an artist.
Blumenberg points
out to what
degree
the rise of
Napoleon
influenced the
conception
of the Faust
figure
in the second
part
of the
tragedy,
the
part
where Faust is identified as a Promethean
figure.
If we
interpret
Faust as the incarnation of the
European
idea of the constant
transgression,
then we will also see
Napo-
leon as a
prototypical European,
a human
being
who executes
in the field of
politics
what Faust
explores
in the realms of
knowledge
and
experience.
If this
interpretation
is indeed cor-
rect,
then Goethe's admiration of
Napoleon
and his silence in
the face of the chorus of
Napoleon's
enemies,
his refusal to
join
Napoleon's
disdainers,
become understandable. The last stanza
of Manzoni's ode "The Fifth of
May"
and
Goethe's
adaptation
of
it accentuate the Christian death of
Napoleon.
This ode then
shows a
kinship
to the end of the Faust drama where a reli-
gious
solution is also formulated.
Goethe's view of
Napoleon
as a central
figure
of
European
history
would have been well suited to the French
emperor's
image
of himself. At least in
retrospect, writing
his memoirs as
a
prisoner
on St.
Helena,
Napoleon interpreted
his life as that of
a
great European.
His
autobiography
Allemoriialde
SaiuteHillnle,
published
in
1823,
became the
greatest
bestseller of the nine-
teenth
century.
Here
Napoleon
declared the federal union of
European
states as his
life's
goal, claiming
that he would have
begun
the
organization
of a united
Europe
after a successful
Russian
campaign. Among
his
plans
he named the creation of a
European congress,
a
European legal
code, a
European high
court of law, the introduction of
a
universal
system
of
weights
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South Atlantic Review
105
and
measures,
and even the abolishment of the contintent's
armies. He claimed that then the
Europeans
would have felt
like one
people
in a united fatherland. Such an idea of a
politi-
cally
united
Europe
would
certainly
have well exceeded the
goal
of
European
interaction envisioned
by
Goethe.
However,
since Goethe wrote no
political Europe essays,
one can
only
extrapolate
what he
might
have intended. A certain
probability
speaks
for the fact that a
Europe
of
fatherlands,
open
to the
world,
would have come closest to his wishes for the Continent's
political
future.
This was also the
opinion
of
many twentieth-century
authors.
During
and after the two
catastrophes
of the First and Second
World Wars,
they
rediscovered Goethe. In Goethe's works
they
saw the basis for the reestablishment of a
humanity
in
Europe
whose
goals
were
peace
and
liberty.
In November
1914,
in a
contribution to the
Anle
Zlircher
ZeitHng,
Hermann Hesse
strongly
admonished his writer
colleagues
who had succumbed
to the
militaristic,
war-mongering frenzy.
With horror he re-
acted to the sudden
turning
of those
"super patriots" against
Goethe. He accused them of
arguing
"We were
always suspi-
cious of this
Goethe,
he was never a
patriot;
instead he
pol-
luted the German
spirit
with that
mild,
detached international-
ity
under which we have suffered so
long
and which has decid-
edly
weakened our German consciousness."
Hesse,
on the other
hand,
deferred his
European feelings
to Goethe and found him
exemplary
in that he had
placed
the
"joy
in
humanity"
above
the
"joy
of
being
German." Hesse added that Goethe had been
"a
citizen and a
patriot
in the international world of
ideas"
(411-
16). Hesse was the first writer of a
Europe essay
to
praise
Goethe's
work as
quintessentially European
and to
proclaim
the German
Classicist's work and attitude toward life as the
yard
stick for
the
European identity.
It is
possible
that he was influenced in
this
by
Nietzsche,
who had ranked Goethe as well as
Napoleon
among
the
"good Europeans,"
i.e., the
"displaced",
the "wan-
derers,"
the
"Europeans
of the
future,"
who
might
be
capable
of
defeating
nihilism." Hesse also wanted to be a
European
citi-
zen of the world, and as such he formulated the task of the
intellectual at times of war: "to
preserve freedom, to build
bridges,
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106 Paul Michael Lftzeler
to
explore
new
paths"
(415).
At the end of the war it was Rudolf
Pannwitz
who,
in his book
Germaun'
and
Europe, argued
in a
very
similar manner and in the name of Goethe's
concept
of
humanity against
militaristic
ideologues
of the Wilhelminian
Empire.
Pannwitz declared that
worlds
separated
Wilhelminian
iedology
from
Goethe's
idea of
humanity.
During
the same
year,
in
1918,
the
imperialist
Oswald
Spengler
also referred to Goethe's ideas in his work 7he Decline
ofthe
WIPst.
He declared that Occidental man was "Faustian" and that
the
symbol
of the Faustian man was
limitless,
infinite
space.
According
to
Spengler,
the time
concept
of Faustian man was
characterized
by
rational
planning
and calculated delineation.
Spengler
stated that
Faust,
the
landowner,
entrepreneur
and
engineer-as
Goethe had
pictured
him---was the ideal of the
Occidental
present. Spengler
saw the
Faustian,
audacious
pragmatician represented
in such
figures
of colonialism as Cecil
Rhodes.
At the time of the First World War it was thus
imperialists
as
well as
anti-imperialists
who referred to Goethe as a "Euro-
pean."
Incited
by Spengler's title,
"The Decline of the
West,"
Hermann Hesse
published
in
1919
the
essay
"The Brothers
Karamazov or the Decline of
Europe."
This text is a
pessimistic
vision of the
European
future after the war. In
1914
Hesse had
been
inspired by
Goethe and filled with
hope;
now,
after the
war,
he saw the
humanity
that Goethe had
envisioned,
in de-
cline. As in
1914,
he still felt that "the
spiritual Europe"
(161)
was embodied in the work of
Goethe;
in the
writings
of
Dostoyevsky,
however,
he saw the embodiment of what he
called "Asiatic
thinking."
The
contemporary reception
of these
two
authors,
Goethe and
Dostoyevsky,
was sufficient indica-
tion for Hesse that what was
European
was about to be dis-
placed by
what was Asian. To Hesse it seemed
"an
indication of
our future that now the
European youth
sees
Dostoyevsky
and
not Goethe as its favorite writer."
According
to
Hesse,
"the ideal
of the
Karamazovs,
an
ancient,
Asiatic-occult
ideal,"
was now
beginning
to
"consume
the
spirit
of
Europe."
As "a
totally
amoral
mode of
thinking
and
feeling"
it was
threatening
Goethe's "Eu-
ropean spirit
in its
very
roots"
(163). He blamed the decline of
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South Atlantic Review 107
European
value
concepts
for the
young people's affinity
for the
Asiatic chaos.
Without
referring
to Hesse
directly,
three
years
later
Hugo
von Hofmannsthal
attempted
to rebut Hesse's thesis. He did so
in his
essay
"A Look at the Intellectual Condition of
Europe."
Hofmnannsthal
reversed Hesse's method
by playing
the Euro-
pean
Goethe
against
the "Asian"
Dostoyevsky.
Hofmannsthal
declared that
"at
this moment
Europe
does not have a
single
intellectual
representative
who could be
truly acknowledged
as
the dominant
European figure"
(478). He maintained that the
"throne
of the intellectual
leader"
was
currently
vacant. It was
only by
virtue of this deficit that
Dostoyevsky
had
gained
such
"power
over the souls of our
youth,"
thus
becoming
ttle
"spiri-
tual
leader"
of our Continent.
Only
Goethe could
deprive
Dostoyevsky
of the
position
that
European youth
accorded him.
For the
"most
crucial element of current
European
intellectual
life"
was the
"fight
of these two
spirits
over the souls of those
searching
for direction." Hofmannsthal had no doubt that Goethe
would
emerge
as the victor in this heroic
fight.
Hofmnannsthal
wrote: Goethe was a
"spiritual power
of the first
order;
he was
not
merely
an artist but a
sage,
a
magician,
a true leader of
souls"
(479f.).
On the
polarity
of
Europe
and
Asia,
of Goethe
and
Dostojevsky,
Hofmannsthal
wrote: "It is the old
Europe,
based on the
synthesis
of Occidental
Christianity
and
deeply
embodied
antiquity,
and
Russia,
as it leans toward
Asia,
which
oppose
each other in Goethe and
Dostoyevsky"
(480f.). For
Hofmannsthal
this
essay
meant a revision of his former
position
on
Europe,
which he had
adopted
in
1917.
At that time he
hoped,
like Friedrich
Schlegel
a
century
before
him,
for a re-
newal of the Continent
through
Asia's wisdom. Now
Hofmannsthal
was convinced of the
superiority
of the Euro-
pean
over the Asiatic
spirit.
He believed that the "Occidental
secret"
contained in Goethe's work was "more
complex"
than
the "Oriental secret" of
Dostoyevsky's
novels. While
Dostoyevsky's
"last word" had
perhaps already
been
spoken,
Goethe's work would serve even "a later
generation"
(481) of
Europeans
as a
spiritual
foundation.
Thomas Mann would have
nothing
to do with this
juxtaposi-
tion of Goethe and
Dostoyevsky
as found in Hesse's and
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108 Paul Michael Litzeler
Hofmannsthal's
writings.
In
1922 Thomas Mann
published
the
essay
"Goethe and Tolstoi" in the
Deutsche
RundscLhau.
This
essay
could
just
as
easily
have been called "Goethe and Tolstoi
in
Comparison
to Schiller and
Dostoyevsky."
Mann saw in the
works of Goethe and Tolstoi the embodiment of the
"power
of
nature,"
in the works of Schiller and
Dostoyevsky,
the "audac-
ity
of the
spirit"
(93).
He stated that the works of these author
pairs expressed
a
European
intellectualism that in its
complementarity
could
only
contribute to "the best of human-
ity"
(173).
In the late
1920s
and
very early
1930s,
Goethe also served as
the crown witness of the future
Europe.
In
1928
in his
essay
"Of
the
European Spirit" Georges
Duhamel demanded the unifica-
tion of the continent and the education of a new
generation
along
the lines of Goethe's idea of
cosmopolitanism.
Such de-
mands increased
during
the
year
1932,
when the 100th anniver-
sary
of Goethe's death was commemorated. The
Europe-ori-
ented writers celebrated him as one of their own. Such a writer
was Stefan
Zweig,
who,
in his
essay
"The
European
Idea in its
Historical
Development", interpreted
Goethe's idea of world
citizenship
as the
"epitome
of
European
civilization" (210). Andre
Suares
published
a
comprehensive
work on that
occasion,
en-
titled
Goethe.
The
GreatEuropean.
At the
beginning
of the book
Suares writes: "Goethe is the
greatest European,
and he is the
first
European
since
Montaigne
. . . There is no future for Eu-
rope
without Goethe. It is
impossible
that
Goethe's
spirit
would
vanish since it is the
quintessence
of the
European spirit.
With-
out
Goethe,
Europe
would be an
empty
word" (14).10
In the
Europe-oriented
cultural
magazines
of
1932 (such
as the
Ne/ue
Rindschaui,
Europe,
and Nouvelle
reviue frwJaaise),
Goethe was
celebrated in numerous articles as an
exemplary European by
virtue of his
cosmopolitanism.
In the
Neue
Rundscbhaa
the Eu-
rope essayists
Benn, Gide, Hesse,
Ludwig,
Thomas
Mann,
and
Ortega y
Gasset wrote about
Goethe;
the
journal
Europebrought
contributions
by
Romains, Hesse,
Benedetto
Croce,
Thomas
Mann,
and
Rolland;
and La Noiwelle
re'vue/franfaise
brought
essays
on Goethe
by
Ernst Robert
Curtius,
Andre
Gide,
Bernard
Groethuysen,
Denis de
Rougemont,
Andre
Suarks, and Paul
Val1ry.
Simultaneously,
Ernst Robert Curtius
published
his book
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South Atlantic
Review 109
7he
Endangered
German
Spirit,
in which he
pleaded
for a re-
newal of a
European
humanism in
the spirit
of
Goethe,
while at
the same time
speaking
out
against
the nationalism and collec-
tivism of the German
right.
It was as if one wanted to call
upon
Goethe-the
greatest imaginable counterpart
to Hitler in the
history
of the
Germans--as
a
symbol
of individualism and of an
encompassing humanity
in order to ban the
menacing
demons
of
fanaticism,
of mass
delusion,
of the abuse of
power,
and of
the disdain for human
rights.
Only
a few months later Hitler was
appointed
Chancellor of
the German
Reich,
and now even Goethe's works were inter-
preted
in the
spirit
of nationalistic
ideology.
However,
there
was no
place
for a
European
Goethe in the Hitler
state,
and in
1939--as
Gustave Mathieu has
noticed-Goebbels's
propaganda
ministry
felt it
necessary
to
publish
an edict in its news service
according
to which
"Goethe,
the
European,"
was a term to be
avoided.
However,
the writers in exile continued their identifi-
cation of Goethe with
Europe.
This is
apparent
in an
essay by
Ferdinand Lion entitled "Old
Europe-New Germany"
which
was
published
in Klaus Mann's exile
periodical
Die
Sammlihng.
Lion called Goethe a
"pater europae"
whose work
represented
"the
European
sum"
by
virtue of "its harmonic
compilation
of
all elements" (150f.) in the field of art. Lion saw Goethe's work
as a model for the
many permutations
that
European
culture
had to offer and as a document of
European
individualism. It
was in this
spirit
of
admiration,
gratitude,
and identification that
Thomas Mann wrote his Goethe novel Lotte in
Weimiar
in
exile,
published
in
1939.
Already
in
1936,
in his
essay "Achtung,
Europa!"
Thomas Mann had
argued
with
quotes
from Goethe
against
the destruction of
European
culture
by
the German Nazis
and
European
fascists. Goethe's
writings
also served as a
spiri-
tual incentive for survival in a concentration
camp,
as can be
seen in the
moving
book
by
Nico
Rost,
Goethe in
Dachai:..
Lit-
eratire
and
Reality,
which was
published
in
Germany
as
early
as
1949.
After the Second World
War,
Europeans, according
to Katharina
Mormmsen (1991), also
gathered
around Goethe. The
year 1949
was the 200th
anniversary
of Goethe's birth. In a collection
published by
UNESCO
upon
the occasion, international
repre-
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110 Paul Michael Litzeler
sentatives of culture and
politics
celebrated Goethe as a Euro-
pean genius
and even as the incarnation of the benevolent
spirit
of international relations.
And
today?
The
Europe essays
of
today
no
longer
mention
Goethe.
European integration
went its
economic-and-monetary-
unification
way
toward the
European
Market and the Euro with-
out without cultural visions. In the decades before and after
Goethe's
death,
his
poetry
and dramas
inspired
such
compos-
ers as
Beethoven, Schubert, Liszt,
and
Hugo
Wolf to create Lieder
and
symphonies.
A hundred
years ago,
and even as
recently
as
fifty years ago, philosophers, theologians,
and social scientists
such as Benedetto
Croce,
Georg
Sirmmel,
Rudolf
Steiner,
Ortega
y
Gasset,
Paul
Tillich,
and Ernst Cassirer discovered the coordi-
nating system
of their
humanity
in Goethe's
perception
of the
world.
Today
it is
primarily
the
German-speaking
writers who
express
their critical devotion and their restrained admiration in
their
essays
and
writings.
Foremost
among
them are Ulrich
Plenzdorf,
Hans
Magnus Enzensberger,
Peter Hacks. Eckhard
Henscheid,
Thomas
Brasch,
Dieter
Kifhn,
Adolf
Muschg,
Martin
Walser,
and
Hanns-Josef
Ortheil.
I would like to conclude
my
remarks on the
topic
of Goethe
and
Europe
with a reference to a new historical novel about the
author:
Hanns-Josef
Ortheil's
Faustina
"sKisses.
It is a book about
Goethe in
Rome,
about the
cosmopolitan
writer
par
excellence
in the
capital
of
European
culture. It is the book most
fitting
for
an
anniversary year
and is to be recommended to
anyone
who
would like to understand how alive Goethe continues to be for
those who feel a
kinship
with him.
Wi7shbington Uniziversit)'
NOTES
'There are four book
publication
on the
topic
of Goethe and
Europe,
but
none of them deals with Goethe's contribution to the
Europe
discourse.
The
authors are Albert
Fuchs, John Hennig,
Horst
Ridiger,
and Willem Frederik
Veltman.
-
In
nmy
book Die
Scb;?ftste//er
unidEuropa
I
analyse
the contributions
of
the
European
authors to the
Europe
discourse from Romanticism to the
present.
3On
that
topic compare
the
studies
by Raidiger
and Birus.
'
Goethe's works are
quoted according
to the
Hamburg
edition in
14
volumes, edited
by
Erich Trunz. The first number indicates the volume, and
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South Atlantic Review 111
the second one refers to the
page.
All translations from the German into
English
are mine.
5This sentence is
quoted
from the Goethe
JubilA~ums-Ausgabe,
edited
by
Eduard von der Hellen.
6
See
ny
book
Eir-opd//c.e
Identmitdt ZndIM/tikuZ/tti;
especially
the in-
troductory essay "'Europtiische
Identittit heute.
Vom
Ethnozentrismus zur
Multikultur" where I discuss the authors mentioned.
See the studies
by
Katharina
Mommnnsen
and Hendrik Birus on the
topic.
*
Quoted
after the Gedicbte volume of the Deutscher
Klassiker
Verlag
Goethe edition, edited
by
Karl Eibl.
9
See Nietzsche's
Sdmt/ic/EIe WIPTrke
3:628; 11:362;
5:151.
't Quoted
from Katharina Monmmsen, Goethe iind
imsere Zeit.
WORKS CITED
Bhabha,
Homi K.
7heLocation
oJfCtl/ture.
London and New York:
Routledge,
1994.
Birus,
Hendrik. "Goethes Idee der Weltliteratur. Eine historische
Vergegenwairtigung."
W
Tl'/thiteratur hbete. KAonzepte iZd
PeISpektiv'en.
Ed.
Manfred
Schmeling. Wtirzburg:
K6nigshausen
&
Neumann,
1995.
5-28.
Blumenberg,
Hans.
"Prometheus
wird
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