Living by the Golden Rule: Mentor – Scholar – World Citizen

A Festschrift for Wolfgang Mieder’s 75th Birthday

by Andreas Nolte (Volume editor) Dennis Mahoney (Volume editor)
©2019 Others 316 Pages


This Festschrift for Wolfgang Mieder, preeminent paremiologist and folklorist, combines personal tributes and scholarly papers by colleagues, friends, and former students – presented in three categories that address his roles as a mentor, scholar, and world citizen over many decades.
The central scholarly section likewise consists of three parts. The papers dealing with proverbs examine them as patterns, stereotypes, rhetorical devices, media for self-enchantment, and means of allusion in works by Tolstoy, Solzhenitsyn, Chukovskaya, and Kempowski. A second group deals with fairy-tale motifs in literary works by Lehmann, Rabinowich, and Hummel. A third section includes topics ranging from James Bond to Stephen King, from runaway slaves to the Holocaust, and literature as cultural ecology.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title Page
  • Copyright Page
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • Citability of the eBook
  • Contents
  • Preface
  • Wolfgang Mieder as Mentor
  • Wolfgang Mieder as Scholar
  • Proverbs
  • “Long Hair, Little Sense”
  • Hating? Yes, but rhetorically
  • “What Men Live By”
  • Pravda u kazhdogo svoia, no istina odna
  • „Das Rad dreht sich, kommt Zeit – kommt Rat“Zur sprichwörtlichen Sprache der Mutter in Walter Kempowskis „Deutscher Chronik“
  • „Der Glaube versetzt Berge“
  • 1. Sprichwörter: Zur Ambivalenz einer aktuellen Gattung
  • 2. Was macht Sprichwörter eigentlich so „sprichwörtlich“?
  • 3. Sprichwörter als Medium der (Fremd- und) Selbst-verzauberung
  • 4. Sprichwörter in der fremdsprachlichen Lehr- und Lernpraxis
  • 5. Sprichwörter gehören zum kulturellen Erbe der Menschheit!
  • Literatur
  • There’s no X, only Y
  • 1. Corpus linguistics meets paremiology
  • 2. Patterns – corpus-driven: The lexpan methodology
  • 3. More or less fixed sentence patterns
  • 3.1. The pattern-based view on proverbs
  • 3.2 Pattern convergences and divergences between German and English
  • 3.2.1 Besser X als Y – Better X than Y
  • 3.2.2 There are no X only Y – Es gibt kein X nur Y
  • 4. On the way to a new German proverb pattern: X du noch, oder Y du schon?
  • 5. Summary
  • References
  • Fairy Tales
  • Wilhelm Lehmann’s Cardenio und Celinde
  • Von Schneewittchen zu Baba Yaga
  • Maria Hummel’s Motherland
  • “Guest Lectures”
  • “The World Is Not Enough”
  • Introduction:
  • Section I: Classical Antiquity
  • Section II: Philip II of Spain
  • Section III: Elizabethan Spies, Family Connections, and James Bond
  • Conclusion
  • Runaway Advertisements in the Canadian Maritimes
  • Literature as Cultural Ecology
  • 1. Preliminary Remarks
  • 2. Literature as Cultural Ecology
  • 3. Triadic Functional Model and the Example of Moby-Dick
  • American Echoes in Rob Reiner’s Stand by Me
  • Ethik als Prinzip
  • I.
  • II.
  • III.
  • Diagnosing and Treating “Holocaust Fatigue”
  • Gender, Witness, and Representation in Ruth Klüger’s Still Alive and Judy Chicago’s Holocaust Project
  • Gender and the Holocaust
  • Defining witness
  • A Holocaust Childhood: Ruth Klüger
  • A Journey of Discovery: Judy Chicago, Jewish Identity, and the Holocaust
  • Feminist Approaches to Holocaust Memory
  • The Privilege of Witness/Nonwitness
  • Reception
  • Conclusion: Rites of Representation
  • Wolfgang Mieder as World Citizen
  • Publication Record (2015–2018)
  • List of Contributors
  • Tabula Gratulatoria

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Special birthdays deserve special recognition. And a seventy-fifth birthday requires even a little extra effort to show gratitude and convey festive joy. But those individuals whose aim seems to be to touch the lives of many people in positive ways particularly deserve such recognition.

Wolfgang Mieder is one of those people. He is extraordinary not only as a scholar, but also as an individual who makes real on a daily basis the exhortation by Goethe that is one of Wolfgang’s favorite sayings: “Edel sei der Mensch, / Hilfreich und gut!” (Let humans be noble, / Helpful and good). In the opening interview for the Festschrift co-edited by Christian Grandl and Kevin McKenna on the occasion of his seventieth birthday, Wolfgang was asked to name his three favorite proverbs and explain the reasons for his selections. One of the proverbs he chose was the “Golden Rule” found across world religions and cultures: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”; if more people would put this into practice, he observed, the world would be a better place. As the contributors to this volume make clear, Wolfgang certainly practices what he preaches!

We have asked colleagues, friends, and former students – it will become obvious in these almost 60 contributions that there is no clear distinction between these groups – to write either a personal tribute or a scholarly paper on the occasion of Wolfgang’s seventy-fifth birthday. These texts are presented here in three categories that address three main roles he plays as a beloved and much-admired person: those of a mentor, a scholar, and a world citizen.

Our Festschrift starts with personal accounts by former students, colleagues, and friends at the University of Vermont (UVM) and elsewhere who talk about Wolfgang Mieder, the mentor. These contributions are presented in alphabetical order by author. Those who had the pleasure of learning from him or working with him repeatedly mention certain words: he is described as a “kind” and “attentive” individual whose always-friendly demeanor “radiates joy.” People speak about his humor and how nurturing he is, and they emphasize his “Menschlichkeit und Lebensfreude” (humaneness and joy in life). For many, these traits seem to come to mind first; it is the sign of a mentor with great impact when the personal influence is more important and better remembered than the factual information!

Tributes collected here talk about the advice and support that Wolfgang has provided; how he always gives close and sincere attention to everyone; how apparent it is that he loves his work, but never forgets to praise the work of others – be they new undergraduate students or well-established faculty members. In fact, it is mentioned that he has the pride of a father in the work of others; his overall attitude is often “like a parent,” and so it is no wonder that generations of students at UVM have called him “Papa Mieder.” They trust him because he “makes you feel like everything is possible.” His seemingly “bionic hearing and extra-sensory precision” are remembered as well, because he somehow is able to recognize who walks ←9 | 10→down the corridor at Waterman approaching his (always!) open door. And every student who has ever learned in his classroom will remember how the blackboard is filled with facts and figures in white chalk – old-school-style – detailing what today’s class will cover, and how he always washes away everything spotlessly at the end of class; what he expects is now in your brain, or at least in your notebook. But not only does he share his knowledge and his wisdom; he often buys required reading for his classes at the bookstore, orders posters on proverbs, and frames these himself as a parting gift for his students at the conclusion of the semester. As contributors in the “World Citizen” section of the Festschrift will attest, Wolfgang thinks and acts globally in similar fashion!

Whereas the respective tributes to Wolfgang Mieder as mentor and world citizen are arranged alphabetically by last name, the seventeen scholarly articles in the central section of the Festschrift follow first a thematic and then a chronological sequence with regard to the subjects discussed. This arrangement should make it easier for readers particularly interested in proverbs and/or fairy tales – two areas in which Wolfgang has gained preeminence over the years – to focus their attention on these topics. We trust that the short abstracts at the beginning of each article will provide further guidance. With regard to our own two contributions, they not only draw upon what we have learned from Wolfgang Mieder regarding the use of proverbs and fairy tales in longer literary works, but also deal with the country of his birth and even the year in which he was born; in the process, we hope that they emulate his determination through teaching, scholarship, and scholarly service to ensure that the dark years of the Third Reich not be forgotten.

As for the so-called “Guest Lectures,” they are by colleagues in the Humanities who either teach or have spoken as invited guests at UVM and who have had Wolfgang Mieder in the audience – once again ‘practicing what he preaches’ in his repeated advice to students to attend at least one public lecture each week as a complement to their actual courses. To be sure, this thematic and chronological arrangement in the section honoring Wolfgang Mieder as scholar also allowed us as editors to begin and end with contributions by two former students of his who now have made names for themselves on a national and even international level. The final lecture is likely to have special personal significance for Wolfgang in that it was delivered as a Harry H. Kahn Memorial Lecture honoring the refugee from Nazi Germany who not only taught German and Hebrew at the University of Vermont, but also was Wolfgang’s immediate predecessor as Chair of the Department of German and Russian at UVM. Wolfgang plays an instrumental role at UVM in preventing “Holocaust Fatigue,” and the yearly Kahn Memorial Lectures, which Wolfgang was instrumental in helping to establish, are an excellent example in this regard.

The contributions about Wolfgang Mieder as world citizen come from various UVM departments, including the university’s leadership, from local and international colleagues in various fields of academia, and from representatives of organizations where Wolfgang volunteers in the greater community of Vermont. But his reach is clearly global, and so visiting scholars using Wolfgang’s world-class ←10 | 11→archives at UVM and at his beautiful home in Williston, Vermont, are presented here as well. Socrates once declared that he was not a citizen of Athens, but rather a citizen of the world. Much too modest to put on airs as ‘cosmopolite’ in the modish sense of the term, Wolfgang nonetheless has every right to be proud of the honorary doctorates he received in 2014 and 2015 from the University of Athens and the University of Bucharest; these two laudatios provide good indications why he could have made a name for himself at any number of universities throughout the world. How fortunate for Vermont that he and his beloved spouse Barbara selected it as their place to live, work, and serve others!

As was true for the tributes to Wolfgang as mentor, words like “kindness” and “passion” are used when describing him in this final section. His great enthusiasm is noted, as well as that he is loved by all, and that he is always helpful and supportive to everyone. His “infectious spirit,” “the warmth of his presence,” and “his impish smile” are mentioned here. One voice sums up these descriptions with “the most charming scholar of proverbs and folklore.” Tributes highlight his volunteering of time and expertise at many organizations in Vermont, along with his deep knowledge and infectious presentation skills, as well as his generous philanthropic work together with his wife, Barbara. On a smaller but no less meaningful scale, we learn that he is regularly sending his own books and articles to friends and colleagues all over the world, and that he supports the occasional student with scholarships and in other ways to provide financial help.

Not surprisingly, peers marvel at his unbelievable scholarly productivity, the many boards and committees Wolfgang sits on, that he shows up to so many lectures and every commencement at UVM, and how he’s fitting in his busy travel schedule to accept the invitations from all over the world to give talks or to receive his well-deserved prizes and achievement awards. Between the lines of these tributes seems to be one recurring question: does Wolfgang’s day somehow have more than 24 hours? His UVM colleagues talk about his pride in the university, his fruitful relationships with UVM donors, his active support of capital campaigns, and his many committee positions and board memberships, which are simply too numerous to list completely. The UVM president’s summary is very fitting: “his passion for UVM is immeasurable.” Wolfgang is described as “a happy exception”: a teaching professor concerned about and involved in leadership as well as in capital issues. He plays an active role in UVM governance. It is no wonder that he has earned the prestigious title of “UVM Distinguished Professor.”

But Wolfgang is not just “business only.” His peers and staff at UVM tell stories of how he brought a world-class painting to UVM using his unique charm and passion, how he joined faculty and students garbed in dirndls and lederhosen – allegedly! – for a German folk-dancing outing on Church Street in downtown Burlington, how he walks the hallways at UVM at Christmas time to deliver presents, and how he always remembers birthdays and Valentine’s Day with cards for his colleagues and friends. With all these achievements and accolades, perhaps the best compliment for this “ideal academic citizen” is that he “manages to remain a humble, authentic and selfless man.” And at seventy-five, fortunately for us all, ←11 | 12→there is no end in sight, because, as one of his colleagues says here in a fitting proverb: “Di olda di moon di brighta it shine.” This is certainly true for Wolfgang!

If this were not already enough for one Festschrift, Christian Grandl’s continuation of Wolfgang Mieder’s publication record since 2014 provides in nuce an impressive testimony to his internationally acclaimed research on proverbs and fairy tales, his concern with issues of ethical and social import, and his deep and abiding concern for other people. No wonder, then, that so many people from all over the world – especially from his beloved UVM and the Waterman Building where he has taught and had his office since 1971 – have joined in adding their names to the Tabula Gratulatoria at the end of this Festschrift. In this regard, we thought it only fitting to highlight our honored “busy bee” on the cover and with inside illustrations and captions by his colleague Cristina Mazzoni from UVM’s Department of Romance Languages and Linguistics.

There are many people we would like to thank for making this Festschrift possible. First, our gratitude goes to the many contributors for their thoughtful and fascinating submissions and for their patience while we edited their manuscripts. In addition, we thank UVM president Tom Sullivan for providing the funding of this project, Jana Habermann for being a very helpful partner at Peter Lang Verlag in Berlin/Germany, Robert Rodgers for lending an additional set of eyes proofreading the scholarly papers, Elise Whittemore of UVM Communications for suggesting and providing Andy Duback’s recent photo of Wolfgang in his office, Brian Minier for help with contact information, and last but not least our wives Lisa White and Angelika Mahoney for their support and encouragement while we were busy planning and editing this gift for our dear friend.

And so we dedicate this Festschrift to Wolfgang Mieder, our friend and colleague, an invaluable mentor to countless people over many decades, a scholar of global reputation, and a true citizen of the world.

Andreas Nolte

Dennis F. Mahoney

Wolfgang Mieder as Mentor

Wolfgang is a Friend

Wolfgang hired me. That is an honor for many reasons, including the one that Wolfgang himself reminds listeners: that Harry Kahn hired him and that he will always love Harry. Wolfgang made me feel at home at the department and that is huge! Wolfgang is still available to consult with, on any work-related issue. His advice and his experience are tremendously valuable. He helps me understand work-related situations when they look gray and not very clear. Once again, his wisdom (which he is happy to share) is priceless!

Wolfgang is a friend, and it is simply fun to stop by his office and to see him anywhere and chat and joke with him. I am not sure how to detail the love I have for him in a way that will justify a longer read than the half a dozen lines above. It is an honor and a pleasure to work with Wolfgang and to be his friend. I will continue to treasure the moments of having him around.

Best wishes,

Gideon Bavly


Cheering Wolfgang, the Colleague, Mentor, Teacher, and Friend

Even an optimist like Wolfgang would have a hard time claiming the last years have been good years for this country and for the humanities. But thankfully, someone who has made teaching and research his life passion does not need the applause of our somewhat worrisome present.

Wolfgang deals in lasting values, values that outlive administrative changes and challenges, values that will continue on living when we are all gone and forgotten, a bit like his beloved proverbs. Unlike aphorisms, the originators of proverbs aren’t passed on to posterity, because they represent a wisdom that stands the test of time, mattering more than the individual, more than personal careers, ambitions and motives.

In two decades of teaching, I have never encountered a more energetic and enthusiastic scholar/teacher. In this brief contribution to his Festschrift I want to focus on his extraordinary personal qualities, as opposed to his astonishing productivity as a scholar.

Antonello, my husband, and I joined the University of Vermont (UVM) in 2001. Since then we have come to appreciate Wolfgang in many ways.

←15 |

The Colleague: Arbeit ist des Lebens Würze. When work is pleasure, life is a joy.

I believe Maxim Gorki’s quote is the best equivalent of the German proverb quoted above and Wolfgang its best personification. Wolfgang welcomed me before I ever set foot in Burlington, with a book and a letter, which Antonello gave to me upon returning from his job interview at UVM. Though it took years before I had the opportunity to teach in the Department of German and Russian, he gave us both the royal fresh-colleagues-treatment nevertheless. He checked in occasionally to see how we were doing, often walking the extra floor to our offices for a face-to-face-conversation, invited us to events and connected us with colleagues. No one greeted each of our publications, as insignificant as they might have been to his field, with more enthusiasm than Wolfgang. You could count on it that he would not only take a thorough look at our work: soon enough a letter also would arrive, with praise, excitement and encouragement for our next project. People would stop you in the corridor congratulating you because Wolfgang had excitedly promoted some small achievements with the pride of a father. Wolfgang hasn’t missed an event, a book launch, a celebration of ours in the past 17 years, always beaming with joy. While this made us feel very special, I know he has been there for many new faculty in the same way, making us all feel welcome to his beloved university.

The Mentor: Our chief want in life is somebody who will make us do what we can. (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

The “open door”-policy in American college departments (as opposed to German or Italian universities) might often be a myth, but we know, that in moments of doubts and crisis – and on the way to tenure those are as inevitable as they are for a lecturer worried about job insecurity – one door is always open for us. Wolfgang is an excellent listener, discreet and thoughtful. He takes time to think a problem over before suggesting a solution and comes back to you, following up repeatedly if needed. You can’t help but feel better when you come out of his office: Wolfgang’s energy, experience and pure good-heartedness somehow make you believe in yourself and understand, as he has often said: “This, too, shall pass.”

The Teacher: Das Beispiel ist einer der erfolgreichsten Lehrer (A good example is the best teacher)

Encounters between teachers in the humanities these days are often gloomy and end in an exchange of worries about the state of the world and of the teaching profession. I have never had the opportunity of taking a class with Wolfgang, but I have attended many of his talks and invited him to my own classes. On all those occasions I was struck by the pure joy he radiates when he steps in front of a class or when I see him happily set up the classroom for his proverb class or senior seminar, his anticipation palpable. It is precisely this joy that I strive for when teaching my own classes, this joy, which more than any words can instill ←16 | 17→a thirst for learning, a passion for a topic, a lifelong commitment to an author, a language, a culture.

The Friend: Es lebe der geprüfte Freund, bei dem sich Wort und Tat vereint. (Long live the proven friend, where word and deed go hand in hand)

Wolfgang and his wife Barbara made time to meet my parents during their only trip to Vermont in our first year in Burlington. A long pen-friendship developed between Wolfgang and my father which lasted until his recent death. Sensing my regret to not be there for the occasion, he and Barbara took us out to dinner on my father’s 80th birthday. This is just one of the many gestures that made Wolfgang and Barbara Freunde, a term given so much more reluctantly in my native tongue. They invited us to their beautiful home many times and always found time to celebrate our stepping stones together: Antonello’s tenure, our promotions, our dictionaries and books, various poetry readings, our naturalization as US citizens and each new home. Somehow this world-famous paremiologist, this author of over two hundred books, this full professor was never too busy to be there.

Here is hoping there will be many more occasions to celebrate together with this extraordinary colleague, mentor, teacher and friend.

Adriana Borra


Proverbial Man / Sprichwörtlicher Mensch
Bilingual Poem / Zweisprachiges Gedicht

Well is that well does

One kind word can warm three winter months


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2019 (February)
Mentor UVM Scholar Proverbs Fairy Tales World Citizen birthday Cultural Ecology Ethics Holocaust Literature
Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2019. 316 pp., 8 fig. col., 2 tables

Biographical notes

Andreas Nolte (Volume editor) Dennis Mahoney (Volume editor)

Andreas Nolte studied German at the University of Vermont (USA) und received his Ph.D. from the Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg (Germany). Dennis F. Mahoney is an emeritus professor of German at the University of Vermont (USA) and the first non-German president of the International Novalis Society.


Title: Living by the Golden Rule: Mentor – Scholar – World Citizen
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318 pages