Goethe’s «Bildung»

Dialog Between Tradition and Innovation

by Jacob-Ivan Eidt (Volume editor) Christoph Daniel Weber (Volume editor)
©2019 Monographs XII, 178 Pages


This Festschrift marks the 50th anniversary of the Dallas Goethe Center, a nonprofit educational and cultural arts organization, dedicated to advancing German culture and language in North Texas. Founded in 1965, the Dallas Goethe Center serves the community by developing an appreciation and understanding of German art, drama, music, language, literature, and history, and cultivates mutual understanding between the people of German-speaking countries and those of the United States of America.
On the occasion of its 50th anniversary, a symposium honoring Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was organized and held on April 22, 2016, at the University of Dallas. This Festschrift is the published proceedings of the symposium along with a review of the Goethe Center’s history and the development of its mission from its founding to the present. The concept of the Festschrift is focused on the persona of Goethe and his modern-day relevance as a representative of German culture and Bildung. The chapters included in this volume revolve around Goethe’s uniqueness as a thinker, scientist, and artist. This volume seeks to draw attention to Goethe’s role as cultural representative by highlighting his double function as mediator between both tradition and innovation by virtue of his intellectual idiosyncrasy. It also seeks to contextualize the various scholarly contributions as both examinations of Goethe’s unique cultural and intellectual formation as well as inquiries into the reception of that formation as part of a modern understanding of the concept of Bildung.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Foreword (Nicola Bremer)
  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction: The Dallas Goethe Center: History, Mission, Outlook 1965–2015 (Jacob-Ivan Eidt)
  • Chapter One: The Allure of Danger: The Depiction of Nature’s Destructive Forces in Goethe’s Oeuvre (Christoph Daniel Weber)
  • Chapter Two: “Man möchte sich fürchten, das Haus fiele ein”: Goethe’s Beethoven-Reception and the Elemental in Music (Jacob-Ivan Eidt)
  • Chapter Three: Journey to the “Realm of the Mothers”: Franz Rosenzweig’s Response to Goethe’s Faust (Josiah Simon)
  • Chapter Four: Rewriting Goethe: Goethe Seen through Stendhal’s Memoirs (Prisilla Sanchez)
  • Chapter Five: “Amerika, du hast es besser.” Goethe’s Changing Concept of America (Hella Hennessee)
  • Chapter Six: The Study of Goethe in Greater China: Status Quo and Prospect (Dongliang Li)
  • Chapter Seven: Wilhelm Meister, Hamlet, and the Foundations of Modern Meaning (Bainard Cowan)
  • Chapter Eight: Iterative Figures of Speech in Goethe’s Elective Affinities (Tobias Joho)
  • Chapter Nine: The Moods of Young Werther: Goethe’s Innovative Language of Emotion (Stefan Hajduk)
  • Chapter Ten: The Pariah and the Poet: Hannah Arendt’s Alternative Reading of Goethe’s Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre as a Critique of Enlightenment Bildung (John Douglas Macready)
  • Contributors

← viii | ix →



Every day one should at least hear one little song, read one good poem, see one fine painting and—if at all possible—speak a few sensible words.”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Fifty years ago, Gershon Canaan, Honorary Consul of the Federal Republic of Germany, together with university professors and leading Dallas citizens had the desire to create more opportunities for listening to music, hearing poems and plays, learning about fine paintings and engaging in discussions about German-American relations. The goal to promote an appreciation and an understanding of German art, drama, music, language, literature, history, and current affairs was their mission when they founded the Dallas Goethe Center in 1965 and is still the mission of the Dallas Goethe Center today.

In 1965 Dallas had a population of around 700,000 people. Today, with a population of 1,318 million in Dallas alone, and 7,233 million in the region, a diverse variety of cultures is represented, and the opportunity to engage with art, history and current affairs is plentiful. To commemorate the 50th anniversary of our organization we took our inspiration from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, who was not only one of the greatest German poets, but also an accomplished statesman, scientist, painter and philosopher. We decided to invite scholars from around the world to the Dallas-Fort Worth community to explore the tremendous influence Goethe has had on international culture and learning. The Goethe Symposium was filled with presentations on various aspects of Goethe’s life, accompanied by musical performances and plenty of opportunities to engage in discussions and dialogue.

“Herzlichen Dank” to all those who shared their knowledge, talent, and time to celebrate 50 years of German culture in Dallas.

Nicola Bremer,

President of the Dallas Goethe Center ← ix | x →

← x | xi →



The Goethe Symposium was made possible by the following sponsors:

The Texas German Day Council, The Bavarian Grill, International Capital, LLC, Rebecca and Tillmann Hein, Joke and Arend Julius Koch, Linda McDonald, The Consulate General of the Federal Republic of Germany Houston, The University of Dallas, Department of Modern Languages and Literatures University of Dallas, Department of Music University of Dallas, Almudena Bernardo, Helmuth Ludwig, Tanja and Lance Pattist, Dr. and Mrs. Hansjörg Heppe, Francis M. Kamgang, Charles W. Pratt, Print Headquarters, Heike and Ulf Alsguth, Pam F. Brewer W. Scott and Lina M. Gardiner, Hans and Irmgard Reinhart, Lewis Dale and Sigrid Cook, Dr. Maurice G. A. and Sylvia J. Elton, Bernard Geiger, Gabriele Gruschkus, Justin and Roswitha Knoop, Toni Ortiz, Carmen Ramirez, and John Sharpe. ← xi | xii →

← xii | 1 →


Introduction: The Dallas Goethe Center: History, Mission, Outlook 1965–2015


Goethe and German Culture after the War

In the years after the Second World War, the reception of German culture in the United States and abroad underwent a critical phase of reexamination. After the experience of appropriation and misuse during the Nazi dictatorship, the role of German culture in the context of a free and democratic society came sharply into focus. What part could or should German culture play in the new transatlantic partnership between the United States and the newly established Federal Republic of Germany? What cultural legacies could one look to in keeping with Germany’s new commitment to the West and its democratic values during the Cold War? Was German Culture inherently fascist? Could one salvage the positive cultural achievements of the German world and rid them of the contamination and manipulation garnered under National Socialism? Moreover, could this culture also be enlisted in promoting democracy, tolerance, peace, and cultural understanding between nations? In essence, how could German culture help right the wrongs of the chauvinistic, nationalist, and racist elements of its past? The figure of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe played no small roll in addressing these many challenging questions.

Much as in Germany itself, Goethe began to emerge in the postwar American context as an exemplar of all that was good in German thought. As Gerhart Hoffmeister reminds us, Goethe’s legacy seemed to have resisted Nazi attempts at appropriation during the war, becoming to the contrary an important underground spiritual refuge for opponents of the regime. At the end of the war, this underground revival turned into a new Goethe cult around 1950, seeing in Goethe “the great humanist, representative of ← 1 | 2 → the other, better Germany, and beyond that of the Christian West, a bulwark against the loss of traditional values.”1 Goethe quickly became the face of “good Germany,” which for many expressed an inclusive cosmopolitan dimension beyond nationalist propensities.

On the occasion of the two hundredth anniversary of Goethe’s birth in 1949, Thomas Mann stated in an essay largely aimed at an Anglo-American audience entitled “Goethe und die Demokratie” [“Goethe and Democracy”]:

Die Nachfolge Goethes, das Bekenntnis zu ihm, bedeutet also denn doch wohl nicht deutsches Provinzlertum—und überhaupt darf ich sagen, daß, wenn ich viel über Deutsches und wenig über Fremdes geschrieben habe, ich doch im Deutschen immer die Welt, immer Europa gesucht habe und unbefriedigt war, wenn ich es nicht fand.

[The emulation of Goethe, the commitment to him, therefore, certainly does not denote German provinciality—and above all I must say that whenever I have written extensively about German subjects and little about foreign ones, I nonetheless always sought in the German the world, always sought Europe and was always dissatisfied, when I did not find them.]2

Mann connects his commitment to Goethe with what he sees as one of Goethe’s most redeemable attributes, namely his ability to transcend the national, the ethnic, and the particular in favor of a more universal and democratic understanding of Western civilization.3 Unlike the politically dubious romantics, who expressed their Germanness in an all too susceptible aesthetic, Goethe was a European, a cosmopolitan, and at the same time an idiosyncratic thinker lacking in broad ideologies, demagoguery, and extremism. His classicism was almost a one man show exemplifying harmony, balance, and refinement. It was Goethe who first spoke of Weltliteratur, and who is perhaps one of the clearest fathers of the idea of comparative literature, branching out beyond the confines of national traditions and linguistic boundaries. Poet, philosopher, scientist, painter, and musician, Goethe was Europe’s last Renaissance man and Germany was in desperate need of a Renaissance after the catastrophe of its most recent and troubled past. This was also true of Germany’s cultural legacy abroad in the United States.

Gershon Canaan and Dallas

Already the financial center of the oil industry since the 1930s, the city of Dallas, Texas, had additionally become one of the largest technology centers in the United States by the early 1950s, a trend that continues to this day. This growing metropolis thus became home to a large and growing community of ← 2 | 3 → educated professionals consisting of leaders from the worlds of business, politics, academia, and the arts. Fifty years ago, different leaders from within this diverse community began to consider for themselves the question of postwar German culture and its role in Dallas as a major metropolitan center with an increasingly international profile. Among these leaders was Gershon Canaan.4

Gershon Canaan was born Gerhard Kohn in the Friedenau district of Berlin. Because his father was a local banker, the family was an early target of the Nazis from the very beginning of Hitler’s regime. As a result, the Kohns fled Germany in the 1930s and settled in Palestine, where Gerhard Kohn became Gershon Canaan at the age of sixteen. After completing secondary school, Canaan earned a degree in architecture from the Technion, the Israel Institute of Technology in 1938. He would one day go on to study under famed American architect Frank Lloyd Wright. With the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, Canaan enlisted and fought for the Allies in the British Army’s Jewish Brigade, serving in both North Africa and Europe, and eventually helping to liberate concentration camps in 1945. The Jewish Brigades were also instrumental in helping Holocaust survivors and other Jewish refugees break the British blockade of Palestine with the goal of founding a new Jewish homeland.


XII, 178
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2019 (January)
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Oxford, Wien, 2019. XII, 178 pp., 2 tables

Biographical notes

Jacob-Ivan Eidt (Volume editor) Christoph Daniel Weber (Volume editor)

Jacob-Ivan Eidt received his MA in German literature and philosophy from the Katholische Universität Eichstätt and his PhD in Germanic studies from University of Texas at Austin. He is Associate Professor of German and Chair of the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures at the University of Dallas.  Christoph Daniel Weber received his MA and PhD in Germanic studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is Associate Professor of German and Director of Undergraduate Studies in the Department of World Languages, Literatures, and Cultures at the University of North Texas.


Title: Goethe’s «Bildung»
book preview page numper 1
book preview page numper 2
book preview page numper 3
book preview page numper 4
book preview page numper 5
book preview page numper 6
book preview page numper 7
book preview page numper 8
book preview page numper 9
book preview page numper 10
book preview page numper 11
book preview page numper 12
book preview page numper 13
book preview page numper 14
book preview page numper 15
book preview page numper 16
book preview page numper 17
book preview page numper 18
book preview page numper 19
book preview page numper 20
book preview page numper 21
book preview page numper 22
book preview page numper 23
book preview page numper 24
book preview page numper 25
book preview page numper 26
book preview page numper 27
book preview page numper 28
book preview page numper 29
book preview page numper 30
book preview page numper 31
book preview page numper 32
book preview page numper 33
book preview page numper 34
book preview page numper 35
book preview page numper 36
book preview page numper 37
book preview page numper 38
192 pages