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Romantic Weltliteratur of the Western World

Edited By Agnieszka Gutthy

Romantic Weltliteratur of the Western World is a collection of essays that examine Romantic literature and art from Europe and America. Since Goethe coined the concept of Weltliteratur, scholarly interest in comparative, global, and transnational literary and cultural studies has only continued to grow. Intended to complement existing scholarship, the essays in this volume offer a variety of critical approaches to Romantic literature and explore the dialogic component of different literary works as well as their transnational intertextualities.

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6. Illusions of Certainty: Reconsidering the 1821 Anonymous Translation of Goethe’s Faustus (Carrie Busby)


6. Illusions of Certainty: Reconsidering the 1821 Anonymous Translation of Goethe’s Faustus

Carrie Busby

Scholars Frederick Burwick and James C. McKusick maintain that Samuel Taylor Coleridge translated the 1821 anonymous edition of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s Faustus. However, no one has produced definitive evidence yet to support their hypothesis. What does exist in support of the attribution to Coleridge is convincing speculation based in part on qualitative findings from notebooks, letters, and records of negotiations with publishers as well as quantitative conclusions drawn from stylometry.

Stylometry, or stylometric analysis, is employed in authorship attribution. This quantitative methodology is cognitive science-based, and using it, attribution scholars can “weigh, measure and number what remains of an author’s familiar style—or idiolect—in a text or in a canon” (Petersen 147). In practice, the methodology considers non-contextual “function words,” which “serve as useful indicators of an author’s unconscious stylistic preferences while writing on any topic,” and these “words are conjunctions, prepositions, and articles that have little meaning by themselves but are used to define relationships between content words in a sentence” (Gill and Swartz 3665; emphasis original). Historically, stylometric analysis has enabled attribution scholars to “restore the human author to the written text” on an analysis of “idiosyncratic style-markers” (Petersen 147–48). Some contend that authorial “[s]tyle is …a rather nebulous concept” (Erdman and Fogel 9). Others express concerns about the role computers should play in literary analysis and attribution. Alison Finch in “The...

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