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From Goethe to Novalis

Studies in Classicism and Romanticism: "Festschrift</I> for Dennis F. Mahoney in Celebration of his Sixty-Fifth Birthday

Edited By Wolfgang Mieder

This Festschrift in honor of Dennis F. Mahoney’s sixty-fifth birthday is somewhat different from the standard Festschrift: rather than present essays from various authors, this Festschrift collects twenty-one of Mahoney’s most important English-language publications on German Classicism and Romanticism published over the past thirty years. Mahoney is the author and editor of many articles and books in German and English, among them Die Poetisierung der Natur bei Novalis (1980), Der Roman der Goethezeit (1988), The Eighteenth Century and Uses of the Past (1992), The Critical Fortunes of a Romantic Novel: Novalis’s «Heinrich von Ofterdingen» (1994), The End of Enlightenment (2000), Friedrich von Hardenberg (Novalis) (2001), and Literature of German Romanticism (2004).
Mahoney has taught German language, culture, literature, and film at the University of Vermont for thirty-five years, and has received national and international recognition. On campus he has been a champion of international education, advising students about studying abroad, setting up an exchange program with the University of Augsburg, and inviting students and colleagues from Germany to Vermont. He has received an Excellence in Teaching Award, an Award for Outstanding Contributions to International Education, and he was the first American to be named president of the International Novalis Society.
The title of this Festschrift captures Mahoney’s life-long occupation with this rich period of German cultural, intellectual, and literary life. The essays display his erudition and expertise on such subjects as the multifaceted Age of Goethe, including the continuing discussion of the nature of the Bildungsroman and the influence of the French Revolution. The essays deal primarily with Goethe, Schiller, and Novalis, but Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, Georg Forster, Caroline von Wolzogen, Jean Paul, E.T.A. Hoffmann, Achim von Amim, and others are discussed as well. These individual essays are representative of Mahoney’s accomplishments as a literary scholar – and a remarkable professor, colleague, and friend.
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Chapter 5. Goethe’s Autobiographical Writings


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When Goethe first drew up a schematic diagram for his planned autobiogra­phy in October 1809, he had just completed work on his novel Die Wahlver­wandtschaften (Elective Affinities), whose formal elegance contrasts all the more glaringly with the moral and societal crisis depicted therein. In the years since the death of Schiller in 1805, Goethe had witnessed the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire, the defeat of Prussia, and the reorganization of the political map of Europe by Napoleon. His mother had died in 1808, re­moving yet another link to his childhood and youth. Under these conditions he undertook the re-examination of his life and career as a writer from the vantage point of a sixty-year-old interested in imbuing individual stages of his life with historical significance.

It is in this context that the title Aus meinem Leben: Dichtung und Wahrheit (From my Life: Poetry and Truth, 1811–33) assumes its meaning: while not neglecting factual information (Wahrheit), Goethe is above all concerned with the refashioning and interpretation of his recollections (Dichtung). In the process, the specific events and individuals depicted in Goethe’s auto­biographical writings become paradigmatic not only of important stages in the individual development of the poet, but also of significant moments in the social, cultural, religious and literary life of German-speaking Europe. Although ← 53 | 54 → writing at a time when European Romanticism, in the wake of Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Confessions (1766–70)...

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