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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 6. Schiller’s Der Geisterseher: A Princely Experiment or, the Creation of a “Spiritualist”


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A Princely Experiment or, the Creation of a “Spiritualist”

In May of 1786, Elise von der Recke published in the Berlinische Monatsschrift an exposé of the occultist deceptions of the Sicilian adventurer Guiseppe Balsamo, alias Count Cagliostro, during his stay at the court of Courland in 1779. Shortly thereafter, Prince Friedrich Heinrich Eugen of Württemberg wrote for that same monthly journal—in which Kant’s definition of Enlightenment had appeared only two years previously—a response defending the possibility of communication with the spirit world. A member of the Protestant side of the ruling ducal family in Schiller’s Württemberg, the young Prince had two sisters who already had converted to Catholicism. His essay was taken as a sign that he, too, was considering a conversion, thus raising the possibility that Duke Karl Eugen (best known today for his complicated relationship with the young Schiller), who had no direct male heirs, might one day be succeeded by a nephew who was a fellow Catholic. Schiller, acquainted with the political situation in his native land and looking for a sensational subject that would attract more readers to his journal Thalia, began working on a story that appeared in five installments between 1787 and 1789 before being published in book form as Der Geisterseher. Aus den Memoires des Grafen von O** (1789; 3rd rev. ed. 1798, The Spiritualist. From the Memoirs of Count von O**). The term Geisterseher is...

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