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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

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 13. The Myth of Death and Resurrection in Heinrich von Ofterdingen


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In his journal Europa (1803), Friedrich Schlegel interpreted Heinrich von Ofterdingen, the posthumously published novel of his friend and colleague Novalis, as the fulfillment of his criterion “daß jeder Roman nach Art eines Mährchens construirt seyn sollte” [sic] and thereby as a decisive poetic breakthrough: “den Übergang vom Roman zur Mythologie.”1 This paper will consider Ofterdingen as the attempt to create a New Mythology through the free adapta­tion of Christian beliefs on death and resurrection. In addition, through the comparison of Novalis’ ideas, as influenced by his reading of Goethe’s Märchen, with the depiction of Mignon’s burial in Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre, new light will be shed on Novalis’ relationship to Goethe as well as on the conception of his own novel.

The first section of this study will concentrate on Novalis’ soteriological view of history and poetry, which is evidenced both in the religious overtones of his Wilhelm Meister-critique and in the prevalence of “Mittlerfiguren” in his works. In the ensuing discus­sion of Ofterdingen, the mediating triad of Zulima, Mathilde and Cyane will be examined in the context of Novalis’ myth of death and resurrection. The concluding comparison of Goethe and No­valis will make clear why Goethe put Mignon into the sleep of death in the Lehrjahre, and why Novalis attempted to revive this figure through an adaptation of Goethe’s configuration techniques in his...

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