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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 15. “Stages of Enlightenment”: Lessing’s Nathan der Weise and Novalis’s Heinrich von Ofterdingen


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Lessing’s Nathan der Weise and Novalis’s Heinrich von Ofterdingen

In recent years, the traditional view of an antithetical relationship between the Enlightenment and German Romanticism, still being pos­ited as late as the 1950s, has shifted to an understanding of Roman­ticism as an outgrowth of tensions in eighteenth-century thought. Of particular interest to scholars has been the period of Early Roman­ticism, as the point where these two movements most closely intersect—and also start to divide.1 This present comparison of Nathan der Weise and Heinrich von Ofterdingen, as quintessential examples of the periods in question, was in fact inspired by a remark in Donald Haase’s review of Silvio Vietta’s collection of essays concerning Early Roman­ticism’s ties to the Enlightenment: “Of course, no one is suggesting that we rename the Frühromantiker. There are reasons for their distinct identity: Lessing, after all, could not have written Klingsohr’s fairy tale (although his pleas for religious tolerance helped shape the ec­lectic new mythology that Novalis’s tale creates)” (122).

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