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Goethe and Hafiz

Poetry and History in the "West-östlicher Divan</I>

Series:

Shafiq Shamel

This book offers a study of West-East cross-cultural and cross-contextual literacy by investigating Goethe’s relationship to the poetics of fourteenth-century Persian poet Hafiz in the West-östlicher Divan. Goethe’s collection of poetry, this book argues, constitutes a turning point in the history of German poetic subjectivity. The intellectual and historical significance of the Divan is examined by considering Goethe’s conception of history both in relation to Hegel’s philosophy of history as well as the linear notion of progress throughout the nineteenth century. Furthermore, the book demonstrates how the rise of aesthetics and the transition from a theological to a secular-humanistic conception of history and humanity in Europe positively influenced the reception of non-European literatures at the end of the eighteenth century. Hafiz, as argued here, owes his textual presence in the Divan to a cross-cultural and cross-temporal poetic vision that has its roots in the European Enlightenment. The book also elaborates on the role translation plays in the development of poetry and poetics as exemplified in the works of Sir William Jones (1746-1794) and Josef Freiherr von Hammer-Purgstall (1774-1856), translators of Oriental poetry into English and German.

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Chapter 6 The Poetic Event and its Temporality

Extract

: Goethe’s Divan and Philosophy of History In the Italienische Reise Goethe mentions an incident from his visit to Palermo, Sicily, that could be considered a paradigm for the aesthetic expe- rience. By aesthetic experience, I mean primarily a certain mental disposi- tion that could be described as the perception of the sensuous presence of the phenomenal world. ‘Nachmittags’, Goethe recalls, ‘besuchten wir das fruchtreiche und angenehme Tal, welches die südlichen Berge herab an Palermo vorbeizieht, durchschlängelt von dem Fluß Orete’.1 [In the after- noon we visited the pleasant, fertile valley that comes down past Palermo from the mountains to the south, with the Orete river winding through it.]2 After a short description of the surroundings, the entry from 4 April 1787, narrates the following: Die schönste Frühlingswitterung und eine hervorquellende Fruchtbarkeit verbrei- tete das Gefühl eines belebenden Friedens über das ganze Tal, welches mir der unge- schickte Führer durch seine Gelehrsamkeit verkümmerte, umständlich erzählend, wie Hannibal hier vormals eine Schlacht geliefert und was für ungeheure Kriegstaten an dieser Stelle geschehen. Unfreundlich verwies ich ihm das fatale Hervorrufen sol- cher abgeschiedenen Gespenster. Es sei schlimm genug, meinte ich, daß von Zeit zu Zeit die Saaten, wo nicht immer von Elephanten doch von Pferden und Menschen zerstampft werden müßten. Man solle wenigstens die Einbildungskraft nicht mit solchem Nachgetümmel aus ihrem friedlichen Traume aufschrecken. 1 Goethe, Italienische Reise 250. My emphasis. 2 Johann Wolfgang Goethe, Italian Journey, trans. Robert R....

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