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The South in the German Imaginary

The Italian Journeys of Goethe and Heine


Lukas Bauer

The division between North and South in Europe represents a geographical as well as a cultural boundary that has influenced the way many European nations think about their history and identity. This divide is particularly prominent in the cultural dialogue between Germany and Italy and has played an important role in the construction of German identity. This study explores German representations of Italy in the early nineteenth century by examining the Italian travel writings of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Heinrich Heine. It analyses Goethe’s Italienische Reise and Heine’s Italian Reisebilder and focuses on the negotiation of cultural identity through representations of the North-South divide.
The book compares Goethe’s complex attitudes towards Germany during this period with Heine’s wrestling with his place in German culture, as seen through their depictions of Italy. Goethe pointed to the classical heritage of Greek antiquity as the source not only of Italian, but also of German, cultural traditions and therefore as an essential element of German identity. Heine called into question Goethe’s experience of Italy and instead used his travels to reveal the instability of German identity and the changing nature of the European community. By investigating the travel narratives of Goethe and Heine, this study reveals the influences of historical and political change on perspectives on the South in Germany.
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First and foremost, I am deeply indebted to my principal supervisor, Professor Kerry Dunne, for her consistent dedication to my research project and her commitment that went far beyond my dissertation in guiding my academic development. Throughout my candidature, Professor Dunne has been a close mentor and a continuous source of support and encouragement.

Special thanks go to my co-supervisor Dr Karen Daly, for her support and insightful feedback on my research. Especially during the final months, Dr Daly has given me crucial help and encouragement in completing my thesis.

I would like to acknowledge the support and constructive comments of Professor Tim Mehigan. I am also grateful to Dr Heather Jamieson, who worked closely with me on refining my writing style and argument.

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