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«The first wit of the age»

Essays on Swift and his Contemporaries in Honour of Hermann J. Real

Edited By Kirsten Juhas, Patrick Müller and Mascha Hansen

On the occasion of Hermann J. Real’s seventy-fifth birthday, this collection honours a scholar whose contagious curiosity has been dedicated to the study of Jonathan Swift’s life and works for the past four decades. The contributions cover multiple aspects of the Dean’s writings as well as a number of eighteenth-century contexts. They not only celebrate the Director of the Ehrenpreis Centre at the Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität, Münster, the Editor of the annual Swift Studies, and the convener of six international Münster symposia on the Dean of St Patrick’s, but they also pay homage to the mentor, colleague, and friend. At the same time, they reflect the enduring vitality of Swift studies, which it has been one of Hermann J. Real’s greatest academic achievements to promote.


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Professor Hermann J. Real is a mine of anecdotes. He once told his students how, after a long day at the university, he was sitting in his armchair, tired and about to fall asleep. Suddenly it occurred to him that he had a copy of Rosalie L. Colie’s Paradoxia Epidemica lying on a side table close at hand. Upon perusing the first few pages of the book, fascination took hold, gradually banishing his weariness, and he continued to read well into the night. This may be an unusual instance of a “paradoxical cold”: a warm interest having the effect of a cold bath, but that such an ardent admirer of paradoxes should dedicate the largest part of his scholarly activity to the life and works of Jonathan Swift cannot surprise.1 “However hard we try, to some extent we shall never know, the paradoxy of his work(s) being the paradox of the man,” as he put it in one of his numerous essays on the Dean of St Patrick’s.2 It is impossible to summarize Hermann Real’s myriad academic achieve- ments within the bounds of this short preface, which is why we would like to mention only the outstanding ones. Certainly the most momentous undertaking in Hermann Real’s professional life was the establishment of the Ehrenpreis Centre for Swift Studies, together with Heinz J. Vienken, in 1986. The Ehren- preis Centre’s ambitious aim, to reconstruct the Dean’s vast library in identical imprints, would likely have worn out the most determined of...

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