Goethe's Ghosts

Simon Richter


Invoking Goethe's name has become fashionable again. With new methods and technologies of reading threatening to render literature virtual and insubstantial, we have the sense that "Goethe's ghosts" - the otherwise neglected voices and traditions that, finding their most trenchant expression in Goethe, inform the Western storehouse of literature - can show us long-forgotten dimensions of literature. Inspired by the distinguished Goethe scholar Jane Brown, whose life's work has called attention to the allegorical modes haunting the mimetic forms that dominate modern literature, the contributors to this volume take a rich variety of approaches to Goethe: cultural studies, history of the book, semiotics, deconstruction, colonial studies, feminism, childhood studies, and eco-criticism. The persistence, omnipresence, and modalities of the "ghosts" they find suggest that more than influence or standards is at issue here. The stubborn reappearance of these revenants testifies to more fundamental issues concerning the status of literature and the task of the reader. As the contributors demonstrate, these questions acquire renewed urgency in writers as diverse as Hegel, Adorno, Benn, Droste-Hülshoff, and Nietzsche. Each of the essays testifies to the enduring salience and presence of Goethe.

Contributors: Helmut Ammerlahn, Benjamin Bennett, Dieter Borchmeyer, Franz-Josef Deiters, Richard T. Gray, Martha B. Helfer, Meredith Lee, Clark Muenzer, Andrew Piper, Jürgen Schröder, Peter J. Schwartz, Patricia Anne Simpson, Robert Deam Tobin, David E. Wellbery, Sabine Wilke.