Critical Probings: Essays in European Literature: from Wolfram von Eschenbach to Thomas Mann

Critical Probings: Essays in European Literature: from Wolfram von Eschenbach to Thomas Mann

Critical Probings: Essays in European Literature: from Wolfram von Eschenbach to Thomas Mann

Critical Probings: Essays in European Literature: from Wolfram von Eschenbach to Thomas Mann

Excerpt

The collection of Hermann J. Weigand essays, Surveys and Soundings in European Literature, ably edited by A. Leslie Willson (Princeton University Press, 1966), exposes in bold relief a coherence of approach that may easily have escaped the attention of those readers who first became acquainted with the studies as they appeared over the years in various publications. A volume of essays, if it has any real justification, produces an impact that exceeds the sum of its parts. Usually many of the papers have appeared elsewhere and, as subject matter, are known; indeed, some may already be acknowledged as standard works. But as we re-read them in a collection, we see them from a different perspective, for the parts assume and reveal new and possibly unexpected dimensions sheerly by virtue of their configuration. Our interest shifts, I take it, away from the substance of the separate pieces to focus more broadly on the unifying consciousness that pervades the whole. If no such Gestalt emerges, the papers might as well have been left buried in the journals from which they were liberated by the solicitous efforts of an enterprising editor.

Weigand's work, of course, is well known. Internationally hailed as the doyen of Germanic studies in the United States, he dominated his field for a quarter of a century from his chair as Sterling Professor of Germanic Literature at Yale, where he produced several generations of aggressively devoted disciples. Now an Emeritus, he continues his writing. with the energetic youthfulness that has long impressed, and often shamed, his colleagues and students. So the name on the title page is a warranty of scholarly excellence.

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