Academic journal article German Quarterly

Music and Literature in German Romanticism

Academic journal article German Quarterly

Music and Literature in German Romanticism

Article excerpt

18th and 19th Century Literature and Culture Donovan, Siobhán, and Robin Ettiott, eds. Music and Literature in German Romanticism. Rochester: Camden House, 2004. 233 pp. $75.00 hardcover.

The terse and direct title of this book, though serviceable and even sleek, does not reflect the variety of topics and approaches contained in the volume, nor does it give a hint of its chronological scope or of its forays beyond the German border into France and Russia. Since a connection between music and literature in German Romanticism is more of a commonplace than a revelation, and since this is not another of the now ubiquitous handbooks, readers will naturally wonder what distinguishes this collection from others with similar titles. Only well into the introduction do we learn that some essays, for example, "look ahead to the reception of Romanticism in the modern and postmodern age" (xviii). Instead of "reception" the editors could also have said "resurgence," and the sympathy between Romantic and more contemporary philosophy and aesthetics is one of the volume's recurrent motifs. We find it most distinctly in the last contribution, Jiirgen Barkhoff's persuasive interpretation of Schlafes Bruder by the Austrian author Robert Schneider, which he reads as a contemporary rewriting of Romanticism's themes, thoughts, and forms-with music at the center under the sign of a "postmodern," or Schlegelian, aesthetic.

Putting Barkoff's essay at the end has less to do with chronology than structure: through a circularity reminiscent of Johannes Kreisler and of E.T.A. Hoffmann's Kater Murr, the final contribution puts one in mind of the twelve preceding essays, which in turn illustrate ideas presented in the introduction (the introduction itself contains a dense overview of scholarship on the subject of music and literature in German Romanticism-too dense, perhaps, with 64 notes for 10 pages of text). The twelve essays are collected under four different headings, the first of which, "German Romantic Music Aesthetics," opens with an elegantly written analysis of Wackenroder and Tieck's Phantasien iiberdie Kunst (1799) by Richard lit tie Johns, in which authorship and genesis are treated and unraveled largely through what is termed the "possession of music." Three further essays in this section deal with Novalis (James Hodkinson); Johann WiIhelm Ritter, the influential natural scientist who is less prominent in literary historical circles (Thomas Strässle); and E.T.A. Hoffmann, where Jeanne Riou, like littlejohns, emphasizes the Romantic association of music with danger.

The next section, "Responses to Goethe," begins not with a Romantic response to Goethe but rather with Goethe's response to Schubert; Lorraine Byrne's effort to rescue the Sage of Weimar from his reputed indifference to or ignorance of music is noble and in parts illuminating, but not entirely convincing. …

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