Academic journal article German Quarterly

The Spell of Italy: Vacation, Magic, and the Attraction of Goethe

Academic journal article German Quarterly

The Spell of Italy: Vacation, Magic, and the Attraction of Goethe

Article excerpt

Block, Richard. The Spell of Italy: Vacation, Magic, and the Attraction of Goethe. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2006. 310 pp. $54.95 cloth.

The title of Block's study alludes to these central concerns: To what extent do those German and Austrian writers who follow Goethe to Italy in search of creative rebirth thereby engage in a tradition of mystification? How does "Italy" become a privileged site within which historical realities are displaced-subjected to a process of "Vacation" -in favor of an ideal that reveals itself as both productive and imprisoning? Block's history begins with Goethe and his predecessor Winckelmann, and proceeds to examine the significance of Italy in particular in the lives and work of Heine, Nietzsche, and Freud. Attention is also given to such figures as Wilhelm Heinse, Johann Gottfried Seume, Thomas Mann, Hans Carossa, Wilhelm Koeppen, and, in the introduction and epilogue, Ingeborg Bachmann.

The structure or "law" of Goethe's Italian journey (3) is one of substitution, and it begins to take shape with Winckelmann. As Block notes, Winckelmann is more interested in copies of Greek statuary than in the originals (23,36). His ekphrases constitute a second order of imitation and substitution that "removes the actual objects from sight" (20). Italy is the site of these dislocations, one where the visitor encounters his ideal only in its absence.

Subsequent journeys to Italy are similarly haunted. If Winckelmann establishes Rome "as a site to meet absent fathers" (60), Goethe travels to Italy in Winckelmann's footsteps, as well as those of his own father, whom he habitually identifies with the "ghosts" that attend him (71). When Goethe sails to Sicily, thus going beyond Johann Caspar Goethe's itinerary, this "journeying beyond the father" induces seasickness before it brings relief (97). Throughout his trip, Block argues, Goethe struggles to construct his own authorial identity, and this struggle includes a strong Oedipal component. Other Oedipal tensions inform Heine's Italian journey. If, for Heine, traveling to Italy is one stage in the attempt to become "Germany's next Goethe," he ultimately finds that his Jewishness prevents his following in this tradition of creative renewal (132-33). Family ties also have an immediate effect on his itinerary: if Goethe's travels bring emancipation from his father, the death of Heine's father forces him to return home. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.