Academic journal article Goethe Yearbook

Who Is This Schiller Now? Essays on His Reception and Significance

Academic journal article Goethe Yearbook

Who Is This Schiller Now? Essays on His Reception and Significance

Article excerpt

Jeffrey L. High, Nicholas Martin, and Norbert Oellers, eds., Who Is This Schiller Now? Essays on His Reception and Significance. Rochester, NY: Camden House, 2011.xviii + 494 pp.

Drawn from the international conference of the same name, held at California State University, Long Beach, in September 2009, Who Is This Schiller Now? offers twenty-eight essays reexamining Schiller's work in categories ranging from drama and poetry, aesthetics and philosophy, and history and politics, to Schiller reception and, finally,"Schiller Now."

Full section titles (for example "Schiller, Drama, and Poetry" or "Schiller Reception-Reception and Schiller") suggest that this collection aims to relieve Schüler studies of the generic and theoretical pressures to which they have been subjected, and to consider his legacy anew. Thus the title of the collection, prompted by Coleridge's excited letter of November 3,1794 to Robert Southey, upon reading Die Räuber, emerges as a founding principle for the entire project: to consider what Schüler's work and thought mean in and for our present. Accordingly, as the editors point out in the foreword, contributions take to task common or previously reigning assumptions about Schüler the idealist, the Kantian, the classicist-the collection intends to break down barriers of classification and periodization, and reposition Schüler as a forerunner of modernism, his work as world literature (xi-xü).

Several contributions seek to revise our literary and phüosophical readings of Schüler. Four of the five essays in part 1 ("Schüler, Drama, and Poetry") grapple with perceived misreadings or unrecognized influences (Hans H. Hiebel on Lenz's influence, for example, or Matthew Bell on melancholy in Schüler's drama). Essays in part 2 ("Schüler, Aesthetics, and Phüosophy"), part 3 ("Schüler, History, and Politics"), and beyond not only weigh in on the development and meaning of Schüler's phüosophical and aesthetic thought, but also examine the valence of religiosity in his drama and history (contributions by Elisabeth Krimmer and Wolfgang Riedel), and take up decidedly more sensitive questions of Schüler's political thought (Maria del Rosario Acosta López on aesthetics and politics, Yvonne Nüges on democracy, and Henrik Sponsel on post-1945 criticism of Schüler).

These contributions remind the reader that, even at a basic textual level, Schüler's work still reveals secrets. The import of such revelations, on the other hand, is of rather mixed quality. The authors in part 1, for example, seem more content to reinterpret, whüe paying decidedly less attention to the need for reinterpretation. Jennifer Driscoll Colosimo's essay "Schüler and the Gothic" is a rare attempt to correct the record of literary history in its demonstration that Schüler played a more influential role in the development of an international gothic genre than Germanistik has traditionally admitted. Likewise, Laura Anna Macor's "Die Moralphüosophie des jungen Schüler" is a well-organized and readable refutation of the "flight to Kant" thesis, tracing the development of a moral-phüosophical bent in Schüler that predates his reading of Kant.

The pinnacle of this revisionist strand of argument is occupied by the very direct contributions of Peter Pabisch andT. J. Reed. Pabisch's passionate rhetoric on behalf of the German classics is stirring-unfortunately, he allows the stated subject of his contribution, Schüler's ballads, to be upstaged by routine arguments in favor of the salutary effects of literary study. Reed, on the other hand, makes admirably short shrift of Schüler's historian-critics by asserting that Schüler's perceived "naive" belief in progress and his recourse to Enlightenment humanism constitute a progressive realism, "a way of living in and with history. …

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