Academic journal article German Quarterly

"Falsche Tendenzen": Der Staatsdiener Goethe und der Dichter

Academic journal article German Quarterly

"Falsche Tendenzen": Der Staatsdiener Goethe und der Dichter

Article excerpt

Linder, Jutta. "Falsche Tendenzen": Der Staatsdiener Goethe und der Dichter. Soveria Mannelli (Cantanzaro), Italy: Rubbettino, 2001. 204 pp. euro;12.39 hardcover.

This handsome little book focuses upon Goethe's administrative duties in Weimar. It is divided into three main parts: the first part demonstrates the breadth of Goethe's duties and then discusses how the performance of these tasks changed his creative activity; the second argues that his administrative experiences influenced the content of his literary works; and the third argues that despite Goethe's complaints about his duties and his flight to Italy to escape them, he ultimately benefitted both personally and creatively from this non-literary engagement. The book includes an appendix with 15 facsimile reproductions of pages from both Goethe's literary and non-literary texts.

The first is the most successful. Linder argues that Goethe's administrative tasks had a direct effect upon his manner of thinking and working. She discusses how the busyness of Goethe's days completely changed his literary habits. The Goethe who is famous for writing and rewriting his texts emerged during the period of administrative hyperactivity. He no longer had the leisure to be the "unconscious" poet and author of his first productions: gone were the days of sketching down poems as they came to him or working uninterruptedly on one work for several weeks at a time. Instead, Goethe was forced to become incredibly conscious of his writing. Within this context and in one of the more interesting discussions, Linder examines the role of dictation. She first establishes that Goethe learned to dictate texts in order to conduct his more bureaucratic correspondence. She then presents several first-hand accounts of Goethe's ability freely to dictate texts under the most distracting and disruptive circumstances. She cites this as evidence of Goethe's changing and more considered approach to writing. It was very interesting to learn how disjointed Goethe's work day could be: numerous people had the authority to interrupt him at will while he was working on his literary texts. Several of Goethe's contemporaries were amazed at his ability to immediately pick up his train of thought exactly at the point at which he had stopped.

The biographical details are incorporated somewhat less successfully within the second part of Linder's book. Although she clearly proves the important influence that Goethe's administrative experiences had upon individual literary texts, this part would have benefitted from more analysis of the texts themselves. …

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