Academic journal article Goethe Yearbook

Repetition and Textual Transmission: The Gothic Motif in Goethe's Faust and "Von Deutscher Baukunst"

Academic journal article Goethe Yearbook

Repetition and Textual Transmission: The Gothic Motif in Goethe's Faust and "Von Deutscher Baukunst"

Article excerpt

Act 2 of Faust II opens in the same setting in which the reader first encounters the title figure in part one of the drama. As the title of the first scene in act 2 announces: "HOCHGEWÖLBTES / ENGES, GOTISCHES ZIMMER / ehemals Faustens, unverändert" ("A HIGH-VAULTED, NARROW GOTHIC ROOM / Faust's former study is unchanged").1 While repetitions or "wiederholte Spiegelungen" ("repeated mirror reflections"2) abound in Faust, this particular instance of repetition is noteworthy for the manner in which it initiates a lengthy series of references to the Scholar's Tragedy of part one. Not only is a previous setting recreated, but long-forgotten characters suddenly return, and Mephistopheles and the pupil from "Studierzimmer [II]" ("Faust's Study"), now a Baccalaureate, even review their earlier conversation. Yet explanations of the significance of these returns are surprisingly sparse. Jochen Schmidt sees in the two opening scenes of act 2 references to the Middle Ages that allow the modern economy and the spirit of the Renaissance to burst out all the more powerfully on stage.3 Jane Brown, by contrast, makes note of parodic elements in the opening scene as well as a general emphasis on generativity, both of which foreshadow the remainder of act 2.4 While these interpretations offer insight into act 2 as a whole, they do not go particularly far in explaining the return to part one within part two. Why, for example, is it necessary to preface the "Klassische Walpurgisnacht" ("Classical Walpurgis Night") with descriptions of Faust's study, or of the pen he used to sign the wager with Mephistopheles? Why do the Baccalaureate and Mephistopheles discuss their initial encounter from part one? Do these scenes merely remind the reader,5 as though he or she would forget, that a wager exists between Faust and Mephistopheles, or that the Scholar's Tragedy began in this setting?

This article endeavors to clarify the significance of the hochgewölbtes, enges, gotisches Zimmer by tracing the Gothic motif throughout Faust I/II and throughout two of Goethe's essays on Gothic architecture, both entitled "Von deutscher Baukunst" ("On German Architecture"). As I show in the following, the repetition of this motif illustrates how the Goethean model of repetition-"wiederholte Spiegelungen"-operates at the paradigmatic level of an individual text and how it functions more broadly as a means of poetic production across an entire corpus, providing structural links both between discrete linguistic elements or individual passages and between whole texts. Furthermore, I demonstrate that this paradigm of repetition is connected in "Von deutscher Baukunst" and Faust I/II to modes of cultural production, such as architecture and writing, as well as to their medial transmission, with Faust II performing via its own publication the mode of transmission central to Goethe's architectural aesthetics. The operative concept of transmission here works on multiple levels. It has an internal dramatic significance within Faust and has correlates in Goethe's natural-philosophical thought; more broadly, it relates to history and tradition and occupies a central position in the poetic process. Rather than examining each of these registers separately, I discuss them together so as to highlight the importance of transmission across Goethe's oeuvre.

Since this article takes as its impetus an instance of repetition, it is necessary first to clarify Goethe's understanding of the concept. In an 1823 text, which Eckermann later gave the title "Wiederholte Spiegelungen," Goethe draws on an entoptical metaphor to outline the manner in which repetition intensifies [steigern] some original content of memory. An internal image [Bild] is externalized and reflected ("abermals abgespiegelt," FA 1.17:370). The impression (Eindruck) of the afterimage (Nachbild) upon the recipient then awakens a deep interest in the past, which is subsequently represenced. "Hier entsteht nun . . . die Möglichkeit ein Wahrhaftes wiederherzustellen; aus Trümmern von Daseyn und Ueberlieferung sich eine Zweyte Gegenwart zu verschaffen" (FA 1. …

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