Romanticism, Origins, and the History of Heredity

By Engelstein, Stefani | Goethe Yearbook, January 1, 2017 | Go to article overview

Romanticism, Origins, and the History of Heredity


Engelstein, Stefani, Goethe Yearbook


Christine Lehleiter. Romanticism, Origins, and the History of Heredity. Lewisburg, PA: Bucknell University Press, 2014. 323 pp.

Christine Lehleiter's engaging first monograph delves lucidly into the complex currents of scientific and literary investigations into heredity in the period around 1800. Lehleiter's contribution to this growing field includes fascinating accounts of breeding experiments on plants and animals, medical literature on hermaphrodites, and early naturalist speculations on species transformation, culled from painstaking archival research. Her approach leads to provocative new readings of work by Goethe, Jean Paul, and E. T. A. Hoffmann, as well as to a more robust understanding of the diversity of the theoretical landscape surrounding questions of individual identity, species identity, and transmission of traits. Lehleiter's interdisciplinary analyses also enable her to discover in the works of her chosen literary authors an implicit theory of the relationship between literature and science that has enjoyed significant and lasting influence and that establishes literature as a legitimate site for interrogating scientific methods, theories, and jurisdictions.

Lehleiter opens with a readable and informative history of ideas about the inheritance of traits, culled from texts on medicine, natural history, and breeding. The quest to understand the transfer of traits, both physical and mental, merged with speculations about their metamorphosis and their retention, leading to debates about the possible transformation of species and to evaluations of the effects of inbreeding and hybridization. Here and throughout her volume, Lehleiter demonstrates that reflections on reproduction and heredity at the turn of the nineteenth century extended beyond the exclusionary rivalry between epigenesist and preformationist camps familiar from the growing literature in this field. She demonstrates that these discussions implicated humans not only in the context of incest and racial mixing but also in considerations of determinism, education, and identity formation. While an Enlightenment attitude had segregated the human from nature, she argues, thereby creating a space for spiritual or mental freedom, this dualism was threatened by the acknowledgment of human as animal. Lehleiter's subsequent three chapters interpret literary works within the context established in this first chapter. She begins each case study by situating the author within a debate and then turns to an analysis of the way each author comments on and contributes to the emerging definitions of the sciences and humanities.

Lehleiter's reading of the Mignon episode in Goethe's Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre forces the reader to confront the neglected surface, namely, of Mignon's body, as indecipherable because truly hermaphroditic, what we would now call intersex. Hermaphrodism, infertility, and infirmity were among the reported risks of inbreeding in the literature on livestock. The offspring of sibling incest, Mignon thus demonstrates for Lehleiter Goethe's insistence on a firm reality of nature that the Tower Society anachronistically denies and screens. Goethe participates in a nuanced differentiation of value spheres both here and in the Mann von funfzig Jahren episode of the Wanderjahre, in order to enable the coexistence of a biological and a moral domain in which the latter is informed but not subsumed by the former. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Romanticism, Origins, and the History of Heredity
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    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.