We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

The Spell of Italy

Vacation, Magic, and the Attraction of Goethe

Richard Block

Publication Year: 2006

Wearied by his life as an administrator at the Duke’s court in Weimar, in 1786 Johann Wolfgang von Goethe departed unannounced in the middle of the night for what had been the destination of his imagination since childhood: Italy. His extended stay there dramatically affected his views of art, architecture, prose, poetry, and science. When he returned to Germany and Weimar, Goethe’s experiences translated into his life and work in ways that influenced countless others as they developed Germany’s own brand of high culture. The Spell of Italy: Vacation, Magic, and the Attraction of Goethe tracks the peculiar space Italy occupies in the cultural consciousness of German writers by reconsidering the Italian journeys of Goethe and Winckelmann and the legacy of those journeys in the works of Heine, Nietzsche, Freud, Mann, Carossa, and Bachmann. Author Richard Block contests previous assumptions about Italy as a place to encounter classical culture and creative rebirth. His study examines the degree to which Germany’s literary and cultural traditions appropriated a phantasmic Italy, showing how Winckelmann’s art history and Goethe’s Italian journey predisposed later writers to search for an aesthetic ideal in Italy that did not exist, and how their search for this absent ideal eventually resulted in disillusionment and deception. Building on previous work on Goethe, literary theory, and cultural history, The Spell of Italy offers compelling new ways of understanding Germany’s fascination with Italy from the eighteenth century to its troubled political history of the twentieth century.

Published by: Wayne State University Press

Series: Kritik: German Literary Theory and Cultural Studies


pdf iconDownload PDF (41.8 KB)
pp. vii-viii

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (48.9 KB)
pp. ix-x

I would like to acknowledge Liliane Weissberg for her support and the two anonymous readers of the manuscript for their exceptional insights. Others, with one exception, I will simply list since their contributions, whether it be in the form of comments, laughter, or patience...


pdf iconDownload PDF (48.1 KB)
pp. xi-xii

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (93.4 KB)
pp. 1-16

In October 1973 the Austrian-born poet Ingeborg Bachmann died after suffering third-degree burns from a fire in her apartment in Rome. The fire apparently began when a cigarette dropped from her hand after she had fallen asleep. Her death ended what was certainly an...

read more

1. Opened Wounds: Winckelmann and the Discovery of the Art of the Ancients

pdf iconDownload PDF (154.5 KB)
pp. 17-48

If an element of swindle or forgery is a concern of later generations of German writers working their way south, it might be that a bit of hoodwinking is constitutive of the Germans’ journeys to Italy from the outset. No doubt the primary, if not the initial, inspiration for undertaking such a journey was Johann Joachim Winckelmann, although he was...

read more

2. Fathers and Sons in Italy: The Ghosts of Goethe’s Past

pdf iconDownload PDF (163.4 KB)
pp. 49-78

If the law of the father or of his terror is ultimately how one might phrase the legacy of Winckelmann’s journey to but never out of Italy, the first father to have really mattered had already been there and done that by the time Winckelmann began his sojourn. Johann Caspar...

read more

3. Taking the Words out of the Father’s Mouth: Goethe’s Authorial Triumph

pdf iconDownload PDF (164.2 KB)
pp. 79-110

Acritical difference begins to emerge between the classical aesthetics of Winckelmann and Goethe. In its most concise formulation it might read as something similar to the following: the former imitates the imitation of the ancients; the latter imitates that imitation. The consequences of such differences are telling. While imitation in Winckelmann...

read more

4. On Goethe’s Other Trail: Heinrich Heine’s Grand De-Tour

pdf iconDownload PDF (152.5 KB)
pp. 111-140

If the Goethe effect is an attempt to divide or split subjects so that the specter of one’s posited self might link up and lose itself with other castoffs amid the ancient ruins, three of the more curious excavations subsequently undertaken by German or Austrian writers were those by...

read more

5. The Return of the Repressed: Nietzsche and Freud

pdf iconDownload PDF (199.9 KB)
pp. 141-184

Heine’s Italian journey articulates the long shadow cast upon Italy by Winckelmann and Goethe as well as the consequences for one who is unable to trace the contours of that shadow. More specifically, Heine’s journey exposes the need to censor or cut off one who cannot help but...

read more

6. Goethe’s Other Italy: The Devil’s Playground

pdf iconDownload PDF (173.3 KB)
pp. 185-222

If one were to read back from Thomas Mann to Goethe, the peculiar space Italy occupies in the cultural consciousness of German writers finds in many respects its most troubling expression in Mann’s Doktor Faustus. It is in Palestrina, after all, that Adrian Leverkükhn formally...

read more

Epilogue: Birthing Italy

pdf iconDownload PDF (77.8 KB)
pp. 223-230

In the last chapter, the Italy that emerged as a byproduct of the substitutions so essential for its continuing spell converged with Mussolini’s Italy. The oppression of the real or historical Italy, whether it be the one that Seume witnessed or the one that was repressed under fascism, recalled...


pdf iconDownload PDF (281.3 KB)
pp. 231-276

Works Cited

pdf iconDownload PDF (107.8 KB)
pp. 277-294


pdf iconDownload PDF (112.3 KB)
pp. 295-311

E-ISBN-13: 9780814335703
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814332696

Page Count: 328
Publication Year: 2006

Series Title: Kritik: German Literary Theory and Cultural Studies