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Eighteenth-Century Studies 34.2 (2001) 321-324

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Book Review

Kulturtransfer im Epochenumbruch Frankreich--Deutschland 1770 bis 1815

Unwrapping Goethe's Weimar: Essays in Cultural Studies and Local Knowledge

Rereading Romanticism

Hans-Jürgen Lüsebrink, Rolf Reichardt et al., eds. Kulturtransfer im Epochenumbruch Frankreich--Deutschland 1770 bis 1815, 2 vols. (Leipzig: Universitätsverlag, 1997). Pp. 1001.

Burkhard Henke, Susanne Kord, and Simon Richter, eds. Unwrapping Goethe's Weimar: Essays in Cultural Studies and Local Knowledge (Rochester: Camden House, 2000). Pp. 339. $75.00 cloth.

Martha B. Helfer. Rereading Romanticism (Amsterdam: Rodophi, 2000). Pp. 406. $72.00 cloth.

The three books under review could not be more different, despite the characteristics they share. All of them are edited collections; they take interest in German culture around 1800. Nevertheless, grouping them together makes only sense once we recognize "transfer," "transference," and "transposition" as the central themes or approaches of all three books.

Ideas and themes of transference feature, of course, most prominently in the German-language essays comprising the two-volume Kulturtransfer im Epochenumbruch. This collection is devoted to French-German relations with a particular emphasis on France as the site where cultural phenomena originate that henceforth had a significant impact on German regions. Approaches of transference structure Unwrapping Goethes Weimar, although they are not to be understood in the sense of the particular psychoanalytic theory commonly revolving around the term. Instead, the book explores the field of German cultural studies by creating an interchange: between traditional ways of looking at Goethe, who remains the often uncontested, "canonical" center of German classical literature, and the critical look at a location of his work and legacy, the dreamy, provincial town of Weimar. The essays examine everything from provocative subtexts in Goethe's literary works to his questionable political actions, from his contemporaries to his haunting presence in today's culture. Rereading Romanticism contains sixteen, highly innovative essays--twelve in English, four in German--which approach a poetic and critical movement that, unlike any other, was deeply concerned with transfer and transference--between cultures, languages, texts, disciplines, histories. [End Page 321]

Kulturtransfer, evolving out of a large interdisciplinary research project, strings together numerous conference contributions. Nevertheless, it achieves its main, overarching goals, which are 1) to expand our understanding of the idea of "translation" and 2) to present innovative approaches for combining local, biographical and institutional research with the wider diplomatic or world-historical context. In that, the volumes offer a glimpse at dominant research approaches in the humanities at German universities; furthermore, they effectively combine survey and case studies. That the collection sheds new light on French-German-relations is not the least a result of its revised point of entry. Unlike previous studies, it focuses neither on the French revolution nor concentrates on German problems, which late eighteenth-century writers hoped to tackle with French solutions. Here, France forms the point of departure, be it in the circulation, translation and review of French newspapers, books, plays and encyclopedias, in the semantic of words, or in the formation and reception of public events.

The organization of the volumes in five main sections mirrors this point of entry and supports the goals and ambitions of the project. The opening section, on research approaches and methods, provides the reader not only with the expected overview of the research to date. It also offers philological tools (e.g., a discussion of basic issues in comparative linguistics) and a sketch of the prospects facing traditional historiography and philology in the age of new media. Most importantly, however, this section details an significant accomplishment of the scholars involved in the research project: the creation of the database on French-German translation 1770-1815. The corresponding article, authored by Lüsebrink, Nohr et al. and almost 60 pages long, contains conclusive analyses, numerous diagrams and comprehensive suggestions on how to evaluate historical translations and translators. The essay therefore becomes an important resource for teaching (suitable for lectures and advanced college and university courses...


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