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Eighteenth-Century Studies 35.1 (2001) v-vi
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Géza von Molnár (1932-2001), in memoriam
We deeply mourn the loss of Géza von Molnár, who died on July 27th of this year. Géza was a member of the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies and a trusted advisor of this journal. A widely known and much-admired figure in German studies, his work opened up important new perspectives on the relation between literature and philosophy in the age of Goethe. Much of his energy as a scholar, teacher, and citizen of the academic community was also devoted to exploring the complicated cultural conditions and accomplishments of German Jewry. Since 1963, he was a faculty member of Northwestern University; after teaching for a year at Dartmouth College in the 1970s, he returned to Northwestern, serving as chair of the Department of German for a total of ten years. In the late 1980s he established Northwestern's Graduate Program in German Literature and Critical Thought, while co-founding and directing the Undergraduate Program in European Thought and Culture.
Born in Leipzig in 1932 of Hungarian and Jewish-German ancestry, Géza grew up in Nazi Germany. As the Nazi regime intensified its terror, his parents sent him to a Hungarian boarding school. He credited his unlikely survival to a loyal governess and a Hungarian farmer, who hid him during the period of the War in which he was most endangered. He moved to New York City in 1947, served in the U. S. Air Force in the early 1950s, and graduated magna cum laude from Hunter College in 1958. Two years later he received a Master's degree in German literature from Stanford University, and he was awarded his Ph.D. from the same institution in 1966. Over the course of his distinguished career, Geza won fellowships from various scholarly agencies, including the National Endowment of the Humanities and the American Council of Learned Societies.
Géza von Molnár's scholarship constitutes a significant contribution to our understanding of major literary and philosophical figures in the "age of Goethe." He is the author of three books, each of which seeks to show the philosophical dimensions and ethical foundations of a particular aesthetic project and literary practice: Novalis' "Fichte Studies": The Foundations of His Aesthetics (1970); Romantic Visions, Ethical Context: Novalis and Artistic Autonomy (1987); and Goethes Kant-Studien: Eine Zusammenstellung nach Eintragungen in seinen Handexemplaren der 'Kritik der reinen Vernunft' und der 'Kritik der Urteilskraft' (1994). Co-editor (with Volker Dürr) of Versuche zu Goethe: Festschrift für Erich Heller (1976), Géza was also the author of numerous essays, including "Another Glance at Novalis' 'Blue Flower'" (1973), "Die Fragwürdigkeit des Fragezeichens: Einige Überlegungen zur Paktszene" (1979), "Goethe's Reading of Kant's 'Critique of Esthetic Judgment': A Referential Guide for Wilhelm Meister's Esthetic Education" (Eighteenth-Century Studies, 1982), "What Ever Happened to Ethics?" (1989), and "Goethes Einsicht in die Wissenschaftslehre" (1997). His influence on the study of eighteenth-century literature and thought can be seen from the wide-ranging contributions to "'The Spirit of Poesy': Essays on Jewish and German Literature and Thought in Honor of Géza von Molnár (2000). In addition to his work on the "age of Goethe," Géza was engaged in a detailed account of the cultural programs and aesthetic reflections proposed by the group of twentieth-century Jewish-German exiles who wrote for the journal Aufbau. A few weeks before his death, Géza completed an extensive essay that extends and summarizes his response to a question that prompted many of his inquiries over the last 40 years: what did Goethe learn from the critical philosophy of Kant and Fichte? Playfully entitled "Hidden in Plain View: Another Look at Goethe's Faust," this essay will appear in a forthcoming issue of Eighteenth-Century Studies (35: 3). On the day of his death, he was working on a keynote address for an international conference on Novalis.
No account of Géza's scholarly accomplishments would...