- German Contributions
My discussion of German-language scholarship this year requires the introduction of a new section titled "The 1950s." Thanks to Camelia Rata for her assistance.
Transatlantic Exchanges: The American South in Europe / Europe in the American South, ed. Richard Gray and Waldemar Zacharasiewicz (OAW), is an impressive collection of essays. Lothar Hönnighausen ("European Culture in Southern Literature: Thomas Wolfe and William Faulkner," pp. 33–50) offers a contrasting view of two Southern literary icons by suggesting that Wolfe's encounter with Europe, especially Germany, proved consequential in his literary work, uneven and incomplete though it is, while Faulkner's perspective of Europe remained that of an observer. Dieter Meindl ("Modernist Novellas: European Reflections on Thomas Wolfe's Short Novels," pp. 69–88) seeks to come to terms with Wolfe's expansive and occasionally ungainly texts by invoking the European novella—a distinct genre neither well [End Page 474] known nor widely accepted in the dichotomous American world of short stories and novels—and by probing Wolfe's indebtedness to this form and its epistemological potential in such texts as "The Web of the Earth." Peter Nicolaisen ("Thomas Jefferson's Conflicting Views of Europe," pp. 91–102) takes a close look at Jefferson's visit to Hanau, Germany, in 1788 to show how the Virginian's fascination with European architecture somehow occluded his perception of the intrinsic connection between princely buildings and the feudalism he so strongly despised. Jefferson's ideological/artistic conflict remained unresolved. Zacharasiewicz ("Antecedents and Trajectories of Two Twentieth-Century Writers from Georgia in Europe," pp. 115–34) compares the lives and European receptions of Carson McCullers and Flannery O'Connor. He tracks several dimensions of reception: McCullers was popular in Eastern Europe, perhaps resulting from her existential and social-critical concerns, whereas O'Connor, though highly regarded in France, failed to attract a constant European readership, perhaps due to her cultural immersion in Georgia. Arno Heller offers a parallel reading of Walker Percy's later work and Eric Voegelin's The New Science of Politics ("Walker Percy and Eric Voegelin's Political Philosophy," pp. 277–90). Voegelin's pessimistic view of the Western world's fall from transcendence finds resonance in The Thanatos Syndrome, but Percy never embraced Voegelin's "totalizing ideological concept." Instead, he ultimately sympathized with Karl Popper, another Austrian émigré who, unlike the conservative Voegelin, remained a defender of metaphysical indeterminacy and human self-determination.
Two volumes of SPELL appeared this year: Cultures in Contact, ed. Balz Engler and Lucia Michalcak, and American Aesthetics, ed. Deborah Madsen. The former contains few papers specifically dedicated to American topics; however, in "The Professor and the Fox: Louis Agassiz, Henry David Thoreau, and 'The Two Cultures'" (pp. 94–110) Patrick H. Vincent elucidates perceptual differences with respect to nature's transformative force in Agassiz and Thoreau, crediting the writer with a more organic understanding of nature's processes than the scientist and claiming that Thoreau was more open to Darwinian models of evolution. The latter volume begins with Madsen's introduction ("Aesthetics Then and Now," pp. 11–27), which offers competing definitions of aesthetics from ancient times to the Enlightenment, two cultural settings that decisively contributed to shaping whatever a peculiarly "American" aesthetics may reveal itself to be in its literary manifestations. Philipp [End Page 475] Schweighauser ("Literature in Transition: European Aesthetics and the Early American Novel," pp. 29–45) shows how early American novelists H. H. Brackenridge, Susanna Rowson, and Charles Brockden Brown, though still committed to 18th-century practices, began a process that would eventually liberate aesthetic work from didactic or moralistic dictates. In "The Death-Hymn of the Perfect Tree: Metaphor, Metamorphosis and the Sublimity of Music in R. W. Emerson's Poems 'Woodnotes I and II'" (pp. 47–68) Claude Ziltener investigates Emerson's concern with surfaces in "Experience" and tracks the role of the poet as necessary communicator. Henrik Otterberg ("Immanence and Transcendence in Thoreau's 'A Winter Walk,'" pp. 69–81) explicates Thoreau's early essay as less dependent on Emerson's idealism and more open to an intrinsic order in nature than commonly assumed. François Specq reinterprets Thoreau's Journal to emphasize...