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Introduction TO UNDERTAKE THE PUBLICATION of yet another "Yearbook" of studies devoted to an eminent European writer may seem a dismaying enterprise, especially in view of the awesome difficulties which the publishing of books and journals in the humanities seems at the moment to offer. We have nevertheless thought it important and useful to gather, as often as feasible, the work of American scholars dealing with the incomparably rich world of Goethe, that central figure in the history of German literature and culture. We join illustrious predecessors in England, in Germany and in Austria and are thereby reaffirming the interest in an extraordinary mind and his age that in America never ceased to be alive. Throughout our social and intellectual history the substance of Goethe's convictions has represented a link (more powerful here than in the shifting perspectives of European life) between the stirring insights of the late eighteenth century and their continuing presence in modern political thought and institutions. Goethe's essentially pragmatic idealism, so congenial to men like Jefferson or Emerson, the close interplay in his thinking of scientific, poetic and social impulses, his commitment to tradition as well as to a humane vision of the future, have made his cast of mind peculiarly rewarding for the American experience. It is no mere accident in the history of taste that some of the most appealing translations of Faust have been the accomplishment of American writers, and that American scholarship has significantly contributed to the understanding of Goethe's achievement. The memorable Goethe Bicentennial Convocation at Aspen in 1949 was a remarkable indication of this appreciation. It was the first major gathering after the war of men of letters from all parts of the world; it brought together scholars and writers of great eminence such as Albert Schweizer, Ortega y Gasset, Ernst Robert Curtius, Martin Buber, Thornton Wilder, Ernst Simon and many others, to bear eloquent witness to the shared respect for Goethe's work. The astonishing energy and the testimonial character of that meeting in what was then a little known abandoned mining town in an enchanting valley in Colorado, confirmed the magnetism of a mind transcending and healing a wounded and divided world. The questions concerning the value and validity of Goethe's tenets for our time were, in those weeks more than thirty years ago, asked in a mood deeply serious and hopeful, without sentimentality or easy adulation. They have remained urgent enough, and it was with an awareness of their challenge that we founded the Goethe Society of North America. May the sense of obligation implied in these questions toward elucidating the inexhaustible richness of Goethe within our common heritage sustain the efforts that come together in our Yearbook. Victor Lange Princeton University ...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1940-9087
Print ISSN
0734-3329
Pages
pp. ix-x
Launched on MUSE
2010-10-13
Open Access
No
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