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ROBIN A. CLOUSER "Die pilgernde Törin": Genesis, Revaluation, and Mirroring in Goethe's Wanderjahre The critical revaluation of the structure and content of Goethe's Wanderjahre in the past three decades has allowed most scholars to agree that the novel presents, not one narrative point of view, but many, indeed an "archive" of perspectives embodied in manuscripts and fragments from a wide cast of characters, assembled into the novel's present form by a fictional editor. Goethe is thereby credited with having anticipated the modern novel by his dispersal of the function of the author or narrator among a plethora of independently responsible narrators.1 Because no particular narrator is privileged as authoritative, the "implied reader" is obliged to participate actively in appropriating and understanding the text, almost as if it were fragments of reality to be processed.2 The primary structural principles by which Goethe organizes his materials and suggests ways for the reader to order and understand them are two: First, Wilhelm recedes as the center of attention and becomes a "string" on which to thread various stories and events that come to his attention.3 Second, the various materials "mirror" each other—not necessarily in sequence or pairs but as pieces whose themes or motifs reinforce, recall, illuminate, relativize, or call into doubt the perspectives expressed in other "mirroring" pieces through the novel.4 As scholars reassess individual units of narrative in the Wanderjahre in light of this new paradigm of its archival structure, those elements, such as embedded novellas, that don't seem to "mirror" major plot lines, themes, or other narrative materials have tended to be devalued "Die pilgernde Törin" is one such element. Although Goethe occupied himself with this novella off and on for a period of nearly 40 years, scholars have thus far linked it mainly to the love triangle of Hersilie-Felix-Wilhelm, which outwardly resembles the Törin's situation between the elder and younger Revannes.The Hersilie triangle , however, turns out to be a dead end thematically: Wilhelm is already married, Hersilie sees only her own image in Felix's eyes, and the father-son relationship is in the end far more significant than either man's relationship with Hersilie.5 It seems to me that "Die pilgernde Törin, "with its depiction of two noblemen in the main plot and a "noble youth" featured in her tragicomic song, in fact mirrors a much more significant element of the novel, the Lenardo saga. As Hans Vaget has pointed out, Goethe was preoccupied in all his novels with the reform of the nobility as the key to combating what he considered the ill effects of the French Revolution, and Lenardo becomes the Goethe Yearbook XTV Õ 2007) 172 Robin A. Clouser primary vehicle of that theme in the Wanderjahre.6 Issues of social class, personal responsibility, and treatment of women resonate in Goethe's handling of "Die pilgernde Törin" in ways that remind us of the social consciousness developed in the plot lines about Lenardo and "The Nut-Brown Maid." Lenardo serves as'the noble foil" to Wilhelm, one whose role,unlikeWilhelm's, grows more prominent in the novel, again making those narrative elements that mirror his themes important to our processing of the Wanderjahre. 'The time has come for a critical revaluation of "Die pilgernde Törin" to flesh out its contribution to the chorus of voices in the Wanderjahre. I. Genesis and Extratextual Archive "Die pilgernde Thörinn" first appeared in German in the Taschenbuch für Damen auf das Jahr 1809a It was one of Goethe's first ventures back into short fiction after the premature demise in 1795 of his framed-tale collection, Unterhaltungen deutscher Ausgewanderten.Later the tale was incorporated (spelled Törin) into both versions of the Wanderjahre (1821, 1829). The 1809 "Thörinn" looks both ways in Goethe's works. In its treatment of social strata, nonconformity, and sexual tartness, it would have fit nicely in the Unterhaltungen, whose announced topic was a frank discussion of how men and women disappoint and frustrate each other.9 "DieThörinn" was one of several tales slated for the Unterhaltungen before matronly protest in Weimar...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1940-9087
Print ISSN
0734-3329
Pages
pp. 171-206
Launched on MUSE
2010-10-13
Open Access
No
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