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BOOK REVIEWS Ellis Dye, Love and Death in Goethe: "One and Double." Rochester, NY: Camden House,'2004. xiv +333 pp. This is an idiosyncratic book by a penetrating reader. Even though much of the material has appeared earlier in periodical publications, it is so extensively rewritten and so enriched by the central theme and its structure of repeated reflections that the book merits the attention of even those readers already familiar with some of the essays. While in harmony with current Anglo-American readings, the book is original in two important ways—first in its insistent juxtaposition of Goethe with the love-death tradition, and second in its unusually broad definition of that tradition. For love-death here extends beyond the Liebestod à la Tristan and Isolde to include any situation that brings love and death into conjunction, with or without causality. Romeo and Juliet is as valid an example as Tristan, but so too is any kind of love that connects the lover to psychological or theological otherness.Thus Dye addresses the connection between death and sexuality, but also wants to fill gaps left by Denis de Rougemont (Love in the Western World) and Edgar Wind (Pagan Mysteries in the Renaissance), and thus analyze love and death as the passage from the world to the divine, whether conceived in Christian or in Platonist terms. Ultimately in this book the love-death exemplifies the conjunction of unity and duality, the central issue for Goethe and for the German Romantics, and thus Goethe's fundamentally Romantic stance.This proposition consists less of a narrative or of a syntactically arranged argument than of fluent, indeed cascading, juxtapositions—in the book as a whole, within chapters, and even within individual readings of texts. Love-death may seem like an odd concept for organizing one's thinking about Goethe, but Dye marshals a commanding array of texts both to justify the choice and more valuably, to use Goethe to rethink the significance of the love-death. The breadth the concept must take on becomes clear in the first chapter, where Dye lays out his basic categories—individuation, coincidentia oppositiorum, Romantic dialectics and irony, and gender. They derive obviously from psychoanalysis , identity theory, Renaissance Neoplatonism, Romantic philosophy, and contemporary theory. Even within these categories Dye draws on a broad range of thinkers; in the first, for example, he cites with almost equal frequency Freud, philosophers, cultural critics and literary critics. The categories define the themes to which Dye's readings continually return as they situate Goethe texts in juxtaposition to one another, to examples of (mostly) European and American literature from the eleventh to the twentieth centuries, and to the philosophical tradition. The further one reads, the more abstract and general the concept of Goethe Yearbook XIV (2007) 208 Book Reviews love-death becomes, so that the summary chapters at the end focus on truth, paradox, irony and virtuosity The book lands squarely on the paradox that Goethe, like all Romantics, valorizes the higher unity represented by the lovedeath , yet equally valorizes our imperfect life in time: Virtually everything Goethe thinks and writes about the human and the divine, Nature and human nature, subject and object, self and other, fate and freedom, time and eternity, spirit and word requires that a presupposed duality be sublated in a higher unity, as in the Liebestod. The yearning of subject for object or of subject for opposed subject is always for absolute identity, but approximation of this ideal is all that contngent, derivative, time-bound beings can have. Let us grasp, and glory in, the gifts that are ours—the ability to move toward, if never in life to gain, the true, the timeless, the beautiful and the boundless. Perfection is death, says Goethe."Gedenke zu leben!"(282). The middle eight chapters cover Goethe's work in roughly chronological order. Chapter two deals with Clavigo and ballads from the 1770s, while three addresses Götz under the alluring title "FrauWelt. Venereal Disease. Femmes fatale." The fourth chapter elegantly undoes the clichés about Werther with which it begins; the fifth focuses on substitution in relation to unity in Stella, Iphigenie, and "Die neue Melusine "The next chapter deals with...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1940-9087
Print ISSN
0734-3329
Pages
pp. 207-209
Launched on MUSE
2010-10-13
Open Access
No
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