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226 Book Reviews Judith Reusch, Zeitstrukturen in Goethes Wahlverwandtschaften. Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann, 2004.184 pp. Goethe's Die Wahlverwandtschaften may be one of his most illusive and complex works. Written in the middle of his career, it partakes of both the author's mercurial youth while prefiguring the promise of his mature years, a fact that makes any clear interpretation of the work's essence and intent all the more difficult to elucidate. Judith Reusch's Zeitstrukturen in Goethes Wahlverwandtschaften attempts a thoughtful and intriguing interpretation that is, however, less concerned with a truly structural interpretation of time than the title would seem to guarantee. Rather, she focuses on the uses of time concepts (e.g., Gegenwart, Gegenwartsflucht, Vergangenheit, Zukunft, historisches Präsens, Rhythmisierung der Zeit, Zeitstillstand) as functional elements and temporal codes that circumscribe not only the action but also the psychic condition and interplay of the protagonists. To be sure, the study pays Up service to Eberhard Lämmert's structural analysis of time in the novel in brief discussion (e.g., 147-48, 160), but Reusch does not apply his principles consistently or to any notable degree throughout the book. Instead, she is informed primarily by Clemens Lugowski's perspective (Die Form der Individualität im Roman) that focuses on the artificially constructed mythical world, against whom she then counterbalances Michael Bakhtin's ideas (Formen der Zeit im Roman) concerning idyllic cyclical time and the suspension of time as revealed in stories from antiquity. Particularly important too in this regard are the contributions of Gustav Seibt (Zur Funktion des Mythos) and Michael Niedermeier (Das Ende der Idylle. Sytnbolik, Zeitbezug, "Gartenrevolution" in Goethes Roman "Die Wahlverwandtschaften"). Relying on the theoretical underpinnings of all of these sources, Reusch weaves an interpretive tapestry of time in the work as a thematic device and as an organic component that mirrors the ebb and flow of the action. Goethe, Reusch argues, thereby presents parallel bucolic idylls in the middle of both parts of the novel during which linear time is transformed into a mythical and cyclical time-out-oftime that is constrained only by the artifice of repetition.The intent of this repetition is to keep the four protagonists safely ensconced in their idyllic setting. It is here, Reusch insists, that they suspend time by doing the same daily tasks repetitively in order to rhythmically reconstitute the moment and thereby annihilate time and the outside world altogether. Reusch further suggests that the hermetic isolation created in both idylls is finally broken by the intrusion of figures from the exterior, linear world of time. In the first part it is the Graf and the Baronese who intrude; in the second part it is Luciane. In both cases, these intrusions lead to a collapse of the idyllic setting and mood and ultimately result in a final recognition that, at least in Reusch's terms,"der Verlust des Bewustseins eines rituellen Aktes und seine lediglich geistlose Nachahmung hat für alle Wiederholungen ein katastrophales Ende" (175). She argues further that the idyllic quality of the novel is supported on a mythic foundation in ■which the protagonists clearly represent archetypal Greek gods, since Goethe alludes strongly to classical antiquity in the course of the action. Thus, for Reusch, Eduard represents Zeus as the hero/womanizer; the Hauptmann represents Poseidon, ruler of water; Ottilie is prefigured as Hestia, the goddess of the home, hearth, and symbol of eternal maidenhood; Charlotte is Hera, the betrayed sister/wife; and Luciane appears as Persephone. Except for Goethe Yearbook 227 Luciane/Persephone, all of the other characters are children of Chronos, against whom, Reusch believes, they recapitulate a mythical and conceptual battle of annihilation in order to sustain the false and seemingly eternal present they create . In part one of the novel it is a dalliance with the past as present that is set in their fictive locus atnoenus. In part two it is a tougher matter of recapturing that lost idyll of part one before the moment was destroyed by the arrival of the Graf. His intrusion, Reusch reasons, shatters their otherwise perfect mythic world with the interjection of linear time. In the end, she believes that the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1940-9087
Print ISSN
0734-3329
Pages
pp. 226-228
Launched on MUSE
2010-10-13
Open Access
No
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