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«Goethe Yearbook, Volume 14, 2006, pp. 171-206 (Article) Published by North American Goethe Society DOI: 10.1353/gyr.2011.0443 For additional ...»

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"Die pilgernde Törin": Genesis, Revaluation, and Mirroring in

Goethe's Wanderjahre

Robin A. Clouser

Goethe Yearbook, Volume 14, 2006, pp. 171-206 (Article)

Published by North American Goethe Society

DOI: 10.1353/gyr.2011.0443

For additional information about this article


Access provided by PRESBYTERIAN UNIVERSITY OF EAST AFRICA (31 May 2013 13:40 GMT)


"Die pilgernde TÃrin": 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 TÃrin" 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 TÃrin'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 TÃrin, "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 TÃrin" 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 TÃrin" to flesh out its contribution to the chorus of voices in the Wanderjahre.

I. Genesis and Extratextual Archive "Die pilgernde ThÃrinn" 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 TÃrin) into both versions of the Wanderjahre (1821, 1829). The 1809 "ThÃrinn" 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 "DieThÃrinn" was one of several tales slated for the Unterhaltungen before matronly protest in Weimar against Goethe's "piquant" taboo topics brought the series to an end.10 "Die pilgernde TÃrin" also takes up themes of both Wilhelm Meister novels: love follies, wandering as a metaphor for intellectual and emotional growth, renunciation and self-control, and social reform. Yet despite its structural complexity, multiple voices, elegant finish, and pointed social commentary, this novella never received much critical attention even prior to the era of the archival paradigm. It was pigeonholed as "merely" a translation.

Nevertheless, it is one of the best stories Goethe ever preserved for posterity by embedding it in his own work. Erich Trunz recognized the tale as "ein Meisterwerk aus der Anfangszeit der neueren Novellistik."11 Perhaps, however, it is too polished for its own good in an era when fragmentation has become one measure of "realism."

There are three major reasons for the tale's critical neglect: most scholars believe the tale is only a translation; they notice few "mirrorings" or parallels between the tale and other materials in the Wanderjahre; and they judge negatively the heroine's character and renunciation, a major point in a novel subtitled Die Entsagenden. Left almost entirely without comment are questions crucial to a basic understanding of the story and its relation to other materials: Is the tale to be considered realistic, a supernatural tale, or a satiric parable of social commentary? In what does the foolishness of the protagonist inhere? From what points of view is the reader invited to view her and other actors in the tale? Is she the chief fool or are the noblemen more foolish than she? Finally, how does this tale "mirror" other elements in the novel?

The French original of the "TÃrin," "La folle en pèlerinage," appeared anonymously in H.A. O. Reichard's "Cahiers de lecture" in 1789 and enjoyed great Goethe Yearbook 173 popularity in Weimar; its author has never been discovered (HA 8:568-69).12 Goethe's secretary F. W Riemer called Goethe's version "eine freie Ãœbersetzung."13 Because an overwhelming majority of scholars, however, regard Goethe's story as "merely a translation," it has been undeservedly neglected.14 One scholar justifies ignoring it by saying Goethe could have written a better story himself; apparently unaware of the tradition in the novella, at least as old as Boccaccio's Decameron, of handing down choice tales, he charges that Goethe's use of the story borders on plagiarism.15 One of the most recent commentators takes an earlier scholar's word on the "translation" and does not consult the source herself.16 As recent research has shown for other tales reworked from French sources, however, Goethe made significant alterations to "La folle en pèlerinage."17 His changes sharpen the tale's social criticism, deepen its characters, and recapitulate themes about personal responsibility in matters of love that Goethe wrestled with all his life. Even if it were only a translation, the tale deserves analysis for what Goethe saw in it, for what it adds to the Wanderjahre, and for its droll commentary on men's and women's assumptions about each other in late eighteenth-century European society and how Goethe saw those roles changing in the nineteenth. By examining the changes Goethe made and the stages in his reaction to the original French tale, we can come to see what function Goethe believed it played in the Wanderjahre and why it preoccupied him for so long.

An idea of what Goethe liked about "Die pilgernde TÃrin" and the importance he attached to it is revealed by three changes between the 1821 and 1829 versions of the novel. First, he moved "Die TÃrin" forward, from sixth inset story (out of seven) in 1821—between "Die neue Melusine" and "Wo stickt der Verräter"—to second in 1829. By repositioning the social sophisticates of "Die pilgernde TÃrin" right after the arcadian "Sankt Joseph der Zweite," Goethe shows the reader in quick succession at the start of his novel two highly contrasting views of love and its social function. Moreover, the self-centeredness of the Revannes stands out in greater contrast after the selfabnegation of "Sankt "Joseph.

Second, Goethe changed the narrators who introduce "Die TÃrin."In 1821

a minor character, the scapegrace Friedrich, gives it a deprecating lead-in:

"Damit man sich recht durchdringen mÃge, welch ein Unterschied es sei zwischen einer verrückten Pilgerschaft, deren sich so manche in der Welt umhertreiben, und zwischen einem wohldurchdachten, glücklich eingeleiteten Unternehmen, wie das unsere... "18 Since Friedrich's own course through the Meister-novete is hardly "well-thought out" or "happily prepared" (he merely tags along with the others' grand plan to emigrate) his words are ironic, if not a joke at his own expense.19 "Die TÃrin" depicts male as well as female foibles, another possible reason for Friedrich's antipathy. But Goethe's contemporary readers, especially the men, could easily miss or ignore the males'foibles and take Friedrich's opinion as Goethe's own. A desire to spotlight the tale's ironic view of irresponsible noblemen in a male-dominated world could account for why Goethe relocated the novella to so prominent a position in the final form of the Wanderjahre.20

In the 1829 version, a major and respected character, considered by several critics a locus of Goethe's sympathy, introduces the tale positively:

174 Robin A. Clouser Hersilie.21 This cheerfully ironic young woman introduces Die pilgernde TÃrin" by challenging Wilhelm to say if he has read many tales more artful than this: "Sie sollten sagen, ob Ihnen viel Artigeres vorgekommen ist" (51).

Further, as a woman Hersilie endorses the sentiments of the heroine-fool:

"Ein verrücktes Mädchen tritt auf! das mÃchte keine sonderliche Empfehlung sein, aber wenn ich jemals närrisch werden mÃchte, wie mir manchmal die Lust ankommt, so war' es auf diese Weise" (51).22 Instantly an alert reader would ask why young women would "want to go crazy." The patriarchal social situations of the novella provide an answer. As we have seen, the tale's plot also foreshadows Hersilie's own situation later in the novel; she too will be entangled romantically between a father and son.

Hence the reader of the 1829 Wandetjahre is induced by Hersilie's charming empathy and implied similar suffering to think well of the "fool" in her favorite tale. If we agree that the time Hersilie has invested fictionally to translate the tale tells us something about her as a character, must we not also conclude that it tells us something about Goethe the author? He's the one who actually labored off and on for nearly two decades to re-work and translate various segments of it, and then fussed for two more decades to set the tale properly in his novel. Only a tale that was important to him would have received such attention.

The third change from the 1821 to the 1829 edition, in contrast, eliminates a hint that calls the reader's attention to wandering, love-haunted fools. Bahr points out that the very first printing of the 1821 edition began with two poems that precede even the title page, followed by nine more poems on unpaginated pages before the first chapter.23 One of those poems

mentions a wanderer-fool:

–  –  –

position—thus serving itself as a red flag for that theme—and because Lenardo's saga had been brought to a more satisfactory "completion."

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