Eduard Morike: Asthetik and Geselligkeit.
Die Schonheit des Verganglichen: Erinnerung and asthetische Erfahrung bei Eduard Morike. By JAN KONEFFKE. (Beitrage zur deutschen Literatur, 30) Frankfurt a.M: Peter Lang. 2004. 135 pp. 27.50 [euro]. ISBN 978-3-631-52422-0.
Wolfgang Braungart and Ralf Simon's volume Asthetik und Geselligkeit is likely to make a substantial contribution to how we understand the quiet modernity of Eduard Morike. Its approach is more refined and less limiting than that of the last major collection of essays published on Morike (Morike's Muses ed. by Jeffrey Adams (Columbia, SC: Camden House, 1990). In their introduction, Braungart and Simon stress the need for a perspective able to treat Morike's seclusion from the dominant modes and movements of nineteenth-century German literary history, without marginalizing him or taking quiet to mean quietist (the editors have Friedrich Sengle respectfully in their sights, for his presentation of Morike in Biedermeierzeit, vol. III (Stuttgart: Metzler, 1980)). Accordingly they insist that if the literary idiosyncrasies (asthetische Eigentumlichkeiten' (p. 1)) of Morike's texts are to be understood as socially and historically situated, then such understanding must be informed by Morike's own reflexive awareness of that relationship. Hence the first essay, by Stefan Scherer, has an exemplary quality in the context of the volume as a whole. Scherer discusses the intertextual importance of Tieck in Maler Nolten, but broadens this out into an original and conceptually rich argument about Morike's much-discussed 'epigonality': Luhmann is adduced to show how Morike's text 'perforates' an inherited paradigm while yet remaining unable to transgress it. Maler Nolten is represented by three further essays. Claudia Liebrand gives a nuanced account of letter-writing in the novel, dealing with issues of identity and gender construction. Kristin Rheinwald discusses the failure of love relationships in the novel under the rubric of Asthetik and Geselligkeit. Here the richness of the volume's guiding ideas is especially apparent, for Rheinwald is able to conclude by suggesting that the failure of love in the social world Morike depicts is synonymous for him with the failure of the novel form itself, and that this propels him into the more private world of the lyric. In another contribution, two poems from Maler Nolten are discussed sensitively by Klaus Weimar.
Poetry is the subject of the remaining contributions, with the exception of Wolfgang Braungart's engaging account of 'Das Stuttgarter Hutzelibonlein' (which, perhaps surprisingly, is the only essay to discuss Morike's relationship to Holderlin). One of the most wide-ranging essays here is Thomas Althaus's account of 'Die Funktion des Unwichtigen bei Morike'. What gives Althaus's piece its force is the way it reveals' unimportance' as a hermeneutic category and paradox, posing problems for any attempt to describe it critically: can we discuss such moments of irreducible particularity without imposing a 'significance' on them which they are bound to resist? In his thoughtful discussion of several poems, Althaus manages to do just that. However, reading the mere eight lines he accords to' Auf eine Lampe' (given his topic we might have expected a few more), one inevitably wonders whether there was a conscious editorial decision to avoid that poem in particular, and Morike's 'Dinggedicht' mode in general (the fascinating 'Auf eine Christblume' is not once mentioned). In one sense this would be understandable, since these poems have received much attention elsewhere, but in another it is problematic, for it is hard to think of a poem more about Asthetik and Geselligkeit than 'Auf eine Lampe'. Indeed, the famous debate on that poem between Emil Staiger and Martin Heidegger haunts the footnotes of many contributions here, suggesting that these texts would in fact be integral to the subject of the volume. But the poems chosen by the various contributors are treated admirably: Ralf Simon's account of the role of 'Peregrina' in Morike's poetic development is original and compelling; Renate von Heydebrand is incisive on Morike's love lyrics; Mathias Mayer's hermeneutic analysis of 'Idylle am Bodensee' is elegant and insightful, while Helmut J. Schneider's discussion of 'Wald-Idylle' in the context of Morike's relationship to poetic tradition makes interesting arguments about influence and the idea of the feminine. In an excellent contribution, Gunter Oesterle takes the poem 'An Longus' as the starting-point for a rich account of Morike's relation to discourses of grace and social politeness, and Christina Muller's treatment of Morike's reception of ancient literature moves gracefully from metrical analysis to discussion of measure and moderation (Mass, 'Massigung') as components of Geselligkeit. This is an extremely welcome, stimulating, and coherent collection, in which up-to-date theoretical perspectives are pleasingly deployed in the service of literature, and which is sensitive enough to the elusive figure at its centre to succeed in bringing him closer to us.
A useful complement to Braungart's and Simon's collection is Jan Koneffke's monograph Die Schonheit des Vergunglichen, originally written as a dissertation in 1987. Koneffke's themes are beauty, time, and memory, and he is concerned to counter what he sees as the Idealist interpretation of Morike, which he finds in such standard works as that of Gerhard Storz, and which centres on' Aufhebung der Zeit in der Zeit', permanence being granted to the transient moment. Against this, Koneffke develops an approach (partly derived from, but not dictated by, Adorno) which finds beauty not in such intimations of eternity, but rather in the pathos of transience--in the moment that is recoverable by memory, but only ever as something irrecoverable. Koneffke's Morike, we might say, inhabits a negative dialectic of memory. The book treats Maler Nolten and a broad range of Morike's poetry, and in both cases achieves a high degree of critical purchase, thanks to its insistence on the advantages of close reading. That said, Koneffke's finely lyrical style is more suited to reflections on individual poems than to sustained analysis of a novel, and the most rewarding parts of the book are his discussions of such pieces as 'Denk es, o Seele!' and the tantalizing Gottliche Reminiszenz' From a scholarly perspective it will seem odd that Koneffke's book was published in 2004 (with a foreword by the author written in 2001, in which he reflects with hindsight on its main ideas) without any attempt to update the bibliography, which reflects the state of Morike scholarship in 1987. This means that some important studies, such as Pierre Labaye's Eduard Morike: symbolisme et transparence (Bern: Peter Lang, 1988), which is similarly informed by a spirit of quiet anti-Idealist iconoclasm, are not mentioned. However, Koneffke's remains a thoughtful account which allows Morike's texts to breathe, and it too should find a place in Morike scholarship.
SELWYN COLLEGE, CAMBRIDGE
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|Title Annotation:||Die Schonheit des Verganglichen: Erinnerung and asthetische Erfahrung bei Eduard Morike|
|Publication:||The Modern Language Review|
|Article Type:||Book review|
|Date:||Jul 1, 2007|
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