The worth of Werther: Goethe's literary marketing.
'Tis but thy name that is my enemy; Thou art thyself, though not a Montague. What's Montague? It is nor hand nor foot. Nor arm nor face nor any other part Belonging to a man. O be some other name! What's in a name? (. . .)
I take thee at thy word: Call me but love, and I'll be new baptised; Henceforth I never will be Romeo. (Romeo and Juliet, 2. 2.38-51)
I. Names and Silhouettes
Werther was the first work of German literature to become something like a brand name. It seemed that a new era had begun for the sympathetic reader in the second half of the eighteenth century. The discourse of sensibility presented the world as an effusion of the self, as a space in which the subject could be constructed as the receptacle of its own imaginary projections reflected by the objects around it. The vogue of sensibility prepared literary culture for the emergence of a cult of subjectivity. Werther gave it a name.
In turn, the illustrations of the novel's most memorable scenes gave Lotte and Werther a face. They became an integral part of the book's spectacular success and were indeed the object of the intense competition between the authorized publisher Weygand and the numerous pirates that reprinted the text along with new illustrations to gain a bigger share of the market.(1) When, in order to stay in business, Weygand issued a second edition, the "Zweyte/achte Auflage" of 1775, he added two vignettes on the title pages to the novel's two parts. While the first shows Lotte and Werther at the well near Wahlheim, the second has no corresponding scene in the narrative. Yet, it is precisely this second picture that captures a central moment organizing both Werther's writing of his letters and the public's reception of the book. It shows a young man kneeling in front of a rock on whose face he is about to inscribe Werther's name. The letters already engraved spell the word Wert. A young woman enters the scene from the right, holding a book in her hand and a handkerchief to her face, apparently moved to tears by the reading she has just done (see fig.). The artist might have modelled his work on the famous illustration in La Nouvelle Heloise where Saint-Preux shows Julie the rocks on which - "in a thousand places" - he had once inscribed her name along with verses from Petrarch and Tasso, monuments to a passionate love in which, according to Rousseau's elaborate commentary on the picture, virtue has come to preside over the dangers of remembrance.(2) Although there is no comparable scene of recollection to be found in Werther, it would be wrong to say that the vignette showing two readers instead of the novel's two lovers has no foundation in the narrative. As we shall see, Werther takes great pains to inscribe his name within the book that the figure resembling Lotte is holding out to the scribe. However, his attempt to appropriate the name in which he signs the letters of his love fails, and the narrative will perform Werther's failure to enter into possession of his own name as a suicide. In the end even the grave wherein he is laid remains unmarked.
Wert: The letters engraved by the young man in the vignette spell out the worth or value that informs the lover's name. "What's in a name?" Werther translates Juliet's query into "What's a name worth?" The question is as difficult to answer as that posed in Shakespeare's tragedy. Value is never intrinsic to the object whose worth it assesses nor is it a purely subjective element that could be controlled by those placing value on an object. Value is in this sense both contingent and inconclusive.(3) In the second half of the eighteenth century subjectivist conceptions of value became increasingly important for the emergence of a diverse market economy, and it is no accident that Werther, a novel that unfolds the drama of overestimating the worth of subjectivity, should articulate eighteenth-century speculations on economic, aesthetic, and moral values in the name of its protagonist. Although value is in itself not a property of anyone or anything, neither purely subjective nor purely objective, certain objects can be valuable to an individual to the point of becoming invaluable, removing them from their circulation in a public system that regulates value judgments into a private sphere where those things are kept or stored without regard to their exchange value or use value. Collections of items like books or china and of memorabilia such as silhouettes or ribbons have a personal significance and can be invaluable or priceless because they form a part of one's life that cannot be transferred to anyone else. "The collection seeks a form of self-enclosure," as Susan Stewart points out; it "represents the total aestheticization of use value" and thus "represents a hermetic world." What she calls "self-enclosure" is an apt term for the world of Werther and his readers, in which the items listed above bear a crucial significance because they are part of the novel's proliferating construction of the self: "The ultimate term in the series that marks the collection is the 'self,' the articulation of the collector's own 'identity.'"(4) An increasing number of objects produced for and gathered in the homes of the eighteenth-century bourgeoisie was marked by this exclusiveness of a construction or fashioning of the self, constituting the private and intimate atmosphere where letters like those written by Saint-Preux or Werther could find their proper destination. Private letters from friends became collectibles themselves, and Werther's love letters can indeed be said to reflect the kind of amorous relationship that exist between people and the objects of which they claim possession. That his letters are publishable as a book is not just a mark of their literary and fictive character but rather shows that the creation of privacy and intimacy in the eighteenth century was an eminently public event.(5) What they also show is that to Werther the negotiation of a relationship between the public and private sphere as well as that between people and the objects that belong to them is fraught with enormous dangers. While his narcissism complicates the former, his fetishism befalls the latter. Investing the world with his self-infatuation, he transforms objects into persons and persons into objects in a fetishism that, notably, also includes his proper name. Every object, every event, every story is connected to Lotte and through Lotte to him, and in every decisive scene in the novel's first book Werther tries to establish this connection by inscribing his name within the narrative. This act of inscription is neatly packaged in the present he receives on his birthday from Lotte and Albert. As it turns out, it is also his name day:
Mir fallt beym Erofnen sogleich eine der blassrothen Schleifen in die Augen, die Lotte vorhatte, als ich sic kennen lernte, und um die ich sie seither etlichemal gebeten hatte. Es waren zwey Buchelgen in duodez dabey, der kleine Wetsteinische Homer, ein Buchelgen, nach dem ich so off verlangt, um mich auf dem Spaziergange mit dem Ernestischen nicht zu schleppen. Sieh! so kommen sie meinen Wunschen zuvor, so suchen sie all die kleinen Gefalligkeiten der Freundschaft auf, die tausendmal werther sind als jene blendende Geschenke, wodurch uns die Eitelkeit des Gebers erniedrigt. Ich kusse diese Schleife tausendmal, und mit jedem Athemzuge schlurfe ich die Erinnerung jener Seligkeiten ein, mit denen mich jene wenige, gluckliche unwiederbringliche Tage uberfullten.(6)
What Werther unpacks in his letter to Wilhelm is his desire to be given what he does not seem to have: his own proper name. Like the two books and the ribbon, it seems to be a gift offered to him by Lotte. Her ribbon is in fact what at once ties and unties the parcel containing something like a jack-in-the-box that will jump out and skip around in every letter and every thought because it bears the mark of a gift a thousand times werther than anything else: Werther, Werther, Werther, Werther, Werther, a thousand times Werther.
In a recent essay, David Wellbery has argued that Werther turns Lotte and everything around her into the phantasmatic body of a nourishing mother. Demonstrating how the ecstatic "liquid emotionality" of his letters engages in a "liquid-maternal economy," he points out that in his insatiable love for Lotte Werther actually "wants to drink her."(7) Around the middle of the century the fashion-style called sterilite was replaced by that of a fecondite that emphasized the feminity of motherhood, and it also became a matter of etiquette to withdraw from social gatherings to breastfeed one's child.(8) The pink ribbons attached to the arms and breast of the white dress Lotte is wearing in the scene of their first meeting ("ein simples weisses Kleid mit blassrothen Schleifen an Arm und Brust" ) are interesting in this regard and of particular importance to Wellbery's reading: "These ribbons, which are so proximate to the source of the Mother's liquid girl of nourishment (and in the first sketch of the novel, which calls them 'flesh-colored,' even mimic the color of that source), become a fetish for Werther, the single token of his love he takes to his grave" (191). Kissing a thousand times the ribbon that is a thousand times werther than any other gift he might have received on his birthday, and inhaling or rather sucking in (schlurfen) the blissful memory of Lotte it brings back, one might indeed say that he engages in a phantasy of imbibing his name, and Wellbery's notion that the economy of his emotional discourse describes a desire to be "born anew in the sign of the Mother's gift" (191) is corroborated by the grandiose scene of baptism Werther stages at the well near Wahlheim two months prior to his birthday. In the first letters of the novel it is the place to which Werther retires to read Homer in the bulky Ernesti edition that now, on his birthday, is being replaced by a smaller edition. If the ribbon brings back memories of his first encounter with Lotte, the books included in the parcel recall his patriarchal phantasy about a Homeric world that turned the girls from the village coming to the well into the daughters of kings coming to get water for their fathers. As he once wrote, "Wenn ich da sizze, so lebt die patriarchalische Idee so lebhaft um mich, wie sie alle die Altvater am Brunnen Bekanntschaft machen und freyen" (16).(9) When the well becomes the site not only of courtship but also of baptism, it gathers the memories and phantasies of mother and father figures, adding the child necessary to make the family into which Werther would like to be adopted.
Lotte, a friend, and a little girl called Malchen meet Werther on a walk that leads them to the well. The letter introduces the account of what happened there as follows:
Nach einem Wege von anderthalb Stunden kamen wir gegen die Stadt zuruck, an den Brunnen, der mir so werth ist, und nun tausendmal werther ward, als Lotte sich auf's Mauergen sezte. Ich sah umher, ach! und die Zeit, da mein Herz so allein war, lebte wieder vor mir auf. (. . .) Ich blikte hinab und sah, dass Malgen mit einem Glase Wasser sehr beschaftigt heraufstieg. Ich sah Lotten an und fuhlte alles, was ich an ihr habe. Indem so kommt Malgen mit einem Glase, Marianne wollte es ihr abnehmen, nein! ruft das Kind mit dem sussesten Ausdrukke: nein, Lottgen, du sollst zuerst trinken!" (70)(10)
The introduction of Lotte at the source of Werther's former solitary musing about the patriarchal world of Homer suffices to make the spot appear to him a thousand times werther. Again we see his name well up: Werther, Werther, Werther, . . .. "I turned towards Charlotte, and felt deeply how much she means to me": It is precisely this baptism that she means to him, and the scene his letter describes indeed shows that to Werther the proper name has an intentional structure. Being valued by Lotte means his name; his name means this value. This is why Werther needs Lotte, this is the intention he has on her, and it is an intention that he desires to be repaid in the sense that Lotte is made to intend him once she produces this assessment of value which calls up his name. One might put it this way: Lotte means his name, that is to say, she means everything worth being called "Werther" and at the same time means more than everything in the sense that in his love of her she is made to confer on him this name that means something "more" - Werther. His name bears an excess value or, if you will, a surplus value that Lotte produces and on which Werther capitalizes. In his amorous discourse, value or worth is always a comparative beyond comparison. By the same token, "Werther" is also an address. Citing Lotte in one of his letters, Werther writes, "Adieu lieber Werther! Lieber Werther! Es war das erstemal, dass sie mich Lieber hies, und mir giengs durch Mark und Bein" (182).(11) What penetrates his whole being is that the apostrophe "Lieber Werther!" addresses him from whatever end one reads it. Lieber Werther - Werther Lieber: it is always the same. Werther's name is Lieber, and when he rejoices "dass sie mich Lieber hies," Lotte is made to utter that he is dearer to her, dearer than anyone else that might figure in the narrative.(12) Also, Werther's citation of Lotte's address "Dear Werther" starts, in his letter to Wilhelm, a letter by Lotte to him. At the end of the letter, Lotte is cited before his bed to deliver it: "Ich hab mir's hundertmal wiederholt und gestern Nacht da ich in's Bett gehen wollte, und mit mir selbst allerley schwazte, sag ich so auf einmal: gute Nacht, lieber Werther!" (182).(13) Speaking both parts of an imaginary dialogue, Werther is enclosed in a silent world of his own making.
The dubious structure of Werther's amorous desire plays out the naming of a proper name against the meaning of this name, and we shall have to pay attention to what this implies.(14) We should also note that the girl of the name Werther receives at the well and again, neatly packaged, on his birthday operates in the structure of a give and take. This is in fact the reason why the scene at the well commands a special place in Werther's letter and memory. As in all other instances where Lotte is portrayed as a mother figure, there is a gesture by the children repaying the girl of love the mother is expected to give. Here, Malchen hands Lotte the glass for the first sip. Moved by this reversal of roles and perhaps also because of the displacement of his patriarchal phantasy connected with the well into the constellation of an eighteenth-century family organized around Lotte, Werther gets carried away and hugs and kisses the girl. The kiss is an act of transgression that Lotte at once censures and heals. In her position as surrogate mother she leads the crying child to the well so that she may wash off, as Lotte says, the mark of shame on her face. Her reference to the superstitious belief that a man's kiss may grow facial hair on a girl's cheek operates according to a model of contagion and transference that allows Werther to substitute his own face for that of Malchen. Thus it is also his body that undergoes a ritual washing under the supervision of Lotte, transforming her act of cleansing into baptism:
Ich sage dir, Wilhelm, ich habe mit mehr Respekt nie einer Taufhand-lung beygewohnt, und als Lotte herauf kam, hatte ich mich gern vor ihr niedergeworfen wie vor einem Propheten, der die Schulden einer Nation weggeweiht hat. (70/72)(15)
The audacity of Werther's letter lies in his investiture of Lotte as prophet or priest and in his alignment of supersition with religious practice. As the first of the seven sacraments, baptism performs, in the name of the Father, the absolution from original sin. The scene at the well seems to perform Werther's baptism in the name of the Mother. For the logic of the narrative it is all important that Lotte is not a mother, the group at the well not a family, just as it is important that Lotte's ribbon is not a breast, for it enables Werther, who is not a child, to rename the positions in this and all other imaginary structures of his discourse and to install or inscribe himself at the spot where he desires to emerge. The renaming performed at the well presents the proper name as an ineradicable mark that is yet void or empty until it is invested and filled with meaning. Malchen, the name of the little girl, means "little mark" or "mole." Washing off the mark or Mal of Werther's kiss on the girl's cheek, Lotte draws Werther's attention to the proper name as something that is already there, but that it is there as something improper, as an irregularity or blemish in the smooth skin of one's existence, a birthmark or Mutter-Mal that is not, as one would have it, already given in the name of love, as a bond of love at one's birth, but that only the later kiss of an erotic love can signify or re - signify as an individual, distinguishing mark, something beautiful or worth having.
The problem of the proper name we encounter in Werther is that it is presented and read as a sign. That distinguishes Werther's notion of language from Juliet's discourse on the proper name in the play's famous orchard scene cited above as epigraph. The letter written on his birthday - which, as we have seen, is also his name day - ends in Lotte's orchard. It is a very different, disturbingly homely place compared to Juliet's garden, and the careful transformation of sexual desire that informs Werther's account is part of that homeliness: "Lebe wohl! Es ist ein herrlicher Sommer, ich sizze oft auf den Obstbaumen in Lottens Baumstuk mit dem Obstbrecher der langen Stange, und hole die Birn aus dem Gipfel. Sie steht unten und nimmt sie ab, wenn ich sie ihr hinunter lasse" (112).(16) Werther is a fruit picker, and this is how he hopes to pick up everything around him, including his name. Lotte's cooperation in this scene (she is the fruit to be picked and the tree on which it grows) plays out an economy of the gift in which Werther only gives what he has already been given. In this sense, he does not give anything without already receiving. It is a structure in which Werther seeks to install himself at every moment, and it is disturbing because it makes it actually impossible for him to give anything or to properly receive any gift. As Derrida has pointed out in his recent book, the girl, in order to be given without initiating the obligation of repayment that cancels the gift as gift, must not appear as such.(17) The name, one might argue, is such a gift. Werther's obsession with a gift he ceaselessly wants to touch, take in, and incorporate encloses him in an economy in which he is at once a constant debtor and the sole beneficiary. It is the economy of narcissism. While it is useless to speculate whether Werther's narcissism forestalls his rejection by Lotte (why should she want his girl? what should she desire?), it is interesting to note that Lotte, the apparent object of Werther's adoration, is in fact superfluous. She is needed in order to set up a structure in which the position of an addressee of his love becomes available but where it doesn't really matter whether she receives what is dispatched to this address. Barthes, whose book on the lover's discourse is arguably the most perspicuous reading of Werther, has stated this pointedly:
Charlotte is quite insipid; she is the paltry character of a powerful, tormented, flamboyant drama staged by the subject Werther; by a kindly decision of this subject, a colorless object is placed in the center of the stage and there adored, idolized, taken to task, covered with discourse, with prayers (. . .); as if she were a huge motionless hen huddled amid her feathers, around which circles a slightly mad cock.
Enough that, in a flash, I should see the other in the guise of an inert object, like a kind of stuffed doll, for me to shift my desire from this annulled object to my desire itself; it is my desire I desire, and the loved being is no more than its tool.(18)
Werther performs some kind of puppet play.(19) Barthes' unmasking of the coercive nature of Werther's discourse is devastating to the project of constructing the novel as the model of a love story that might not find fulfillment but nonetheless is an ardent expression of Werther's passion for Lotte. What he calls Lotte's annullment might void her identity, but it props up the mirror Werther needs in a manner similar to what we observed on Malchen's cheek with regard to the inscription of his name. Lotte's position becomes available, and we shall yet have to see, in the next section of this article, how the fiction of the book, as opposed to the letters it publishes, refigures the constellation of agents in the narrative in such a way that Lotte disappears from the structure as the mother she is not in order to make room for a trio of men that will capitalize on her image as the Mother. Let us not forget, at this point, that the ardent love letters Werther writes are addressed to Wilhelm and, for their publication as book, carefully arranged by the Editor.
First, however, we ought to focus on Werther's conception of the name as a sign, for it is the signifying character that enables Werther to integrate his name, and indeed all proper names, with his writing and feeling in which every object and each event becomes a sign of his love. In order to make his name readable as part of this amorous signification - I am worthy of Lotte, Lotte values me more than anything else - Werther must first ascertain that Lotte indeed loves him, which is again something he does not leave to some vague feeling but rather seeks to decipher in a sure sign. To him, love is nothing but the reading and inscription of signs. While this might be true of every lover and every amorous discourse, it is of special significance to Werther and his name because value, like the sign, operates in a register of difference and distinction. Most importantly, value is relational, assessing the worth of an object or action in comparison to others or to an accepted standard. Although Werther leads an increasingly solitary life, the judgments about his actions and behavior are of course also subject to the social dynamics of such comparisons. One might argue, however, that he fosters his solitude by positing all values as absolute, and for the imaginary signification of his own name in which he seems to engage this means that everything connected with his love is more valuable without comparison: Werther, period. Yet, there is one difficulty, and its name is Albert, Lotte's fiance and later husband. He too wraps the girl Werther receives on his birthday, and if Lotte gave the maternal ribbon, it might have been he that purchased the patriarchal Homer. He cannot be avoided because he occupies the position Werther desires to attain. As Barthes points out, "Werther does not hate Albert; quite simply, Albert occupies a desired place: he is an adversary (a rival), not an enemy" (144). One might indeed argue that all of Werther's declarations of love are also addressed to Albert. He loves him for his place, and his transfer of affection onto the rival is a first step toward invading this place. This invasion also includes the mimicking of Albert that one sees Werther undertake in some scenes. Once his hand, writing a short note to Wilhelm, seems to accidentally perform such a mimicry: "Die alberne Figur, die ich mache, wenn in Gesellschaft von ihr gesprochen wird, solltest du sehen." (74).(20) The mention of Lotte's name in casual conversation automatically invokes that of Albert to which it is coupled. However foolish Werther might react in such situations, he is already underway toward his goal of cutting a better figure and substituting his own name and person for that of his rival.
Speaking of figures, one might remember that Werther did indeed look foolish in the scene where Albert's name is mentioned the first time, for it happens in the middle of his dance with Lotte at the party that starts the love story. Whirling through the room they are suddenly addressed by a girl flying past them in the arms of her partner: "Sie sieht Lotte lachelnd an, hebt einen drohenden Finger auf, und nennt den Nahmen Albert zweymal im Vorbeyfliegen mit viel Bedeutung" (48).(21) The intervention of Albert's proper name that comes to claim or reclaim Lotte as his property is of some significance, not only to Lotte but also to Werther, for it calls up for the first time his own name in relation to that of Lotte's fiance:
Nun war mir das nichts neues, denn die Madchen hatten mir's auf dem Wege gesagt, und war mir doch so ganz neu, weil ich das noch nicht im Verhaltnisse auf sie, die mir in so wenig Augenblikken so werth geworden war, gedacht hatte. Genug ich verwirrte mich, vergass mich, und kam zwischen das unrechte Paar hinein, dass alles drunter und druber gieng, und Lottens ganze Gegenwart und Zerren und Ziehen nothig war, um's schnell wieder in Ordnung zu bringen. (50)(22)
Although he had heard of Lotte's engagement, the name of Albert appears unfamiliar to Werther because it occupies a place in a structure where he holds Lotte in his arms, and he is ready to cling to this notion. Lotte has become so dear or werth to Werther that it seems inconceivable that in relation to him the unknown and absent Albert should be werther to Lotte: Werther/Lotte/Albert. The letter already starts spelling out the relationship among three names that will constitute the drama of the narrative. However, the point is, let us not forget, that Werther, at the very moment he hears the name Albert, construes a dyadic relationship in which Lotte occupies one spot and he the other one. One name has to be forgotten in order to keep this structure stable. It is indeed the addition of a third position in this relationship that will bring up the problem of a comparative and thus the question of werth and werther, the question, in other words, of who is worthier of Lotte's attention. There is no place for Albert who, as Werther and Lotte are reminded, already inhabits that place. This structural complication, unfolding rapidly in a matter of seconds during the dance, makes Werther "confused." The forgetting of the name that enables Werther to construct this dyadic relationship simultaneously reintroduces that very name and thus explodes the relationship at the moment it is established. It is indeed confusing. In this delicate structure Werther comes to rest on a spot from which, at the same moment, he is already departing again. The movement describes, precisely, a dance.(23) What Werther performs in Lotte's arms is a whirling dance of names and positions that in varying figures and at a differing pace will structure the narrative. The disorder of their first dance at the party is a figure of the narrative's choreography: "I got confused, forgot myself, got caught between the wrong couple." Remembering himself by inscribing his name, he forgets himself by assuming a place already occupied. Taking Lotte in his arms, he gets entangled between two lovers that form a couple. If dance is a metaphor - but how should we tell the dancer from the dance -, we might wonder what Werther's proper place is. "It took Charlotte's whole presence of mind to straighten me out by pulling and pushing me into my proper place." Whether he is pushed away from Lotte or pulled toward her is difficult to tell.
The dance constitutes the questions Werther keeps asking throughout the first part of the novel. Does she love him? Is he worth more than Albert in her eyes? It is in her eyes that he reads the signs of an answer. They constitute the mirror in which Werther sees himself having a place in her heart and soul. The readers interested in the novel's construction of identity have always focussed on Lotte's black eyes, whether in the debate about whose eyes they really were or in the attempts to trace Werther's narcissisim.(24) In the following letter Werther presents them, in the full pathos of his discourse, as sealing his fate. They are like the black ink that writes this narrative:
Nein, ich betruge mich nicht! Ich lese in ihren schwarzen Augen wahre Theilnehmung an mir, und meinem Schicksaale. Ja ich fuhle, und darin darf ich meinem Herzen trauen, dass sie - O darf ich, kann ich den Himmel in diesen Worten aussprechen? - dass sie mich liebt. (76)
Mich liebt! - Und wie werth ich mir selbst werde, wie ich - Dir darf ich's wohl sagen, Du hast Sinn fur so etwas - wie ich mich selbst anbethe, seitdem sic mich liebt! (77; 1787)
Und ob das Vermessenheit ist oder Gefuhl des wahren Verhaltnisses:
Ich kenne den Menschen nicht, von dem ich etwas in Lottens Herzen furchtete. Und doch - wenn sie von ihrem Brautigam spricht mit all der Warme, all der Liebe, da ist mir's wie einem, der all seiner Ehren und Wurden entsetzt, und dem der Degen abgenommen wird. (76)(25)
As Werther comes to see his worth in Lotte's eyes, his gesture of a worship or worthship of the self places him in a position of prayer comparable to the young man in the vignette, who kneels in front of the rock on which he inscribes the word Weft. Value is an expression of comparative measure,(26) and Werther's uncertainty as to whether his assumption that Lotte loves him is in fact a presumption or Vermessenheit raises the suspicion that his assessment of his own worth is out of proportion. As we have seen, in Werther's discourse of love the idea of his value instantly raises the question if someone might be worth more, which immediately calls up Albert. In this letter Albert brings a terrifying weapon to their contest. The military metaphor of Werther's degradation cuts deep: the soldier being deprived of his sword invokes the anxiety of a symbolic castration. What fuels this phantasy is Werther's attempt to posit his person and his name as some kind of surplus value produced by Lotte's love. As I argued earlier, it is this increase of value he seeks to gain from her. The letter cited above shows that there is a serious doubt about the success of this venture, for it is not certain that he can actually employ Lotte to work for his love in his company. His position is simply not tenable. Marx has described surplus value as a castration of the workers by the capitalist that owns the means of production as the father owns the mother.(27) Werther's anxiety is that for all his attempts to appropriate Lotte and the love she could give him, and for all the certainty he reads in her eyes, he does not own the Mother.
The economic discourse underlying Werther's declarations of love and its exchange of gifts has been apparent throughout, and the structure of value he brings to bear on the meaning of his proper name as sketched out in the preceding pages is related to money as a measure of value. In one letter, Werther explicitely articulates the invaluable value of Lotte in terms of money:
Heut konnt ich nicht zu Lotten, eine unvermeidliche Gesellschaft hielt mich ab. Was war zu thun? Ich schikte meinen Buben hinaus, nur um einen Menschen um mich zu haben, der ihr heute nahe gekommen ware. Mit welcher Ungedult ich den Buben erwartete, mit welcher Freude ich ihn wiedersah. Ich hatt' ihn gern bey'm Kopf genommen und gekusst, wenn ich mich nicht geschamt hatte.
Man erzahlt von dem Bononischen Stein, dass er, wenn man ihn in die Sonne legt, ihre Strahlen anzieht und eine Weile bey Nacht leuchtet. So war mir's mit dem Jungen. Das Gefuhl, dab ihre Augen auf seinem Gesicht', seinen Bakken, seinen Rokknopfen und dem Kragen am Surtout geruht hatten, machte mir das all so heilig, so werth, ich hatte in dem Augenblikke den Jungen nicht vor tausend Thaler gegeben. Es war mir so wohl in seiner Gegenwart - Bewahre dich Gott, dass du daruber nicht lachst. Wilhelm, sind das Phantomen, wenn es uns wohl wird? (78/80)(28)
As in the letter about Lotte's black eyes cited previously, it is her gaze that organizes the reading of this scene. What the servant delivers is in fact the magic power of her look that he has absorbed and now emanates like the Bologna stone that glows in the night. Although this stone stores energy a lot less effectively and for a much shorter time than money, it seems to be worth a thousand times more than a coin because of its magic quality. Although the metaphor Werther uses seems to point out that Lotte's attention cannot be paid in money and is of a different order than currency, the structure of the transfer corresponds precisely to the nature of money that abstracts from the physical nature of the commodity whose value it represents and can be used to buy some other goods of the same value. The metaphor itself functions that way. It is a metaphor for the metaphor of money. The servant was not just exposed to Lotte's gaze but faced her face, as Levinas would put it, when he absorbed what Werther desires to take in as some kind of magic emanation. Werther does not face Lotte when he gazes on the very different face of the servant or at the buttons that might look like metal coins or may be of some other material resembling the tokens of unstamped physical money. Looking at the buttons, Werther is already counting. The structure of an exchange and monetary abstraction that informs the scene is important because it lets Werther see - at that moment, "in diesem Augenblikke" - his own gaze. And, again, his own name. This is what he buys. As a token of Lotte's power to invest objects with her presence, the boy cannot be traded for a thousand crowns, which means that he, as a substitute for Lotte that can again be substituted by her lover, is worth more: he is werther and Werther, and thus invaluable. Money is magic, or as the letter puts it, a phantom. What emanates in this scene is Werther's appropriation of Lotte and his proper name as fetish. The fetish embodies a principle of substitution, the possibility of exchanging a part for the whole or an object for a person in a metonymic relationship. To Werther, the proper name has meaning and exchange value in the form of a metonymy.
To make a fetish of one's own name is to forget that the proper name does not judge and in this sense has, properly speaking, no value. It is unique because it is, in the sense pointed out earlier, invaluable. In our names we are named free. The worth of a proper name cannot be assessed because it is no part of the economy or circulation of words within the system of signification. Proper names have, strictly speaking, no meaning and this is precisely what makes them meaningful and necessary for a resistance to all the attempts to have our lives controlled by systems that assign a determinate value, meaning, and position to our names. It is this resistance that speaks in Juliet's powerful words cited at the beginning of the article. Her rallying call to Romeo that the name "is no part of thee" is by no means some kind of frivolous negation of identity. It originates in her decision to resist the father as the representative of a law that posits the name as his legacy: "Deny thy father and refuse thy name" (2. 2. 34). Juliet and Romeo can retain their singular identity to the extent they resist, in the name of love, the ideology of the law of the signifier enacted by their fathers. Shakespeare's play constitutes a poignant critique of Lacan's Name-of-the-Father. The threat Juliet's resistance poses becomes clear when the fathers finally gather the lovers' dead bodies in a grave they pronounce to be a monument to the reconciliation of the two families, while it is in fact designed to reinscribe the names of their fathers on the tomb of their love. Werther, too, will end in a grave. But while Romeo heeds Juliet's call for resistance and is ready to give up his name for her love - "Call me but love, and I'll be new baptised; / Henceforth I never will be Romeo" - Werther puts, as we have seen, all his hopes for love in the inscription of his name. There are no family names in Werther, but just as he is trying to reconstruct families that might adopt him he also desperately tries to enter into the possession of the legacy of the father that financially does not pay out in the novel. For some moments it seems he could receive it in the imaginary reconstruction of his proper name.
The socio-political dimension of the name corresponds to the linguistic problem addressed poignantly by the discourse of analytical philosophy on the question of names, reference, designators, and identity statements. Insofar as the proper name does not signify and thus does not appropriate the objects signified, it somehow seems to be outside of language.(29) They are not referents, nor are they simply descriptive. The difference between proper names and common names complicates language considerably, and in the case of literary figures there is also the question of who their proper names would refer to if they were referents, what they would exactly describe if they were descriptions. The fact that in Werther we see that it is very well possible to invest proper names with meaning (a possibility on which this reading banks) does not alleviate the problem. In an essay on proper names and the question of transference, Major confronts the claim of analytical philosophy that names are a form of language that "does not necessitate any recourse to signification in order to designate or identify someone" with the observation that it is "always possible, by detaching signifiers from the proper name, to deploy them in an imaginary register."(30) If there is something like a non-signifying mark that informs the proper name and separates or interrupts the relationship between proper names and common names in language, a space opens up where the name, as Major puts it, remains without name ("une place demeure sans nom" ). Thus, the proper name designed to designate a subject dangerously borders on the effacement of what it names. According to Major the task of the analyst (and by implication, the translator and the critic) is to interpret that site where the name remains without name, that is to say, to keep open and thus make sense of the gap between the imaginary projections of meaning in order to allow the singularity of the individual and the proper name to emerge.(31) Werther's imaginary obsession with the meaning of his name effectively closes and seals this gap.
Major's spot without name in the proper name bears an interesting relationship to Benjamin's writings on language. Benjamin argues that the proper name demarcates the boundary between the creative word and the language of cognition. It has neither intention nor meaning but rather vouchsafes and provides the ground for a translation of the language of things into that of man, which performs, as he puts it, "die Ubersetzung des Namenlosen in den Namen."(32) Thus, the notion that names do not form part of language as a system of signification is related to his view that they participate in a medium of translation mapping out "Kontinua der Verwandlung, nicht abstrakte Gleichheits- und Ahnlichkeitsbezirke" (151).(33) Benjamin's emphasis on the name's power of translation and translatability (as opposed to its operation in a system of signification) accounts for his view that the names parents give "do not correspond (. . .) to any knowledge (entspricht keine Erkenntnis)" and that "in a strict sense, no name ought (in its etymological meaning) to correspond to any person"(324): "Es sollte im strengen Geist auch kein Mensch dem Namen (nach seiner etymologischen Bedeutung) entsprechen" (150). With regard to this notion of dissimilarity it might surprise that Benjamin continues, "Mit ihm wird jedem Menschen seine Erschaffung durch Gott verburgt, und in diesem Sinne ist er selbst schaffend, wie die mythologische Weisheit es in der Anschauung ausspricht (die sich wohl nicht selten findet), dass sein Name des Menschen Schicksal sei" (150).(34) The passage is interesting because in his later essay on "Schicksal und Charakter" Benjamin discusses fate in its relation to a reading of signs. It invokes the mythic world of law and judgment that in the essay on language represents the fall from the pure language of names and in "Fate and Character" introduces the notion of guilt: "Das Recht verurteilt nicht zur Strafe, sondern zur Schuld. Schicksal ist der Schuldzusammenhang des Lebendigen."(35) Those who try to read in their name the signs of their fate, are inscribed within a system of evaluative judgments that are not based on their action in the freedom of their name, but rather on a reading enslaved by an imaginary transference. This is true for Werther, who looks for his fate in Lotte's black eyes: "In her black eyes I read a genuine interest in me and in my fate." Guilt is written all over the narrative, all of Werther's actions are morally outlawed; whether it be his apparently illicit love for a woman promised to someone else or the apparently immoral act of suicide he commits in the end. It is telling that his drama of guilt is staged in and around a house where the law has its residence. Lotte's father is the county judge, Albert a legal secretary. Benjamin's suggestion that in a mythic conception of the proper name a man's name may be his fate, and thus might bind him to an unnamed guilt, comes true for Werther in the sense that his attempts to appropriate his own proper name by inscribing it within the central scenes of the novel and the pains he takes to substitute the names and persons rivalling his claim on Lotte forgets that the proper name is something like an invaluable gift of language. Lenz has articulated the mythological nature of his fate by calling Werther a crucified Prometheus. Werther's posturing as the son forsaken by both the Father and the Mother articulates the accusation that he has been deprived of this invaluable gift and that he therefore has to procure it himself. To procure a name is to make it part of a system of meaning in which it appears as merely a pseudonym.
As Benjamin writes at the end of his essay on fate and character, "Die Physiognomik [ist eine Erscheinung] des neuen Weltalters gewesen. Ihren Zusammenhang mit der alten Wahrsagekunst zeigt die moderne Physiognomik noch in dem unfruchtbaren moralischen Wertakzent ihrer Begriffe" (178-9).(36) A reading of signs is always a form of evaluation, and Werther, looking for Lotte in every object she might have touched or just looked at, is no less of a physiognomist than the author as genius carefully observing the public for whose taste he is writing. What makes this kind of physiognomy both risky and attractive is the uncertainty of how the signs are to be read. As we have seen, in the letter where Werther reads Lotte's eyes for a confirmation of her love he makes his fate dependent on the accurate interpretation of the signs they might offer. Her eyes are black and become themselves something like silhouettes in which every line and every reflection means something. It is amazing that Lavater and his followers were never bothered by the fact that the black profiles they were subjecting to careful scrutiny were actually turning their head to look in another direction. You cannot face a silhouette; its eyes disappear into darkness. It does not bode well for Werther's attempt to decipher his fate in Lotte's black eyes. Ten days after his look in her eyes he attempts to paint her portrait, but settles for a silhouette when it comes to nothing:
Lottens Portrat habe ich dreymal angefangen, und habe reich dreymal prostituiert, das reich um so mehr verdriest, weil ich vor einiger Zeit sehr glucklich im Treffen war, darauf hab ich denn den Schattenriss gemacht, und damit soll mir genugen. (82)(37)
Love taken in profile makes blind, one might say, and in Werther it also shows death. Chodowiecki's marvellous illustrations show a silhouette hanging on the wall in the three pictures grouped around Werther's suicide: in the scene where Lotte hands Werther the pistol, in the room where he lies dying on his bed, in the picture that shows the corpse in the empty room after his death.(38) Every reading of signs and inscription of signs in the novel has a physiognomical character, including the names. Names, we have seen, are taken at face value. That their reading was part of 18th-century studies in physiognomy is confirmed by Lichtenberg's scathing remark that one of his fellow students boasted he could see in the face of people whether they were called Caspar: "Dieser ruhmte sich im Ernst, dass er den Leuten ansehen konnte, wenn sie Caspar hiessen. Er irrte sich nicht wenig wie man mir gern glauben wird, allein er blieb (. . .) im ganzen bei seiner Meinung, und Caspar war ein Name, womit er einen sehr zusammengesetzten Charakter bezeichnete."(39) Lavater, whose second name was Kaspar, will have felt the jab.(40)
Lichtenberg's remark is interesting because he distinguishes the translation of a proper name into a signifying structure from the physiognomy of letters, which is not based on similarity. Long before he had seen the portrait of the American general Lee, he writes, "habe ich mir ein Bild von ihm gemacht, das aus Deserteur und doppeltem e so wunderbar zusammengesetzt ist, dass ich nie ohne Vergnugen daran denke" (285).(41) While this reading of letters lends general Lee a meaning that does not appropriate, but rather keeps his name, Werther's presentation and inscription of his name engulfs him in speculations in which he gets lost amidst the self-enamored gazing he performs. As Barthes writes about the lover's search for confirmation:
I look for signs, but of what? What is the object of my reading? Is it: am I loved (am I loved no longer, am I still loved)? Is it my future that I am trying to read, deciphering in what is inscribed the announcement of what will happen to me, according to a method which combines paleography and manticism? Isn't it rather, all things considered, that I remain suspended on this question, whose answer I tirelessly seek in the other's face: What am I worth?" (214; Barthes' emphasis)
It is this specular moment that accounts for the spectacular success of the novel and the cult that developed around it; for the last question was one that could be transferred to all readers - in the name of Werther.
II. Lovers, Authors, Bureaucrats
Every cult provokes effects of identification gathered, organized, and indeed serialized by a proper name. In this sense, to identify with the figure of a cult is to make his or her name proper to oneself as an image. It means to prop up that name as an icon or idol where self and other converge in an act that at once estranges the self and familiarizes the otherness of the other. Inexorably, the cult cultivates the image of the other as an enlargement or aggrandizement of the self, addressing its object in the manner of a certain kind of amorous discourse. As we have seen, Werther's cultish dance around Lotte inscribes his name within a text that becomes a testimony to the value of his subjectivity. The young man that in the vignette on the title page to the novel's "second genuine edition" engraves the worth of Werther is a reader that seems to write his epitaph. At the same time, this vignette, which does not illustrate a scene from the narrative and yet is so illustrative of its discourse, is remarkable precisely because the scribe it shows is something like the phantom of Werther that rises from his grave to inscribe his name as the author of the book his letters constitute. The title page would be the proper place for the author's proper name to appear. In his important essay, Kittler has pointed out that the narrative's love story is also a story of authorship, and Barthes' words about the lover's hunger for the confirmation of his value can indeed be rephrased for an author's hankering after the love of his readers: am I loved (am I read no longer, am I still read)? What am I worth as an author? Kittler follows up Foucault's suggestion in "What is an Author?" that one should examine "at what point we began to recount the lives of authors rather than of heroes,"(42) presenting Werther as a prime instance of this shift in German literature. Contrasting Francesca and Paolo's passionate kiss after their reading of Arthurian romance in the inferno of the Divine Comedy with Werther's and Lotte's emotional and yet strangely chaste entanglement in the novel's dramatization of their encounters with literature, Kittler argues that these scenarios of reading demonstrate "the power the names of authors attain over souls (die Gewalt yon Autorennamen uber die Seelen)" in the eighteenth century.(43) He argues that in modernity the myth of the hero, whose deeds were formerly related by an anonymous voice, is replaced by the myth of an identified author presenting the story of figures whose names are comparatively unimportant if not indeed vanishing (149). Kittler's essay takes up Foucault's point that the naming and identification of the author is a way of keeping in check "the cancerous and dangerous proliferation of significations within a world where one is thrifty not only with one's resources and riches, but also with one's discourses and their significations" (159). The unfettered genius, Foucault points out, is some sort of decoy or compensation to dissimulate the ideological control this figure affords: "In fact, if we are accustomed to presenting the author as a genius, as a perpetual surging of invention, it is because, in reality, we make him function in exactly the opposite fashion. (. . .) The author is (. . .) the ideological figure by which one marks the manner in which we fear the proliferation of meaning." Foucault's essay is important for a reading of Werther because it points to a transition in literature and philosophy that brings about a change of the critical and aesthetic evaluation of works as texts. "A text has an inaugurative value precisely because it is the work of a particular author" (157), "modern criticism uses methods similar to those that Christian exegesis employed when trying to prove the value of a text" (150), "the author is (. . .) defined as a constant level of value" (151).
While Werther can be placed in the culture of emergent authorship, its discourse and its effect on the readers complicates things because it is marked precisely by an attempt to orchestrate a proliferation of meaning in order to dramatize, in every sense of the word, the inscription of the name of an author. In other words, it was written to satisfy or rather incite the public's desire for a proliferation of desire because the author perceived that this would make his name in literature, and it is precisely the success of this undertaking that made it difficult for the author to claim control over his work. In this lies the historical significance of Werther, which is somewhat obscured by Kittler's attempt to project Foucault's argument onto the novel. After more than two hundred years of criticism the novel is safely resting in the author's lap, and Kittler's argument is written from this perspective. The role of the heroes and heroines declined in relation to the rise of the author's importance, Kittler states. But the scene in which Werther reads his translation of Ossian to Lotte is not really different from Francesca's and Paolo's reading of Arthurian romance, and the reception of the text, its status as a cult book, shows that the public did not care too much about the author. They dressed and spoke like Werther and Lotte, not like the author. Kittler further argues that at the dawn of the age of authors in the second half of the eighteenth century there had to be an author's name on the title page or the readers would inquire about his or her identity (148). But the novel was for good reasons published anonymously in 1774. He claims that by the end of the eighteenth century copyright laws were in place to protect intellectual property (150). But in Germany it was not until the year after Goethe's death that this happened,(44) and the textual history of Werther is marked by an intense competition between the publisher and the pirates that left the author completely out of the loop. Goethe became the first modern German author (154), he says with reference to Goethe's writing about the writing of Werther in his autobiography. This is very true, but it was a project that only began to take shape with the publication of Dichtung und Wahrheit in the years between 1811 and 1814, and Goethe's account of the novel's composition is interesting because it tells the story of a text whose astounding success made it spin out of Goethe's authorial control.
Goethe is the author of Werther. We shall have to come back to this claim later. At this point we ought to consider the question of how the narrative's proliferation of meaning could, in Foucault's sense, be kept in check. It is a proliferation that leaves Werther scrambling for his identity and, as we have seen, his proper name. The inscription of "Wert" on the title page can neither fill the lack of the author's name nor recuperate the loss of Werther. The second part of the novel contains no reference to value or worth in Werther's letters.(45) The last time it does emerge is in the deathbed scene where Lotte's mother transfers or imposes her responsibility for the children and her obligations toward her husband upon Lotte. She appoints Lotte as mother and wife, and in arranging her engagement with Albert, whom she also calls to her bedside, she tries to make sure that incest is not part of Lotte's lot, as is the case in some of Lessing's and Schiller's plays.(46) Lotte tells Werther about her mother's death on the night before he leaves the town. This is how Werther gets adopted into the family:
"Lotte! rief ich aus, indem ich mich vor sie hinwarf, ihre Hande nahm und mit tausend Thranen nezte. Lotte, der Segen Gottes ruht uber dir, und der Geist deiner Mutter! - Wenn Sie sie gekannt hatten! sagte sie, indem sie mir die Hand drukte, - sie war werth, von Ihnen gekannt zu seyn. - Ich glaubte zu vergehen. Nie war ein grosseres, stolzeres Wort uber mich ausgesprochen worden" (120).(47)
The adoption and, one last time, the imaginary naming of Werther are not performed in the name of the Father, but under the supervision of the spirit of the mother. They transform the word werth into the praise for the Mother whose place Lotte is called upon to take. Meyer-Kalkus has worked out the structures of what he calls Werther's matriarchal hominisation in the patriarchal structure of the eighteenth-century family. Drawing on Lacan's concept of the foreclosure of the Name-of-the-Father by the mother, he sets up an oedipal structure in which Werther, in the absence of the symbolic father, identifies with the imago of the Mother and is eventually driven to his suicide.(48) His reading is borne out by the narrative in many respects, and one might add that the grave is something like the womb of the Mother to which Werther returns in the end. His claim that the importance of the Mother in this structure corresponds to a gradual weakening of the father's position in the families of the nineteenth and twentieth century is accurate and judicious, but one notes with some uneasiness the hints that in the end Werther's death might be blamed on the Mother and that Lotte, in the Ossian scene where they embrace and kiss, shows the "same" desire as Werther. The words Meyer-Kalkus cites to corroborate this suspicion - she felt "tief, ohne sich es deutlich zu machen, dass ihr herzliches heimliches Verlangen sey, ihn fur sich zu behalten" (229)(49) - are in fact an interpolation by the Editor added in 1787. Lotte's rejection of Werther when he kisses her after their reading of his translation of Ossian is marked by her emphatic call of his name: "Werther! rief sie mit erstikter Stimme sich abwendend, Werther! und drukte mit schwacher Hand seine Brust von der ihrigen! Werther! rief sie mit dem gefassten Tone des edelsten Gefuhls" (246).(50) Lotte does not simply appear as Germany's virtuous wife. She calls Werther to reason in calling him to his proper proper name, which is to say that she does not simply remind him that his kisses are unworthy of him or their relationship. Rather, her call marks the end of such imaginary phantasies about Werther's worth. It is a late call, but it is placed.
The Editor's speculations about Lotte's desires is interesting not only because it engages in something like psychoanalysis without asking the psyche under investigation, but also, and in the first place, because it indicates the source of what Foucault calls "the manner in which we fear the proliferation of meaning." Werther testifies to a fear of uncontrollable and insatiable female sexuality, and the novel's enormous success with the public dovetails with the increasing concern in the male dominated republic of letters about the Lesesucht, the voracity with which women were reading novels. Female sexuality is the proliferation of meaning that the figure of a Father and Author should delimit. The shift of his affection to the image of the Mother makes Werther's love permissible and at the same time turns it into a threat of an impermissible oedipal incest. It is this structure of desire and threat that at once provokes his desire to be named by Lotte in an act of rejecting the Father and his inscription of this desire within the narrative according to an absent and phantasmatic law represented by an absent Father.
How can the fear of female sexuality be controlled? The answer the narrative of Werther brings to this question is not the name of an author but, as one might say with Foucault, the text's tendency toward anonymity. This tendency will not just cancel out the voice of an author but rather constitute what Foucault calls "the anonymity of a murmur" (160), which is related to his notion that "all discourses endowed with the author-function do possess this plurality of self" (152). The novel - as opposed to the letters it contains or includes - has several "authors" and discourses, at least two. While one of them is the amorous discourse of the lover, the other one is the discourse of the law and of the bureaucracy of law in which several figures participate. To work out these two discourses, we shall have to look at the structure of rivalry and erasure Werther sets up when talking about authors in order to substitute them. Further, we must try to see in what way the rivalry that organizes his relationship with Albert is in fact one between the two discourses. Doing this, we shall once more have to pay attention to the gaze; it links the two modes of discourse by confronting Werther's amorous gaze with the investigative eye of the law.
In what is perhaps the most famous or notorious scene of the novel, Werther and Lotte find themselves at a window after the thunderstorm that interrupted the party where they met had blown over and given way to a soft rain pouring from the sky. The avowal of love that follows is not only marked by the flow of tears that will put Lotte and Werther in harmony with the rain outside but also by a proper name that sounds like thunder and strikes the sympathetic hearts like lightening:
Wir traten an's Fenster, es donnerte abseitwarts und der herrliche Regen sauselte auf das Land, und der erquikkendste Wohlgeruch stieg in aller Fulle einer warmen Luft zu uns auf. Sie stand auf ihrem Ellenbogen gestutzt und ihr Blik durchdrang die Gegend, sie sah gen Himmel und auf mich, ich sah ihr Auge thranenvoll, sie legte ihre Hand auf die meinige und sagte - Klopstock! Ich versank in dem Strome von Empfindungen, den sie in dieser Loosung uber mich ausgoss. Ich ertrugs nicht, neigte mich auf ihre Hand und kusste sie unter den wonnevollesten Thranen. Und sah nach ihrem Auge wieder - Edler! hattest du deine Vergotterung in diesem Blikke gesehn, und mocht ich nun deinen so oft entweihten Nahmen hie wieder nennen horen! (52/54)(51)
Klopstock's name is uttered as a password (Loosung) that will allow Lotte and Werther to enter the intimate community of friends idolizing the German bard. The alternate holding of hands, the kiss, the exchange of tender looks: In its peculiar combination of an upsurge of emotions and formal gestures that keep them in check, the scene stages an imaginary wedding in which the circle around Klopstock constitutes the ring that binds them in some kind of matrimony of sensibility. In the name of "Klopstock!," Lotte becomes Werther's lawful wedded heart. Werther moves fast, and the scene at the window that concludes the long letter telling the story of a love at first sight has in fact already undergone a series of revisions. Choreography is one of Werther's strengths, even if he appeared to be out of step in his dance with Lotte some moments before. While the scene on the dance floor was governed by a dyadic structure threatening to be disrupted at any moment, the Klopstock scene seems to be set up as one in which a third name mediates the position of the two friends. However, things quickly get confusing again. Trying to assume the imaginary place of Albert by reading Lotte's utterance of "Klopstock!" as a promise, the letter that arranges this arrangement at the same time puts Klopstock in the place the phantasy was designed to keep vacant for Werther. In other words, if Werther's phantasy of a marriage with Lotte re-members the suppressed memory that Lotte is already engaged to marry someone else, it now also engages in a competition with the name by whose authority their emotional coupling is performed. The scene unfolds a rivalling scenario of rivalry. Its structure no doubt pertains to the leadership cult. Every figure of a leader engenders both identification and challenge. The conclusion of Werther's letter addresses the poet directly in terms marked by both adulation and aggression. "Divine Klopstock! If only you could have seen your apotheosis in those eyes!" For a fleeting moment - "in wenig Augenblikken" - Werther sees himself in the mirror of Lotte's eyes as the apotheosis of Klopstock. The letter is in fact already working on an erasure of Klopstock's name in Lotte's apostrophe: "And your name, (. . .) may I never hear it uttered again!" The reverence of this reference cannot hide the wish to substitute his name for that of the bard. There lies the difference between the rivalry with Albert and the competition with Klopstock. Although it might be difficult to assume the place of the fiance, one thing seems certain to Werther: You can make your name. This is what the appropriation of "Klopstock!" for the scene of an imaginary marriage tells Werther. It offers the name as an image or imaginary construct, and this is why the scene is staged in an amorous gaze. Everything depends on being allotted a place in Lotte's eyes.
The hungry look of Werther. It is the most haunting aspect of the novel: "Wie (. . .) ich, weis Gott mit wieviel Wonne, an ihrem Arme und Auge hieng" (48),(52) he writes about the dance after the party that seemed to take place in the orb of her eye. After the scene of baptism at the well, he writes: "Was man nach so einem Blikk geizt!" Lotte and her friends depart in the carriage, and Werther looks for her eyes, "Ich suchte Lottens Augen! Ach, sie giengen von einem zum andern! Aber auf mich! Mich! Mich! der ganz allein auf sie resignirt dastund, fielen sie nicht!" (72).(53) The "Mich! Mich! Mich! - Nicht!" performs something like a biting. Wellbery has drawn attention to the non-representational character of nourishment in Werther, and his presentation of the novel shows that it can indeed be read as the modulation of a voice. Werther's proper mode would be the lyric, the hymn, or the elegy. As he once writes at the end of one of his most lyrical letters, having returned from a walk: "Ich sehe nichts, als ein ewig verschlingendes, ewig wiederkauendes Ungeheuer" (108).(54) This is the reverse side of Werther's lyric orality, and with regard to Lotte, with whom everything is connected in this devouring look (verschlungenes and verschlingendes), there is something of the myth of the vagina dentata in this passage. As Levinas argues, we live and feed on the world in an act of eating that radically transforms the intentions we bring to bear on the world before us. Eating alters the meaning with which we endow this world in representational modes of thinking in that this very intentionality aiming at the objects around us "becomes interior to the exteriority it constitutes."(55) Levinas thus comes to distinguish nourishment as the milieu of existence and thought from an intake that destroys the alterity of the world by an act of assimilation and appropriation: "To be sure, in the satisfaction of needs the foreignness of the world on which I am founded loses its alterity: in satiation the real on which I feed gets assimilated; the power that was in the other becomes my power, becomes me (. . .). In its preparation and possession the alterity of nourishing substances enters the order of the Same" (135). This is what Werther lives on, preparing Lotte as the substitute of a lost mother, a prop to be appropriated like Klopstock, who is a father figure at once desired and shunned. In Werther's sentimental discourse the relationship between interiority and exteriority explored by Levinas is threatened by the suspicion that his body, like that of Lotte's, is in fact hollow. "Ach diese Lukke! Diese entsetzliche Lukke, die ich hier in meinem Busen fuhle!" (172).(56) Goethe's play Der Triumph der Empfindsamkeit presents a puppet or automaton as a paragon of love. When its stomach or womb is opened some of the key texts of European sentimentality clatter down to the ground. Among the books the puppet devoured, as it were, are the Nouvelle Heloise and Werther. How can one eat a name? Levinas' remark that food constitutes a medium rather than an object to be appropriated and assimilated to oneself holds true for the name as well. To incorporate a name means to endow it with a meaning that then can be seized upon. The truly voracious reading experience of the Russian countess Lubomirska gives some evidence of this. When she received the book she sat down to read it with the help of a dictionary. Arriving at the emotional Klopstock scene she sensed that it constituted one of the novel's climactic moments but did not understand what Werther and Lotte made almost delirious. She looked up "Klopstock!" Because proper names have no meaning, countess Lubomirska did not find the word "Klopstock" listed in the dictionary. When she called her German cook to help her out, the cook glanced at the passage and then told the countess that Klopstock was an especially delicious kind of roastbeef.(57)
In his reading of Werther, Barthes characterizes identification in terms that aptly describe the set of the novel's Klopstock scene: "I devour every amorous system with my gaze and in it I discern the place which would be mine if I were a part of that system. I perceive not analogies but homologies: I note, for instance, that I am to X what Y is to Z; everything I am told about Y affects me powerfully, though Y's person is a matter of indifference to me, or even unknown; I am caught in a mirror which changes position and which reflects me wherever there is a dual structure" (129). The voracity of the narcissistic desire with which the lover seeks to inscribe himself within the amorous discourse contrasts sharply with the utter absence of intention that characterizes the structure of its system: "Identification is not a psychological process; it is a pure structural operation: I am the one who has the same place I have" (129). Once you are in the system, you are in, and Barthes even suggests that its structure can actually do you in. "The structure has nothing to do with persons; hence (like a bureaucracy) it is terrible. It cannot be implored - I cannot say to it: 'Look how much better I am than H.' Inexorable, the structure replies: 'You are in the same place; hence you are H.' No one can plead against the structure" (130; Barthes' emphasis). If Werther's plea for Lotte's affection is a desire to be named, Barthes' presentation of the lover's discourse as a bureaucracy commands some interest. What makes any bureaucracy terrible is the anonymity it creates in the very act of gaining control over the proper names entered in its books.
The bureaucracy ascribes, strictly speaking, neither value nor character to the persons it registers, and it administers a name merely as an empty placeholder within an incident or a series of incidents it is designed to report regardless of the life or history of the name reported in its connection. Thus the registration of, say, a marriage simply relates that there was a wedding to be duly reported and that on this particular day it happened to be X and Y that were involved in it. The perspective Barthes brings to the novel reveals a strange complicity between Werther's letters and the documents amassed in a bureaucratic apparatus. While the latter void the name of a specific individual by translating it into a marker within the structure of a given system, the former reconstruct those systems in whose structure Werther then seeks to install himself by substituting his name for those of others. Thus, when Werther during his dance with Lotte hears the name "Albert" and learns about their imminent marriage, an imaginary marriage will be set up in which "Klopstock!" is substituted for "Albert," then "Klopstock!" replaced by Werther. The "H." Barthes refers to in the passage cited above seems to be Heinrich, the madman with an interesting physiognomy whom Werther encounters on the hills outside the town. "Er war ein so guter stiller Mensch, der mich ernahren half; eine schone Hand schrieb, und auf einmal wird er tiefsinnig, fallt in ein hitziges Fieber, daraus in Raserey, und nun ist er, wie sie ihn sehen" (188)(58) As it turns out, the "very fine hand" was writing in the service of the judge's office:
Wilhelm! der Mensch, von dem ich dir schrieb, der glukliche Unglukliche, war Schreiber bey Lottens Vater, und eine ungluckliche Leidenschaft zu ihr, die er nahrte, verbarg, entdekte, und aus dem Dienst geschikt wurde, hat ihn rasend gemacht. Fuhle Kerl, bey diesen troknen Worten, mit welchem Unsinne mich die Geschichte ergriffen hat, da mir sie Albert eben so gelassen erzahlte, als dus' vielleicht liesest. (190)(59)
The story grips Werther, just as he grabs the figure of Heinrich for his own story. What it tells him is that fine writing in amorous letters can go hand in hand with the writing in an administration. That makes Lotte's position so dangerous. She is at home in a place that demarcates and thus holds together those two modes of discourse. Heinrich, clerk and lover, could not tell them apart. His madness might be the insight that - in this story and house - they cannot be easily dissociated. We do not know what act of revelation led to his dismissal. Perhaps one day that "very fine hand" was inadvertently writing a billet doux on the office stationery. It is no accident that Albert tells Werther this story. He too moves in both these discourses and makes his home where they meet. Unlike Werther, he knows when it is time to turn his attention to business matters. This is why he stays on top in their rivalry. Not because he would be in a better position with regard to Lotte's affection but because he sees that their rivalry has the same structure as that between amorous and bureaucratic discourse. He never insists on being the lawful husband of Lotte, but he continually shows that as a legal clerk he is wedded to the law. When the situation gets really tense towards the end of the novel, Albert immerses himself in his legal work while Werther and Lotte are entrenched in their emotional turmoil. Returning from a visit to a judge in the neighbouring county that had kept him away during the night in which Werther saw Lotte for the last time, he is met by Lotte whose embrace and irritated look make him suspicious: "Eben dadurch machte sie die Aufmerksamkeit Albertens rege, der, nachdem er einige Briefe und Pakete erbrochen, sie ganz trokken fragte, ob sonst nichts vorgefallen, ob niemand da gewesen ware?" (254/56).(60) On hearing that Werther had been making love while he had been doing business, he retires to his study and starts writing at his desk, gets up to pace up and down the room, returns to the desk and writes on. At the same time Werther is in his room following the same pattern: He is writing, gets up to roam through the garden and across the hills (nature is to him what the office is to Albert), gets back to his desk, continues to write. The rivalry of the two parallel and now simultaneous modes of fine writing reaches its finale. The lover sends the bureaucrat a note, asking him to lend his pistols: "Wollten Sie mir wohl zu einer vorhabenden Reise ihre Pistolen leihen? Leben Sie recht wohl" (252).(61) Chodowiecki's illustration of the scene where Lotte gives Werther's servant the two pistols shows Albert sitting at his desk. The next picture shows Werther lying dying beside his desk. In this novel, being a bureaucrat is a way of survival.
Barthes' argument is a timely reminder that the amorous discourse of sensibility is developed at the same time as, and in conjunction with, 18th-century attempts to make the administrations of the legal system and the police more effective in their control over names, people, and their respective place in society.(62) Kittler is right on this point: Werther is a narrative in which the subjects are controlled by the authorities. As a lover, Werther quickly slips into the slots the bureaucracy puts in place in order to keep some order in the novel's rambling discourse on love. Once his name is on file, there is no escape from the secret intelligence culled from his love letters for the reports on which the bureaucrats, adding to his record, work in the background. Albert and Lotte's father, the county judge, might be the most prominent administrators in the novel, but there are of course also the members of the nobility acting as chief officers in the affairs of the state. Werther seeks a position in their staff and entourage, and his letters in the second book of the novel are pervaded by an air of suspicion that all the bureaucrats around him are engaged in some kind of conspiracy to betray not only his love but the very idea of love. However, there is one more administrative aide to reckon with. Although he in fact controls the whole novel, he is rarely mentioned in criticism, which only shows that he does a good job. For his job is to remain in the background in order to more effectively lead the investigation he undertakes: the Editor. He is the agent assembling the records, he has Wilhelm hand over the letters once Werther is dead, he arranges the contents of the file on Werther, he will close the case.
Werther presents a case history. As such, its chief interest lies in the fact that it rigorously stages Werther's intimate amorous discourse as a public event. While the myth still endures that eighteenth-century epistolary fiction created something like a private space that was given a private and unmediated voice, it is important to note that this privacy is a concept carefully monitored by public morals and ideologies. Epistolary fiction is also an attempt on the part of bourgeois society to subject private discourse to public scrutiny. This did not preclude that fiction and its publicized discourse from putting up standards of value that its protagonists would then be shown to transgress. Quite to the contrary. Self-censorship became a mark of distinction from the moral corruptness of the nobility long before Freud introduced the super-ego and the unconscious as agents of control in a society where the nobility had long lost its commanding position. In Werther this censorship is performed by the Editor. He makes his entrance early enough to give the last stammers and spurts of Werther's desperate writing some coherence, filling in the gaps of the epistolary discourse. Although the tone of his report, especially in the revised edition of 1787, seems to characterize him as a sympathetic and indeed very close friend of Werther's, he also performs the duties of the police. Readers of the novel have celebrated the book's last scene where a solitary lover forsaken by the world is lowered into an unmarked, anonymous grave outside the churchyard. "Kein Geistlicher hat ihn begleitet" (266). This is how the novel ends. "No clergyman attended" (87), but other public officials did. One of them is the judge, the other one - we might conjecture - is the Editor. For let us not forget that Werther's suicide necessitates an official inquest by the authorities. The legal sources cited in Zedler's encyclopedia are very clear about this:
Da nun jemand wider gottliche obere Gewalt sich selbst das Leben nimmt, und ein todter Korper gefunden wird; so liegt zuforderst denen Gerichten des Ortes, in deren Gerichtsbarkeit selbiger befunden wird, ob, sich nicht allein selbst dahin zu verfugen, und den todten Leichnam zu besichtigen, sondern auch, wegen derer dabey vorkommenden Umstande, genaue Kundschaft einzuziehen.(63)
The Editor is something like the coroner that in time appears at the scene to conduct the inquest or, as it is called in Zedler, the Inquisition. The officers or Gerichts-Halter had the duty and right to collect evidence and talk to those who knew the person. This is the case in the novel, and the characters that already figured in Werther's letters now also become witnesses in a formal public proceeding:
Die ausfuhrliche Geschichte der letzten merkwurdigen Tage unseres Freundes zu liefern, sehe ich mich genothiget seine Briefe durch Erzahlung zu unterbrechen, wozu ich den Stof aus dem Munde Lottens, Albertens, seines Bedienten, und anderer Zeugen gesammlet habe. (198)(64)
On the evaluation and interpretation of the Editor depends the crucial question whether the reason for Werther's suicide is insanity or some other motive that would lead to a post-mortem execution and his burial under the gallows. With the entrance of the Editor, the literary work of art is investigated with regard to its potential for crime. Apparently, this is how Napoleon read the novel. As Eckermann quotes Goethe's remark about Napoleon's reading of Werther. "'Er hatte ihn studirt wie ein Criminalrichter seine Acten.'"(65) In his debate with Albert about suicide Werther demands not only respect for someone committing suicide but also a sympathetic investigation into the motives. Their different approach presents exactly the difference documented in Zedler's encyclopedia entry between the more enlightened legal positions and those following traditional doctrine. And surprisingly, while Werther cannot focus as a lover and looks foolish in comparison to Albert's self-composed attitude toward his rival, he is the better advocate for the rights a suicide should have. In the area of the law, his sympathy and empathy get all his words in their proper place: "Habt ihr (. . .) die innern Verhaltnisse einer Handlung erforscht? Wisst ihr mit Bestimmtheit die Ursachen zu entwikkeln, warum sie geschah, warum sie geschehen musste? Hattet ihr das, ihr wurdet nicht so eilfertig mit euren Urtheilen seyn" (94).(66) In the revised version of 1787, the Editor's voice is substantially edited to appear much more sympathetic to the cause than the law officer of 1774 who at times speaks a rather dry and latinized formal language; his words now actually echo Werther's own:
Was bleibt uns ubrig, als dasjenige was wir mit wiederholter Muhe er-fahren konnen, gewissenhaft zu erzahlen; die yon dem Abscheidenden hinterlassnen Briefe einzuschalten und das kleinste aufgefundene Blattchen nicht gering zu achten; zumal da es so schwer ist, die eigensten wahren Triebfedern auch nur einer einzelnen Handlung zu entdecken, wenn sie unter Menschen vorgeht, die nicht gemeiner Art sind. (199 ).(67)
Thirteen years have passed since Werther's death, and the legal gaze looking for evidence becomes not only more humane but also undergoes an aestheticization. Werther's body has rotten away in an unlocated grave, the autograph letters have perhaps disappeared into some drawers of privacy, but the book remains, and it has to be refined, polished, mummified. The Editor's search for those "eigensten wahren Triebfedern" transform him into a psychologist who shares some of the exuberant language of the object he studies. At the same time we ought to notice that the addition of the so-called Bauernbursche episode - the story of the young man that falls in love with a widow, loses his job, and later kills the servant that replaced him - on the one hand elaborates on the legal discourse of the narrative and on the other introduces one more figure, or constellation of figures, on which Werther can exercise his power of identification. As Werther's and Albert's dispute about the fate of the murderer shows, the episode is something like a test for the narrative to fuse and at the same time sharply distinguish the legal and the amorous discourse in which it engages.
Whether sympathetic psychologist or dutiful coroner, both editors - that of 1774 and that of 1787 - share the duty to "pay attention to even the slightest fragment from his pen" (65). Wilhelm, but also Lotte and Albert, have to submit, as it were, every single letter or scrap of paper to the legal-literary authorities represented by the Editor. Bernhard Siegert has pointed out that, according to the law of the time, letters had the same status as testaments.(68) According to Zedler, one of the most important decision the inquest had to make was whether the suicide had in fact taken his or her life because of an explicable insanity or mental derangement, on which depended the decision on whether or not their testaments were declared invalid. The madness of Werther has saved a masterpiece of German literature for posterity.
The publication of any novel that consists of private letters containing and divulging the intimate feelings of its characters performs, to reiterate this point, something like a public investigation. This is as true of Richardson's novels as it is of Rousseau's Nouvelle Heloise. In Werther, this performance takes a somewhat different turn although it follows the same structural principle. While Richardson's and Rousseau's texts can be imagined to be letters passed on among sympathetic friends that are either interested in gossip or delight in exemplary morality or both at the same time, Werther's utter solitude and isolation from the communities around him makes such a circulation neither possible nor conceivable. It is indeed this isolation that enables his amorous discourse and his diction to transgress all boundaries of convention observed by a public that in turn comes to observe this transgression only because Werther's death demands this official inquest. The Editor is not only a legal clerk but also the agent of the rhetorical and aesthetic law of decorum. He makes the appearance of Werther's solitary discourse in the public domain credible by the authority of both the forensic and the aesthetic law he represents.
If eighteenth-century epistolary fiction presents privacy as a public spectacle, this speculum is presented in Werther by an Editor that gains access to the private recesses of an individual called Werther in a manner unprecedented in European literature. What is extraordinary about this presence of a public eye in the private sphere is the extent of control it exerts over the object of its observation. One only needs to look into Justi's handbook on the duties and science of the police to see what the police had in mind. They have to protect domestic peace, the Hausfrieden. In areas where the potential for disorder is high, however, Justi suggests an organization of citizens on patrol. "In Japan," he writes, "wo das Volk einen grausamen Caracter hat, ist allemal unter vier Hauswirthen einer der Aufseher uber die drey ubrigen, der sofort herbey eilen muss, sobald er den geringsten Lerm horet."(69) To get a clearer notion of what the move of the public on the privacy of citizens means, one might want to turn to the eighteenth-century illustrations of the novel.(70) Many pictures illustrating the novel's central scenes show Lotte and Werther in a park-like setting. Thus, Bunbury's "The First Interview between Werther and Charlotte" of 1782 has Lotte distribute the bread among her siblings somewhere in the garden under the branches of a huge tree. Schubert's 1788 illustration of the same scene is staged in the house, but in front of an oversized window overlooking the garden. While Morange's engraving of "Lolotte et Werther" cannot move the piano at which the couple sit out of the house, it too is dominated by a large and open window that leads into the park. All these illustrations, and particularly those of the French and English translations, stand in the tradition of the Rousseauistic scenes in a bower. One of the scenes in the narrative is quite explicitely staged in such an enclosed spot in the garden; it is, significantly, a place where Lotte and Werther meet in the presence of Albert. An encounter in a corner of the garden framed by trees and bushes or in front of a large window represents a private meeting in a place that is still sufficiently public. It thus corresponds to the gaze of the spectator who could have happened to pass by and catch a glance of that intimate meeting. Chodowiecki's rightly famous illustrations break with this convention. While some of his pictures show an open door to the right or in the background that gives the public spectator an entrance to the scene, his illustration of Werther's and Lotte's kiss on the sofa and that of the bed on which Werther, surrounded by a doctor, the judge, and his sons, is struggling with death are set in a room that does not have any visible window or door. What makes the engravings particularly impressive are the candles that throw a blinding light in a darkening space of privacy. No spectator could accidentally come to witness these sights. If the effect of these two illustrations is one of voyeurism, they also present the gaze from the perspective of those figures that do have right of access to those scenes or might burst upon them: Albert in the first instance, the coroner and the judge in the second. They are all representatives of the law that in this novel enters aesthetics. Chodowiecki's illustration for the 1776 French translation by Deyverduns shows Werther's room after his death. Everyone has left, a corpse remains. A hand of the body can be seen in the opening of the bed's half drawn curtain, Lessing's Emilia Galotti lies still open on the deserted desk, a pistol can be discerned lying next to it. It looks like a photograph taken by the police at the scene of a crime. Nothing is to be moved before every trace and evidence is carefully registered. In Werther, the public gaze on scenes of privacy is deeply involved in the official investigation of a case. At the end of the eighteenth century the police enlist the sympathetic reader to take quarters in the study and bedroom of German literature.
The amorous and legal discourses in the narrative cannot be disentangled. Together they form the book entitled Die Leiden des jungen Werther. Unlike other epistolary novels in which both or several sides of a correspondence are gathered, Werther is not dialogic. There is no indication that Werther and the Editor ever met, and if they have, if Wilhelm is the Editor, for example, this would not change anything about the relationship of the two discourses. They are neither dialogic nor antagonistic, nor, indeed, complementary. "A private letter may well have a signer - it does not have an author" (148), Foucault maintains, and one might want to say that the Editor in his publication of the letters, in which the words of the letters remain while the signature disappears, makes Werther into something like an author. In turn, Werther gives the Editor material to work on what one would clearly have to call an author's task, such as the serialization of the letters or the partitioning of the letters in the part where the Editor fills in undocumented information. Although they collaborate to make the book, the two modes of writing remain distanced from each other, and they can coexist precisely because of this demarcation from each other. This is what distinguishes Werther's and the Editor's cohabitation from the lover's relationship with Lotte. In their plurality, the two discourses create something like an anonymity. We have seen how Werther's attempts to inscribe his name within the narrative fail, and he ends up in an unmarked grave. To the Editor anonymity is part of the censorship he exerts as a representative of the authorities: "Der Leser wird sich keine Muhe geben, die hier genannten Orte zu suchen, man hat sich genotigt gesehen, die im Originale befindlichen wahren Nahmen zu andern" (26).(71) Thus his comment on the name of Wahlheim. You can choose your home, but it is here chosen for us. Wahlheim resembles the graveyard in Wahlverwandschaften, where the stones are pushed around without regard to the place to which they belong. None of the names in the novel is genuine. It is not clear whether this applies to place names only. Some authors' names are also taken out by the Editor: "Man hat auch hier die Namen einiger vaterlandischer Autoren ausgelassen" (44).(72) The names that remain are not many. Goldsmith (the Vicar is named), Klopstock ("And your name, may I never hear it uttered again"), Ossian (an impostor), Homer (but who is Homer, the man?), Lotte (or is it Charlotte?), Malchen (call me Amalie). And Werther? What if his proper name would also be different, like those of the places? In fact, the narrative tells just this. That his proper name is different from the readings he performed on it. In order not to become anonymous, proper names are different. The lover never realized.
Lotte, Lotte's mother, other mothers, the widow in the Bauernburschen episode, Werther's mother, his aunt: As Meyer-Kalkus has pointed out, the narrative is dominated by women that occupy important positions where otherwise one would expect men to appear. At the same time it is disturbing to note that all these women are struck by loss. Lotte's mother died, the young mother lost Hans, Werther's mother lost her husband, his aunt her brother - and there are others that are either sick or on the point of passing away. As if they had to pay a price for occupying the place they are in, the novel's women are all wounded, and Lotte herself, a mother imago surrounded by several children she feeds, is tied by Werther into the structure of a simulated fecundity for whose productivity or proliferation it is important that she remain isolated between two men and a father - a switchboard for their desires and needs. A reading in which the Editor is given more than a secretarial job introduces a man into the structure to which one must also add Wilhelm. He receives the love letters Werther sends, and the letters' trio of Werther - Lotte - Albert can be refigured as one in which Wilhelm takes the place of Lotte: Werther - Wilhelm - Editor. Although the affectionate tone in Werther's letters to Wilhelm is not unusual for the eighteenth century,(73) every letter Werther sends addresses Wilhelm as an object of his love. Criticism of the novel has been silent about the silent figure of Wilhelm and has thus suppressed the homoeroticism of Werther's love. The reason why he has never been considered a rival to Lotte is that they are carefully kept apart by the novel's strategy of a division of labor. While the first trio participates in the intimate narrative created in the letters, the second organizes the production of the book. Thus the novel builds up an economy in which Lotte, and all the other women, provide a story, a problem, or a complication - in short, a content for a work of art - while the three men (one of them dead) turn this story into a book. This, then, is the control the book exerts over the proliferation of meaning through the narrative's women. The three men take care of the publication of the book, unless one assumes that Werther's aunt is the Editor, a possibility that does not seem to be totally unfounded with regard to Werther's comment on his negotiation with her about the family inheritance, "Sie sagte mir (. . .) ihre Bedingungen unter welchen sie bereit ware alles heraus zu geben, und mehr als wir verlangten" (12).(74) In that case, Werther's father would, after all, emerge in the novel. He would be contributing funding for its publication.
What remains is a body in an unmarked grave, dressed in blue and yellow, a pink ribbon in his pocket. In these fetishized garments Werther and Lotte will be resurrected to parade the streets of German provincial towns. Werther's name survives his death, as a brand name.
III. The Genius and Its Doubles
"Die Wirkung dieses Buchleins war gross, ja ungeheuer, und vorzuglich deshalb, weil es genau in die rechte Zeit traf" (641), Goethe comments in his autobiography.(75) The novel's astonishing sales figures corroborate his remark. Never before had a book met with comparable acclaim or scandal, and while the novel took the small reading public by storm it took Goethe's publisher Weygand by surprise. Soon after it had appeared at the Leipzig book fair at the end of September, 1774, the first printing of fifteen hundred copies was exhausted. Booksellers in the university town of Gottingen were out of stock as early as November. While readers were rushing to buy the book, pirates were rushing to reprint the novel in order to cash in on this unprecedented craze for a novel written by some young author whose name did not appear on the title page. The seven pirated editions published in 1775 supplied another thirty-five hundred copies, which in turn forced Weygand to come up with a second "authorized" edition to stay in the market at all. The three thousand copies of the "zweyte, achte Auflage" and its subsequent two unauthorized editions with a printing of one thousand copies bring the total figure to about nine thousand copies within two or three years of the novel's original publication, a figure at least twice as large as the printing of works by established authors in the eighteenth century.(76) Several more reprints of the first two as well as the substantially revised edition of 1787 would follow in Goethe's lifetime, as did translations into nine European languages.(77) To demarcate Goethe's authorized text from the pirated editions, the translations from the imitations, continuations, parodies, tracts, plays, and other Wertheriana is an almost impossible task. The novel created its own textual field, constituted a new genre. Although one should take care not to overestimate the significance of the absolute figure of readers in relation to the total population, it is precisely because the literate and literati still formed a relatively small group that its effects were so dramatic. One of the many plays produced to maintain a public discussion was Gochhausen's Werther-Fieber (1776), which gave the whole cultural movement a name. Like a dangerous fever the novel infected the readers, and what enraged the clergy and the learned readers most was that it did not focus on a certain group, class, taste, or otherwise limited readership, but rather spoke to every reader. Had it been a love story, and a much more daring one for that, the clergy could have pulled it from the market, as the bishop of Milan actually did by buying all available copies of an Italian translation of Werther (Graf, 1114). They could have looked away or would indeed have overlooked it. However, issues such as suicide and the critique of life at court could not be left unanswered. The true scandal of the book was that it constituted a medium in which clergymen or politicians communicated with the cultish community of sensibility, an effect that is connected with the interplay and interferences between the several discourses as pointed out earlier. The amorous discourse has a magnetic effect on other modes of writing. Goethe worked out a literary device rather than a racy topic, and the success was soon overwhelming him.
Although Goethe's later account in Dichtung und Wahrheit emphasizes the rapidity and unpremeditated way of the novel's composition, he did not just come up with a good idea and some leads he then worked out, but in fact studied the public intensely and developed something like a marketing strategy. As Merck, his friend and advisor writes to his wife, "He separates himself from us and exists only for the works that he prepares for the public. He feels he has to succeed in everything he undertakes" (Graf, 915, n. 2; in French). This urge to succeed had to grapple with the economic difficulty in which the genius found itself in the 1770s. In Dichtung und Wahrheit Goethe writes about the rise of genius in the world of literature:
Nun sollte aber die Zeit kommen, wo das Dichtergenie sich selbst gewahr wurde, sich seine eigene Verhaltnisse selbst schufe und den Grund zu einer unabhangigen Wurde zu legen verstunde. Alles traf in Klopstock zusammen, um eine solche Epoche zu begrunden (. . .) Ernst und grundlich erzogen legt er, von Jugend an, einen grossen Wert auf sich selbst und auf alles was er tut. (434)(78)
"Klopstock!" The figure at the window in Wahlheim is the model of genius the author of Werther would like to emulate. Goethe's concise characterization of the task of genius - it must be self-sufficient - includes financial independence, which was difficult to attain in a situation where the printers were trying to keep the honorarium as low as possible. "Die Produktion von poetischen Schriften aber wurde als etwas Heiliges angesehn, und man hielt es beinahe fur Simonie, ein Honorar zu nehmen oder zu steigern" (563),(79) Goethe writes. In a dispute with his printer, Wieland claimed that genius, talent, and taste should be renumerated, conferring a market value on genius.(80) That was in 1791. As it turns out, Klopstock was the first to test a new financing of genius: subscription. The massive figure of thirty-six hundred readers filled a subscription for his Gelehrten-republik. When it appeared in 1774, it met with great disappointment, "zwar immer von bedeutendem Wert, aber nichts weniger als allgemein ansprechend" (564).(81) The genius had messed up, and as Goethe points out this was not without consequences for other authors: "Diese dem Autor gelungene, dem Publikum aber misslungene Unternehmung hatte die bose Folge, dass nun sobald nicht mehr an Subskription und Pranumeration zu denken war" (565).(82) When Goethe prepared his novel for publication in 1774 he had to think of another way of avoiding financial risk. His play Gotz von Berlichingen was printed at his own cost, and while it made his name known in literary circles, it got Goethe into debt. The strategy for Werther was to find a publisher that would print him and to write a book that would sell better. Genius became linked to sales figures. As already mentioned, an increase in sales could only be brought about by a good marketing, and, apart from the customary pre-circulation of the book among friends, Goethe took to other measures as well. The little preface to the novel ends with an appeal to the readers that at once consoles, warns, and advertises the book: "Ihr konnt seinem Geist und seinem Charakter eure Bewunderung und Liebe, und seinem Schicksaale eure Thranen nicht versagen. / Und du gute Seele, die du eben den Drang fuhlst wie er, schopfe Trost aus seinem Leiden, und lass das Buchlein deinen Freund seyn" (10).(83) The tears the readers are asked to shed, to spend, and not to hold back are the money they should pay to make the book their companion. One of the first reviews ends by quoting this advertisement,(84) and Schubart exclaims, "Kauf's Buch und lies selbst!"(85) Part of the purchase are Werther's and Lotte's names. The readers of the novel quickly picked up their promise of an identification, and it sometimes took the most grotesque forms. In a letter to Kestner, Goethe includes this quote from a friend (probably Lotte Jacobi) that had written to him: "Eine andere schrieb neulich: 'Ich bitt' Euch um Gotteswillen, heisst reich nicht mehr Lotte! - Lottgen, oder Lolo - wie ihr wollt - Nur nicht Lotte biss ich des Nahmens werther werde denn ichs bin" (Graf, 940).(86) As one reviewer writes, addressing the female readership, "Und du verehrungswurdige Schone, die du mit Lotten den ganzen Werth unsers Werthers zu schatzen weisst, (. . .) mogest du doch in den Armen deines Gatten (. . .) alle die Seeligkeiten einathmen, die Dein und mein unglucklicher Freund nur in der Ferne schimmern sah."(87) The reviewer's attempt to simultaneously recommend the novel and send the woman back into her husband's arms betokens an anxiety that the worth of Werther includes some danger and that it might get out of hand. And it indeed did. Nothing is known about an increasing divorce rate after the novel's publication. But soon the first bodies of young men that had taken their life in the manner of Werther were found; a young woman, who had a copy of the novel in her pocket, was pulled out of a river. The motives of those suicides that had a connection to Werther (not the suicides themselves) were a gruesome souvenir brought home from a reading trip to Wahlheim.
The proliferation of souvenirs and fashion items that developed around the names of Werther and Lotte is astounding. Cups and saucers, plates, fans, woodcuts, silhouettes and portraits of the "true" Lotte, dresses with pink ribbons, blue coats and yellow vests. The novel led to something like a diversification of literature. A perfume called Eau de Werther enveloped those wearing it with a whiff of authenticity. As Susan Stewart points out, authenticity is the hallmark of the souvenir. They are "traces of authentic experience" that can be transferred or translated to a different place without losing their relation to the context from which they have been taken. "The souvenir speaks to a context of origin through a language of longing, for it is not an object arising out of need or use value; it is an object arising out of the necessarily insatiable demands of nostalgia."(88) What makes the cult around the figures of Werther and Lotte possible is that the figures in the narrative, and particularly Werther, have themselves this insatiable longing. Moreover, the narrative that presents them is itself a souvenir. This is why the autobiographical structure of the text is important. Modern criticism has by principle become skeptical of the value of biographical relationships texts may have. It is important here because the contemporary readers of Werther inquiring about the origin of the narrative, its reference to names and faces outside of the narrative, were trying to get the same souvenir as Goethe. This souvenir is the novel. One might indeed say that Goethe's authorship consists in having created a literary souvenir, and all those trying to get it were encroaching upon his authorship.
Das forschende Publikum konnte daher Ahnlichkeiten von verschiedenen Frauenzimmern entdecken, und den Damen war es auch nicht ganz gleichgultig, fur die rechte zu gelten. Diese mehreren Lotten aber brachten mir eine unendliche Qual, weil Jedermann der mich ansah, entscheiden zu wissen verlangte, wo denn die eigentliche wohnhaft sei?" (645)(89)
The question about the proper abode is one that can also be put to the novel in which, as we have seen, the place names are changed. There were also inquiries about the abode of Werther and Jerusalem. One clever innkeeper near Garbenheim placed Werther's grave in his garden to show it to English tourists for money.(90)
To escape the tourists, Goethe became one himself. All his life he had the obsession of travelling incognito. Assuming another name he would disappear. One might see in this a desire to leave his proper name at home, as if the name were determined by its location. The passage in Dichtung und Wahrheit about the uncanny doubling of Lotte curiously presents authorship in terms of such an escape: "Ich suchte mich dann davor auf Reisen durch's Inkognito zu retten, abet auch das Hulfsmittel wurde mir unversehens vereitelt, und so war der Verfasser jenes Werkleins, wenn er ja etwas Unrechtes und Schadliches getan, dafur genugsam, ja ubermassig durch solche unausweichliche Zudringlichkeit bestraft" (645).(91) Goethe and his entourage cultivated this notion of an unjustified punishment. But what is indeed hurtful in the novel is the anonymity of its principal figure due to an introduction of the proper name as an exchange value. It is hurtful, as it were, to Werther. For Goethe it means that his claim to authorship is complicated. One day Goethe received a package from the South Seas that reminded the author of this complication. Like the gift Werther had received from Lotte and Albert, the parcel contained a book. In his Mittheilungen, Riemer relates the following story:
Noch im Jahre 1809 oder 1810 kam unter franzosischer Aufschrift: "an den Verfasser der Leiden des jungen Werther" ein Paket von Ingolstadt, mit einer franzosischen Nachbildung des Werther, das, weil es den Weg von Isle de France nach Ingolstadt gemacht und hier mit begreiflichem Protest, als inconnu a Ingolstadt abgewiesen worden, den ganzen Ruckweg hatte antreten mussen, wenn nicht zuletzt irgendwo ein Postmeister sich auf den Namen des Autors und ein Anderer auf dessen Wohnort besonnen und dem Herumirrenden die rechte Strase gewiesen hatte. Das ist wohl der einzige Spass, den G. von seinem Werke erlebte.(92)
Thanks to the expeditious German postal system, the package arrives at Weimar even though its address omits the author's name in the manner it was lacking on the book's title page. Return to Sender: Imagine what would have happened if Werther's papers sent off on the eve of his death had not arrived at their destination: "Er kramte den Abend noch viel in seinen Papieren, zerriss vieles und warf's in Ofen, versiegelte einige Pakke mit den Addressen an Wilhelmen" (260).(93) They are his legacy, they are indeed an important part of the heritage of modern German literature, and Werther's obedient servant does well to go to bed fully dressed, "denn sein Herr hatte gesagt, die Postpferde wurden vor sechse vors Haus kommen."(94) In the morning the servant, one assumes, did not fail to send off Werther's precious packages at six, no matter what. Or perhaps he handed them over to the authorities. Or perhaps they have indeed disappeared. We cannot tell for sure. But it might tell us something about the importance of the proper name. To Goethe, Riemer tells us, the detour was amusing. Inconnu a Ingolstadt. Perhaps because he would almost have found an incognito, or because he was after all recognized as the author of the anonymous book, or even because the translator in the South Sea had confused Werther with Johann Miller's Siegwart, a novel modelled on Werther that actually takes place in Ingolstadt. At any rate, the question of the proper name is a sensitive issue to Goethe, as the following episode from Dichtung und Wahrheit illustrates. Goethe had brought some books from his father's library to Strasbourg, and Herder sent him a note requesting that he lend him some of them for his studies. Herder concludes his letter by addressing Goethe as follows, "Der von Gottern du stammst, von Goten oder vom Kote, Goethe, sende mir sie" (444).(95) This is Goethe's rejoinder:
Der Eigenname eines Menschen ist nicht etwa wie ein Mantel, der bloss um ihn her hangt und an dem man allenfalls noch zupfen und zerren kann, sondern ein vollkommen passendes Kleid, ja wie die Haut selbst ihm uber und uber angewachsen, an der man nicht schaben und schinden darf, ohne ihn selbst zu verletzen. (444)(96)
The blue coat Werther was wearing when he met Lotte became so worn out and "unscheinbar" (166) that it had to be replaced by the one that dresses his body in the unmarked grave. That second coat never fitted like a skin. This takes us back to the Inconnu a Ingolstadt. For this town is also the birthplace of another famous Inconnu of literature that has a severe problem with his skin and name: Frankenstein's monster. There is a relationship between his being patched together in the image of man and his having no name.
Great God! His yellow skin scarcely covered the work of muscles and arteries beneath; his hair was of a lustrous black, and flowing; his teeth of a pearly whiteness; but these luxuriances only formed a more horrid contrast with his watery eyes, that seemed almost of the same colour as the dun-white sockets in which they were set.(97)
The monster looks very different from Lotte, but not altogether different from the figure that sees his reflection in her black eyes. "I had worked hard for nearly two years, for the sole purpose of infusing life into an inanimate body," Frankenstein writes. When that body did come alive in an act of creation described in analogy to Genesis, the creator did not name it. Benjamin writes, "Der Mensch ist der Erkennende derselben Sprache, in der Gott Schopfer ist. (. . .) Sein geistiges Wesen ist die Sprache, in der geschaffen wurde. Im Wort wurde geschaffen, und Gottes sprachliches Wesen ist das Wort. Alle menschliche Sprache ist nur Reflex des Wortes im Namen."(98) Frankenstein thought that he could create life. His error becomes apparent when, instead of naming his creation, he escapes the scene in panic: "Unable to endure the aspect of the being I had created, I rushed out of the room" (318). One might see a link between this flight and Goethe's escape when confronted with the zombies of Werther and Lotte springing up all around him. What the two novels share is the danger inherent in the phantasy of genius and its power of invention, the risk of confusing creation with what Benjamin calls its reflection in the name. What they share, in other words, is the articulation of this risk with regard to the problem of their protagonists' proper names. There is indeed something monstrous about Werther, and let us not forget that one of the three books from which Frankenstein's monster culls his knowledge of the world around him is a copy of the Sorrows of Werther. It is the book he reads first.
The Johns Hopkins University
1 Some of the most popular illustrations are available in the paperback edition by Jorn Gores, Die Leiden des jungen Werther (Frankfurt: Insel Verlag, 1973). See also the exhibition catalogue edited by Gores, Die Leiden des jungen Werther: Goethes Roman im Spiegel seiner Zeit (Dusseldorf: Goethe-Museum, 1972), 136-47, for a detailed description of some thirty pictures, with sample reproductions on pp. 183-200.
2 Rousseau closely controlled the design and production of the artwork, which was published as a separate book in 1761 with page references to Rey's edition of the novel in the same year. It contains not only the lengthy commentary by Rousseau speaking in the voice of the Editor but also the so-called "Seconde Preface" in the form of a dialogue between the editor and a man of letters. Rousseau's description of the illustration referred to above reads: "Il lui parle en meme tems avec feu; on lit dans les yeux de Julie l'attendrissement que lui causent ses discours et les objets qu'ils lui rappellent; mais on y lit aussi que la vertu preside, et ne craint rien de ces dangereux souvenirs" (Rousseau, OEuvres completes [Paris: Gallimard, 1961], II, 768). The picture illustrates Saint-Preux's account in Book 4, letter 17: "Je la conduis vers le rocher et lui montrai son chiffre graves dans mille endroits, et plusieurs vers du Petrarch et du Tasse relatifs a la situation off j'etais en les tracant" (p. 519). Interestingly, the presentation of the illustration quotes a passage from the letter that describes the landscape and at the same time inscribes Rousseau's own name on the rock: 'Quelques ruisseaux filtroient a travers les rochers, et rouloient sur la verdure en filets de cristal" (767, quoting from 518).
3 see Barbara Herrnstein Smith's excellent book, Contingencies of Value: Alternative Perspectives for Critical Theory (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1988).
4 Susan Stewart, On Longing: Narratives of the Miniature, the Gigantic, the Souvenir, the Collection (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 1993), 150, 152, 162.
5 On the circulation of copies of private letters among friends and the increasing attempts by eighteenth-century publishers and newspapers to get hold of letters by eminent personalities in order to print them, see Georg Steinhausen, Geschichte des deutschen Briefes (1889; rpt. Dublin and Zurich: Weidmann, 1968), II, 320-25.
6 Goethe, Die Leiden des jungen Werthers, in vol. 8 of the Frankfurter Ausgabe (FA) of Goethe's works, Die Leiden des jungen Werthers, Die Wahlverwandtschaften, Kleine Prosa, Epen, ed. Waltraud Wietholter (Frankfurt/Main: Klassiker Verlag, 1994), 110. References to Goethe's novel are to this edition and will henceforth be cited in the text. Unless otherwise noted the citations are from the first edition of 1774, which FA prints on facing pages with the revised edition of 1787. Emphasis is added unless otherwise indicated. The translation follows the text of vol. 11 in the Suhrkamp Edition (SE) of Goethe's works, The Sorrows of Young Werther, Elective Affinities, Novella, ed. David E. Wellbery (New York: Suhrkamp Publishers, 1988). Since the text in SE translates the revised edition of 1787, it is occasionally necessary to alter the translation or provide a new translation where the two versions differ considerably. Sometimes a translation is revised to bring out constellations of meaning in the original that are important to my reading: "As I opened it, I found one of the pink ribbons which Charlotte wore in her dress the first time I saw her, and which I had several times asked her to give me. With it were two volumes in duodecimo of Wetstein's Homer - a book I had often wanted to own, to save me the trouble of carrying the large Ernesti edition with me on my walks. You see how they anticipate my wishes, how well they understand all those little attentions of friendship, so much more valuable (werther) than the expensive presents of the great, which only humiliate us. I kissed the ribbon a thousand times, and in every breath inhaled the memory of those happy and unrecoverable days which filled me with the keenest joy" (38; rev.). Proper names, we are told, cannot be translated. The rendering of Lotte's name as Charlotte indicates, however, that they have somewhat different identities in the original and the translation. Charlotte is the name Lotte would have been given at baptism. Throughout the novel she is addressed by her abbreviated name, a given name that in a strict sense is a pseudonym. Respecting the tradition that has firmly established Charlotte's name among English and American readers of the novel, as well as in the hope that this complication might demonstrate a point this article takes some pains to make, no attempt will be made to gloss over this difference.
7 David E. Wellbery, "Morphisms of the Phantasmatic Body: Goethe's 'The Sorrows of Young Werther'," in Body and Text in the Eighteenth Century, ed. Veronica Kelly and Dorothea von Mucke (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1994), 199, 204, 192.
8 Leo Balet and E. Gerhard, Die Verburgerlichung der deutschen Kunst, Literatur und Musik im 18. Jahrhundert (Frankfurt: Ullstein, 1972), 435.
9 "As I sit there the old patriarchal idea comes to life again. I see them, our old ancestors, forming their friendships and doing their courting at the well"(7).
10 "After about an hour and a half, we returned to the town. We stopped at the spring which is so dear (werth) to me, and which is now a thousand times dearer (werther) to me than ever since Charlotte sat down by the low wall. I looked round, and recalled the time when my heart was all alone. (. . .) I looked down and observed Amalie (Malgen) coming up the steps with a glass of water. I turned towards Charlotte, and felt deeply how much she means to me. Amalie approached with the glass. Marianne wanted to take it from her. 'No!' cried the child with the sweetest expression, 'Charlotte must drink first'" (24-5; rev.). Since we are talking about the baptism this scene performs, one might note that the English text - as in the case of Charlotte's name - calls Malchen by the full name she would have been given at baptism: Amalie.
11 "'Adieu, dear Werther.' Dear Werther! It was the first time she ever called me 'dear': it penetrated my whole being" (61).
12 This reading of the passage exploits the equivocation Werther exploits when quoting Lotte out of context. In German, lieber means "dear" when preceding a male noun or proper name, but "dearer" when used as a comparative.
13 "I have repeated it a hundred times and last night, as I was going to bed and talked to myself about nothing in particular, I suddenly said, 'Good night, dear Werther!'" (61).
14 This is also to say that my argument must take care not to fall prey to what it seeks to expose. Werther's investment of the proper name with meaning constitutes a fetishism, I argue, and as will become apparent, the citation of such instances in the text easily gets itself involved in this movement.
15 "I assure you, Wilhelm, I never attended a baptism with greater reverence; and when Charlotte came up, I could have fallen on my knees as before a prophet who has washed away the sins of his people" (25).
16 "Farewell! This is a glorious summer. I often climb into the trees in Charlotte's orchard, and with a fruit picker bring down the pears that hang on the highest branches. She stands below, and takes them as I hand them to her" (38).
17 Jacques Derrida, Given Time: I. Counterfeit Money (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992), particularly the section entitled "A Girl without Present," 34-70.
18 Roland Barthes, A Lover's Discourse: Fragments, tr. Richard Howard (New York: Noonday Press, 1978), 31. Barthes' emphasis. Further references to Barthes' study will be cited in the text. The influence of his formidable book on my article will become apparent at every turn of the argument.
19 If Lotte is a doll, Werther is a puppet. His anxiety at court that the people around him may be lifeless marionettes includes him: "Ich stehe wie vor einem Raritatenkasten, und sehe die Manngen und Gaulgen vor mir herumrukken, und frage mich off, ob's nicht optischer Betrug ist. Ich spiele mit, vielmehr, ich werde gespielt wie eine Marionette, und fasse manchmal meinen Nachbar an der holzernen Hand und schaudere zuruk" (134) / "I stand before a puppet show and see the little puppets move, and I ask myself whether it isn't an optical illusion. I am amused by these puppets, or rather, I am myself one of them" (45). The doctor appointed by the judge, Lotte's father, to serve in official inquests in his district is described as a "dogmatische Dratpuppe" (58) / "puppet on dogmatic strings" (21; added); he will pronounce Werther dead at the end of the novel.
20 "You should see how foolish (albern) I look in company when her name is mentioned" (26).
21 "She looks at Charlotte with a smile, shakes her finger at her and twice repeats with great significance the name Albert" (18).
22 "Now, there was nothing new to me in this (the girls had told me of it on the way), yet it struck me as new since I had not thought of it in relation to her who in so short a time had become so dear (werth) to me. At any rate, I got confused, forgot myself, got caught between the wrong couples, and caused a general disorder so that it took Charlotte's whole presence of mind to straighten me out by pulling and pushing me into my proper place" (18; rev.).
23 Friedrich A. Kittler has pointed to the intimate nature of the waltz that scandalized and delighted the 1770s. It makes it possible for Werther to take Lotte in his arms without possessing or having to possess her. See "Autorschaft und Liebe," in Austreibung des Geistes aus den Geisteswissenschaften, ed. Kittler (Paderborn: Schoningh, 1980), 147. The historical relevance of this intimacy corresponds to the way in which the report on the dance is intimately bound up with the structure of the narrative and the problem of naming.
24 For a reading of the novel along the lines of Lacan's argument about the mirror-stage, see the important essay by Reinhart Meyer-Kalkus, "Werthers Krankheit zum Tode: Pathologie und Familie in der Empfindsamkeit," in Urszenen: Literaturwissenschaft als Diskursanalyse und Diskurskritik, in ed. Friedrich A. Kittler and Horst Turk (Frankfurt/Main: Suhrkamp, 1977), 90-7.
25 The second of the three paragraphs was added in the revised edition of 1787: "No, I am not deceived. In her black eyes I read a genuine interest in me and in my fate. Yes, I feel it; and I can believe my own heart which tells me - dare I say it? - dare I pronounce the divine words? - that she loves me! / That she loves me! How this lifts my self-esteem! And - since you understand my feelings, I can say this to you - how I worship myself since she loves me! / Is this presumption, or is it an awareness of the truth? I do not know the man able to supplant me in Charlotte's heart; and yet when she speaks of the betrothed with so much warmth and affection, I feel like a soldier who has been stripped of his honors and titles, and deprived of his sword" (26-7; rev.).
26 See Marc Shell's reading of Heraclitus on this point in The Economy of Literature (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1978), 54.
27 On this relationship, see Kurt Heinzelmann, The Economics of the Imagination (Amherst: University of Massachussetts Press, 1980), 95-8.
28 "I haven't been able to see Charlotte today. I was prevented by company from which I couldn't disengage myself. What was I to do? I sent my servant to her house, that I might at least see somebody today who had been near her. Oh, the impatience with which I awaited his return, the joy with which I welcomed him! I should have liked to hold him in my arms and kiss him, if I had not been embarrassed. / It is said that the Bologna stone, when it is placed in the sun, absorbs the rays and for a time appears luminous in the dark. So it was with me and this servant. The idea that her eyes had dwelt on his countenance, his cheek, his coat buttons, the collar of his surtout, made them all inestimably dear (werth) to me, so that at the moment I would not have parted with him for a thousand crowns. His presence made me so happy! For heaven's sake, Wilhelm, don't laugh at me! Can it be a delusion if it makes us so happy?" (27-8).
29 Kripke's lectures on naming unfold their argument also in response to the problem that proper names, if they do not have any meaning at all, cannot be simply integrated within language conceived of as a system of signification. See Saul A. Kripke, Naming and Necessity (Cambridge, Ma.: Harvard University Press, 1972), 32.
30 Rene Major, "La Logique du nom propre et le transfert," Cahiers Confrontation 15 (1986): 148-9.
31 To keep this gap open means, according to Major, to be guarded against the effacement of the trace of effacement in the proper name, which would subsume the proper name under the common or communal name (161). His argument is a subtle critique of Lacan's play of the signifier.
32 "The translation of the nameless into name." Walter Benjamin, "Uber Sprache uberhaupt und fiber die Sprache de Menschen," in Gesammelte Schriften, ed. Rolf Tiedemann and Hermann Schweppenhauser (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1977), II, 151. The translation is from "On Language as Such and on the Language of Man," in Reflections, ed. Peter Demetz, (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1978), 325.
33 "Translation passes through continua of transformation, not abstract areas of identity and similarity" (325). On translation and the proper name, see Bettine Menke's impressive study, Sprachfiguren: Name - Allegorie - Bild nach Walter Benjamin (Munchen: Fink, 1991), 78-126.
34 "By it [the proper name] each man is guaranteed his creation by God, and in this sense he is himself creative, as is expressed by mythological wisdom in the idea (which is doubtless not infrequently found) that a man's name is his fate" (324; rev.).
35 Benjamin, "Schicksal und Charakter," in Gesammelte Schriften, II, 175: "Law condemns, not to punishment but to guilt. Fate is the guilt context (Schuldzusammenhang) of the living" ("Fate and Character," in Reflections, 308).
36 "The study of physiognomy (. . .) was a manifestation of the new age of genius. Modern physiognomics reveals its connection with the old art of divination in the unfruitful, morally evaluative accent of its concepts" (311).
37 "I have begun Charlotte's portrait three times, and have as often made a fool of myself. This is the more annoying, since I was formerly very successful in catching the likeness. I have since traced her profile, and must content myself with that" (28-9).
38 The illustrations are included in Jorn Gores' beautiful edition, Die Leiden des jungen Werther (Frankfurt: Insel Verlag, 1973), 159, 163, 165. See also Georg Witkowski, "Chodowieckis Werther-Bilder," Zeitschrift fur Bucherfreunde 2.4 (July 1898): 153-62.
39 Georg Christoph Lichtenberg, "Uber Physiognomik; wider die Physiognomen," in Schriften und Briefe, ed. Wolfgang Promies (Munchen: Carl Hanser, 1972), III, 284-5: "He boasted in all earnest that he could recognize if someone was called Caspar. He was wrong often, as you can imagine, but all in all he nonetheless stuck to his opinion. To him, Caspar meant a dubious character."
40 On the occasion of his grandson's birth and baptism, Lavater wrote a tract entitled Briefe an meinen neugeborenen Grosssohn Johannes Lavater in Richtersweil (1791) in which he speculates on the meaning of his name that combines the Evangelist John with one of the three Magi, Kaspar, from whom Kasper or Kasperl, the belligerent fool in German puppet plays for children, derives its name. Lavater was well aware of this, arguing that his middle name should not be given to his grandson. One Kaspar in the family is enough, or even more than enough: "Es ist genug und mehr als genug an Einem Johann Kaspar Lavater! Ja wahrlich, Einige sagen: es sei zu viel an dem, wenigstens Manches zu viel an diesem uberflussigen Hans Kaspar" (Schriften, ed. Johann Kaspar Orelli [Zurich: Schulthess 1844], V, 250).
41 "I formed in my mind a picture of him that combined defector and a double e in such wondrous way that I still think of it with pleasure."
42 Michel Foucault, "What is an Author?," in Textual Strategies, ed. Josue V. Harari (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1979), 141. Further references to Foucault's essay are cited in the text.
43 Friedrich A. Kittler, "Autorschaft und Liebe," 144.
44 On the problems of copyright, see Heinrich Bosse, Autorschaft ist Werkherrschaft: Uber die Entstehung des Urheberrechts aus dem Geist der Goethezeit (Paderborn: Schoningh, 1981).
45 "Werth" is mentioned in three passages added in 1787, though. See pp. 203, 219, 220. The Editor cites Lotte using the word in a significant passage in which she suggests to Werther that he should leave to find a worthy object of his love: "Gewinnen Sie's fiber sich! Eine Reise wird Sie, muss Sie zerstreuen! Suchen Sie, finden Sie einen werthen Gegenstand all Ihrer Liebe, und kehren Sie zuruk, und lassen Sie uns zusammen die Seligkeit einer wahren Freundschaft geniessen" (220). / "Make an effort: a short journey will distract you. Seek and find an object worthy of your love; then return and let us enjoy together the happiness of a most perfect friendship" (72).
46 See Meyer-Kalkus's comments on the deathbed scene in "Werthers Krankheit zum Tode," 109-10 and 117-8.
47 "'Charlotte,' I exclaimed, 'God's blessing and your mother's spirit are upon you!' 'Oh if you had only known her!' she said, pressing my hand. 'She was worthy (werth) of being known by you.' I thought I should faint. Never had I received praise so magnificent" (41). Not only the last but also the first instance of the narrative's assessment of Werther's worth occurs in a scene of adoption. Werther is visiting Lotte at her house, she is handing out bread to her siblings. Lotte asks one of the boys to shake hands with him and in doing so calls him "cousin." Werther's response articulates the title of the book: "Vetter? sagt' ich, indem ich ihr die Hand reichte, glauben Sie, dass ich des Gluks werth sey, mit Ihnen verwandt zu seyn? - O! sagte sie, mit einem leichtfertigen Lacheln, unsere Vetterschaft ist sehr weitlauftig, und es ware mir leid, wenn sie der Schlimmste drunter seyn sollten" (40/42). / "Cousin?" I said to Charlotte, as I offered her my hand, "do you think I am worth (werth) the happiness of being related to you?" She replied, with a quick smile, "Oh! I have such a number of cousins that I should be sorry if you were the most undeserving of them" (15; rev.). "Worth" and "sorry," The Sorrows of Young Werther.
48 Meyer-Kalkus, 119-24.
49 "She felt, for the first time, deeply though half unconsciously that it was her secret desire to keep him for herself" (75).
50 "'Werther!' she cried with choking voice, turning away. 'Werther!' and, with a feeble hand, pushed him from her. And again, more composed and from her heart, she repeated, 'Werther!'" (80-1).
51 "We went to the window. It was still thundering in the distance; a soft rain was pouring down over the countryside and filled the air around us with delicious fragrance. Charlotte leaned on her elbows, her eyes wandered over the scene, she looked up to the sky, and then turned to me, her eyes filled with tears; she put her hand on mine and said, 'Klopstock!' I felt overcome by the flood of emotion which the mention of his name called forth. It was more than I could bear. I bent over her hand, kissed it in a stream of ecstatic tears, and again looked into her eyes. Divine Klopstock! If only you could have seen your apotheosis in those eyes! And your name, so often profaned, may I never hear it uttered again!" (19; rev.). The reference to Klopstock's ode "Die Fruhlingsfeyer" added by Goethe in 1787 is omitted.
52 "Heaven knows with what ecstasy I was clinging to her body and gazed at her eyes" (17, rev.).
53 "What a child I am to be so covetous of a look! (. . .) I tried to catch Lotte's eye. Her glance wandered from one to the other, but it didn't light on me - on me! On me, who stood there motionless, on me who alone saw her" (25).
54 "The universe looks to me like an all-consuming, devouring monster" (37; rev.).
55 Emmanuel Levinas, Totalite et infini (The Hague: Nijhoff, 1971), 136.
56 "Ah! the void - the fearful void within me!"
57 Related by Richard Alewyn in "Klopstock!," Euphorion 73 (1979): 359. One wonders how the countess read or devoured the rest of the novel. But one also senses that the cook had a very clear view of Werther's hungry look.
58 "He used to be a good, quiet boy, who helped support me, and wrote a very fine hand. But all at once, he became melancholy, was seized with a violent fever, grew distracted, and is now as you see" (63).
59 "Wilhelm! The man about whom I wrote to you - that man so happy in his misfortunes - was a clerk in the service of Charlotte's father. An unhappy passion for her, which he cherished, concealed, and eventually revealed, made him lose his position. This caused his madness. Think, as you read these dry words, what an impression all this made on me! Albert told it as calmly as you will probably read it" (64).
60 "This aroused the suspicion of Albert, who, after he had opened some letters and packages, curtly asked her whether anything else had happened and whether anyone had been there" (my translation; the sequence of events and the words in the 1774 narrative are different from the 1787 text on p. 84).
61 "'Would you lend me your pistols for a journey I am about to undertake? Adieu'" (82).
62 In his autobiography, Goethe presents a history of the German supreme court, the Reichskammergericht at Wetzlar, commenting also on its role in a reorganization of the police forces in the many principalities of the country. See Aus meinem Leben. Dichtung und Wahrheit, vol. 14 of FA, ed. Klaus-Detlef Muller (Frankfurt/Main: Klassiker Verlag, 1986), 570-78, and the translation in Poetry and Truth, vol. 4 of SE, ed. Thomas P. Saine (New York: Suhrkamp Publishers, 1987), 387-93. Goethe characterizes the court as a "durchaus kranken Korper" (577), a "totally diseased organism" (392), terms that put it in touch with the sickness of Werther. See also Wilhelm Herbst, Goethe in Wetzlar (Gotha: Perthes, 1881), 33-44 and W. H. Bruford, Germany in the Eighteenth Century: The Social Background of the Literary Revival (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1935).
63 Grosses vollstandiges Universal Lexikon aller Wissenschaften und Kunste, ed. Johann Heinrich Zedler (Leipzig and Halle, 1743), 36, 1604-5: "If someone has taken his own life and his body is found, it is the duty of the courts in the district where he is found to go to the spot where it happened in order to examine the body. There also has to be an inquiry into the circumstances of the action." On the perception of suicide in the contemporary legal, moral, and aesthetic discourse, see Klaus Oettinger, "'Eine Krankheit zum Tode': Zum Skandal um Werthers Selbstmord," Deutschunterricht 28..2 (1976): 55-74.
64 "In order to present a detailed history of our friend's last days I am forced to interrupt his letters by a connecting narrative gathered from what Lotte, Albert, his servant, and other witnesses reported" (my translation).
65 Hans Gerhard Graf, Goethe uber seine Dichtungen (Frankfurt/Main: Rutten und Loening, 1902), part I, vol. 2, entry 1115: "He studied the novel like a criminal judge studies his reports." Further references to Grif are to this volume and will be cited in the text, followed by the number of the entry.
66 "What does that all mean? That you have fathomed the motives of these actions? That you can explain with certainty why they happened, why they had to happen? If you could you would be less hasty with your 'labels'" (32).
67 "All that is left to do, then, is to relate conscientiously the facts which our persistent labor has enabled us to collect, to give the letters found after his death, and to pay attention to even the slightest fragment from his pen, especially since it is so difficult to discover the true and innermost motives of men who are not of the common run" (65).
68 Bernhard Siegert, Relais. Geschicke der Literatur als Epoche der Post, 1751-1913 (Berlin: Brinkmann und Bose, 1993), 46-8.
69 Johann Heinrich Gottlob Justi, Die Grundfeste zu der Macht und Gluckseligkeit der Staaten, oder ausfuhrliche Vorstellung der gesamten Polizeiwissenschaft (Konigsberg, 1761; rpt. Aalen: Scientia, 1965), II, 188: "In Japan, where the people have a cruel disposition, there is one supervisor to every three tenants. He must immediately rush to the spot when he hears the slightest commotion."
70 Besides the illustrations in Jorn Gores's Insel paperback edition of the novel, see also his catalogue, Die Leiden des jungen Werther: Goethes Roman im Spiegel seiner Zeit, 136-47 and 183-200. On Schubert, see Wofgang Pfeiffer, Die Wertherillustrationen des Johann David Schubert, vol. 46 of Schriften der Goethe-Gesellschaft (Weimar: Verlag der Goethe-Gesellschaft, 1933).
71 "The reader need not take the trouble to look for the place thus designated. We have found it necessary to change the names given in the original letters" (10).
72 "The names of some of our native authors have been omitted" (16).
73 See Georg Steinhausen, Geschichte des deutschen Briefes (1889; rpt. Dublin und Zurich: Weidmann, 1968), 362-64 on Gleim and his group.
74 "She told me (. . .) the terms on which she would be willing to give up (herausgeben) the whole, even to do more than we asked" (5).
75 "The impression made by my little book was great, nay, immense, and principally because it appeared at just the right time" (433).
76 One notable exception is Klopstock, whose Gelehrtenrepublik had a printing of six thousand copies. Goethe's edition of Gotz ran into five thousand - and into a huge deficit. We shall have to come back to this later. The average printing of works by established writers was between two thousand and three thousand copies.
77 On the printing figures and their assessment, see Wolfgang Hagen, "Goethes Werke auf dem Markt des deutschen Buchhandels," Goethe-Jahrbuch 100 (1983): 21 and particularly Helmuth Kiesel and Paul Munch, Gesellschaft und Literatur im 18. Jahrhundert (Munchen: Beck, 1977), 159-64. For a list and description of authorized and pirated editions as well as of translations, see Johann Wilhelm Appell, Werther und seine Zeit (4th ed., Oldenburg: Schulzesche Hof-Buchhandlung, 1896), 293-328.
78 "Now, however, the time was at hand when poetic genius would discover self-awareness, create its own circumstances, and understand how to lay the foundations for independent respectability. Klopstock had all the qualities required for instituting such an epoch. (. . .) Having been solidly and thoroughly educated, he put a high value on himself and everything he did" (295).
79 "The production of poetic writings was viewed as something sacred, and it was almost considered an act of simony to accept or increase an honorarium" (383).
80 Kiesel and Munch, Gesellschaft und Literatur im 18. Jahrhundert, 146-7.
81 "While of significant value, it was anything but general in its appeal" (383). It is hard to see Goethe as a member of Klopstock's idea of a Republic of Scholars. See Ulrich Dzwonek et al., "Burgerliche Oppositionsliteratur zwischen Revolution und Reformismus: Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstocks Deutsche Gelehrtenrepublik und Bardendichtung als Dokumente der burgerlichen Emanzipationsbewegung," in Deutsches Burgertum und literarische Intelligenz (1750-1800), ed. Bernd Lutz (Stuttgart: Metzler, 1974), 277-328.
82 "The undertaking, which was successful for the author but not the public, had the bad result of making subscriptions and prepayments now not seem very feasible" (384).
83 "You must give your admiration and love to his soul and character, and to his fate your tears. / And you, good soul, if you feel oppressed like him take consolation in his suffering and let the book be your companion."
84 Gothaische gelehrte Zeitungen (29 October 1774), in Julius W. Braun, Goethe im Urtheile seiner Zeitgenossen (Berlin: Luckhardt, 1883), I, 52-3.
85 Daniel Schubart, Deutsche Chronik (5 December 1774), in Braun, I, 64: "Buy the book and read it yourself."
86 "Another friend recently wrote to me, 'I implore you, please do not call me Lotte anymore! Lottgen or Lolo if you please, but not Lotte before I am not more deserving (werther) of this name than I am now."
87 Frankfurter gelehrte Anzeigen (1 November 1774), in Braun, I, 55: "And you, my beauty, like Charlotte you know the worth of our Werther. I hope you will find, in the arms of your husband, the bliss that our unhappy friend only saw beckoning from afar."
88 Susan Stewart, On Longing, 135.
89 "The inquisitive public could discover similarities with various young women, and these ladies themselves were not altogether indifferent about passing for the right one. But these multiple Lottes caused me endless torment, because everyone who just looked at me would insist on knowing where the real Lotte lived" (435).
90 Appell, Werther und seine Zeit, 52-5.
91 "On journeys I tried to escape them by traveling incognito, but even this expedient unexpectedly failed me, and so the author of that little work, if he had indeed done something wrong and hurtful, was sufficiently, nay, excessively punished for it by these unavoidable importunities" (435).
92 Friedrich Wilhelm Riemer, Mittheilungen uber Goethe (Berlin: Duncker and Humblot, 1841), 616-7: "As late as 1809 or 1810, a package addressed in French 'To the author of the Sorrows of Young Werther' was received from Ingolstadt. It contained a French imitation of Werther which had come all the way from Isle de France to Ingolstadt, where, understandably, they put addressee unknown on the package. It would have been returned to the sender if it had not been for a postmaster that remembered the name of the author and someone else that knew where he lived so that they could give the erring mailman directions. This is, I think, the only instance when the novel actually provided G. with some fun.
93 "He spent the rest of the evening going through his papers; he tore up and burned a great many; he sealed a few packages and addressed them to Wilhelm" (85).
94 "as his master had told him that the coach horses would be at the door before six o'clock" (85).
95 "You, who stem from the gods, or from the Goths, or from goat-dung, / Goethe, send them to me" (302).
96 "A man's own name is not, say, like a cloak, which merely hangs from his shoulders and can be pulled and tugged, if need be. Rather, it is a perfectly fitting garment, nay, it is grown tight to him all over, like his own skin, and one may not scrape and pare away at it without wounding the person himself" (302).
97 Mary Shelley, Frankenstein; or, Modern Prometheus, in Three Gothic Novels (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1968), 318.
98 Benjamin, "Uber Sprache uberhaupt und uber die Sprache des Menschen," 149. "Man is the knower in the same language in which God is creator. (. . .). His mental being is the language in which creation took place. In the word creation took place, and God's linguistic being is the word. All human language is only reflection of the word in name" (Reflections, 323).
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|Title Annotation:||German Issue: Minor Forms; novel|
|Date:||Apr 1, 1995|
|Previous Article:||A minor form and its inversions: the image, the poem, the book in Celan's "Unter ein Bild." (Paul Celan)(German Issue: Minor Forms)|