Four Critics Walked Into a Book . . .

Glynn Marshes writes:

Highly recommend The Norton Critical Edition of Goethe’s Faust, if you’re in a lit-nerd mood. The translation (Walter Arndt) is more-than-approachable and the interpretive notes (Cyrus Hamlin) are terrific.

And as an added bonus, the last 180 pages of the text are devoted to critical essays, starting with “Comments by Contemporaries” and then concluding with a section “Modern Criticism.”

Death of Faust

Death of Faust, after Max Slevogt, from British Museum image library

Enjoyed some of the essays, but several made me laugh out loud. Which leads me to: Guess The Century!

Four quotes. Bet you can tell in a glance which are 19th and which are 20th Century ๐Ÿ™‚

“All the hypotheses of Faust are contracts of alienation, which tend both to ensnare by hypothecation and to offer the means by which to transcend hypothecation.”

“This play of ‘Faustus’ is the night-mare of the imagination, but it is a night-mare that redoubles its strength. It discovers the diabolical revelation of incredulity–of that incredulity which attaches itself to everything that can ever exist of good in the world…”

“Faust and Mephistophiles personify the two propensities, as implanted by nature, and modified by education–to admire and despise, to look at the world on its poetical or on its prosaic side–which by their combination, in different proportions, give rise to so many varieties of moral disposition among men.”

“Bricolage, then. And refunctionalization. The former is a macro-structural concept: it describes how a text functions as a whole. The latter is a micro-structural concept: it describes what happens to the elementary components of a work. Yet, in this case there is a profound need for agreement between micro and macro. Refunctionalization can occure only in an elastic structure, able to absorb novelty without disintegrating. Bricolage, for its part, requires versatile ‘bits,’ able to add a new function to the original one. It is a circle, in which the parts and the whole presuppose one another and mutually support one another.”

Okay, one more, because she nails it. This is Margaret Fuller, Emerson’s Transcendentalist buddy ๐Ÿ™‚

“With the progress of an individual soul is shadowed forth that of the soul of the age, beginning in intellectual skepticism, sinking into license, cheating itself with dreams of perfect bliss, to be at once attained by means no surer than a spurious paper currency, longing itself back from conflict between the spirit and the flesh, induced by Christianity to the Greek era with is harmonious development of body and mind, striving to reembody the loved phantom of classical beauty in the heroism of the middle age, flying from the Byron despair of those, who die because they cannot soar without wings, to schemes, however narrow, of practical utility–redeemed at last through mercy alone.”

Say it, sistah.

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2 Responses to Four Critics Walked Into a Book . . .

  1. They really loved long sentences in the 19th century, didn’t they? Good Lord, people, use a period every once in a while.


    • Glynn Marshes says:

      Imagine what they’d say about our choppy writing, tho! It would probably put them right in the looney bin.


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