|Die Geschichte der anglistischen Mediävistik im deutschsprachigen Kulturkreis ist noch nicht geschrieben, wie überhaupt eine kritische Aufarbeitung der Geschichte des Faches Anglistik & Amerikanistik noch nicht erfolgt ist. |
(Hildegard L. C. Tristram, 2001)
[E]s will mir scheinen, uns fehlt allzusehr die fröhliche lust des observirens, die in keck ursprünglicher wissbegier, ohne sich durch überängstliche akribie lähmen zu lassen, über die jahrhundete hin eilt. [...] [B]eklag ich ein unwiederbringlich verlorenes jugendglück unsrer wissenschaft?
(Gustav Roethe, 1898)
As the proliferation of academic centers and publications in the area of Wissenschaftsgeschichte since the 1970s demonstrates, interest in the history of academic disciplines has been and is still growing by leaps and bounds. Investigations into the discipline of English studies in Germany (called Englische Philologie or Anglistik) had an enthusiastic start with the work of Thomas Finkenstaedt, Gunta Haenicke, and their collaborators at the University of Augsburg from the late 1970s through the early 1990s. They researched and published an introductory narrative and several essential handbooks on the history of Anglistik and began to extend their efforts to other European countries.1 Since the late 1990s, a new wave of interest has been sparked by Renate Haas and Balz Engler's European English Studies: Contributions Towards the History of a Discipline, a project sponsored by the European Society for the Study of English, Stephan Kohl's Anglistik: Research Paradigms and Institutional Policies 1930-2000, an effort growing out of several meetings of the professional organization of German-speaking Anglicists, the Anglistenverband, and the comprehensive work done by Frank-Rutger Hausmann on English studies during the Third Reich.2 Despite these publications, relatively little attention has yet been paid to the role of scholarly journals in the history of English studies. As they accompany, often over decades, scholars and paradigms in a specific field, they afford a long-term perspective on political, social, and cultural developments and changes in the academy, the nation, and the world that cannot be provided by the examination of individual essays, monographs, biographies of scholars, or editions.3
Certainly the only [difference] can be that the first one is held to certain fixed publication dates. If three issues appear, the first one is due out on the first of May, the second on the first of September, and the third at the end of December. However, since the first issue of Wülcker's journal appeared as late as the second half of June, 1877, the third only in mid-March, 1878, it is all too tempting to think of lucus a non lucendo.10Kölbing, who likens Wülcker's distinction between Anglia (journal) and Englische Studien (non-journal) to the fourth-century grammarian Honoratus Maurus's famous pseudo-etymologies by far fetched or non-sensical opposites, further claims that, had he known of Wülcker's plans, he would have discontinued his own project to support his colleague's or would have proposed a possible merger. Since, however, he announced his plans first, he would have expected Wülcker to propose either of these solutions.11
For the editing of Middle English [textual] monuments there currently still exist two glaringly contrasting positions: On the one hand there is the desire to print exact diplomatic offprints of texts, i.e., to print and publish any somehow important manuscript of each work individually and only then to proceed with these as a foundation; on the other hand, there is the position to produce - as is being done in other areas of the New Philology - critical editions as quickly as possible. English editors [...] predominantly pursue the earlier solution; Schipper's short text provides us with an example of the latter, [which is prevalent in Germany].27Kölbing's distinction not only demonstrates German Anglicists' dependence on the methods developed earlier by Classical, German, and Romance Philology, but also their insistence on exerting control over the process of preserving and publishing historical texts. Not content with simply saving such cultural records for the present as well as future generations, as does the diplomatic offprint, they developed strict rules about securing the authenticity of these texts. Ever suspicious of the unreliable process of textual transmission, they applied a whole host of critical analytical, and classificatory methods (e.g., recensio, examinatio, emendatio, glosses, commentary, annotations) without which, they claimed, the meanings of historical texts could not be correctly described. Following the successful forays into the relationships of the Indo-European languages by the comparative philology practiced by Friedrich Schlegel, Rasmus Rask, Franz Bopp, and Jacob Grimm, late nineteenth-century philologists systematized their forebears' discoveries into laws (Verner's, Grimm's, Kuhn's, etc.), quite visibly in an attempt at attaining the same validity for their results as claimed by their colleagues in the natural sciences. As Jacob Grimm foresaw as early as 1851, in his eulogy on the famed philologist Karl Lachmann, not Sachphilologie (i.e., studying words in order to learn about entire subjects), but Wortphilologie (i.e., studying subjects in order to learn about individual words), would become all the rage at the modern German university.28
[...] faithful reflection of the saturated bourgeoisie in the second half of the nineteenth century, which has given up on the idealism of the 1848 generation, and which is satisfied with the leisurely consolidation of power already gained. Audacious thoughts, political perspectives or social reform are no longer in the foreground, but a sedulous collecting of tiny and tiniest pieces to build an imposing tower of mere facts which was furnished with everything except an idealistic structural frame.31Hermand's description adequately summarizes the impressions to be gleaned from the majority of these studies. The almost complete absence of any interpretive gesture makes most of these dissertations/articles decidedly unexciting reading. And the hundreds of notes and reviews in these first 25 volumes of Englische Studien, many of which intend only to correct individual spelling errors or variants in one of many manuscripts of a medieval narrative only confirm this impression. George Steiner, when commenting on the temporality and rootedness of human "creation," distinguishes between the rhetoric of timelessness and "irreplaceable everlastingness" which attaches to poetry and the "perceived and statutory linearity" that shackles scientific inventions to the historical moment. "The Homeric epic, the Platonic dialogue, the Vermeer townscape, the Mozart sonata," he explains,
do not grow obsolescent as do the products of invention. A nineteenth-century steam-engine is now an historical curio. A novel by Dostoevski is not. The distinction is at once obvious and intractable. It suggests highly problematic but trenchant differences in the existentialities of time in individual consciousness and in culture. If the past, present, and future of Dante's Commedia are not those of the Riemann hypothesis, what are they?32Steiner's astute observation may help explain why most of the philological medievalia in Englische Studien are and should no longer be read, while some of the less scientific interpretations and aesthetic, literary, or cultural readings from the same period, let's say by Francis James Child or James Russell Lowell, may still be of value to a contemporary student of Old and Middle English texts.33 Like other scientific results, most of the findings by Kölbing and his contemporaries have been replaced by more comprehensive studies, studies which - based on additional information or more advanced technology not yet available in the 1870s and 1880s - have been able to claim a higher degree of validity than those of their precursors. The scientific study of literature and language was attractive to its practitioners at the modern university because of its easily quantifiable results. However, as quantifiable or "profitable" studies they have proven "ephemeral" because they are
at home in what is wordly and domesticated within their own generative mechanisms. They are, at the trivial or ostentatious level manufactured (one recalls Stalin's "engineers of the soul"). In contrast, serious and major work is never at ease in regard to the unclarities of inception to which it owes its necessarily incomplete, imperfect genesis and performance. It endures because it carries with it the [...] lava-scars left by an inward incandescence and often self-destructive surfacing. In ways difficult to classify yet obvious to the active reader [...], the ephemeral, the opportunistic in thought and the arts remains static.34If Kölbing's own doctoral candidates span pretty much the complete horizon of these narrowing philological practices of the late nineteenth century, other colleagues mass-produced the exact same approach to the same topics ad nauseam and throughout their entire careers. In 1894, J. E. Wülfing reviews six doctoral dissertations in English Philology from the University of Leipzig. Published between 1889 and 1992, five of them investigate the syntactic use of the verb in a specific Old English text:
I have only read the first page of the review and found my earlier convictions confirmed: namely that there are there is no less suitable a critic for books in literary history than philologists (and as a philologist I have heard about Mr. Kölbing every now and then, not knowing exactly what his achievements are). A philologist, and only a philologist, will believe that he is being critical when accusing me of not having cited this or that specific edition of a work. Of course, he cannot even conceive of the idea that I would never dream of competing with him or any of the other government-patented and -paid "scholar", whose main area of expertise is limited to knowing all manuscripts, all commata and flyspecks in the manuscripts, and whose erudition furthers [...] neither science nor knowledge of literature among educated readers. People like Mr. Kölbing are simply my day-laborers and handmaids. They exist - and are very well paid by the state - in order to produce the best and most comfortable editions for the real workers, those who see in literature something beyond textual collation. For this service we may cite them once in a while in a footnote, but otherwise we, the public and the sciences, ignore them. If we did not ignore them, these professors might deem themselves authors, literary scholars; and God beware that ever happens! They were, are, and will remain copyists and emendators of manuscripts, paid by the state so that the constructive people, who do not have time to strain out gnats, may put their efforts to [good] use.39German Philology and English Textual Territory
Just as the new imperial Germany rushed to colon(ial)ize territories around the world (Kamerun; Tsingtao; Togoland) and (re-) appropriate regions in Europe (Elsass-Lothringen), its philological scholars quickly moved to stake out areas in other nations' literatures. In English philology the various linguistic and historical connections with Britain made annexing the corpora of Anglo-Saxon and Middle English manuscripts a rewarding target. The processes of exploring, uncovering, transcribing, and editing heretofore unknown original sources in the British libraries happened coevally with the hoisting of the German flag on newly annexed lands. Being first in the editorial process not only inscribed the individual scholar's name onto the bodies of these texts and provided lasting fame, it also diminished the advantage British scholars had for their work through their direct and easy access to the manuscripts. As soon as such a critical edition existed, German scholars could work with it at home and use it as the secure foundation for all the other branches of philological endeavour: critical bibliography, etymology, linguistic and literary history, motif and source study, etc. Moreover, as the edition had been conceived according to their preferred philological practices, they controlled the methodologies, the critical terminology and, thus, the discursive acceptability of other editorial and interpretive efforts. The first colon(ial)izing and later gate-keeping character of this emphasis on Textkritik and other similarly foundational areas (chronology; authenticity; biography) can be gleaned from the fact that most German Chaucer scholars obsessively reviewed every single publication related to these topics while they withheld recognition from enthusiastic, i.e., extra-discursive (e.g., aesthetic, artistic, sociological, psychological) readings. Scholars who accepted the ruling discursive framework and investigated within its boundaries, gained credibility and acceptance and were praised with the recurring vocabulary of industriousness, thoroughness, and - above all - philological exactitude. Scholars who dared use the terms "edition," "critical," or "philological" for work not adhering to the sanctioned paradigms were othered as dilettantes. Such open critique would happen in reviews written in caustic tone and published in the leading academic journals, sometimes in major newspapers. The acceptance of philological paradigms and organisational forms (e.g., the Seminar-structure) in Anglophone and other countries, the reputations of Altphilologie, Germanistik, and Romanistik, the priority in building up an impressive academic infrastructure (chairs, journals, book series), and an easily teachable, formalized and scientistic methodology enabled German Anglicists to enact and secure (for some time) a hegemonic relationship toward non-German scholars [...].43In Englische Studien, publications by British and U.S. scholars are usually subjected to extensive and painstaking scrutiny due to the strictly applied German paradigms.44 Attempts by scholars from France and Italy are either welcomed – albeit often rather haughtily – as decent and enthusiastic beginnings, especially when they base their work on German sources and acknowledge the German hegemony in the field, or completely ridiculed, when they lack cognizance of German scholarship and/or write for the general public.45 In the latter case, they share the fate of German non-academic attempts at reading Old and Middle English texts.46 The reason for such wholesale rejection was that the representatives of the newly professionalized subject of English Philology felt they needed to build up clear discursive boundaries against non-academic writing, especially journalists, essayists, and feuilletonists (all three often subsumed under the terms "aesthetes" and "dilettantes"), whom they accuse of lacking the new specialists' educational background and of catering solely to contemporary and quotidian tastes, very much to the detriment of a thorough, i.e., historicist perspective.47
If you took a Ph.D. here [at Harvard] as late as the 1930s, you were suddenly shoved – with grammars written in German – into Anglo-Saxon and Middle Scots, plus Old Norse (Islandic), Gothic, Old French, and so on. I used to sympathize with the Japanese and Chinese students who had come here to study literature, struggling with a German grammar to translate Gothic into English! William Allan Neilson, the famous president of Smith College, had been a professor of English here for years. Forgivably, he stated that the Egyptians took only five weeks to make a mummy, but the Harvard English Department took five years.50A good number of German-language contributions to Englische Studien by international scholars (see, for example, the contributions by the Danish philologist, Otto Jespersen, and the Dutch philologist, A. E. H. Swaen) confirm the at least equal importance of German and English for late nineteenth-century scholarship in English (Medieval) Studies as well as the hegemonic influence of German Anglistics in general. In fact, it is the agonistic and competitive character of German philologists toward their English counterparts that made them decide to choose German, and not English (after all the language of the target culture whose historical texts they were researching) as the exclusive language of discourse for their own scholarship. If German philologists decided to write their research in English, Wilhelm Vietor tellingly admitted, "every educated Englishman would [...] have more claim" to the title of "philologist."51 Only by writing in German could German scholars outdo Englishmen and -women in the academic study of their country's historical texts.
[h]e was incapable of ignoring an unclear, difficult textual passage. The more complex a passage appeared, the more it motivated him to find its true meaning, to consider all possible features leading to an explanation, until he would find either the correct solution and correct word or at least until he had diligently tested the various potential readings.56This philological "thoroughness" which – according to Kaluza – especially shows in his teacher's abundant textual commentary, was also noted by Gregor Sarrazin, Kölbing's successor as chair of English Philology in Breslau. Sarrazin relates how Kölbing's own background and education might elucidate his own scholarly practices as well as his preferences for the kind of work favored for publication in Englische Studien:
Himself the son of a medical doctor, he loved to prepare and dissect literary products to get to their innermost secrets. The painstaking diligence of the linguist, who had been educated as a Classical philologist, joined forces with the exactitude of the natural scientist using a microscope for analysis. His ideal textual edition had to be one that not only found evidence on an author's dependence on his sources, but also that author's dependence on his predecessors and Zeitgeist, an edition that used this information to decide the intellectual property of an author and to learn about the poet from his poetry. The desire for this edition explains the comprehensive, often almost excessive critical apparatus and commentary he appended to his editions [...].57And Richard Paul Wülcker, Kölbing's old nemesis, while praising the deceased colleague as a dedicated academic teacher and "born editor," similarly remarks on his predilection for making the historical text less important than the framing editorial paratexts, for indulging in, as Gaston Paris called them, "introductions étendues":
He had chosen the Middle English courtly romances and Byron's works as his specialty. In this he resembled [Julius] Zupitza, with whom he also shared some other personal characteristics. His textual commentary often gives the impression of being excessive, of being too much, which is especially visible in his edition of Byron.58These descriptions remind readers of Julius Zupitza's practices and of Jacob Grimm's, especially when one keeps in mind Jacob Grimm's critical characterization of such Lachmannian Textkritik as "always robbing and deleting," as busying itself with minutiae ("Who would be so anxious to count all the battle days of the warriors in the Trojan war or the years of Kriemhild's life?") and as "ripping apart [...] that which was meant to be connected."59 It is this "hypercritical" attitude of German philologists which other academic traditions found difficult to accept and which produced schools of students who had memorized their teachers' "every line and every single word," but "who cannot produce one original thought."60 Foreign scholars warned their German colleagues to present "less of merely external facts" and more "about the psychological and literary elements," spend less of their "astounding diligence" and "great gravity" with "mere trifles."61 Of course, it is these very scientific features of German philology that would soon export so very efficiently to Britain, the United States, and many other academic systems building up the modern university. In the Anglo-Saxon tradition, however, they were usually made to coexist alongside practices stressing the reading and interpreting of literature as artistic, social, and cultural phenomena.62