Logocentricity or Difference

Topics: Romanticism, Poetry, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe Pages: 3 (1034 words) Published: December 19, 2001
In many academic and scientific investigations there are three stages of development. The first involves the identification of the subject or phenomenon under investigation. The second involves establishing a theory or hypothesis to explain the nature and characteristics of whatever is to be investigated. In the third phase the investigator seeks to apply theory to some procedure of analysis, perhaps in the form of a practical application of knowledge to a range of tasks. What is the "subject" of the present study? It is not some clearly defined topic such as the behaviour of a certain kind of animal or the molecular structure of certain chemicals. The subject is a verbal phenomenon, or - to be very cautious - a possible verbal phenomenon. Do the titles of poems by Goethe and the German Romantics in which the word "Wandrer" occurs and do occurrences of the verb "to wander" in English poetry reflect the same phenomenon? By way of an analogy with a court case, I will call a number of witnesses and first among them, translators who rendered the German "Wand(e)rer" in the titles of German poetic works as "Wanderer" in English. In fact William of Norwich's translation of Goethe's "Der Wandrer" actually exerted a demonstrable influence on William Wordsworth, affecting his use of the word "Wanderer" in his own poetry. "Wanderer's Night-Songs" demonstrates that for Longfellow the English word "Wanderer" Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's rendition of the title "Wandrers Nachtlied" as captured better than any other the sum total effect of the word "Wand(e)rer" in Goethe's poem. To the second class of witness belong critics who apply the word "Wanderer" or a form of verb "to wander" to their critical evaluations, evidently locating the same nexus of themes and problems whether they are writing about German or English poetry. Two critics have in my view already identified the phenomenon with which I am concerned - Professor L. A.Willoughby in his discussions of Goethe's...
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