Programme 2021-2022

Unless otherwise indicated all events take place in Senate House, London WC1E 7HU. In compliance with COVID regulations it is essential that you book your place in advance for each event.

14 October 2021
5.45pm, Room G.37 (ground floor)

MAIKE OERGEL-DENCH (University of Nottingham)

Randfiguren? Ernst Brandes’ and Franz Josias von Hendrich’s Comments on the French Revolution as new perspectives on old topics

Looking at Brandes’ Politische Betrachtungen über die französische Revolution (1790) and Hendrich’s Freymütige Gedanken über die allerwichtigste Angelegenheit Deutschlands (1794), the paper discusses these two writers as examples of political and cultural commentators who were widely read and well respected at the time but are now either completely forgotten (Hendrich) or only a historical footnote (Brandes). The aim is less to resurrect them as lost ‘greats’ than to illuminate, through reading their book-length comments, the complex and shifting reactions to the Revolution in Germany and to ask why their considerable contemporary fame evaporated so quickly. Both were early supporters of the original aims of the Revolution, which does not quite fit the picture of the limited reception Brandes has had as a political conservative, nor the expectation one might have of Hendrich, given his life-long high-level involvement in the administration of Saxe-Meiningen. This approach of investigating ‘temporary canonicity’ yields twofold gains: writers who are widely read by their contemporaries provide insights into aspects of the contemporary context that may have become obscured, while their marginalisation may provide clues, or even evidence, for subtle historical shifts.

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18 November 2021
5.45pm, Room G.37 (ground floor)

MARK AUSTIN, Conductor and Independent Scholar

Isolation Reading in 1944: Richard Strauss, the complete works of Goethe and Metamorphosen

Throughout his life an admirer of Goethe, Richard Strauss re-read the complete Propyläenausgabe in 1944 while Germany was ravaged by war. One of the few works he composed in this period was Metamorphosen, a study for 23 solo strings, usually considered an elegy for Germanic culture with its quotation from Beethoven’s Eroica inscribed “In Memoriam”. The discovery of Strauss's musical setting of a short Xenion by Goethe, ‘Niemand wird sich selber kennen’, amidst sketches of Metamorphosen, has been taken as definitive evidence of the influence of Goethe, but this has not been satisfactorily elucidated, nor related to the listener's experience of the work as a whole. This talk considers Strauss’s relationship with Goethe, investigates the multi-layered significance of the Metamorphosen, and offers a fresh reading of the work as it approaches its 75th anniversary.

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3 February 2022
6pm, Room G.37 (ground floor)

Prawer Lecture


Fanny Mendelssohn’s ‘Divan’

This lecture is preceded by the Society’s Annual General Meeting at 5pm in G.37.

The lecture, illustrated with musical examples, will explore Fanny Mendelssohn’s settings of poems from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s West-östlicher Divan (publ. 1819), virtually reuniting manuscripts at the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin and the Bodleian Library in Oxford. The first half of the lecture will centre around the six settings composed in 1825. Mendelssohn, Arora will argue, takes an idiosyncratic approach to musical narrative, dividing the six settings into two groups of three. Arora will then turn to 1836, to her setting of ‘Ach, um deine feuchten Schwingen’. It appears in an 1844 ‘Stammbuch’, compiled by Felix, with an illustration of Suleika by Wilhelm Hensel. The book also features an illustration for her published setting of ‘An des lust’gen Brunnens Rand’. What did Mendelssohn see and hear in the Divan? And what can her multi-media settings tell us about how the Orient and the Divan were clothed in song?

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10 March 2022
5.45pm, German Historical Institute, 17 Bloomsbury Square, London WC1A 2NJ

Wilkinson-Willoughby Lecture


“Incredible, that’s Literature!” Attempts at Re-moralizing Politics, Academic Disciplines, and the Profession with the Help of ‘Belles-Lettres

In 1945 The German Mind and Outlook was published, a resumé of discussions about the future of Germany that English intellectuals had had in 1942 and 1943. They hoped that the Germans would be able to correct the moral depravity the Nazis had led them into – with the help of Goethe. Re-vitalizing Goethe’s humanism, the cultural nation would be reborn and would be welcomed again in the community of nations. Attempts at re-moralizing politics with the help of literature will be one topic of this talk; using literature to re-introduce morality into the social sciences will be the second, and it will conclude with a look at programmes to educate professional 'moral leaders' by turning them into readers of ‘belles-lettres’.

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12 May 2022
5.45pm, Room G.37 (ground floor)


Himmelstraum, Alptraum, und “träumerische Verwechslung des geistigen und leiblichen Genusses“: Schattierungen und strukturelle Funktionen des Traummotivs in E.T.A. Hoffmanns Kater Murr 

In Hoffmanns Kater Murr wird viel geträumt: Menschen und Tiere haben sowohl Nacht- als auch Tagträume. Der Vortrag will die Verflechtung des Romans in die theoretischen und intertextuellen Traumdiskurse seiner Zeit und die Art und Weise untersuchen, wie Träume zur Charakterisierung der Protagonisten oder für die Kohäsion des Romans eingesetzt werden. Einige Nachtträume vermitteln, der romantischen Anthropologie folgend, eine Teilhabe des träumenden Individuums am Kosmos und ein dem Individuum auf rationalem Wege nicht erklärbares Wissen, das die spätere Romanhandlung antizipiert. Gleichzeitig wird die romantische Traumtheorie jedoch ironisiert, indem deren Vertreter durch den Kater Murr eingeführt werden, der vorgibt, sie gar nicht gelesen zu haben. Viele Tagträume dagegen fungieren als Mittel psychologischer Charakterisierung. Träume vermitteln ein Kaleidoskop an Emotionen: Sie können spukhaft, süß, leer, seltsam, närrisch, betörend, böse, verhängnisvoll, schwärmerisch oder selig sein. Sie verbildlichen oft Sehnsüchte, die durch die Diskrepanz zwischen banalem Inhalt und hohem Ton der Satire preisgegeben werden und Leser*innen eine 'träumerische Verwechslung des geistigen und leiblichen Genusses' vorführen.

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30 June 2022
5.45pm, Room G.37 (ground floor)

Ida Herz Lecture

Friedhelm Kröll (Nürnberg)

‘Erkundung des Dunkels’ – Thomas Mann liest Freud