Compromise and collectivity in Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre

Schonfield, E. (2012) Compromise and collectivity in Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre. Publications of the English Goethe Society, 81(1), pp. 12-25. (doi: 10.1179/0959368311Z.0000000004)

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This article explores the ways in which Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre registers the importance of sociability and of finding a compromise with the social world. The novel does this on the formal level through its ‘realistic tic’. The narrative discretion of the novel, its resistance to interpretive closure, is linked to the ethos of social moderation which is articulated in the text. The novel also registers sociability on the level of content, since Wilhelm’s tendency to project his desires onto the external world leads him to misin- terpret it in terms of his own personal narrative. Philine and Friedrich are interpreted as key figures in Wilhelm’s education because they try to redirect his attention away from himself and towards other people. The article argues against the view that Philine is a force of nature; instead, she can be seen as an engineer of social relationships. The article concludes with a close reading of the final scene of the novel, which suggests that Wilhelm has become a little more willing to compromise with the social world.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Schonfield, Dr Ernest
Authors: Schonfield, E.
College/School:College of Arts > School of Modern Languages and Cultures > German
Journal Name:Publications of the English Goethe Society
Journal Abbr.:PEGS
ISSN (Online):1749-6284

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