Literary Paternity, Literary Friendship: Essays in Honor of Stanley Corngold / Edition 1

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The twenty-one original essays in this volume offer a rigorous reconsideration of modern forms of paternity and friendship as they emerge in works by German writers and philosophers from the eighteenth through the twentieth century. This collection honors Stanley Corngold, an influential scholar and teacher who has taught German at Princeton University for more than thirty years.
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Editorial Reviews

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Stanley Corngold is one of the most original literary critics and influential teachers of literature in North America. This collection of essays in his honor is a fitting tribute to the extraordinary role he has played in the lives of so many as a mentor, inspiration, and friend. (Robert Norton, University of Notre Dame)

This is a learned, ambitious, and illuminating collection, often characterized by a crackling intelligence and brimming with sophisticated readings. Taken together, the essays constitute an important new reflection on the interminably complicated and productive question of paternity, responsibility, and what Derrida has so well called the politiques de l'amitie. The book renews my faith in the genre of the Festschrift, for in its overall conception and in its local details it is rigorous, subtle, and above all ethical in its negotiations with the materials at hand—exactly like the work of the scholar, colleague, and friend to whom the book is movingly dedicated. (David L. Clark, McMaster University)

Robert Norton
Stanley Corngold is one of the most original literary critics and influential teachers of literature in North America. This collection of essays in his honor is a fitting tribute to the extraordinary role he has played in the lives of so many as a mentor, inspiration, and friend.
David L. Clark
This is a learned, ambitious, and illuminating collection, often characterized by a crackling intelligence and brimming with sophisticated readings. Taken together, the essays constitute an important new reflection on the interminably complicated and productive question of paternity, responsibility, and what Derrida has so well called the politiques de l'amitiÄ. The book renews my faith in the genre of the Festschrift, for in its overall conception and in its local details it is rigorous, subtle, and above all ethical in its negotiations with the materials at hand—exactly like the work of the scholar, colleague, and friend to whom the book is movingly dedicated.
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Literary Paternity, Literary Friendship

Essays in Honor of Stanley Corngold
By Gerhard Richter

The University of North Carolina Press

Copyright © 2002 University of North Carolina Press
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-8078-8125-5


Literary Paternity, Literary Friendship

Ich glaube, Du hast es nicht genug begriffen, das Schreiben meine einzige innere Daseinsmöglichkeit ist. -Franz Kafka, in a letter to Felice Bauer, 20 April 1913

From any perspective, Stanley Corngold, whose life and achievements as a scholar, teacher, and friend the following essays celebrate, is an exception. He is an exception in these times of methodological dogma and professed certainty not only because he approaches both his work and his empirical life with an uncommon curiosity and infectious openness but also because, more than most scholars, he works to keep his ideas and perspectives perpetually in strategic flux. This fluidity in his thinking and writing, which grows out of a sense of responsibility to the difficulty of his objects of study, is only matched by the rigor and intellectual integrity that have also come to be his trademark. Ian Balfour puts it well apropos of Corngold's most recent book, Complex Pleasures: Forms of Feeling in German Literature (1998), when he writes that "elegance and intelligence meet on virtually every page," while the "prose is pellucid, flexible, and sinuous at the same time." From the perspective of the productive tensions that traverse all his writings, the idea of a Festschrift is almost an oxymoron-at least when one hears in this word not only the denotation of a worthy feast but also the echoes of festschreiben, to arrest something in writing for good. After all, one of the lessons of Corngold's work is that there is very little that is festgeschrieben once and for all, that does not deserve to be carefully reread and passionately rethought, again and again. This rereading and rethinking is propelled by an ethical impulse-the cura, which Heidegger tells us lies at the heart of all worry that contents itself neither with the received wisdom of conventional disciplinary perspectives nor with the false promise of closure offered by this or that system.

The essays gathered in this volume honor Stanley Corngold on the occasion of his sixty-fifth birthday by focusing on the twin problems of literary friendship and literary paternity. It is appropriate that these twin themes should stand at the core of a volume in his honor, both because he has addressed them in his variegated critical writings and because these tropes conspire to yield a perspective from which many of his more general intellectual concerns come metonymically into view. Corngold's celebrated work on Franz Kafka, for instance, includes meditations, directly or indirectly, on questions of friendship and paternity, relation and offspring, proximity and distance. Moreover, honoring Corngold, who has always been both highly aware of and vigilantly guarded vis-a-vis the most recent developments in critical theory, with a volume on these twin themes is particularly timely in the current critical situation. Here, the problems of friendship and paternity occupy a central position in discussions of ethics, politics, art, and literature, as well as the relationship between the public and the private sphere. One could even say that with the numerous publications of books and essays on these topics, paternity and friendship have become privileged tropes in contemporary critical and historical debates.

While friendship has been a central issue in the history of Western ethical and political discourses in philosophy and literature-from Plato and Cicero via Montaigne, Bacon, and Kant all the way to Nietzsche, Freud, Simmel and beyond-it has only recently begun to become visible as a sphere in which to consider the possibility of a subject that strives to act ethically and responsibly, even without recourse to an essential groundedness or a stable metanarrative. The subject of friendship emerges in contemporary theory, for example, in Jacques Derrida's recent The Politics of Friendship, as constantly confronted with an otherness, an alterity that traverses even the self. As such, it provides a prime territory in which to rearticulate such contested notions as community, democracy, and responsibility.

Paternity, like friendship, has a long literary and philosophical history, from Plato's Phaedrus-where it is discussed in its relation to writing-through Nietzsche and Kafka to the postmodernists. Concrete and metaphoric paternity allows us to raise essential questions about the status of the "origin," the ethics and politics of responsible production, the status of the "author," the empirical versus the simulated or written personality, the discourse of disowning, constructions of the self through an other, the concept of reproduction, the relation of failed (literary) paternity and the sublimations of destruction, and the ideological attempts to differentiate between proper offspring and bastard forms. Corngold himself has energetically contributed to these debates, both in the form of regular seminars at Princeton University, where students eagerly flock to his course on "Literary Paternity: Nietzsche, Kafka, Benjamin," and in the form of essays addressed to a wider scholarly community, most recently in his work on "Nietzsche, Kafka, and Literary Paternity." In this regard, the essays that follow not only address but perform the topic of this volume: the texts written by Corngold's friends and colleagues implicitly enact what is at stake in friendship, while the contributions by his former students, whether their explicit topic is friendship or paternity, are implicated in the structure of a certain literary paternity.

To pay tribute to Stanley Corngold with a volume addressing issues that he has helped to define also means to celebrate more generally his distinguished career as an influential scholar and teacher. His career began when he earned a doctorate in Comparative Literature from Cornell University in 1969 with a dissertation on The Intelligible Mood: A Study of Aesthetic Consciousness in Rousseau and Kant. His studies at Cornell were preceded by his college years at Columbia University, from which he graduated with an honors degree in English in 1957, as well as years of graduate study at the University of London, England, again Columbia University, and the University of Basel, Switzerland. Since 1966, he has taught at Princeton University, where today he is a professor of German and Comparative Literature. The remarkable accomplishments of his career have been recognized by a large number of awards and distinctions, from National Endowment for the Humanities fellowships to Guggenheim Foundation awards, and from election to P.E.N. to membership in the Academy of Literary Studies. While Corngold has always regarded himself first and foremost as an American scholar-even during those times when German departments in this country still saw themselves, in an inversion or internalization of the fatherly gaze, as filial extensions of their putatively more powerful paternal departments in Germany-he has frequently taught and lectured to appreciative audiences around the world: among other sites, Germany, England, France, Belgium, Hong Kong, Hungary, Mexico, as well as Switzerland, Spain, the Netherlands, and Israel. But all these achievements and external validations seem hardly adequate to gauge Corngold's influence on several generations of students and colleagues, who cannot imagine the German Department at Princeton or, indeed, the field of German studies more generally, without his energy and presence.

For Princeton undergraduate students from a variety of fields, it has long been considered a special treat, for instance, to enroll in Corngold's German and Comparative Literature 320: "The Romantic Quest," a course that has become something of a cult phenomenon. Anchored in an innovative consideration of central works of the modern European literary tradition, this celebrated course includes, among others, detailed readings of works by Goethe, Byron, Flaubert, Stendhal, Nietzsche, and T. Mann, and the ways in which each alludes to the others in their constructions of the self and their quest for greatness. I had the good fortune of being invited more than once to be a preceptor (what in the academic world outside of Princeton is called a teaching assistant) for this course, and I recall vividly the unusual enthusiasm and depth of reflection that Corngold's lectures inspired in his students. It seemed that he would spend an equal amount of time and mental energy worrying about the remarks and questions from a first-year undergraduate student of literature as he would fielding questions from audiences at his many national and international distinguished lectures. Yet in "The Romantic Quest," more was at stake than a rereading of a series of canonical works in masterful lectures. Students intuitively felt that, for Corngold, reading these texts was not a sterile and detached academic exercise, but a matter of great and immediate ethico-political relevance deserving of sustained personal involvement and rational passion. Here was a teacher who fussed and worried about each sentence, each word it seemed, and who would not allow facile wisdoms of any sort to occlude the responsibility and the calling he felt in relation to every text he caringly explicated with students. After all, it became clear to all participants in this course that this was not just the "Romantic Quest" but also, for several decades now, Stanley Corngold's quest. It was as though he enacted for his students what Nietzsche once identified as his "epistemological starting point," that is, the "[p]rofound aversion to reposing once and for all in any total view of the world. Fascination of the opposing point of view: refusal to be deprived of the stimulus of the enigmatic."

From the wide range of Corngold's graduate seminars at Princeton, perhaps the most influential ones are those concerned with the work and intellectual orbit of Kafka. Both in his teaching and his prolific writings on the Prague author, Corngold emphasizes the tension between Kafka's relentless compulsion to write, what Kafka called his Schriftstellersein or "being-as-a-writer," and his growing awareness that this writing can never fully achieve what it sets out to accomplish, falling short of its own goal with a rigor, however, that delivers a self-reflexive commentary on its own internal contradictions. Indeed, Corngold's scholarship on Kafka continues to be the most influential aspect of his work and, although there has sprung up a veritable "Kafka industry" since the 1950s, Corngold belongs to a handful of scholars worldwide who can be counted among the elite of Kafka's critics. In this country, his teaching and writing on Kafka have had a decisive impact on generations of students and scholars, and on both lay and scholarly audiences. His landmark 1972 translation of Kafka's The Metamorphosis made available to readers of English a faithful yet lucid rendering of Kafka's peculiar German that is second to none among modern literary translations. The recently sold 1-millionth copy of Corngold's translation speaks volumes, literally, about its usefulness to generations of readers.

Yet simultaneously, on the more strictly critical side, the importance of his far-ranging scholarly work from the 1973 The Commentators' Despair: The Interpretation of Kafka's "Metamorphosis" to the 1988 Franz Kafka: The Necessity of Form cannot be overstated. Such classic essays as "The Metamorphosis: Metamorphosis of the Metaphor," one of Corngold's best texts, remain touchstones for all readers concerned with the properly rhetorical dimension of Kafka's writing. What draws readers to his work is the rare combination of broad theoretical awareness and critical intensity that allows his work not only to place theory and practice into a new and unexpected constellation, but also simultaneously to transform both of these terms. In Corngold's work, there is no easy "application" of a preformulated theory or system to a given text. His work enacts the ways in which every text constitutes not simply an instantiation of a theoretical point, but rather a subversive provocation to any attempt at systematic classification or generic closure. As Corngold once wrote, "Kafka's most marked contribution to modern art and culture is to the way in which the subject of writing has become Writing, the way in which reflection on the act of writing has become ontological, not psychological, ranging from metaphysical reference to technical aspects of its production." Elsewhere, he teaches us that the "attitude of identifying with what originates in the act of writing even or especially in spite of local intention suggests-mutatis mutandis-Kafka's aesthetic of suffering." For those who are acquainted with Stanley Corngold's personality and biography, such sentences make it ever more difficult to distinguish between him and Kafka. There is something within many of us that wishes to claim that, in ways that far transcend the incidental or even the scholarly, he is Kafka.

In a critical climate when ideological conformity, critical Gleichschaltung, and the dogmas of conformity reign supreme, Corngold's approach to his work defies classification. It is certainly a far cry from the philological pieties of the traditional Germanist stance but, for all its theoretical rigor, is not really at home in any of the critical fads or well-rehearsed newer idioms. His 1986 The Fate of the Self: German Writers and French Theory, with its provocative readings of Hölderlin, Dilthey, Nietzsche, Kafka, T. Mann, Freud, and Heidegger, is a good example of his innovation and subversion of critical orthodoxies. But Corngold's unusually individualistic perspective has never been an easy position to occupy. Precisely because he pledges allegiance to no recognizable dogma, he has always precariously and rather uncomfortably sat not only, as they say in English, between a rock and a hard place, but also, as they say in German, zwischen allen Stühlen. Never content with blind discipleship, Corngold has been criticized by proponents of every conceivable critical school.

While he was decisively influenced by the rhetorical ways of reading laid out by his doctoral advisor, Paul de Man, he has also significantly departed from de Man's manner of reading and has even written a series of texts addressing what he perceived as ethical and theoretical blind spots in his mentor's uvre and the ways of thinking it opened up. But at the same time, de Man's influence on his critical sensibilities remains visible, and his friends, colleagues, and students often cannot escape the impression that it would be hard to imagine anyone taking de Man's work more seriously or studying it with greater care and urgency even today, when the fortunes of rigorous rhetorical criticism have shifted and a more culturally-oriented hegemony has installed itself. On a biographical level, then, Corngold experienced the pleasures and tensions in relation to the paternal superego of his Doktorvater, or thesis adviser, that he subsequently would theorize in his scholarly work on paternity in Nietzsche, Kafka, and others. It is as though he remained close to de Man by not following him. For Corngold, to do justice to de Man's deconstructive project, it too must be deconstructed. In the process, Corngold has done much to introduce contemporary rhetorical scholarship into a discipline that all too often exhibited an aversion to the demands of close reading and a resistance to theory.

While all of Corngold's works wrestle self-consciously with the relations of rhetoric or figurative language and the larger philosophical claims that the text in which they are embedded attempts to make, he explicitly thematizes this vexed relationship in his 1991 novel Borrowed Lives. Coauthored with Irene Giersing, this "critical fiction" presents itself as an enactment of various issues in literary criticism and philosophical aesthetics. It tells the story of an uneasy history professor, Paul van Pein (in whose name the empirical location of the Princeton German Department, East Pyne Hall, resonates) and his quixotic quest in the South of France for creative originality, stable identity, carnal pleasure, and a readable life unmarred by the threats of inauthenticity. Brilliantly allegorizing issues of contemporary literary theory and philosophy, the novel traces the vicissitudes of the written self, satirizes the academic marketplace, and constantly points to the ways in which "the honey of experience" cannot be thought in separation from the postmodern chiastic reversal that links identity and its absence in the space of language. The novel situates itself in the interstices between the writing self and its narrative presentation in a self-conscious gesture that inscribes it in the critical metafictions produced by literary theoreticians such as Steiner, Eagleton, Sontag, Eco, and Burgess. At times, it even rivals David Lodge's acclaimed academic romance Small World.


Excerpted from Literary Paternity, Literary Friendship by Gerhard Richter Copyright © 2002 by University of North Carolina Press. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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Table of Contents

1 Introduction: Literary Paternity, Literary Friendship 1
2 Good Willing and the Practice of Friendship - A Dialogue 17
3 Connotations of Friendship and Love in Schiller's Philosophical Letters and Holderlin's Hyperion 41
4 German Classicism and the Law of the Father 63
5 Allusions to and Inversions of Plato in Holderlin's Hyperion 86
6 How Fireproof Your Are: Father-Daughter Tales of Loss and Survival 104
7 Mediation and Domination: Paternity, Violence, and Art in Brentano's Godwi 123
8 Old Father Jupiter: On Kleist's Drama Amphitryon 136
9 Two Lovers, Three Friends 159
10 The Love That Is Called Friendship and the Rise of Sexual Identity 175
11 Of National Poets and Their Female Companions 197
12 Between Aufbruch and Secessio: Images of Friendship among Germans, Jews, and Gays 215
13 Women's Comedy and Its Intellectual Fathers: Marx as the Answer to Freud 233
14 Friendship and Responsibility: Arendt to Auden 255
15 On Friendship in Dark Times: Hannah Arendt Reads Walter Benjamin 278
16 Odysseus's Tattoo: On Daniel Ganzfried's The Sender and Binjamin Wilkomirski's Fragments 297
17 Of Friends and Mentors 321
18 Shprintze, or Metathesis: On the Rhetoric of the Fathers in Sholem Aleichem's Tevye the Dairyman 337
19 Middlebrowbeat 345
20 The Democratic Father (Credit and Crime in Metaphor) 354
21 The Shadow of the Modern: Gothic Ghosts in Stoker's Dracula and Kafka's Amerika 382
Selected Bibliography of Works of Stanley Corngold 399
Princeton Dissertations in German and Comparative Literature Directed 409
Contributors 411
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