By Julian Scutts
Interesting Parallels between Critical and Theological Positions
A SURVEY OF WHAT LITERARY CRITICS MEAN BY "WANDERING"
My way is to begin with the beginning;The regularity of my designForbids all wandering as the worst of sinning.
Lord Byron: Don Juan, Canto The First, VII
Even if all wandering is the worst of sinning ("wandering" has yet to be established as a recognised field of learning), literary critics occasionally refer to "wandering" and "wanderers" in their articles and books. Inthis chapter we consider and compare four critical studies, noting different, even conflicting, attitudes to"wandering". We may then inquire how such differences might be resolved.
I: A Comparison of Articles by Professor L.A. Willoughby and Geoffrey H. Hartman with Referenceto their Attitudes to "the Wanderer" as poetic Motif
While Professor Willoughby's article "The Image of the 'Wanderer' and the 'Hut' in Goethe's Poetry" isexclusively concerned with Goethe's literary works (not only poetry), G.H. Hartman's study "Romanticismand 'Anti-Self-Consciousness'" ( both cited in the first chapter of this study) focuses on English Romanticpoetry with the occasional reference to Goethe and his literary works. The scholars predicate theirarguments on
what they take to be the shared identity of the “Wanderer“ and “the Poet“ in German and
English poetry during the age of Goethe and the Romantic movement. G.H. Hartman discusses the status of the "Poet" at the historical juncture when religious assumptions about the nature of poetry and poeticinspiration were being superseded by secular theories on the nature of the human consciousness. I begin byrecapitulating the basic positions adopted by Professor Willoughby and G. H. Hartman and will then proceedto a fuller discussion of issues arising from them.
Professor Willoughby bases his discussions on the recognition that the images of "Wanderer" and "hut" occurso frequently in Goethe's writings that they must be attributable to factors lying deep in the collectiveunconscious. According to C.G. Jung the libido is engaged in a quest to achieve a perfect union with itsfemale counterpart within the human personality. In terms of Goethe's imagery, the "Wanderer" representsthe male questing impulse, while the "hut" represents the object of that quest, the domain of femaleinfluence, the family hearth. These images well up from the collective unconscious, and are not, therefore,only of poetic interest. However, Goethe as a poet moulded these and other images into constructs andpatterns of aesthetic value. The image of the "Wanderer" presented the young Goethe of the early 1770s avery considerable problem. Being significant to him on both a General psychological and an aesthetic level,the "Wanderer" image poses a central ambiguity which his early writings reflect. This ambiguity first
emerges in the “Speech on Shakespeare Day“, an anti
-Aristotelian polemic praising Shakespeare as thegreatest "Wanderer". The image lends force to the idea of the vast range of Shakespeare's dramatic andpoetic genius. However, Goethe was well aware that his choice of word would be understood by hisimmediate audience, fellow-members of the Darmstadt literary circle, as an allusion to himself (his renownas a "Wanderer" was attributable to his habit of taking long country walks). In two poems written about ayear after the "Speech", Goethe adopted contrasting strategies to surmount the difficulties bound up withthe "Wanderer" image. "Wandrers Sturmlied" ("Wanderer's Storm-Song") is a semi-confessional poeticoutpouring telling of the poet's bold but futile attempt to ascend Mount Parnassus, the seat of the gods andMuses. The poet uses humour and self-Irony as a means of psychological self-defence evident in the closingscene depicted by the poem. This shows the Wanderer wading through mud towards a wayfarers' hut afterhis inglorious descent from the sublime heights of Parnassus and his return to a chill northern landscape onthe plane of personally experienced reality. "Der Wandrer" is a dialogue between a wanderer, a cross-country walker, touring the mountains near Cuma in Italy and a young woman who inhabits a mountain-hutin the region visited. This level-headed young woman counters the Wanderer's verbal rhapsodies excited bythe sight of ancient temples now in ruins. It is only in "Der Wandrer" that Goethe succeeded in objectifyingthe image of the Wanderer to his own satisfaction. 1