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Who Worlds the Literature?Goethe’s Weltliteratur and Globalization

  Vladimir Biti

  Institut fiir Slawistik, Universitat Wien

  Spitalgasse 2/Hof 3, A-1090, Wien, Austria


   Abstract Some theorists claim that today's global world antiquates nationalliteratures in the same way as did Goethe and Marx with their idea of Weltliteraturmore than a century and a half ago. I contest this claim, showing, first, that Marxwas ambivalent with regard to the formation of the world market, anticipatingits compartmentalizing consequences. Second, I argue that Goethe's concept ofWeltliteratur, far from being opposed to national literature, which in the Germanyof the time was still in the process of self-finding, has to be regarded as an attemptto consolidate national literature against the homogenizing pressure of a worldrapidly and superficially uniting. Goethe was resolutely against the brothersSchlegel's national exclusionism, but he was equally firmly against the gaudy flux,overall dilettantism, and bad taste of the culture emerging from the commercialand communicational uniting of the world. His Weltliteratur was conceived as anongoing dialogue between distinguished national literatures from which Germanliterature, which at the time was the weakest among them, was expected to benefitthe most. It aimed at a consolidation of his disturbed personal and the shakyGerman self at the time and gradually turned into an imperial gesture.Key words Goethe; Weltliterature; globalization

  Autor Vladimir Biti, Professor of South Slav literatures and cultures at theFaculty for Literary and Cultural Studies, University of Vienna. Author of eightbooks, Literatur- and Kulturtheorie: Ein Handbuch gegenwartiger Begriffe(Reinbek: Rowohlt, 2001), among the others, he also edited or co-edited six readersas well as published over hundred articles in a wide international range of journalsand readers. Co-editor of arcadia: Journal of Literary Culture and member ofthe editorial board of several international journals, Journal of Literary Theory,Journal of Literature and Trauma Studies, Primerjalna knjizevnost and Advancesin Literary Studies among the others. From 2007 member ofAcademia Europaea.Comparative Literature as the Promoter of Globalization

  If at the time of its establishment Goethe's Weltliteratur was indeed a "literary-political concept" (Giinther 104), the same holds even more for its contemporaryinterpretations and appropriations.` We usually see them adapting the idea, in amore or less inconsiderate manner, to new political investments and compensatoryreconfigurations. In an essay which caused a considerable stir in the academicenclave of comparative literature, Franco Moretti (2000: 54) took as a point ofdeparture Goethe's famous remark to his secretary Eckermann of January 31, 1827that national literature no longer meant a great deal (will jetzt nicht viel sagen) andthat the epoch of world literature had arrived (die Epoche der Welt-Literatur istan der Zeit). Goethe's views (1987: 250)2 were endorsed, as it were, some twentyyears later by Marx's and Engels' adoption of the concept in terms of the emergingworld market: "National one-sidedness and narrow-mindedness (Beschranktheit)become more and more impossible, and from many national and local literatures,there arises a world literature (bildet rich eine Weltliteratur)" (Marx and Engels1952: L, 421, Marx and Engels 1974: IV, 466). Taking these two sentences to beproclaiming more or less the same thing, namely the final revelation of literature inthe shape of a "planetary system," Moretti puts forth the thesis that the disciplineof comparative literature, having long been restricted to a very narrow internationalscope, "has not lived up to these beginnings" (2000: 54). It is not just that its focushas remained limited mostly to Western Europe and that it has failed to give equalconsideration to everything published as literature throughout world, rather theprincipal shortcoming is that it has not addressed the problem or approached itsobject through an appropriate methodology. Citing Max Weber's maxim that "Anew `science' emerges where a new problem is pursued by a new method," Morettiproposes a return to Goethe's and Marx's vision of Weltliteratur as a systemicwhole with closely interdependent constituents.

  As is often the case when past thinkers are brought into play so as tolegitimize present methodological revolutions, and Moretti is determined tointroduce a completely new critical method to the field (2000: 55), they tend to beread one-sidedly and narrow-mindedly. Long ago, it was precisely Marx and Engelswho rendered the narrow-minded treatment literature antiquated. Nevertheless,given that Moretti's new method openly dismisses so-called close reading as atechnique that pertains only to canonical literary texts, the unilateral interpretationof Goethe's views might come as no surprise. According to Moretti, "if you wantto look beyond the canon (and of course, world literature will do so: it would beabsurd if it didn't!) close reading will not do it" (2000: 57). As there is howeveralways a point at which an examination of the texts of world literature must employa close reading requiring linguistic competence, Moretti leaves this task to "thespecialist of the national literature" (66). Although he considers all texts to belongto national and world literature simultaneously, there is an asymmetrical divisionof labor between them: "[Y]ou become a comparatist for a very simple reason:because you are convinced that that viewpoint is better. It has greater explanatorypower; it's conceptually more elegant; it avoids that ugly `one-sidedness andnarrow-mindedness"' (68). He therefore supports and propagates distant reading inhis more recent book Graphs, Maps, Trees (1) as well. But what is a comparativeliterature that, in order to create "authoritative totalizing patterns" (Spivak 108),leaves informed close reading to national literary scholars on the periphery (i.e.beyond the great Western languages that comparatist is expected to understand)and therefore depends on "untested statements by small groups of people treatedas native informants" (108)? What is comparative literature whose fundamentaldivision of labor amounts to the slogan "the others provide information while weknow the whole world" (108)? What else can such comparative literature be butprecisely a one-sided and narrow-minded discipline practiced by the scholars whoare convinced they are in possession of the "better viewpoint"? If, in the envisioneddivision of labor, it creates the global methodological design as a technique ofdistant reading in order to "dominate the literary world system" (Apter 49) andrelegates the dominated modest and restricted jobs to others, then ultimately it canbe nothing other than "nationalism, U.S. nationalism masquerading as globalism"(Spivak 108).

   Goethe's and Marx's ideas of world literature, if we take a closer look atthem, are deeply resilient to their deployment for such purpose. First of all, thevery merging of these two figures into a homogeneous thesis of a substantially newworld order is misguided. For Marx, world literature was an unavoidable corollaryof the formation of the world market and as such an instrument of the expandingbourgeois capital which destroys national industries, economies and cultural self-sufficiency. Unlike Goethe's Weltliteratur, Marx's concept was directed againstthe nation-states by opposing a statist nationalism that was unknown to Goethe.But even though Marx was certainly critical of nationalism, associating it with themanipulative politics of nation-states, his stance on cosmopolitan world literature,as an instrument of the bourgeois suspension of all differences, was far from beingclearly affirmative (Cheng 28). The homogenizing pressure of this cosmopolitanismspawned the proliferation of nationalisms (as well as national philologies) inthe second half of the nineteenth century and it is pretty obvious that today'sglobalization produces exactly the same effect. As a number of scholars whoresisted the flattening of distinct literary traditions into a single "systemic rhythm"of world literature have noted, this legacy of the expanding cosmopolitanism, asdisconcertingly manifested in today's global world, might be a more appropriatepoint of departure for the establishment of analogies between Marx's timeand ours. One of the lessons that might be drawn from Marx's characteristicambivalence regarding "globalization" is that the annihilating fragmentationfollows the triumphant integration of the world like a shadow. Not long ago Derridawas warning that the "spectre haunting Europe" is a "dispersal into a myriad ofprovinces, into a multiplicity of self-enclosed idioms or petty little nationalisms,each one jealous and untranslatable" (Derrida39). Such an unfortunate self-enclosurein untranslatability is, however, a direct response to the celebrated imperative ofuniversal translatability.

  As John Pizer (2006: 20) for example noticed, economic globalizationdisrespects popular ethnic sentiments, blindly trusting that rational politics canbalance the interests of all parties. Yet, on the contrary, tribal solidarities fiercelyreact to the threat of such a globalized economy and the concomitant loss of distinctnational identities by clinging to them with ever-greater tenacity. "Globalizationputs us in a position to reflect on inequality all the time. [... ] Inequality is not onthe way out," remarks Haun Saussy (28). "The many states [...] fold [...] ontothe one global economy; but the single economy divides up what it unites." Thissystemic misbalance might be the reason that the harsh critique of "nationalistideologies and their imperial projections" in recent academic practice "has turnedout to coexist quite comfortably with a continuing nationalism" (Damrosch 285).Nationalism is not an outdated or retrograde phenomenon to be downplayed,neglected and hushed up. Cosmopolitanism that argues in these terms is "all themore national for being European, all the more European for being trans-Europeanand international; no one is more cosmopolitan and authentically universal thanthe one, than this `we"' (Derrida48), no one is more particular than a `we' that"specialize[s] in the sense of the universal" (74). Therefore, "it is the task of ourtransnational, diasporic, global times to rethink the national paradigm. On the otherhand, it is imperative to understand the continued relevance of the nation-state formto the still unfinished project of decolonization" (Coopan 37). According to StephenGreenblatt (1), the bodies of the deceased national identities refused to stay buriedand violently returned onto the scene of the contemporary world. Thus "mobilitystudies," which were set in motion by the persistent colonization, exile, emigration,wandering, contamination and metissage caused by globalization, "need to accountas well for the fact that cultures are experienced again and again [...] as fixed,inevitable, and strangely enduring" (16).

  However, contrary to Marx's ambivalent stance on such a monolithic shapingof the world, Moretti, in a kind of better-knowing Marxism rather remote from the"father's" reflectively undecided and cautious attitude (not to mention Derrida'sreading of Marx, with which both he and Pascale Casanova are quite unfamiliar),does not give the slightest account of these disturbing effects of globalization.Rather it places comparative literature, resolutely and unconcernedly, at the serviceof its affirmation. Like Casanova, who "wholly subscribes" to his clear-cut poweropposition (ignorant of Foucault's revision because it is shaped a la Bourdieu), hepretends to be in full possession of the analytical tool of the "literary system." Asopposed to him (her), all other literary agents, including the "specialist in nationalliterature," are doomed to blindness for this system's surreptitious operations.The non-reflected legacy of the American and French Revolution seem to bemarching hand in hand here. It is only an informed Marxist comparatist who, beingproperly instructed in world-system theory, is in a position to dismantle this all-pervading human astigmatism (Casanova 80, 82; Moretti 2000: 66). For Morettiand Casanova, the putatively discarded discipline of comparative literature, nowrefashioned into a revolutionary world literature, celebrates its heyday.Goethe's Detachment from GlobalizationIf we now turn to Goethe, who is Moretti's second chosen foothold for thejustification of his "literary world systems theory," he is completely unambiguouswith regard to the accelerated economic, traffic and communicational uniting ofthe world of his time. Far from offering praise, he is deeply concerned by it andthus develops a consistent defensive strategy against this abundance of superficialimpressions. The result of "all possible facilities of communication," he writesfor instance to Zelter on June 6, 1825, is a generalization of a terribly mediocreculture (WA IV 39: 216).4 Already a quarter of a century before, in the Introductionto the first issue of the journal Propylaen (1798), he cautioned the young writernot to get lost in the gaudy flux of a world trivialized in such a manner. Far frombeing merely liberating (from the constraints of local cultures), the enormousvariety of world literature is simultaneously overwhelming and dangerous. Onecannot feel at home in every part of the world and every century and hence oneoften falls prey to what seems natural in its respective context (letter to Friedrich prey to what seems natural in its respective context (letter to Friedrichvon Muller on January 27, 1830; 1987: 287-288). Yet one should beware of sucheasy familiarizing projections, which are the usual business of the mob bereftof proper insight. Goethe interprets such a swift adoption of the foreign thatunconcernedly accommodates its foreignness to one's petty domestic universe asvulgar cosmopolitanism, from which he clearly distances himself. His approach issimilar to Plato's treatment of Athenian democracy in Chapter VIll of the Republic(562d-563d), in which he speaks of a chaotic reign of selfish individuals who doanything they please. Only through a heightened attentiveness for other culturescan a writer resist the overall dilettantism of the contemporary literary market that,because of the superficial and dispersive everyday habits of literary consumers,requires from literature nothing more than swift and powerful effects (1987: 173-175). Indifferent as listeners and readers usually are, writes Goethe (302-303) againin one of his late notes characterized by resignation and animosity to the "crowd,"they prefer to hear and read always the same thing, expecting the writer to treatthem as one would a maid (Frauenzimmer), telling them only what they would liketo hear.

  Contrary to Moretti's and Casanova's claim, the restrictive rules of theemerging literary market tame and impede the emancipating nature of worldliterature. Whereas in ancient times such mechanical repetition was regarded asa rare illness, in modern times it instead became endemic and epidemic (304).But contrary to mere imitators who unquestioningly consent to the low taste ofthe ignorant crowd, the true artist is required to uncompromisingly adhere tothe strategic task of a proper representation of nature beyond what just comesas natural, i.e., he must undertake meticulous comparative study of world-widecultures and discover a deep unity beneath their confusing diversity. In short, anecessary departure from oneself toward the other must not amount to an all tooeasy self-abandonment but on the contrary, improved se拼acquisition on a higherlevel. If one is too devoted to the admirable other, one loses one's own characteristicnational nature (1987: 282), which is the only basis for the international recognitionof a particular literature. Each product has first to display (aufstecken) its nationalsymbol (Nationalkokarde) clearly, whereupon it will be accepted benevolentlyinto the privileged circle of world literature (letter to Reinhard, June 18, 1829;1987: 278). The final goal of Goethe's world literature is therefore a tirelessSelbststeigerung or self-propelling. "You have to incessantly change, renew,rejuvenate yourself," he confesses to Miiller on April 24, 1830, aged no less than80, "in order not to ossify" (291). Continuously at risk of falling victim either tothe aggressive pressure of worldwide uniformity or to the static provincial taste ofhis compatriots, a world writer, as Goethe understands him, bears responsibility towithstand and reject both. Always counteracting both inconsiderate all-equalizingcosmopolitanism and petty local nationalism, he is to be unremitting in his never-ending self-formation.

  Faced with the worldwide vulgarization of literary taste, Goethe reacts toit by defending the exclusive right of the creative writer to speak in the name ofthe whole of humankind/humanity (die gauze Menschheit) against the grotesquedistortion of its universal human substance (das allgemein Menschliche) carriedout in the name of non-reflected elementary habits. Such a writer must engagehumanity in its entirety, must go beyond his immediate neighbor who provideshim the ready security of "house piety" if he wants to embrace the true amplitudeof "world piety" (FA I 10: 514). In a letter to Carlyle from July 20, 1827 Goethestates that the endeavor of the best poets of all nations has for some time beenconcerned with that which is universally human while trying to transcend theselfishness and appease the bellicosity of earthly human creatures. It is exactlythis uncompromising universality that in world literature shines and shimmersthrough the particular (1987: 265). Yet under the pressure of the mob that expectseverything to fit its false concepts and prejudices and thus does untold harm (groJ3esUnheio to humanity, true works of art remain unrecognized and unacknowledged(1987: 303). Threatened by the "flood" of market-influenced literature as if it wereabout to swallow up his delineated elitist claim, towards the end of his life Goethebitterly complained to Eckermann that barbarous times had come (March 22, 1831;1987: 297). He was literally overwhelmed by that insight, helplessly acting out ofthe "poisonous knowledge" induced by it. New barbarians misapprehend true art asthat which is exemplary (vortreffliche) for humankind, i.e., precisely that to whichhe was at pains to remain loyal throughout his literary career (letter to Zelter on thesame day; 1987: 297). If we take the tripartite process of a writer's developmentoutlined in his earlier essay Simple Imitation of Nature, Manner, Style from 1789(BA 19: 77-82) as a criterion, Goethe obviously placed himself, in opposition tohis German contemporaries, at the highest level of "style." This level renders thewriter capable of capturing the unique essence of the object represented unlike pureimitators, who simply reproduce its externally visible surface.Getting Out of the Crowd: Goethe's Elitist CosmopolitanismAs a great admirer of ancient Greek culture, Goethe in the presented deeplyfrustrated considerations, deliberately or not, draws on the tradition of Greekelitistcosmopolitanism directed against the narrow-minded plebs of compatriots. Suchcosmopolitanism declared readiness to open the broadest possible dialogue amongequals only on the condition that its distinguished participants are completely freedbeforehand from the selfish interests of their inferior fellow citizens. The latterhave to be kept at bay, as they care solely about enjoying rights and pleasures atthe cost of others. Used to subordination, they are disqualified in advance fromthe intellectually free behavior of truly considering the otherness of the other andcaring equally about his or her rights and pleasures (Arendt 41一45). Since one mustachieve such freedom of thought through engaging bright-mindedness and courage,the Greeks reserve it for enlightened individuals, i.e., agencies, whereas thebenighted crowd, i.e., enablers expected to provide through their persistent workall the necessary prerequisites for this remarkable achievement, is sentenced tocompliance and delivered to its restricted habits. Agencies are those who think andact, enablers those who work and produce. The free democratic world, the Greekcosmopolitan argument goes, can be created solely through the well-balancedexchange of thoughts between agencies, who therefore expect their truth to beuniversally valid.

  However, being established on the disagreement between two parties who,although seemingly speaking the same language, do not understand the samething in what the other is saying (Ranciere 1999: 10), the truth of the political elitecan never gain universal validity. Its terms systematically prevent the subalternfrom becoming legible by allocating these "dissimilar items" to the "pocketsof disability," "zones of indeterminacy" and "regimes of confinement" and bydepriving them of all symbolic profits of the citizen status. In Greek democracyas well as in its neoliberal descendants, caesura separates agencies from enablers,the entitled "subject oP' from the outlawed "subject to." Enablers are sentencedto a subliminal, silent, and animal existence. The boomerang effect of such ahideous incarceration is a "systemic crisis" of democracy, "an ongoing activity ofprecariousness" within its established institutions, modes, and relationships (Berlant10), the spreading of the fear into its grammar, the spectralization of its events, andthe disaggregation of its political aggregate. This is why, the efforts of the agenciesto impose their rule upon the enablers notwithstanding, the stubbornly reemergingsplit between them hinders the establishment of a harmonious democracy.

  Therefore, when he founded his Academy as an isolated space of intellectualfreedom in opposition to the false freedom of the polis that inflicts the opinion ofthe agora upon all citizens, Plato obviously realized the delineated restricted natureof the public truth. This insight into the limits of democracy induced his resoluterefusal of its universal claim that entitles everybody to partake in the businessof rule. In his view, such an unnatural attitude was derived from the traumaticabsence of the "divine shepherd," the only authority naturally entitled to take careof the human flock. All the evils of democracy commence with the separationof the human principle of government from the natural law of kinship as wellas the establishment of this principle on the elimination of the "family father."Illegitimately usurping the natural rule of the "murdered shepherd" (Levy 2002),democratic rulers falsify, invert and perturb his order. Instead of being based on theprinciple of arkhe, which lets the firstborn and the highborn rule, the democraticentitlement is based on the anarchic principle of the drawing of lots. Democracy isruled by chance or chaos, an unbearable condition that it owes to the patricide. Thiscrime lets the human orphans wander in the "empire of the void" whose "emptycenter" (Lefort 2000) persistently lures them into taking pleasure in its seizure,representation and dissemination, and they do not hesitate to disrespectfully enjoythis pleasure (Ranciere 2006: 30).

   However, through the founding of Academy, Plato opposed Atheniandemocracy by redeploying its own maneuver of exemption from the deludeddominant opinion in the name of the forgotten divine truth. He reintroduced thisself-redeeming cosmopolitan maneuver because the shepherd's archaic truth was inhis opinion subjected to democratic perversion into the human anarchic truth. Whilethe democratic government claimed to be the only authentic representative of God,beneath this appearance he discerned the egotistical individual with its quick andpetty pleasures. Yet considering that Plato took recourse to the same maneuver ofinvoking the divine truth against the truth of blinded fellow citizens, must not thesame critique, to which he exposed the Athenian democracy, necessarily underminehis own argument too? To counteract the selfishness of democratic individuals,Plato likewise holds on to the eliminated pastor, taking him as "the reference pointby which an opposition between good government and democratic governmentis established" (Ranciere 2006: 35). For Plato, we can rescue ourselves from theperils and crimes of democracy only by distancing ourselves from its anarchicmultitude, turning back toward the lost family father, his golden law of kinship andthe sheep's (i.e. our) bond to him. Looking after both the whole flock and each itsmember, He alone neatly harmonizes the One with the multipleand precisely thisuniting is required of a good government. Confronted with Plato's thesis based onsuch redoubling of the opponent's argument, one can hardly resist the impressionthat it relies on the same human misappropriation of the divine truth that it fiercelycondemns on its behalf.

  I propose to take this as a welcome warning against Goethe's elitistcosmopolitanism. Yet an outright rejection of it, skipping the much-neededexplanation for why Plato's argument stubbornly resurfaces in humankind'shistory, ultimately in Goethe's idea of world literature itself, would be of verylittle help. Whence this obstinate holding on to the (imagined) shepherd against hisself-appointed false representatives, i.e., betrayers (Ranciere 2006: 34-5) whichin its turn runs the risk of repeating and being blamed for the same betrayal? Wewill not eliminate very influential ideological formations emerging from such"misplaced prejudices" by setting up a truth putatively superior to their blindedassertions. As no cosmopolitanism hitherto could pass judgments without recourseto a legitimating "higher truth," it could not but redouble nationalism's argument.Instead of raising absolute claims to the universal truth, it seems therefore advisableto uncover dissensual judgments underneath consensual prejudices (in Arendt'sterms), or politics underneath the police (in Ranciere's terms). "In the course of thisreplacement it is necessary to trace back these prejudices to the judgments inherentto them and to affiliate these judgments for their part to the underlying experienceswhich once gave rise to them" (Arendt 79).

  The Acting Out of the Traumatic Experience

   Taking up such an attitude to Goethe's elitist cosmopolitanism, in what followsI will affiliate it with the traumatic constellation of forces he had to cope with.Uncovering such a constellation as the mobilizer of Goethe's cosmopolitanism, Iwill not deny the legitimacy of the judgment generated by it, yet simultaneously,from the perspective it tried to obliterate, expose its claim to the universal truthas a prejudice. Hence the analytical objective is not to dispose with prejudicesaltogether because of their failure to realize the universal truth. The aim is insteadto lay bare the claim of these prejudices to the status of universal truths as apretension unsuitable for the dissensus constitutive of democracy. Democracy isnot an accomplishable state order一which is precisely the main cosmopolitanprejudice to be dismantled一but rather an interminable practice of the incalculablehuman many carried out in the form of judgments. Provoked by the disseminationof various "zones of indeterminacy" into the established social aggregate, thesejudgments interrogate the political line separating "one life from the other"(Ranciere 2004b: 303), life from inanimate matter (Hagglund 272-76) and personsfrom things (Esposito 209). Rather than an ultimate unification of this incalculablehuman many, the task of democracy is raising awareness of the violence inherentto such therapeutic cosmopolitan undertakings. In an attempt to remedy humantraumas finally, they give rise to more devastating traumatic experiences.

  Before we return to Goethe by following this line of argument, let us recallthat another important predecessor of his "Greek" cosmopolitanism alongside Plato,i. e. Voltaire, engaged the same nostalgic recourse to the forgotten divine truth soas to direct it against the dominant opinion of blinded compatriots. Each of theseprominent intellectual figures operated as the author of a trauma narrative in theirown right. In establishing his international Republic of Letters, Voltaire equallyattempted to outmaneuver his ignorant aristocratic compatriots. Blindly attachedto their inert and selfish habits as they were, they were suddenly exposed to criticalobservation by an international circle of intellectually mobile agencies. The latterconducted an emancipating dialogue with each other by distilling from it theirgrowingly encompassing, convincing, and eventually binding truth. Once publiclyrecognized, however, Voltaire's remedial narrative transformed the elitist exemptionfrom its monarchic surroundings into the international expansion of the "republican"truth. Goethe's trauma narrative undertakes the same cosmopolitan recalibrationand sophistication of the local public truth, yet now distanced itself from the"idyllic," i.e., the parochial and self-enclosed type of petty bourgeois readership(1987: 298) which, to Goethe's deepest disgust, increasingly took command ofthe literary market of the time. To defend himself from this flood, in The Epochsof Social Formation (1831) he takes recourse to the unity of all educated circlesacross the globe. His intention is to write for this kind of readership.

  Regarding a somewhat frustrated late remark, it makes a huge differencewhether one reads instinctively for pleasure and reanimation (Gen叨andBelebung) or reflexively for insight and instruction (Erkenntnis and Belehrung)(1987: 308), even if readers preferring the latter, profound benefit of literature areextremely rare. But only those who are able to enjoy this benefit can claim to bereading with regard to what is universally human (as one is obliged to read worldliterature) rather than reading in the leisurely manner of the most deluded part ofhumanity (as one normally reads trivial literature). Such capable (tuchtige) peoplewho really care about "the true progress of humanity" by striving to shed theirnarrow intellectual skin are certainly few and far between, but in their rarity theyare nevertheless scattered all over the world. Step by step, the initial distinctionbetween the true (or world) and the false (national or trivial international) works,writers and readers turns into a harsh opposition. Along with its internationalposition, Goethe's literary oeuvre consolidates its pretensions to universality.

  Ultimately, Goethe does not hesitate to introduce a clear-cut division toliterature, placing the benighted majority of its agents on one side, and the selectminority on the other: "Yet the route they take, the pace they keep is not everyone'sconcern." Their sublime task is to rescue the world from descending into narrow-mindedness or barbarity. They belong to the "quiet, almost chastened church"(eine stille, fast gedruckte Kirche) of the serious-minded (die Ernsten) who,because it would be futile (vergebens) to oppose the wide current of the day (diebreite Tagesfluth), must nonetheless "steadfastly (standhaft) try to maintain theirposition till the flow (die Stromung) has passed" (FA I 22: 866-67). Their solitaryposition, removed from the silly worldwide crowd orientated toward immediateconsumption, is tantamount to "aesthetic autonomy." However, one might askwhether the aesthetically autonomous world literature, if it must be restricted toa "quiet church of the serious-minded," the initiated circle of agencies walled inagainst the masses of their enablers, really deserves the name of world literature.How encompassing can a literature that rests on the exclusion of those withoutwhose persistent work it cannot possibly come into being be? In order to answerthis question, one is well advised to recall the paradoxical character of the relationbetween agencies and enablers or freedom and coercion for that matter:Wherever the few separated themselves from the many, they obviouslybecame dependent on them, that is to say, in all those matters of coexistencewhich have to be really negotiated (in allen Fragen des Miteinander-Lebens,in denen wirklich gehandelt werden muss). [...] This is why the realm of thefreedom of the few is not only at pains to maintain itself against the realm ofthe political determined by the many, but is dependent on the many for its veryexistence; the simultaneous existence of the polis is existentially necessaryfor the existence of the academy. [...] [I]t becomes a necessity that opposesfreedom on the one hand, and is its precondition on the other. (Arendt 2010:5 8-5 9)As Dana Goodman convincingly demonstrated, all the prerequisites for theemergence of Voltaire's Republic of Letters, i.e., all the political, economic,educational, technological and institutional support necessary for its establishmentand functioning, were provided by the same French monarchy which wasferociously criticized by him (Goodman 90-183, 233-80). Yet if his literaryrepublic denied religious, national, linguistic and cultural barriers, it expectedthe reunion of people to take place on a culturally elevated basis, which relied onextraordinary linguistic and educational competences, finely tuned manners, and therefined skills of polite conversation, and from which the inert crowd of compatriot-enablers was necessarily excluded. Exemplified in the line from Plato throughVoltaire to Goethe, the self-redeeming reintroduction of freedom on an elevatedlevel thus unavoidably implies a reintroduction of the others' bondage on thelower levels. It seems as if compliant enablers doggedly accompany free agencies,inducing ever-new attempts on the part of the latter to purify their freedom frompollution.

   Goethe's personal investment in the Platonic antidemocratic anddiscriminatory reasoning can hardly be overlooked. Besides his narrow-mindedprovincial audience and the worldwide rise of bad taste, he had to fight fiercebattles against the misunderstanding of his nationally inflamed Romantic Germancontemporaries (Mandelkow 57-65). Against all these bitter disappointments, hefound a welcome consolation in the reception of his work by some distinguishedFrench and English Romanticists once Mme de Stael's influential book Del Allemagne was published in England (1813) and France (1814).5 Using categorieslike double force, double light, play and floating, the French exile writer portrayedhim as a protean, mobile, contradictory and ironic poet who in the presentation ofhis self and others tends to maneuver incessantly back and forth, establishing anddestroying identities in the same move. A couple of years later, structuring his West-Eastern Divan (1819; expanded second edition 1827) in a deeply polyphonic way,Goethe readily recognized himself in her categories in order to distance himselffrom and defend himself against his inimical and provincial German milieu (Koch187).

  Far from holding the representatives of this milieu in high esteem, heconstantly expressed the opinion they might be crushed in their intellectualmisery by such impressive foreign talents like Shakespeare or Calderon. Eachof the latter "is too rich and too powerful" to be taken even as the mirror of theirself-identification. Shakespeare for example forces the rising German talents toreproduce him mechanically while they falsely believe to be producing themselves(1987: 289, 282). "How many excellent Germans have been ruined by him andCalderon!" In the same conversation with Eckerman conducted on December25, 1825, Goethe highlights the grotesque effect of Shakespeare's plays onhis compatriots, who put their potatoes into his silver dishes (1987: 228). Themagnificent Calderon drives the young Schiller into madness, threatening to erodehis humble virtues while the unprecedented Moliere becomes desperately weak inGerman treatment, he remarks to his secretary on May 12, 1825 (1987: 226). Nomatter how much German novels and tragedies imitate Goldsmith, Fielding andShakespeare, they nonetheless pollute and pervert their models (December 3, 1824;223). No wonder Goethe warns Eckermann himself, in a conversation conductedat the beginning of their acquaintance (September 18, 1823), to beware of greatundertakings and inventions of his own: they are almost destined to fail! Onecannot expect a real sense for what is true and capable (echter Sinn声r das Wahreand Tuchtige) in German petty circumstances, he tells his secretary on October15, 1825. The masses who dominate them abhor whatever is truly great, tendingto banish it from the world (227) (including Goethe himself, we might add, toelucidate his obvious bitterness). "For, we ordinary people (kleine Menschen) arenot capable of retaining (bewahren, also in the sense of "making true") in us thegreatness of such things..." (May 12, 1825; 1987: 226)

   This is a simulated modesty of course: Goethe surely (and of course rightly)did not perceive himself to be an ordinary man, at least not of the sort to whichhe thought the majority of his compatriots belonged. He recognized himselfmuch more in another "we" applied in a diary note from January 27, 1827, whichenthusiastically comments on the rich French reception of his play TorquatoTasso. He famously writes, "a universal world literature is emerging in whichan honorable role is reserved for us Germans" (1987: 243). However, as in theletter to the editor Cotta the day before and the translator Streckful3 on the sameday (WA IV, 42, S. 26-28), with this "us" he obviously means just himself, sinceno other German writer enjoyed comparable international attention at that time.Probably the most exemplary proof of this is the huge success of his YoungWerther far across national borders.6 Lord Byron dedicated one of his works toGoethe, Manzoni adored him, Gerard de Nerval translated Faust and Delacroixillustrated it, Walter Scott translated Gotz von Berlichingen, and there were muchmore fruitful refractions of and reflections on his work, for instance those of theFrench literary critic Jean-Jacques Ampere and the translator Albert Stapfer, notto mention Thomas Carlyle. Whereas contemporary British, French and Italianintellectuals accordingly recognized themselves in Goethe, other German writersrecognized themselves in foreign writers and translated them passionately. Withregard to these modest but diligent compatriots, Goethe found himself, alongwith for example Hegel in his impressively erudite contemporaneous Lectures onAesthetics, in the comfortable position of being able to benefit, in the medium ofthe German language, from the extraordinarily rich and fruitful translation workof two previous generations (Giinther 1990: 113; Wiedemann 1993: 545f#). Sodespite the rhetorically or prudently deployed "we," Goethe was clearly aware ofthe real division of labor and prominence among German writers and intellectualsof his time. The majority of them only provided the background and sourcesenabling the expression of the whole splendor of the select few. Being regarded astoo provincial, they were prevented from entering the latter's "hall of fame."A Retroactive Reinvestment of Goethe's CosmopolitanismSurprisingly, this traumatically resonating antidemocratic stance of Goethe'sescapes David Damrosch in the first chapter of his admirably knowledgeablebook on world literature, in which he treats German identity in Goethe's ageas a homogeneous body rather than, as I have tried to demonstrate, somethinginternally divided and antagonistic. He certainly portrays Goethe in a historicallymore careful and adequate way than Moretti, but with the same restrictive aim ofderiving his own recent design of world literature from this not exactly informed,if not biased, interpretation. Unlike Moretti, who complains that nobody can reallymaster all that was ever written in the world一as if this is what Goethe meantwith his concept of Weltliteratur and not the contrary一Damrosch clearly statesthat "world literature is not an infinite, ungraspable canon of works, but rather amode of circulation and of reading" (Damrosch 5). This he presents, as it were, asthe Goethean approach from below, a perspective that is, it would seem, engagedto circumvent the delineated perils of global designs from above. As I have tried toemphasize, Goethe does associate Weltliteratur with mutually enriching interaction,but he means an interactionamonga number of initiated agents who exemptthemselves from the mob at home and abroad. If one takes into consideration thatthis elitism induced by the aggressive pressure of common understanding and badtaste, more or less habitual in the select social circles of the day, is inherent in theidea of Weltliteratur, such a literature was anything but projected from below. Quitethe opposite of being truly all embracing, in order to overcome the traumatizingeffects of the surrounding ignorance, Goethe based it on the retaliating exclusion ofthis "ignorant crowd."

   Goethe's argument is complex and sometimes contradictory, yetunambiguously directed against the domestic as well as the worldwide mob becauseof the latter's inability or unwillingness to engage in the spiritually capitalizingexchange. However, although Damrosch's reading emphasizes Goethe's "constantlyshifting personality" of "a diamond[…] that casts different color in everydirection" (1, actually quoting Eckermann's preface), he rejects the interpretationaccording to which Goethe's idea of world literature would amount to an "imperialself-projection" or a "self-confirming narcissism" of German literature. At thattime, he remarks, German culture was lacking a great history, political unity and astrong literary tradition, having been unable to stand comparison with its French orEnglish counterparts, which were in sovereign possession of all these dimensions(2003:8). Whereas the leading French critic of that time, Philarete EuphemonChasles, in stressing the infinite receptiveness and sensitivity of French cultureclearly displays triumphalist cosmopolitanism with imperial aspirations, Goethe'scosmopolitanism emerges from the "provincial anxiety" of a nation with "relativelyweak culture" that strove for international recognition and political unity (2003:9-13).

   Curiously identifying Goethe with a nation from whose dominant publicrepresentatives he consistently remained aloof, Damrosch accordingly proposesthat a "provincial writer," being "free from the bonds of an inherited tradition," "canengage all the more fully, and by mature choice, with a broader literary world."His intention would be "to seek out a variety of networks of transmission andreception" (2003: 13) for his or her literature. Yet of what use is this paradoxicalprovinciallyanxious freedom if, as Goethe demonstrated with the examples ofhis compatriots, including Schiller, it ultimately entails madness, weak imitation,grotesque distortions, vulgarizations and failures, in short the desolate bankruptcyof the great majority of German writers who searched for the secure abode of theirselves in great foreign models? As Goethe untiringly pointed out, German writersresided in the small and self-enclosed world of "home piety" (Hausfrommigkeit),taking care exclusively of their own individual security (Sicherheit des Einzelnen;FA I 10, 514): "German poetry offers, just look at the daily production, as a matterof fact only expressions, sighs and interjections of benevolent individuals. Everyindividual presents himself (trio auk by his natural disposition (Naturell) andformation (Bildung); hardly anything tends toward what is universal, higher..."(Letter to Hitzig, November 11,1829; Goethe 1987: 285) In such depressingcircumstances, where is the free ability and mature readiness for engaging with thebroader literary world about which Damrosch boldly speculates?

  It is not the freedom from national tradition, then, but the lack of recognitionand overall misapprehension or the traumatic experience of undeserved isolationand the neglect of his work at home that motivates Goethe's enthusiasticengagement with world literature (Bohnenkamp 2000; Koch 2002). When readagainst its public presentation, his elitist choice uncovers a self-exempting, self-rescuing maneuver aimed at international self-expansion. He significantly hopesthat "the differences which prevail within a given nation will be corrected by theperspective and judgment of others" (Letter to Sulpiz Boisseree from October12, 1827; WA IV 43: 106). In the previous letter to Reinhard from June 10, 1822we find the following remark: "I have a general impression that nations learn tounderstand each other more than ever; misunderstandings seem to be residingwithin each of their own bodies" (WA IV 36: 61). This biting comment is clearlyaddressed at his compatriots after the publication of the four-volume Frenchtranslation of his dramas (Bohnenkamp 197). Far from being a "provincial writer"(Damrosch 13), in the 1820s Goethe was, to his great personal satisfaction, a widelyinternationally acknowledged author. As a complete foreigner in the nationallyinflamed petty German circumstances, he attentively and efficiently establishednumerous international coalitions and foreign alliances to outmaneuver homelandpressures and suppress domestic enemies.Goethe's Trauma Narrative: Repositioning German LiteratureHowever, he simultaneously undertook the maneuver of the self-exemption ofGerman literature from its dominant international surroundings, which instructivelyredoubles his cosmopolitan project. This consoling self-glorifying maneuverof turning the lack of an autochthonous literary tradition into an advantage incomparisons with France or England一characteristic of all trauma narratives一was almost a commonplace in the culturally inferior Germany around 1800 (Herder1991:VII, 551;A. Schlegel 1965: IV 26; Wiedemann 1993, 545f#; Koch 2002:234; Albrecht 2005: 308).' Following this domestic habit, Goethe wittily employedaslightly derogatory image of Germans as, from the French perspective, "a notcomplete, acknowledged, but vital neighboring people, striving and involved incontroversies" (a typically multi-voiced commentary from the Kunst and Altertum(1826); FA I 22: 259) to counteract the French national-universal tendency toinstantiate global cultural uniformity. Defending his Greek "cosmopolitanismagainst the inferior local others," he resisted the French national universalismbased on the model of Roman imperial "cosmopolitanism toward the inferiorforeign others." Yet as is often the case with such compensatory revolts, this initialopposition gradually turned into substitution. Invisibly, the German "bondsman"adopted the imperial behavior of the French "lord." One inadmissible appropriationof the global truth substituted for another.

   Let us examine this transformation of self-exemption into self-expansion,briefly exemplified above in Plato's and Voltaire's cosmopolitan arguments, inmore detail. Already in a much earlier polemical reaction to the literary legacyof the French Revolution, significantly entitled Literary Sanculottism (1795),Goethe stated unequivocally: "We do not wish for the upheavals which couldprepare classical works in Germany" (1987: 66). In other words, state revolutionsestablished classical national literatures in France and England, which from hisperspective is unacceptable, as no single national literature deserves the status o}the classic. This status seems to be reserved for the pre- and transnational literatureof Greek Antiquity. For Goethe, any modern European nation making suchuniversal claims is an improper usurper (Giinther 1990: 109) in the same way asPlato blamed democrats for their inappropriate occupation of the divine shepherd'sthrone. Such political national sovereignty vainly pretends to erase the richsediments of universal cultural memory inherited from Greek Antiquity because thelatter's archive ultimately proves victorious (Koch 2002: 151一158). Consideringthe fragmentation and dispersion of this social and cultural legacy induced bymodernity, it is no longer possible for any modern agency to be sovereign on itsown terms. Literary sovereignty is therefore imaginable merely in terms of a "jointventure" of many agencies, which have to patiently learn to know each other inorder to somehow put together these scattered fragments. Appropriating solelyfor themselves the universal Greek cultural legacy and occupying for their pettypurpose its constitutively "empty throne," modern national agencies falsify itsuniversality.

  Even from the perspective of individual writers, Goethe admits to Eckermannon May 15, 1825 that it makes no sense speaking of someone's originality if oneconsiders that the world leaves its imprints on the human being from his beginningto his end. "If I were able to mention everything that I owe to great predecessorsand contemporaries, very few things would remain," i.e. beyond energy, power,and the will [to go through others in order to find out for onesel门(1987: 22}r27).Indeed, as Goethe learns by reading his Faust in French translation, one cannotaffirm the self without encountering the other, and the same goes for the reflectionsof German literature in the mirror of French or English criticism. "Like individualman, each nation also relies on what is ancient and foreign much more than whatis its own, inherited or self-made," he writes in a letter to Carl Ernst Schubarthon November 3, 1820 (188). No modern national literature can erase the oldGreek transnational fundament, which is why Goethe prefers a corporate aestheticredemption of its cultural legacy. "In the evaluation of the foreign (literatures) wemust not stick to anything specific in wishing to regard this as exemplary," he tellshis secretary Eckermann on January 31, 1827; "if we need something exemplary,we must always return to theAncient Greeks..."(250).

   But the Ancient Greeks are gone forever. After their definite departure, theirlegacy lost its binding power, henceforth figuring merely as a regulating idea.As the Lord was now irrevocably absent, His throne became empty and up forgrabs. In order to expose its improper usurpers after the historical dissolution ofthe Antique pattern, Goethe invented Weltliteratur as a permanent supervisingnegotiation between them. Every modern writer must accordingly courageouslyconfront the turbulent worldwide flux, expose his own body to its erasure, andstubbornly drive his spirit through its mess if he wants to gain the real overviewand achieve representative status in the ongoing European competition. (As far asGoethe is concerned, the non-Europeans are involved not so much as distinguishedcompetitors but rather as the not quite distinguishable sources for exploitation).Xenophobic self-isolation (which dominated the German Romantic scene) wouldnot do. Contrary to recent quantitative interpretations of Goethe's concept (as if itcomprises all literatures in their entirety) or the qualitative ones for that matter (asif it means "a symphony of masterpieces from different nations" like for examplein Thomsen 2008: 13), one cannot overemphasize the importance ofprominentinternational literary exchangesfor Goethe's vision of world literature. It pushes allnational literatures in the process of making, as testified by his constant concern forthe participation of Frenchmen, Englishmen, Scots and Italians in the shaping ofGerman literature (Birus 8; Giinther 124).

   The basic principle of self-propelling toward the common future ideal holdstherefore not just for writers but national literatures as well:Left to itself, every literature will exhaust its vitality, if it is not refreshedby the empathy (Teilnahme) of a foreign one. What nature researcher(Naturforscher) does not take pleasure in the wonderful things that he seesproduced by reflection in a mirror? Now what mirroring (Spiegelung) in thefield of morals (Sittliche) means, everyone has experienced in himself if onlyunconsciously, and once his attention is aroused, he will understand how muchin the formation of his life he owes to this mirroring. (Goethe 1987: 245)Not everybody, though, was in a position to capitalize on the proposed processof mutual mirroring, as in order to participate in it one first had to be legitimizedas an agency. In his essay Shakespeare without End of 1816, Goethe (1987: 135)pointed out that only an author equipped with self-consciousness (i.e. in the finalanalysis Goethe alone!) can properly understand foreign tempers and mentalities(Gemutsarten); others are too frightened by them to explore them carefully. In thesame manner, heterogeneity of other literatures can be profitable only if a nationalliterature confronting them has already established its own aesthetic credentials andidentity (1987: 243, 280). In Goethe's understanding, world literature implies anongoing dialogue of equals. Far from being a universal concern, equality requiresmerits. Unlike the French or the English, the Germans of Goethe's time had not yetsucceeded in accomplishing this equality; they were the only nation-in-the-makingamong the prominent Europeans.

  In proposing a world literature based on the German future-oriented pattern ofbecoming, Goethe allocated to the Germans a completely different role from beingjust one of its national participants. To avoid misappropriations, his Weltliteraturrefuses to adopt the national model as the basis of its identity but searchesinstead for its identity in an open process of permanent mediation, exchange andnegotiation. As among the select few only the shaky German identity was at thattime engaged in such a self-finding process, Goethe ultimately expands the ongoingGerman search for identity to the dialogic becoming of world literature. Othernations were thus expected to participate(or, in the case of non-European or less-than-European literatures: to serve)with their particular national currencies in anopen exchange set up on the German identity pattern permanently on the move.In such subtle fashion, elitist se拼exemption turned into democratic expansion notonly on the individual (i.e., Goethe's personal) but also on the collective level: theGermans were surreptitiously appointed as the only legitimate guardians of theGreek transnational legacy. Developing his idea of Weltliteratur, Goethe inventeda reconfigured cultural space, which allocated to his compatriots the prestigiousrole of the custodians of the Holy Archive. Additionally, they were presented asself-denying agencies acting in the name of the forgotten Shepherd who, beyondany selfish interest typical of the French and English pretenders, merely fostera reunion of fractured literatures and cultures. The media of this mutually (yetsubstantially unequally) enriching and empoweringintellectual tradebetweenaccredited European literatures that were expected to spawn the consolidation,improvement and final triumph of German self-understanding were "journals andbooks, correspondence, and translations, the journeys and encounters of writers aswell as an expanding book market" (Meyer-Kalkus 106).

  As John Pizer (2006: 22-24) has rightly pointed out, "impersonal" Germanliterature could not produce a typical classical author infused by a national spirit.It was bereft of recognizable national agency, decentered through its enduringexposure to foreign influences, marked by sub-national disunity and a lack ofcohesion and, still in the dialogic process of national self-finding, internallyheterogeneous and contradictory. Yet precisely this set of features made it suitableas the open dialogic model for the establishment of world literature and worldclassical authors. This German pattern of subtle mediation and negotiation wasdirected against the bellicose competition between the strong, nationally infusedFrench and British literatures. Not that Goethe was hoping the world will bymeans of literature achieve "a universal peace”一he was no less sceptical thanKant in this regard一but he was confident that "the unavoidable quarrel willgradually subside and the war will become less cruel, the victory less imperious(ubermuthig)" (FA I 22: 433-34). Of course, nobody can expect that nations willsuddenly reconceive themselves, "but they must become aware of one another,grasp each other, and if they are unwilling to love one another (wenn sie richwechselseitig nicht lieben mogen), learn to tolerate each other" (FA I 22, 491). For"if we have to communicate in our everyday life with resolutely other-thinkingpersons, we will find ourselves moved to be on the one hand more cautious, but onthe other more tolerant and lenient" (FA I 22: 868). Nevertheless, a core motivationbehind these scattered remarks is not so much "the desire for productive andpeaceful coexistence among the nations of Europe," as Pizer (2006: 21) surmises,incautiously taking Goethe at his word. Rather, beneath Goethe's cosmopolitanproclamations there lurks a compensatory raising of the German national patternof becoming into the sovereign moderator of international intellectual traffic.Germany is envisaged to become the divine shepherd of world literature.

  In this regard, Goethe was, after all, just a loyal inheritor of a number of hisreputed domestic predecessors. In 1793, Herder had stated that Germans should"appropriate the best of all the peoples and in such a way become among themwhat man became among his fellow creatures (Nebenand Mitgeschfe) fromwhich he learned his skills (Kunste). He came at the end, took from every one ofthem his art and now he surpasses and rules all of them" (Herder 1991:VII, 551[emphasis mine]). Several years later, Novalis, in the equally cosmopolitan projectChristendom or Europe (1799), put forth the thesis that, while other Europeancountries are "occupied by war, speculation and partisanship (Parthey-Geist), theGerman makes himself with all diligence into an associate (Genosse) of a higherepoch of culture. This preliminary step must give him, over the course of time, alarge predominance (ein grol3es Uebergewicht) over the others" (Novalis 1983b:llI, 519 [emphasis mine]). In the same vein, Goethe entrusted the German languagewith the role of the medium of permanent translation or commerce of one withanother literature. German is called upon to set the course for everybody's nationalcurrency (Munzsorten) "not by repelling the foreign but devouring it" (1987: 243).What Goethe ultimately envisaged was "the take up and complete appropriation(das vollige Aneignen) of the foreign" (1987: 238), which is tantamount to thecomplete denial of the foreignness inherent to Roman imperial "cosmopolitanismtoward the inferior foreign others."From Exemption to Expansion: Toward the Roman Imperial CosmopolitanismUnlike the Greeks, the Romans refused to acknowledge the other in his or herotherness, regarding him or her as a mere extension of their own noble breed. Theysimply could not imagine that there existed anybody who could be equal to them interms of greatness and still be different from them (Arendt 121). By tacitly shiftingfrom the Greek elitist attitude to this Roman imperial one, Goethe ultimatelydisqualified, or at least disregarded, any individual or collective identity reluctant orunable to persistently enrich itself, i.e., to adopt his and the German self-propellingbehavior and standards. In the famous letter to Thomas Carlyle from July 20, 1827,he states:The Germans have long contributed to the mediation (vermittlun灯betweenindividual and national particularities (das Besondere der einzelnen Menschenand volkerschaftenJ and their mutual recognition. Whoever understands theGerman language finds himself in a market where every nation displays itsmerchandize, plays the translator while enriching himself. (1987: 265)

  Being himself an internally dialogic author whose consciousness was able ofdevouring an incredible polyglossia,8 Goethe wanted to transfer the vivid spiritualcohesiveness of individuals characterizing the French esprit general and theEnglish public spirit from the national to the world literary level. However, in sodoing he also wished to open the historical stream of the entire human communityengendered in such a way, by applying to it theGerman "dialogic principle" of self-frnding.9 In an address to the society of nature researchers and physicians from1828 he stated that what is of real concern in world literature is that "vivid andstriving men of letters become acquainted with one another and find themselvesstimulated for social action through their mutual inclination and common sense"(Neigung and Gemeinsinn, FA I 25: 79). The works of world literature concern usonly inasmuch as they concern each other (Giinther 124). It is only if they createsuch select common sense, caught in the unlimited process of perfection, that theysubstitute, to deploy Thomas Mann's apt opposition, what is possible or valid forthe world (Weltfahige or Weltgultige) and characterized by a true world horizon(Weltbezug) for what is at present simply the way of the world (Weltlaufige; Birus16).Given Germany's own lack of a strong, immanent, infrangible national identityin his time, it is not surprising that Goethe was particularly aware of andopen to the possibility of a super- or transnational literary modality. PerhapsGoethe's insights into the contemporary impossibility of creating a "classical"(national) German literature made the formulation of a Weltliteratur desirableas the only possible alternative to cultural fragmentation. (Pfizer 2006: 24)Goethe's Weltliteratur was undoubtedly a trauma narrative in the meaning JeffreyAlexander attributed to this concept: coming up "from below" (i.e., both froman unrecognized Goethe in the German literary space and from an underratedGermany in the European political and cultural space), it therapeuticallyreconfigures the existing political, literary and cultural space. The Weltliteraturnarrative, in a word, works through and acts out both a personal and a collectivetraumatic experience. Yet no trauma narrative can achieve necessary publicrecognition without instigating "new rounds of social suffering" (Alexander 2012:2). At the very moment at which it predicates the equal dignity of all its imaginedworldwide community's invited participants, it proves unable to remove the gap,which produces "the part that has no part" in it.

  This essential simultaneity of the narrative's construction and destruction ofcommunity accounts for its slide from emancipation to supremacy. Undertakenunder the pressure of depravation and humiliation, it gradually rises to the statusof an international intellectual agenda and thus, if only with delays and hesitations,becomes a powerful "multidirectional" platform for the recovery of varioustraumatized collectivities. This is what had happened meanwhile to Goethe'sWeltliteratur, whose global impact increased in an almost daily rhythm. Yet withoutdenying its politically intended integration of political and cultural fragmentationat home and abroad, his trauma narrative of world reconciliation (Weltversohnung)was basically structured on the German Einheit-in一vielfalt model of steadyself-expansion: The greater your diversity, affiliates of Weltliteratur, the moren2agn沂cent grows my dialogic unity in becoming! Having been initiated in the form of Greek elitist "cosmopolitanism againstthe deluded fellow citizens," that is to say, Goethe's idea of world literature tacitlyperverted into Roman imperial "cosmopolitanism toward the inferior foreigners"open to the inclusion of any agency able and ready to comply with the set rulesof exchange. According to Costas Douzinas (2007: 159), "[...] cosmopolitanismstarts as a moral universalism but often degenerates into imperial globalism. [... ]The continuous slide of cosmopolitan ideas towards empire is one of the dominantmotifs of modernity." It is significant that, following this same path, Voltaire'sproject of the world literary republic underwent a comparable "perversion" of itsenvisaged inclusiveness into an intolerant exclusiveness. It finally asked "thosenations which are not French[…] to become French" (Lyotard 147) and thusturned its initial war of liberation into the war of conquest. No wonder then, thesame imperial model already defined the true, albeit hardly deliberate agenda ofthe famous manifesto of Weimar Classicism, composed by Schiller but subscribedto by Goethe. It set its sails, in the interest of "pure humanity" (rein menschlich),to "unite again the politically divided world under the banner of truth and beauty(die politisch geteilte Welt enter der Fahne der Wahrheit and Schonheit wiederzu vereinigen)" (Schiller 1991:XXll, 109). After all, aesthetics in the service ofGermany's own political recalibration and reconfiguration was, as Joseph Chytry(1989) has convincingly demonstrated, the main agenda around 1800. Put in the"obvious" terms of the untiringly self-propelling German spirit, world literaturecommunity was hoped to eventually become an "expanded fatherland," accordingto Goethe's own formulation in the essay on Carlyle's translation of Schiller(FA I 22: 431-34). Accordingly, the entrance to this expanded fatherland wassurreptitiously supplied with an invisible "garbage disposal." Not everybody wasequally welcome within the family.

  Translating the "IronLaw of Kinship" into the "Free Competition of Values"This undermines the enthusiastic reading of Goethe's Weltliteratur proposed by theMoroccan Germanist Fawzi Boubia (1985, 1988). Unreservedly endorsed by Pizer(2006: 27-28), he refutes the charges against its Eurocentric character. Goetherespects the particularity of non-European "others," the argument goes, advocatingthe movement toward the non-European Other and not a dominion over it or itslevelling to European dimensions. This thesis finds a supporter in David Damrosch(2003:13). Damrosch, quoting a passage from Eckermann in which Goethedismisses medieval Germanic and Serbian poetry by treating both as "barbaricpopular poetry" of only provisional interest for the serious writer, regards this to be"not, or not primarily, Eurocentrism," since elitism and Eurocentrism strike him aspartly "competing values." The problem is, unfortunately, that in Goethe's argumentthey go strictly hand in hand, making a quite inseparable couple. The incessantnormative activity of passing judgments and correcting aberrations一discipliningthe most diverse participants to comply with the set rules of participation byabandoning their "inherited identity garbage”一transforms Weltliteratur tacitlyfrom an emancipating agency into one which is oppressive. Being constitutivelydependent on canon by its manifold adherents, the cosmopolitan operation oftrauma narratives cannot avoid perversion into an instrument of their colonization.The same "democratic malformation" happened, after all, to Herder's Weltpoesiebased on Naturdichtung as well as to August Schlegel's universal poetry (canon ofmasterpieces, A. Schlegel 1965: IV, 14) and Goethe's Weltliteratur proves, albeitlong after his death, unable to escape it,一all the advertent or inadvertent "makeup"applied by his domestic and international interpreters notwithstanding. Yet Goethehimself, being a well-trained pupil of Plato, was terrified by this sinister prospectof an idea, which was forged to circumvent it. This is why he tirelessly, albeitultimately vainly, reaffirms its elitism.

  In the famous conversation of January 31, 1827 (1987: 249-50), for example,he firstly shares with Eckermann the democratic thought that poetry is a commongood of humankind in which some are a little bit better, swim a little bit longerat the top than the others, and that's all. As poetry is a universal human matter,nobody should delude himself he is a great poet just because he has written agood poem. Yet he was at that time already frightened by the consequences of thisinitially Herderian literary doctrine to which he subscribed in 1773, when he editeda collection ofAlsatian folk songs together with Herder. In the meantime, this earlydemocratic initiative of hugely expanding the idea of literature gave rise to the neo-German religio-patriotic art (neu-deutsche religion patriotische Kunst) which henow abhorred (Meyer-Kalkus 2010: 101). What was once intended to be broadlydemocratic was thus turned into the self-enclosed national-conservative opposite.With his Weltliteratur, Goethe pretended to obviate this destiny of Naturdichtung,which is why he could not permit everybody to usurp it. It had to be saved fromsuch vulgarization by its uncultivated consumers in the same way as the restrictionof the Greek nomos to a small circle of domestic agencies tended to prevent the(forthcoming Roman) evaporation of the political in an incalculable system ofimperial expansion (Arendt 119).

  He therefore immediately, in the continuation of the same conversation,returns to the Greek elitist cosmopolitan position: Such universal poetry certainlyconcerns Chinese, Serbian poetry or the Nibelungenlied, which are exclusively ofa transitory historical interest, but not Greek Antiquity, which is of an immortalaesthetic interest. In the slightly later notes from the Makariens Archiv (1829,1987: 284) he is even more unambiguous: "Chinese, Indian, Egyptian antiquitiesare always just curiosities; it is recommendable to make oneself and the worldacquainted with them; but they would be not especially fruitful for our moral andaesthetic education/formation (Bildung)." This is the reason why "Orientals" cannever stand comparison with the Greeks and Romans or the Nibelungen with theIliad for that matter (174); they simply belong to different categories, since thefirst represent false or transient values and the second those that are true or deep.Because of the "Oriental predilection" to lump together what is most remote,contradictory and incommensurable (169), Goethe also rejects the literary workof his younger contemporary Jean Paul (175-77). Instead of trying to distill fromthe world's diversity its underlying true equivalent (wahres Aquivalent) patternedaccording to the Ancient Greek model, Jean Paul uses this diversity as a coin formomentary rhetorical effects. Such "Oriental" literary rhetoric only degradespoetry, bereaving it of its true substance (178). Poetry is therefore no longer auniversal human matter: all Oriental literatures, the Serbian and the old Germanicepic as well as Romantic mannerists like Jean Paul are expelled from its blessing.

  They are not completely inapplicable, admittedly, but of restricted use inthe envisioned world literary community of elective affiliates. Oriental culturecan be used just as a "refreshing source" to "strengthen the peculiarity of ourspirit," but certainly not as its law-giving pattern (FA ll 6: 642). "Goethe has neverabandoned Shakespeare in favor of Nizami" (Birus 1995:19). The same holdsfor Naturdichtung: original but primitive, it can be reasonably exploited onlyas a raw material. Even if Goethe urges his compatriots to apply the HerderianEinfuhlungsvermogen (empathic ability) in their approach to Serbian folk poetry,when he accordingly advises them to pay the Serbs a "personal visit" he describesthe Serbian "rough land" as if it lay somewhere far behind, "several centuries ago"(FA I 22: 686). And when he was indeed once invited, during his journey throughItaly, by the Prince of Waldeck to cross the Adriatic Sea and pay the "Morlacks" a"personal visit," he declined with uneasiness, "distinctly not interested in travellingacross the Adriatic" (Wolff 2001:192). The imagined geography, pleasing by itsself-complimenting operations, refuses to be embarrassed by the real one. Even ifhe recommended "to read every poet in his own language and the peculiar districtof his time and habits" (FA I 3:270) and "to strive to approach the foreign asclosely as possible" (FA I 3: 293), he himself read the Chinese novel of mannersYii-chao-lia "marginal Chinese literary work of minor importance" (Wang2011, 296)in a free French translation and adaptation (Le deux cousines, 1826).In the same way, he retranslated the Serbian epic from the poor Italian translation.Recalling this episode fifty years later, he even claims he translated it from theaccompanying French in Countess Rosenberg's Morlackische Notizen, whichwere not published until 1788, i.e. too late to be used for his translation (Wolff2001:192)一a neat example of how unconcerned he was about translations of"barbaric" literary products. It seems he did not exactly expect the translation ofsuch marginal literary works to be of the highest sort一according to his typology(1987: 181一185)一that gives up its own language in order to closely stick to theoriginal; an informative, plainly prosaic translation, which is the lowest sort in hishierarchy, completely suffices. The "heightened attentiveness" that protects onefrom "easy familiarizing projections" practiced by the ignorant mob is not exactlynecessary here. Oriental non-European or indeed European literatures all servemerely for rude orientation. From the Western perspective, they make up "the rest"which "we must look at only historically; appropriating for ourselves what is good,so far as we can" (1987: 250). The non-European or less-than-European literaturesand cultures, in a way, remain up for arbitrary grabs for their prominent Europeancounterparts; what counts are their motives, certainly not language, discourse orstyle.

   The great West European literatures, on the contrary, serve Goethe as highlyimportant refracting mirrors that, unlike the Oriental ones, fully deserve theattentiveness of Kantian Hineinversetzen or Herderian Einfuhlungsvermogen. If onewants to truly understand them, meticulous and patient translation of their genuineotherness has to penetrate what is untranslatable in them (Beim Ubersetzen mman bis ans Unubersetzliche herangehen, 308). Goethe does not fear to be crushedby them like his modest compatriots, since the French, British and Italianswerethe first to acknowledge and invite him into their international company and notvice versa. His almost imperially self-confident Weltliteratur therefore does notemerge from German literary and cultural inferiority as Damrosch claims. At stakeis an initiative not merely richly prepared by numerous domestic translations, asindicated above, but also powerfully corroborated from abroad. Nobody comesupon the idea of forging global designs without such accreditations. Because ofoutlined interferences between these cultures, Damrosch's clear-cut oppositionbetween French cosmopolitanism "from above" and German cosmopolitanism"from below" has to be substantially revised, i.e., reintroduced within each ofthese respective corpuses. They are far from being as robust as Damrosch (alongwith many others) portrays them for the polemical purpose of defending hisown argument. As cosmopolitanism splits into agencies and enablers, those whospeak for it and those in the name of whom it speaks-and this not only alongnational but also economic, social and gender lines,-it necessarily contains aninternal redoubling. Underneath its "elitist" face, the "democratic" element issubmerged, underneath its "mind" its "body." No external opposition or "blamingof the ignorant" can cancel out this constitutive gap. No "subject of existswithout a "subject to" that persistently undermines its sovereignty. Rather thanbeing consistent and continuous, cosmopolitanism is。split and discontinuousundertaking.

  As the Goethe specialist Anne Bohnenkamp was the first to notice, his ideaof world literature was "directly connected with his perception of the internationalreception of his own works" (2000: 187 [emphasis mine]). It was not that heinitially and anxiously looked after the foreign mirrors but instead, in a creativelysovereign reaction, rE刃ected on their mirroring, mirrored their refractions back,retransferred their transfers, received their reception, retranslated their translations.In sum, he creatively enhanced and propelled the process of literary exchange, andprecisely this is how his equivocal narrative of world literature came into being.In the final analysis, all this consolatory acceptance, praising, translating, staging,reviewing and censoring of his work (Goethe 1987, who here again "modestly"speaks of "us") enormously contributed to Goethe's imperial self-understanding(Meyer-Kalkus 2010: 105-106). As the refractions "from one mirror to anotherdo not fade but ignite each other" (FA I, 17: 371) the wide world suddenlybecame an "expanded fatherland," i.e. a substantially improved version of whathe was desperately missing at home. After all, a number of his distinguishedcontemporaries such as Novalis, the brothers Schlegel, Fichte, Jean Paul, andMme de Stael were also firmly convinced that the moment had come for Germansto take command of the world partition of symbolic values. They were expected"to unite all the advantages of the most varied nationalities" in order "to createa cosmopolitan midpoint for the human spirit" (A. Schlegel 1965:IV, 36). Toreiterate "[...] cosmopolitanism starts as a moral universalism but often degeneratesinto imperial globalism. [...] The continuous slide of cosmopolitan ideas towardsempire is one of the dominant motifs of modernity" (Douzinas 159).

  Thus the conclusion would be that, opposite to Damrosch's consistently one-dimensional reading in favor of the "free competition" of cultural values, Goethe'sWeltliteratur nonetheless amounts to an imperial "system of self-securing" of hisand the German shaken self in the sense defined by Barbara Herrnstein Smith(quoted by Damrosch, 8). This imperial sesecuring system of world literature,"in enlarging its view `from China to Peru,' may become all the more imperialistic,seeing in every horizon of difference new peripheries of its own centrality, newpathologies through which its own normativity may be defined and must beasserted" (Smith 54). Smith's characterization neatly harmonizes with Arendt'sdescription of Roman "cosmopolitanism toward the inferior others," whichregards the other as a mere extension of the noble Roman breed (Arendt 120). InRoman imperial terms, the other was saved from annihilation not "out of mercy,but for the sake of the expansion of the polis, which from now on was expectedto include even the most foreign members in a new alliance of comrades" (116).Far from being a firm and enclosed canon (as was the contemporary RomanticUniversalpoesie), Goethe's adaptable and steadily contextually fed movement ofworld literature that swallows up ever-new participants thus gradually, despite hisreluctance, acquired the Roman profile. Goethe as the engineer of world literatureand the Germans as its collective beneficiaries systematically capitalized the"reiterated mirroring" and "mutual illuminations" (Bohnenkamp 202-203) providedby its numerous adherents. According to a lucid early remark by Ernst RobertCurtius, world literature was from the very beginning meant as a "meeting point ofmany references, a center of diverging perspectives: formulated as a mission" (einAufgegebenes; Curtius 1954: 46; Bohnenkamp 2000: 202), it accumulated profit ascapital does by its very definition. Being shaped as steadily agglomerating symboliccapital一and note that without exception recent German interpreters also avoidthis point一it was meant exclusively for agencies in the globalizing operationsof circulation. The remaining unfit candidates (like the non-European, less-than-European, pre-modern or indeed Romantic mannerist literatures for that matter)were expelled in advance from the international circulation, transformation andtranslation that enables the symbolic enrichment of its participants一as Damrosch(4-5) significantly circumscribes the essence of world literature. Being rejected bya fine-tuned "garbage disposal" that hideously supervised its normative procedure,they were relegated to the category of enablers, the "working and producing"residue of all compensatory trauma narratives. This amorphous surplus follows thetriumphant rise of world literature like an uncanny shadow.

  Systematically stamped, marginalized, and excommunicated by the relentlessnormative work of this global system, these enablers were captured in the immobile,restricted and benighted realm of national literatures (Damrosch 6). Locked in sucha way, they were prevented from gaining and benefitting from cultural exchangesand concomitantly bereft of any chance to function as the prestigious exchangevaluefor all the others. Destined to be deployed at best selectively, partially andoccasionally as raw material, rather than permanently exchanged, differentiatedand refined in the ongoing globalizing operations, they were condemned to thestatus of local and anonymous use values devoid of global identity, relevance andacknowledgement. If the production and proliferation of such telluric, indistinctive,non-exchangeable and untranslatable "pockets of disability" is an unavoidablecorollary of the self-propelling system of world literature, then the habitual attitudeof the inhabitants of these pockets to world literature has to be re-examined. Theenthusiastic endorsement of its operations, feverishly trying to scratch and crawlthe enablers' way into their "blessed realm" at the cost of thereby being denigratedto the status of a temporally anterior and spatially exterior object with regard to thesystemic mainstream (Shih 17), risks the elimination of these "systemicoutputs"from the field of political attention. Are we therefore not better advised to raise thequestion as to who in the last analysis is authorizing, promoting, and canonizingthis imperial system, and with what motivation, purpose and benefit? In other words, the relation of global domination based on the impositionof common law, as represented in the existing projects of world literature, mustconfront continuous disagreement rather than be smoothly perpetuated. If worldliterature does indeed want to be democratic, then it has the task of highlightingthe irresolvable conflict that underlies its cosmopolitanism rather than the taskof persistent suppression of this conflict for the benefit of a supposed "unity-to-come." In lieu of being an "unfinished project" that has to be brought to itsharmonic completion, world literature is a project never to be finished because ofthe split inherent to it. Maintenance of its democratic character, not its celebrated"dialogue of equals" but its neglected constitutive disagreementbetween agenciesand enablers has to be consistently practiced.

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