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C O U R S E 
Masterpieces of World Literature
Martin Puchner, Harvard University
C O U R S E   L E C T U R E 
Goethe's Corpus and World Literature
Notes taken on April 27, 2017 by Edward Tanguay
Chinese novels translated into Western languages by 1827
very few
relatively short
love stories full of adventures
improbable coincidences
nothing like the Chinese novels that have since become part of the world literature canon
The Story of the Stone (Dream of the Red Chamber)
by Cao Xueqin (1715-1764)
one of China's Four Great Classical Novels
the novel circulated in manuscript copies with various titles until its print publication in 1791
first 80 chapters were written by Cao Xueqin
the novel is believed to be semi-autobiographical, mirroring the rise and decline of author Cao Xueqin's own family and, by extension, of the Qing Dynasty
remarkable not only for its huge cast of characters and psychological scope, but also for its precise and detailed observation of the life and social structures typical of 18th-century Chinese society
takes place inside a family compound
Journey to the West
Chinese novel published in the 16th century during the Ming dynasty
known as Monkey
an extended account of the legendary pilgrimage of the Tang dynasty Buddhist monk Xuanzang who traveled to the Western Regions, i.e. Central Asia and India, to obtain Buddhist sacred texts and returned after many trials and much suffering
lots of adventure
Haoqiu zhuan
"The pleasing history" or "The fortunate union"
a Chinese novel published in the 17th Century
plot: the beauty, Shui Bingxin, and the scholar, Tie Zhongyu, want to avenge their fathers and go against the bureaucracy, which is corrupt
Goethe didn't limit himself to Chinese novels
a few years earlier, Wilhelm Grimm, wrote to his brother about Goethe's doings
William Grimm on Goethe: "He's into Persian stuff, composed a collection of poems in the manner of Hafiz, and he is studying Arabic. And all this on top of reading from and explaining Haoqiu zhuan, another Chinese novel."
Goethe's move to Weimar
horizon was much wider than that of his contemporaries
but chose to live in a small town of 6,000 people for pretty much his entire life
he had grown up in the much larger and more cosmopolitan Frankfurt
he was invited by the Duke of Weimar to live in that city
the duchy only had about 20,000 subjects
an independent entity in need of management
Goethe made himself indispensable
got involved in the theater
took charge of roads, finances, and warfare
he sent on diplomatic missions
he fought against Napoleon
Goethe's interest in world literature
many people didn't understand his drive for this
it was a matter of reading and writing
wrote much about his travels
had a yearning for the wider world inspired by the Persian poet Hafez
Hafez (1326-1389)
lauded the joys of love and wine but also targeted religious hypocrisy
wrote a collection of poetry called the West-Eastern Divan
bemoans the fact that he cannot travel to Persia
he intends to bridge the distance through imaginary leaps based on his intense study of Hafez
visits themes found in Hafez
also inspired by the Sanskrit play Abhijñānashākuntala
from the 1st century BCE
abandoned at birth by her parents, Shakuntala is reared in the secluded, sylvan hermitage of the sage Kanva, and grows up a comely but innocent maiden
a king is enchanted by her and marries her
also modeled on the story of Job
only telling his duke and butler, he set off for Rome
the land of the Renaissance and Roman antiquity
this made him take up writing again, inaugurating a new period of literature: Weimar Classicism
laid the foundation for world literature