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The master of the dramatic. The Poet Duke of German literature. Two-headed he stands on the pedestal. What was the first name of Goethe-and-Schiller? When is the birthday of Goethe-and-Schiller? Has anyone read Goethe-and-Schiller? High time for E&M to explore studying like Goethe-and-Schiller.

1. What it is not. Studying in the twin-pack.

Interestingly enough, it is Goethe-and-Schiller, not Schiller-and-Goethe. Rarely it is Goethe-and-not-Schiller. Technically, yes: Goethe-and-not-Schiller, inventor of the Goethezeit [Goethe era], and of the Geist der Goethezeit [spirit of the Goethe era]. As opposed to Schiller-and-not-Goethe, inventor of the Schillerlocke [cream horn or strip of dogfish smoked belly] and numerous German streets of the same name. Yet the following instruction is about the twin-pack only.

2. What else is out there. Environmental analysis in moresomes.

Studying like Goethe-and-Schiller is about piling resources together. A strategy that can pay off indeed, while there is a variety of interesting historical packages out there:

Of course there are the monoliths that stand alone on their pedestals, as if there was but a single one on earth: Shakespeare, Bach, Einstein, Kant…

Everyone loves Triumvirates. Caesar-Gracchus-Pompey, the one that coined the term, may not be the handiest example – mainly because Caesar clearly outdid his former allies in terms of power and post-mortal celebrity. A potential downside that should be taken into account carefully.

Mozart-Haydn-Beethoven performed better on average. Having studied like Haydn, however, despite the production of 104 symphonies, you might find yourself a bit lost – unjustifiably – between your two buddies. And still, the constellation proves to have its assets. Take Schubert in the boat with you, and turn your troika in a Tetrahood. Even better: the option to revisit your joint studying career a fair 130 years later: Schönberg-Berg-Webern, all based in Vienna as well and referred to as Second Viennese School, even bring the add-on option Eisler as a fourth wheel on the car.

And finally, between the lonesome and the threesome: the twosome, the heroic brotherhoods, the through-thick-and-thin allies, the genius twins. Wagner-and-Liszt, not only spiritual relatives, but – as E&M readers are well informed – father- and son-in-law and stakeholders of most tangible common affairs.

Few out of the duos are as emblematic, though, as Goethe-and-Schiller. Don’t we all like the intermeshing of complementary characters, contrasting maybe, but loyally sharing the same grand vision? Doesn’t it just add the personal, human polish we need to ultimately fall in love with the bronze patina we have wrapped them in?

Doesn’t it just add the personal, human polish we need to ultimately fall in love with the bronze patina we have wrapped them in?

3. Insider information

Yes, studying like those hyphenated may work wonderfully for the generations to come, it may saturate centuries of educated generations. Nevertheless: It is a fake.

Liszt and Wagner were distanced at best, and it is quite likely that Liszt, at least in his old days, working on eerie, futuristic reductions of his former music, was most annoyed by the Wagner-mania that kept a firm hand on musical Europe.

In the case of Goethe-and-Schiller, things are particularly interesting. Their mere being at Weimar, tiny and provincial duchy on the then splintered German territory, must suffice to give birth to an era that would be unanimously considered the heart, the essence of “the German spirit”, soul, being, and culture: the Weimar Klassik.

No matter that Schiller died a long time before Goethe, no matter the crass difference in their social status and prestige, no matter how greatly their stylistic approaches divert – a Goethe-Schiller-driven Weimar Klassik is what schoolkids cram and tourist guides preach. No matter how misplaced the few-year-long working relation of two poets as the determination of a historical era – they are an epoch. First came the Enlightenment, then came Goethe-and-Schiller, then came Romanticism. There was also Renaissance, and Classicism, and the old Greeks at some point, and Goethe-and-Schiller in the middle. And in the end, while indoctrinated to keep clinically apart from each other, what seems like inventing the wheel every time again, no one can really tell what makes the difference – except for maybe Romanticism, clearly the thing with the candles.

Interestingly, the situation with the Mozart-Haydn-Beethoven triple connection is similar. Making up for the musical ‘era’ of the Viennese Klassik (analogue to the literary Weimar Klassik), the problem is: it is fake as well. Mozart audited for old Haydn as a small child, Haydn spent most of his time at Esterházy in the Austrian province, and Beethoven was from Bonn and not from Vienna. Both Mozart and Beethoven did study Hadyn’s symphonies thoroughly – point taken. Not to talk about the fourth man Schubert, who would have desperately longed for meeting Beethoven, but never made it before the latter’s death, and then followed him in death very soon afterwards.

4. What is in the air

To yourself, studying like Goethe-and-Schiller may mean to have a lot more in contradiction than in common. As Schiller you write in classical Aristotelian form, five acts, the exemplary dramatic construction. As Goethe you meander in blank verses and endless epics; Faust quarrels with Mephistopheles under a medieval vault. But only a few hundred pages later, the same medieval Faust impregnates Helena, the hottest woman in antiquity and cause of the Trojan War, and his quack assistant fabricates the test-tube baby Homunculus, revolutionising science and mankind.

Studying like Schiller you are a razor-sharp advocate of reason and moral education of mankind in your philosophical thesis, strongly influenced by enlightenment mastermind Kant – while in your dramas justice and self-determination consequently go to the dogs. To make things even more confusing, in your personal life as classicist-pessimist-enlightening Schiller, you are hanging out with the candle-guys at Jena, Schlegel & Co., the Romanticists of the first hour.

Studying like Goethe-and-Schiller is far more than Goethe-or-Schiller alone. It is even far more than Weimar Klassik. The only way in which Goethe-and-Schiller are ‘classic’ is in the sense that generations to come have considered their works exemplary, flawless, the benchmark in German literature. Other than that, a Goethe-and-Schiller era is non-existent. Goethe-and-Schiller partook in what was in the air around 1800: a bit of the old Greeks (classicism), a fair deal of the enlightenment project, and at the same time a complementary dose of nocturnally-inspired Romanticism. If in this overlaying web something is half-way set apart, it is the complementary punchline of Enlightenment vs. Romanticism. While the Enlightenment would highlight human progress, driven by reason, science and education, the Romanticists would emerge at the very same time as primeval Hippies, the globalisation sceptics of 1800. Elaborate Hippies, though: their desire for the old medieval myths, for nature, for the irrational, operates on the level and in full awareness of the achievements of the Enlightenment. When Goethe-and-Schiller are being Romantic, they remain Enlighteners, artistically emulating a pre-Enlightenment surrounding.

Studying like Goethe-and-Schiller? Juggle Enlightenment-Romanticism. Occasionally be Classicist. Make others think you are classic.

5. Actions to be taken

There is one cool thing that Goethe-and-Schiller really did together, and obviously unanimously enough not to specify their respective authorship: Die Xenien. Ambitious, but being not yet a lot more than young poets based at Weimar, they thought up malicious satire on all the literary and philosophic grey eminences out there, then had it posted to them simultaneously.

Studying like Goethe-and-Schiller in a nutshell: be a no-name, find yourself an ally, and then as an initial step blatantly piss on them all. This is the Weimar classic. If not epochal, still epic.

Cover photo: Wikipedia (copyright free)

  • Christian Diemer is from Rottweil in South Germany. Having studied musicology, arts management, and composition in Weimar, he is now writing from Berlin and obscure spots in East Europe, where he is currently working on his PhD thesis about traditional music in Ukraine.

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