Heinrich Detering and Yuan Tan explore Goethe’s portrait gallery featuring four »tender Chinese girls«, a small cycle of great significance.
Goethe’s proclamation of the dawn of »world literature« in the year 1827 focuses on China. From literary encounters with the unfamiliarity of this culture, he makes first attempts at poetic adaptation. Before his last great lyric cycle, the »Chinese-German Book of Seasons and Hours«, he writes a first cycle of five poems on Chinese poetesses. Because Goethe introduces these texts as translations, although they are actually freely adapted and rewritten, their cultural significance and literary value are yet to be discovered. The experimental arrangement plays with eastern and western motifs, featuring a curiosity for the relationship between poetry and femininity.
Heinrich Detering and Yuan Tan reveal the tortuous paths by which the images and verses of the »Chinese Girls« made their way from Peking to Weimar, and show how the elderly Goethe once again broke new literary ground in Chinese-European role play.
Heinrich Detering, born in 1959, is a professor of modern German literature and comparative literature studies at the University of Göttingen. He has been a guest professor at institutions such as the University of Wuhan (China). Publications include: Wundertiere (Legendary Animals, 2015); Das offene Geheimnis. Zur literarischen Produktivität eines Tabus (The Open Secret. The Literary Productivity of a Taboo, new edition, 2013); Old Glory (2012); Der Antichrist und der Gekreuzigte: Nietzsches letzte Texte (The Antichrist and Christ on the Cross: Nietzsche’s Last Texts, 2010); Wrist (2009); Bertolt Brecht und Laotse (2008); Schwebstoffe (Suspended Solids, 2004).
Yuan Tan, born in 1975, is a professor of German literature at the University in Wuhan (China). Publications include: Der Chinese in der deutschen Literatur – unter besonderer Berücksichtigung chinesischer Figuren in den Werken von Schiller, Döblin und Brecht (The Chinese in German literature – with Particular Emphasis on Chinese Figures in the Works of Schiller, Döblin and Brecht, 2007).