Goethe's Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship

Goethe's Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship

A Reader's Commentary

Jane V. Curran


Camden House



The first detailed reader's commentary on one of the seminal works of world literature.
Goethe's Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre is commonly acknowledged to have played a pivotal role in founding the genre known as the Bildungsroman. Although a wealth of critical material has accumulated since its publication in 1795-96, a detailed commentary in English on this novel of `apprenticeship' has been lacking from the corpus. Jane V. Curran's full-length commentary fills this gap. In her analysis, Curran presents the standard material familiar from traditional commentaries, but includes passages hitherto neglected, presenting new insights in a new form. Curran stresses the importance of narrative techniques, traces the development of the characters, and draws the reader's attention to the intertextual echoes, the use of symbols, and the many instances of irony. Curran also points out parallels between Wilhelm Meister's experiences and Goethe's life, and illuminates contemporary issues that are touched on in the novel, particularly the development of the German theater. The book provides notes with additional information for the interpretation of Goethe's work, including factual details of general interest, scholarly sources, and background information. This is a vade mecum not only for students of Goethe and of German literature, but also for all those interested in the development of the Bildungsroman.

Jane V. Curran is chair of the German Department, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia.


March 2002
338 pages
9x6 in
Studies in German Literature Linguistics and Culture
ISBN: 9781571131188
Format: Hardback
Camden House
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Table of Contents

Book One
Book Two
Book Three
Book Four
Book Five
Book Six
Book Seven
Book Eight
Conclusion: Realism and Reading
Works Cited


Curran handles scholarship deftly, integrating the contributions of others (many available only in German) into the body of her text.... The result is a reader-friendly commentary, simultaneously informative and enjoyable to read. GOETHE YEARBOOK

(A) concert of micro-thoughts. Curran is well-informed, and generous with her information.... All eighteenth-century human life is there, including the clamour of contemporary religious, aesthetic, and social debates: Genie, Bildung, the origin of language, the importance of Shakespeare and so on, as they echo in Goethe's compendious text, are all explained without fuss.... This commentary, then, exhibits the kind of qualities that we have come to expect from Camden House, and as a work of reference, is more useful than half a dozen essays of critical virtuosity. BRITISH JOURNAL OF EIGHTEENTH-CENTURY STUDIES

Curran deftly identifies the essential elements of the often lengthy debates and conversations, and she grasps the subtleties of non-verbal interactions and emotions. A great deal of sensitivity, erudition, and diligence went into the design and execution of this commentary...a superb tool for teachers of advanced students. SEMINAR

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