The Late Eighteenth-century Confluence of British-German Sentimental Literature: The Lessing Brothers, Henry Mackenzie, Goethe, and Jane Austen analyzes the literary exchange and influence between British and German literature. Xiaohu Jiang focuses particularly on the process of this mutual influence—that is, translation—by observing how the political and cultural imbalance between the British and German literary fields impacted the conceptions, attitudes, and (in)visibility of translators in Britain and Germany in the late eighteenth century. To this end, Jiang carefully reads the paratexts of these translations, analyzing the resemblances between Henry Mackenzie’s The Man of Feeling and Goethe’s Die Leiden des jungen Werther and arguing that The Man of Feeling is a vital source of influence for Die Leiden des jungen Werther. Furthermore, this book also presents an in-depth analysis of Jane Austen’s creative appropriation of Die Leiden des jungen Werther and her oscillating attitudes toward sensibility, which is evidenced not only in her own texts, but also from her brother’s articles in The Loiterer. Scholars of literature, history, and international relations will find this book particularly useful.
Xiaohu Jiang is post-doctoral researcher at the University of Vienna
Chapter 1: Introduction
Chapter 2: Translators’ Prefaces as Battlefields for British-German Discontent with France during the Late Eighteenth Century
Chapter 3: The First English Translation of Geschichte des Agathon by John Richardson in 1773
Chapter 4: The First German Translation of The Man of Feeling by Karl Gotthelf Lessing in 1774
Chapter 5: Mackenzie’s Harley and Goethe’s Werther
Chapter 6: Jane Austen and Goethe’s Die Leiden des jungen Werthers
Chapter 7: Jane Austen’s Parody: Witness of Her Literary Growth
Chapter 8: Conclusion
This groundbreaking book sets new standards in the understanding of both German and British eighteenth and early nineteenth-century literature. By exposing the influence of Mackenzie’s The Man of Feeling on Goethe’s Werther, and uncovering new degrees of debt owed by Austen to Goethe, Jiang’s work opens fresh vistas for examining the relation between these national literatures, from Enlightenment through to the age of Romanticism.
Literature has always been a dialogue, an ongoing and lively exchange of motifs, thoughts, themes and techniques. In an exemplary way, Jiang’s study shows how literary translations become a medium, as well as a battlefield, of cultural transfer and influence. In carefully reconstructing the links between Mackenzie, Goethe, and Austen, Jiang not only rewrites an important chapter of literary dialogue from the late eighteenth to the nineteenth century. He also casts new light on how a core motif of sentimental literature travels through languages, cultural contexts, and literary tastes.