MLN 114.5 (1999) 1014-1036

Goethe's Architectonic Bildung and Buildings in Classical Weimar

Susan Bernstein

1. Architectonic

In the penultimate section of the Critique of Pure Reason, Kant presents the term "architectonic" as follows: "By an architectonic I understand the art of systems." 1 Architectonic unity, he explains, is characterized by rational necessity and is distinguished from technical unity, or those general structures produced through aggregation or empirical accumulation. In the rhapsodies of accumulation, history can be gathered up and reshaped, refigured and re-presented in a necessary and systematic form:

It is unfortunate that only after we have spent much time rhapsodically collecting all sorts of stray bits of knowledge as building materials [Bauzeug], at the suggestion of an idea lying hidden in our minds, and after we have, indeed, over a long period assembled the materials in a merely technical manner, does it first become possible for us to discern the idea in a clearer light, and to devise a whole architectonically in accordance with the ends of reason. (655/2:697)

This architectonic projection or design does away with the haphazard quality of the Bauzeug or construction materials. The recasting of knowledge according to a single idea picks up historical material; Kant remarks that this project should not be so hard, considering that much knowledge has already amassed itself and thus makes possible "an architectonic of all human knowledge . . . in view of the great [End Page 1014] amount of material that has been collected . . . or which can be picked up from the ruins of old collapsed buildings" (655/2:698).

Architectonics, then, marks a fold between induction and deduction, between the technical or rhapsodic gathering of the historical and its recasting as a necessary system of relations. One might say that the word "architectonic" is the transcendental correlate to the field of architecture; it enfolds and presents the rules of the buildings, ruins, and materials that architecture deploys. Architecture provides the constitutive elements of the articulation of architectonics; at the same time, it is put aside as extraneous matter that is merely empirical. While Kant suggests that a correspondence between architectonics and architecture might be possible, this is not the object of his interest: "We shall content ourselves here with the completion of our task, namely, merely to sketch the architectonic of all knowledge arising from pure reason; and in doing so we shall begin from the point at which the common root of our faculty of knowledge divides and throws out two stems, one of which is reason" (655/2:698). The cleavage between buildings and system splits the very root of knowledge, leaving two fields each supported by beams. The technology of architecture shapes the organic image of the root, carving it into the two denaturalized regions of architecture and architectonics. 2

The euphony of the title of this article invites the suggestion that a similar cleavage and interdependence obtains between the unifying structure of Bildung, an organic model of self-formation and education, and buildings. Housing provides a space that allows subjectivity to inscribe itself and externalize itself in its residence; by the same token, it also produces merely empirical sites, hollow containers that cannot be included in the mirroring relation of inside and outside that allows a building to become meaningful. This architectural dialectic also structures the concept of Bildung articulated in the eighteenth century. While the resonance between Bildung and building may be specious, the connection between construction and (self) formation can also be heard in the term "edification," from the Latin (aedes, temple or house, + ficare, to make). Bildung installs a certain architectonic of selfhood according to which a narrative unfolds, progressing through various stages of conflict and resolution that allow an interior to be distinguished from an exterior. The wall, the architectural boundary, between the two, marks the blind spot or gap that divides the subjectivity that Bildung is supposed to render whole.

Bildung is generally understood to signify a process of self-production and reproduction that is supposed to integrate the individual [End Page 1015] into a social totality. Several studies have attended to the connection between the narrative of Bildung and what has come to be called "aesthetic ideology." 3 The terms Bildung and "aesthetic ideology" both imply a synthesis between an empirical or sensuous object or image and some kind of totalizing conceptual structure. In a temporal model, the single experience or episode is taken up by a totalizing story constructing an overarching identity. Both Bildung and "aesthetic ideology" involve a moment of appropriation of sensuous material into a meaningful structure, or one of the incarnation of meaning in a sensuous body. In Phantom Formations--Aesthetic Ideology and the Bildungsroman, Marc Redfield especially associates Bildung with Schiller's notion of aesthetic education, which he summarizes as "the progress from a naive, sensual aesthetic to a sentimental interiority" (21). Bill Readings' The University in Ruins gives a concise account of the notion of Bildung and the German Idealist construction of the university. 4 In The Postmodern Condition (1979), Lyotard identifies Bildung as one of modernity's now obsolete master-narratives. 5 Similarly, Readings argues that, as Excellence replaces the idea of culture, Bildung ceases to be an operative principle. But even if Bildung no longer commands the shape of the university, it nevertheless may still be at work in many of the ways in which national culture is popularized and transmitted. In recent years, there has been an increasing amount of debate, not limited to the university, around questions of cultural memory, restoration, and commemoration. Many of the questions around cultural presentation focus on issues of accessibility and how individual objects, displays, or texts can serve to inculcate, communicate, and perpetuate the formation of cultural subjects.

Readings stresses the way in which the University was meant to fulfill the project of Bildung by creating subjects able to participate in and reproduce the German state. The integration of general and particular through university education both creates and sustains national identity and culture. Readings also points astutely to the link between the constitution of material culture and the rise of tourism, describing how literary culture becomes the site where the link forged between a people and its land becomes visible or expressed. 6 Touristic objects and places, he argues, may seem to offer an easy access to culture; yet the structure of the meaning that has been attributed to them is already caught up in a larger system of economic exploitation. Despite changes in the universities of the twentieth [End Page 1016] century, practices of cultural tourism seem to be dominated still by the aesthetic logic of Bildung.

The famous writer's house, for example, is a commonplace of tourism constructed on a familiar hermeneutic circle. Take for example the case of Weimar, named by the European Community as the European cultural city of 1999. The town itself is a kind of geo-archive: it is the seat of the Nationale Forschungs- und Gedenkstätte der klassischen deutschen Literatur in Weimar; of the Stiftung Weimarer Klassik; the home of the Goethe-Schiller-Archiv (which also houses the Nietzsche-Archiv), and a sort of living museum to the major figures of Weimar Classicism, noted by the compound nouns marking their residences: Goethehaus, Schillerhaus, Herderhaus, and Wielandhaus; later landmarks include the Liszthaus, the Nietzschehaus, Kandinsky's house, and the Bauhaus. The jewel of the town remains the Goethehaus--the Wohnhaus am Frauenplan, an elegant residence in the middle of town.

The musealization of this Goethehaus, and of the many found throughout the world, is based on the presupposition that a house has something to teach. It implies that Goethe formed and shaped his house, which outlives him as a kind of memorial that can help us to understand "Goethe" and his works. On the other hand, Goethe's literary remains house the understanding of the relationship between subject and its material container, the interaction between creative activity and works, or what we might also call the process of formation or Bildung, thanks to which we can learn from the physical remains of his house. The houses teaches us about the man; but the man teaches us about the relationship between man and house. In other words, the house cannot really teach anything; it can only reiterate a program already articulated elsewhere. 7

Bildung thus produces a scission, a gap within the identity it is supposed to construct; it produces the same flaw as any structure of specular identity. To avoid the binarisms of Bildung, we might turn to Heidegger's claim for an essential interrelatedness in the essay "Building Dwelling Thinking" in which building, dwelling, and being are simply different aspects of the same. As a thing, Heidegger argues, the bridge does not simply connect two river banks that are already there; instead, "the banks emerge as banks only in the crossing over of the bridge [im Übergang der Brücke]. The bridge designedly causes them to lie across from each other. One side is set off against the other by the bridge." 8 The bridge gathers together (sammelt and versammelt) the landscape into its own surroundings. [End Page 1017] The crossing of the bridge crosses from the two banks to the broadest possible notion of crossing over:

Now in a high arch, now in a low, the bridge vaults over glen and stream--whether mortals keep in mind this vaulting of the bridge's course or forget that they, always themselves on their way to the last bridge, are actually striving to surmount all that is common and unsound in them in order to bring themselves before the haleness of the divinities. The bridge gathers, as a passage that crosses, before the divinities. (153/147)

The possibility that the bridge is "merely a bridge," "bloß eine Brücke," is derivative of this gathering sense of the bridge's crossing over.

From the perspective of this alternative, one might still ask what happens to "the mere bridge." In the same essay, Heidegger brings up the specific empirical example of the Heidelberg bridge over the Neckar. The thinking of the expanded crossing, of the bridge, itself bridges the distance, in the same sense, between here and there, or between signifier and referent:

If all of us now think, from where we are right here, of the old bridge in Heidelberg, this thinking toward that location is not a mere experience inside the persons present here; rather it belongs to the nature of our thinking of that bridge that in itself thinking gets through, persists through, the distance to that location. From this spot right here, we are there at the bridge--we are by no means at some representational content in our consciousness. From right here we may even be much nearer to that bridge and to what it makes room for than someone who uses it daily as an indifferent river crossing. (156-57/151)

There is something theoretically satisfying about Heidegger's text here, not least the fact that "we here" are able to overcome spatial and temporal limitations and make our way to the essence of the bridge. Thinking itself functions like the bridge Heidegger describes, crossing from here to there, from this to that. Yet this same bridge-thought sketches, too, a ghost image of the unknowing feet treading the bridge day in and day out. There is an excluded excess here in the tactile relationship to the bridge, generally connected to the merely functional aspect of architecture. 9

In analogy to this bridge, perhaps there is a structuring transition linking Bildung and buildings in a way that gathers both together. Such a reading would have to address the question of the "mere building" and consider how it might be gathered into the broader [End Page 1018] questions of construction and formation. 10 In what follows, I will begin to investigate the cooperation of Bildung and buildings in Goethe's essays "Von deutscher Baukunst," "On German architecture," and in Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre. 11

2. Goethe's Cathedral Pieces

Goethe wrote two essays entitled "Von deutscher Baukunst," "On German architecture," spanning a time period of over 50 years. The later text (1823) was written as an introduction to a reprint of the earlier text, dating from 1772, presenting Goethe's experience of the Strasbourg Minster. Composed in several parts over the years of 1771-1772, the first essay is thought to originate in Sesenheim and Frankfurt, where Goethe lived in his family home after completing his law studies is Strasbourg. The later essay, written during the mature era of the Goethehaus in Weimar, proceeds systematically to delineate the rule of proportion governing the beauty of Gothic architecture, or what Goethe here calls "deutsche Baukunst." The text shows a learned aspect, quoting the French architect François Blondel, a vehement Classicist, to assert the priority of proportion over detail: "All the pleasure we derive from artistic beauty depends on the observation of rule and measure: on proportion." 12 Like the other arts, architecture both reveals and conceals its mediated origins; Goethe says of German architecture: "It must thus embrace something great and fundamentally felt, something considered and developed, and it must both conceal and manifest proportions whose effect is irresistible" (118/177).

The cathedral's ability to hide the truth of its proportion in excessive detail, decoration and seemingly random ornamentation, also makes possible the overwhelming effect of stony mass and enormous size. Commenting that he need not be embarrassed by this youthful text, Goethe attributes the overly enthusiastic style of his earlier text to the enormity of the cathedral's immediate effect, an effect that overpowers the observer and forces its way to representation:

Here we may recall somewhat earlier years, when the Strasbourg Minster had so great an effect on us that we could not help expressing our unsolicited delight. What the French architect had established by studious measurement and investigation, came to us all unawares, and not everyone is asked to account for the impressions which astonish him. (120/12:178) [End Page 1019]

The late essay describes an unconscious encounter with architecture which is legible, though not strictly speaking understood, in the first reading of the 1772 essay. Goethe attributes the same enthusiasm to the contemporary interest in Gothic architecture. Notice here the collapse of exclamatory style and the resurrection of the past:

How powerful has been their effect in recent times when feeling for them has been reawakened! Young and old, men and women, have been so overwhelmed [übermannt] and swept away [hingerissen] by such impressions that they have not only been refreshed and educated [sich erbauten] by the frequent examination, measurement and drawing of them, but have also adopted this style in new buildings destined for use. (120/12:178)

The massive impression itself stimulates a process of reproduction and representation that sets in motion a certain development or edification ("sich erbauten"). But this does not counteract the utter self-loss in the perception of the Gothic indicated by the terms "übermannt" and "hingerissen." The late essay, on the other hand, is meant as a kind of antidote to this total surrender to immediate sense perception; Goethe thus stresses here the need "to feel and understand their value and dignity in the proper--that is, the historical--way" (120/12:178). The historical understanding developed in this essay supplements the immediate experience, completing it by means of a series of intermediary representations. The correct understanding demands distance and stability to master and control the architectural experience.

If the later essay is structured by a kind of representational mastery, the earlier one can be characterized in terms of a certain extravagance. The late essay promotes measure or proportion, a product of the spirit, while the earlier text favors the materiality of ornamentation and detail. The earlier essay is postured by a rhetoric of apostrophe and animation through which the boundaries between speaker and addressee, present and past, life and death, become confused. The text begins as a direct address to Erwin von Steinbach, a 14th-century builder of the Strasbourg Cathedral. Goethe first promises to build a memorial for Erwin, but then exclaims: "Yet what need you a memorial! You have erected the most magnificent one for yourself" (103/12:7). This address has two effects. On the one hand, it positions the cathedral as an archive of history. Only when the Minster is identified as a monument, a Denkmal, can architecture become a silent tradition which holds its secrets in an undeciphered language; in the late essay, Goethe says: "These buildings stood for centuries like an old hand-me-down [wie eine Überlieferung--Gage [End Page 1020] translates as "hangover"] from the past, without making any special impact on the ordinary man" (120/12:178). Secondly, through direct address Goethe erroneously reduces the history of the cathedral's construction, which of course extended over many centuries, to a single subject as its origin. At the same time, the building itself is reinterpreted as an extension of its creator commemorating its origin as its father. Goethe continues to throw his voice around in this essay, sometimes addressing directly proponents of various other points of view, sometimes obliquely alluding to and paraphrasing other positions. The result is a heavily marked rhetorical speech full of exclamations in the place of argument and dramatized dialogue in the place of exposition. For example: "Puerilities, babbles the Frenchman childishly after him, and triumphantly snaps open his snuffbox, à la greque. What have you done, that you should dare to look down your nose?" (105/12:8). This bombast is supposed to embody the compulsive enthusiasm, the "Hingerissenheit" of the experience of the cathedral. Through the same rhetorical outlines, the cathedral is thrown into relief as a mediator, a passageway for a prior subject, or the harbinger of a historical understanding still to come.

Goethe describes the conventional evaluation of the Gothic style to which he at first also subscribed:

The first time I went to the Minster, my head was full of the common notions of good taste. From hearsay I respected the harmony of mass, the purity of forms, and I was the sworn enemy of the confused caprices of Gothic ornament. Under the term Gothic I threw together all the synonymous misunderstandings, such as undefined, disorganized, unnatural, patched-together, tacked-on, overloaded, which had ever gone through my head. (107/12:10)

The proliferation of disconnected embellishments is a monstrosity: "Quite smothered with ornament!" Goethe cries, "and so I shuddered as I went, as if at the prospect of some misshapen, curly-bristled monster" (107/12:11). Goethe turns away from this habitual knowledge by turning towards his experience of the cathedral, again through exclamation: "How surprised I was when I was confronted by it! The impression which filled my soul was whole and large, and of a sort that (since it was composed of a thousand harmonizing details) I could relish and enjoy, but by no means identify and explain" (107/12:11). The young Goethe repeats this experiment, returning again and again to gaze at the cathedral. Gradually, the image begins to blur as an architectural whole emerges and thus opens a way to knowledge: "How often has the evening twilight soothed with its [End Page 1021] friendly quiet my eyes, tired-out with questing, by blending the scattered parts into masses which now stood simple and large before my soul, and at once my powers unfolded rapturously to enjoy and to understand" (107/12:11). This is only possible, of course, because the material at hand has already been programmed to reveal its own order--the rational order Goethe originally secured by connecting the church to a singular creator.

As Goethe noted, the Bau passes over into Erbauung as those enthusiasts gaze, sketch, and copy the image before them. The structure of the building thus holds together the cathedral and its visitors, stretching between them (like Heidegger's bridge); it does not belong to the cathedral as "object." As the necessary proportional rationality of the cathedral begins to clarify itself, the voice thrown out in the opening address to Erwin returns: "Then in hinted suggestions, the genius of the great Master of the Work revealed itself to me. 'Why are you so surprised?' he whispered to me. All these shapes were necessary ones" (107/12:11). For a paragraph, the ghost of Erwin expounds the structural principle of the cathedral to Goethe, including the "five-pinnacled jewel" that was never completed. On the next morning, the narrating Goethe can now perceive the cathedral as an organic whole: "How happily I could stretch out my arms towards it and gaze at the harmonious masses, alive with countless details. Just as in the eternal works of nature, everything is perfectly formed down to the meanest thread, and all contributing purposefully to the whole" (108/12:12). The unity of the impression, however, can only be established through differentiation between origin and destination as embodied here in the figure of Erwin, on the one hand, and the building on the other. The notion of the building as memorial makes Erwin both present and absent, just as its solidity is shaken by its reinscription as Überlieferung. Likewise, there can only be what seems to be an immediate perception of architectural structure because the building is already a mediated expression. The duality of positions set up in the address to Erwin is duplicated towards the end of the essay, where Goethe addresses a newly appearing figure who actually seems to stand in for his own prior condition: "But it is with you, dearest youth, that I keep closest company, for, standing there, you are moved and cannot reconcile the conflicting feelings in your soul. At one moment you feel the irresistible power of this vast whole, and the next chide me for being a dreamer since I see beauty where you see only strength and rawness" (108/12:13). [End Page 1022]

While Goethe places the emphasis on the whole as the source of the cathedral's beauty, this whole only peers forth through the gathering up of the many narrative angles and perspectives in the essay. These are not quite ironed out--or at least not until 1823 in the later essay. This gathering is a primary component, though, of the effective formation of the architectural master who, Goethe writes, "first welded the scattered elements [zerstreute Elemente] into a living whole" (108/12:12). In such a unity, springing from a single sensation, all elements are connected by a rational, if imperceptible, structural necessity. This organic whole, as in Herder for example, is like a tree; Goethe compares Erwin's work to a "sublimely towering, wide-spreading tree of God which, with its thousand branches, millions of twigs and leaves more numerous than the sands of the sea, proclaims to the surrounding country the glory of its master, the Lord" (106/12:10). This tree needs supplementation, just as the memory of Erwin both needs and does not need a memorial. While perhaps no monument is needed, no Denkmal, an articulated memory is needed. The two ends of this articulation are connected through the etymon denken: "It was given to but few to create such a Babel-thought [Babelgedanken] in their souls, whole, great, and with the beauty of necessity in every smallest part, as in God's trees. To even fewer has it been granted to encounter a thousand willing hands to carve out the rocky ground, to conjure up steps on it, and when they die, to tell their sons, 'I am still with you in the creations of my spirit; complete what is begun, up to the clouds'" (103/12:7).

The articulation of this Babelgedanke both names the original impossibility of completion and calls for its own future realization in the hands and mouths of others. Organic unity invisibly connects the past and the present, just as the structure of the whole permeates what seems to be a fragmentary and extravagantly ornate and unfinished mass. The sketching of this conceptual completion is itself the fulfillment of the original design--not in the form of an actual building, but in the reception or representation of the fragment. Thus Goethe's repeated "What need you a memorial!" For the exclamation itself erects and memorializes what is supposed to already tower above the present. The thought-unity of the cathedral structures the history of its formation or Bildung. Goethe contrasts the modish architecture of conglomeration, based on imitation of Classical rules, with the inspirational exuberance of a self-generating structure. Addressing another imaginary interlocutor, Goethe says: "If you had rather felt than measured, if the spirit of the pile you so [End Page 1023] admire had come upon you, you would not simply have imitated it because they did it and it is beautiful; you would have made your plans because of truth and necessity, and a living, creative beauty would have flowed from them" (105/12:8).

The architectural presents a mass out of which genius springs forth in a unified stroke connecting creator and observer through the unity of the plan. This distinguishes the Strasbourg Cathedral from contemporary imitations that only gather horizontally dispersed elements and patch them together randomly. A third type of collecting appears in Goethe's recharacterization of his own text. It cannot serve as a memorial, since none is needed; instead he claims to carve Erwin's name into a tree, like that of a beloved, and with reference to a Bible passage, dedicates to it a cloth. "It is not unlike the cloth that was let down to the Holy Apostle out of the clouds, full of clean and unclean beasts; also flowers, blossoms, leaves and dried grass and moss, and night-sprung toadstools--all of which I gathered, botanizing to pass the time, on a walk through some place or other, and now dedicate in your honour to their own rotting away" (104-5/12:8). This final simile is strange. Here the narrator himself appears to be a cold collector of random and meaningless items which, gathered together, present a memorial to decay. The comparison of the cathedral to a Babelgedanke, too, harbors a quiet criticism and fatality dooming it to incompletion and failure. Despite moments that clearly assert the dominance of organic and characteristic unity, the instability of the narrative line and the indirect assertions of the cathedral's inadequacies, imperfections, and illegibility obscure the point of this essay. Its division into sections, the exposure of the first person through multiple second-person addresses to created and often unidentified interlocutors, follows no set pattern and reaches few conclusions. The final paragraph begins with what is probably self-praise of this same mobility: "Hail to you, youth, with your sharp eye for proportion, born to adapt yourself easily to all sorts of form!" (111/12:15).

In the 1823 essay of the same title, Goethe is more than aware of these qualities. The editors of the Hamburger Ausgabe mark it as written in the "dithyrambic style" of Herder and Hamann, thus including it in a literary historical trajectory that renders its strangeness uninteresting. To some extent, Goethe masters his narrative extravagance, leaving his own speaker position only once to quote the French architect Blondel in support of the notion that Gothic architecture indeed follows proper rules of proportion, even if these [End Page 1024] are hidden by excessive ornament; while beauty may seem to come from the decoration, it originates in fact, says Blondel, in the structural harmony that shows through despite the excessive ornamentation or Zierat. Just as the dialogical dimension of the earlier rhetorical ejaculations are flattened out and appear here in learned quotation, the three-dimensionality of the cathedral form is mastered through a series of two-dimensional representations. Goethe tells us how he has come to master his early enthusiasm through various kinds of study, especially through his contact with Sulpiz Boisserée. Boisserée's architectural studies of the Cologne Cathedral allow Goethe to get a handle on the overpowering structure of the cathedral itself. Studying the foundation unearthed by Boisserée and his various perspectival drawings and engravings, Goethe feels he can begin to trace the "first intentions" of the design: "Likewise the engraved proofs of the side elevation and the drawing of the front elevation went some way in helping me to construct [auferbauen] the image in my soul" (122/12:181). It is not difficult to trace here a suggestion of the Kantian sublime, according to which an experience that exceeds the faculty of sense perception is then mastered by a representation. 13 Goethe himself admits:

I cannot deny that the sight of the exterior of Cologne Cathedral aroused in me a certain indefinable apprehension. If an important ruin has something impressive about it, we sense, we see in it the conflict between an admirable work of man and time, still, mighty and wholly inconsiderate: here we are confronted with something at once incomplete and gigantic, whose very incompleteness reminds us of the inadequacy of man, the moment he undertakes something that is too big for him. (121/12:180)

The incomplete erection of the cathedral is supplemented in the mental erection that duplicates it; likewise, the two-dimensional depictions of the building allow its structure to appear, to be internalized and to contribute to the formation or edification of the maturing commentator; through representation and explanation, the Bild is transformed into Bildung. 14

Experience itself thus becomes a kind of architectural drawing, a compulsive tracing that deepens the two dimensions of the facade into the three dimensions of a building constructed in the cognitive articulation of its interrelations--its "plan." Perception opens in the to and fro between detail and whole:

I had figured out the proper relationship among the larger divisions, the ingenious and rich ornamentation to the smallest point . . . but now I also [End Page 1025] came to understand the connection between these many decorations among themselves, the transition from one main segment to the next, the staggering of similar kinds of details that were yet very different in their images and shapes, from the saint to the monster, from the leaf to the crenature. The more I examined it, the greater my astonishment; the more I entertained and tired myself with measuring and drawing, the greater grew my admiration. I spent a lot of time, partly studying what was there, partly reconstructing on paper and in thought what was missing or incomplete, especially the towers. (Dichtung und Wahrheit, 9:385-86)

This visual supplementation will be facilitated even more through the architectural work of Sulpiz Boisserée, a young enthusiast in search of the still missing unity of German culture. 15 Sulpiz Boisserée began his correspondence with Goethe in 1810. In the following years, he continued to ask the venerable author's advice about his research into the Cologne Cathedral's history and about his various drawings and projections completing the Cathedral, including technical advice about individual artists and various media. Working through the series of images Boisserée provided, including also studies of other Gothic cathedrals on the basis of which historical generalization could provide material for supplementation, Goethe reaches a point of understanding that supersedes the first impression. In fact, with the publication and dissemination of Boisserée's work, the idiosyncrasy of the first impression can be done away with altogether:

But now that the Boisserées' work is nearing its end, the illustrations and their commentary will reach all amateurs, and the friend of art, even if he is far away, has the opportunity of completely convincing himself that this is the highest peak to which this style of architecture attained. For if, perhaps as a tourist, he should approach that miraculous spot, he will no longer be left to personal feeling, gloomy prejudice, or, on the other hand, to a hastily-formed dislike, but he will rather observe what is there and imagine what is not like someone who is knowledgeable and is initiated into the secrets of the masons. (122/12:81)

The passage from the stone of the Cathedral to its proportionate representation parallels the trajectory from the earlier to the later essay. Experience is archived; at the same time, it produces an excess whose record is lost. Goethe concludes the later text with two contradictory references to the earlier one. One the one hand, he seeks to connect the two eras of experience by way of the organic metaphor. He is reprinting the earlier essay, he says, to show clearly the difference between the "first seed" and the "final fruit" of his [End Page 1026] architectural vision. The plant metaphor allows experience to be conjoined, despite the emphasis on difference, into a model of growth and maturation, of development--in short, of Bildung. The building stands as a cornerstone of Bildung, drawn to completion through the lines connecting the Blatt or leaf of the Gothic decoration to the Blatt, the page, of Goethe's writing.

On the other hand, the "misshapen crusty-bristled monster" Goethe first intimated in the Gothic style does not disappear altogether. Claiming he has nothing to be ashamed of or to apologize for in the early essay, Goethe adds: "If that essay has something amphigurical in its style, that may perhaps be forgiven in such a case where the inexpressible is to be expressed" (122/12:181-82). The difficulty of enunciation perhaps pertains most accurately of all to this word itself: "amphigurisch" which, the editors' note explains, means "a piece of writing in which the sentences are unintentionally only fragments of ideas and contain no reasonable meaning. Goethe often uses Amphiguri, amphigurisch in the sense of a wordy veiling of the real kernel of thought" (12:637n). This editorial comment repeats Goethe's organicizing gesture to cover up the uncontrollability or monstrosity of the word itself--the unintentional fragment, the unintended Zierat that speaks the unspeakable precisely because it has nothing to say, it has no meaning to be rendered.

We find here an unavoidable alliance of writing and architecture, whether as fragment or Denkmal, construction or trace. The unifying structures of Bildung and Erbauung allow architecture to pave the way of an emerging subject. In this sense, Bildung would function architectonically, i.e., would articulate the condition of possibility for the appearance of the Bild that is constructed as a building. Building emerges here along the contours of collection--both the gathering together of the disparate and distended portions of a line, and the serial display of individual moments in Boisserée's images. The mediation of the collection plays an interesting role here. Notably, Goethe never mentions the interior of the Strasbourg Cathedral, and only briefly that of Cologne. Instead, experience forms itself horizontally, through repeated readings and editions, through archivation and collection; Bildung and edification, then, would not be based on an interior/exterior model. Goethe shows us this possibility despite his organicizing and totalizing gestures. Moreover, understanding becomes a collective and collaborative effort between Goethe and the Boisserée brothers. [End Page 1027]

3. Goethehaus

As we have seen in relation to the Cathedrals at Strasbourg and Cologne, perception, tracing, collation, and collection bring under representational control a sense perception that at first seems monstrous and overwhelming. This process is unified by the term Bildung. The older Goethe need not even move from his Weimar seat to grasp the true structure of the Cologne Cathedral through Boisserée's work; at the same time, the underlying cause of the impressions made by the Strasbourg Minster are also brought into line with the architectural understanding gained over time.

The first impression of the Strasbourg Minster is a youthful experience that is perhaps primarily a tourist experience. In this kind of experience, the observer is impressed by the apparent immediacy of a well-programmed object. The touristic display of famous houses takes special advantage of this immediacy effect; the famous writer's house in particular relies additionally on the same logic of Bildung that Goethe establishes with respect to the cathedrals. Here I can only begin to suggest how Goethe's model of Bildung may still be operative in practices of narration and display in Weimar.

The Goethehaus in Weimar is scrupulously maintained. One can see there Goethe's desk, his pen, his coat. . . . the Goethe-family blanket upon which his parents were betrothed and Wolfgang himself was christened. Here a decision needs to be made about what contributes to an understanding of Goethe and what does not. A line could be drawn at the threshold of the archive. Or of course, one need never go to Weimar or visit Goethe's house at all; one can simply reject it as kitsch or as "merely empirical." The Goethehaus would then be something like the Heidelberg bridge over the Neckar.

On the other hand, an examination of the historical atmosphere in Weimar suggests that this type of display is itself bound up with the operations of Bildung. One publication of the Nationale Forschungs- und Gedenkstätte, published in 1989, sees the Goethehaus itself as an opportunity for cultural inculcation. The house, like the Strasbourg Minster for Goethe, stands as historical transmission or Überlieferung: "Since the '50's, it has been a major concern to mediate for young people a visit to the memorial sites and museums in order to deepen, both emotionally and rationally, their encounter with the Classical heritage in school through immediate experience in Weimar." 16 The effectiveness of the tourist site assumes and depends on a symmetry between inside and outside, between subject as origin and house as [End Page 1028] message, that is supposed to enrich our understanding of the dead genius and the works he forged, the materializations that he left in his wake or formed in his image. The understanding that binds together Goethe and his house relies on the model of organic unity or the so-called "symbol." The illusion of the immediacy of vision--especially the vision of Goethe's private surroundings as they "really were"--allows the process of appropriation and internalization to continue. This moment of "aesthetic ideology" is part of the heritage and tradition--the Überlieferung--of Classical Weimar.

To look a bit more closely at the connection between housing, collection, display, and Bildung, I will conclude with some considerations of the role played by the grandfather's art collection in Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship [Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre]. Wilhelm's relationship to this collection and its role in the novel trace out a specific movement that can be identified with Bildung. In the opening chapter of Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre, we encounter the famous description of his theatrical beginnings in a marionette theater. Wilhelm's memories take on much of their power from their connection to an exchange of houses. His childhood absorption in the marionette theater, we learn, originated as a remedy for the strangeness and emptiness of the "new house": Wilhelm tells his mother: "Don't blame the puppet theater. . . . Those were my first happy moments in the new and empty house." 17 This emptiness is experienced again when Wilhelm's grandfather's art collection is sold. Wilhelm describes this event in a conversation early in the novel with "a stranger" he meets in an inn. This stranger recognizes Wilhelm as the grandson of the old "Meister" who possessed the great art collection. The value of the collection consists not simply in the value of each art object, but rather in their connection and syntax. The stranger remarks: "Your grandfather was not just a collector, he knew a great deal about
art. . . . He had an instructive array of bronzes, his coins were collected meaningfully with regard to art as well as history [zweckmäßig gesammelt]" (37/7:68-69). The purposiveness of the collection reflects the good sense and intelligence of Wilhelm's grandfather. The spatial contiguity of the collection assures its meaningfulness, underscored by the order of its display: "Everything was well arranged and displayed, even though the rooms in the old house were not designed symmetrically" (37/7:69). Display appropriates architectural space, forging it into a unified figure, and connects it to a subject as its owner. The collection interprets itself as a meaningful extension of the subject-owner. But its architectural ground, the house itself, [End Page 1029] extends beyond and exceeds the signifying ability of the collection and cannot be brought into symmetry with it. Collected objects punctuate the house and predicate its walls to its owner. The relation of collection and collector sets up a symmetrical symbolic correspondence between inside and outside; but the baroque house exceeds the framework of the classical symbol in its asymmetrical meanderings.

Bildung gets underway as its objects are taken away. Loss and self-division mark the passing of time and the clearing of space. The loss of the collection reveals to Wilhelm for the first time the bare walls of finitude. "You can imagine," he tells the stranger, "what a loss we children felt when all these things were taken down and packed. . . . Those were the first sad days of my life. I remember how empty the rooms seemed, as we watched one thing after the other disappear, things that we had enjoyed since childhood, things which had seemed to us as permanent as the house itself or the town itself" (37/7:69). The appearance here of the bare house signifies absence, lack, division, separation, death and loss--the relativity and finitude of what seemed to hold forth forever in the frame of the picture.

The beloved art collection will appear again in Book Eight, in which Lothario sends Wilhelm to his sister Natalie. "He went into the house, and found himself in the most solemn and, for him, sacred place he had ever seen" (314/7:512). Entering by a grand stairway, Wilhelm sees marble statues and busts; "some seemed familiar to him." In ever increasing amazement, Wilhelm realizes that he is seeing pieces of his grandfather's art collection. This restoration, though, retains a trace of the wound which makes it possible; for there could be no repetition or retrieval without a prior loss: "Youthful impressions never fade away, even in their smallest details. He recognized a muse which had belonged to his grandfather, not by its shape or quality, but because one arm had been restored along with various sections of the drapery" (314/7:512-13). The figure's damage, the marks of its broken pieces, holds memory together for Wilhelm. It is not clear whether the restoration took place in the past or the present, whether the missing arm and garment fragments were replaced by the grandfather or the new owner. The line marking their joining is one and the same, and it thus collapses past and present. The mark of severing joins past and present and makes a certain kind of memory possible--a memory that would erect a unified figure, whole and restored.

The wondrous house in which the collection reappears is a house with no baroque excesses. We read: "The next morning, while [End Page 1030] everything was still peaceful and quiet, he walked around looking at the house. The building had clean lines and was the finest and noblest he had ever seen. 'Good art,' he said to himself, 'is like good society: it obliges us, in the most pleasing way, to recognize the measure according to which and with respect to which our deepest interiority is constructed [gebildet]" (316/7:516). The house offers a standard, a hinge around which life rotates, a measure standing as both origin and goal. This house is constructed according to an interior and in order to reveal an interior; it is an ideal symbolic house, planned and executed, rendered legible and recognizable even to the newcomer. The wondrous house connects past and present by editing the art collection with other pieces. In the same way, Wilhelm's foreknowledge of his grandfather's collection is supplemented by knowledge he has gleaned from reading the manuscript of the beautiful soul. Wilhelm describes how his memories are joined by looking at the pieces:

'I shall remember all my life the impression I had yesterday evening when I came in here, and there in front of me were those old treasures from my youth . . . linking my earliest memories to this present moment. Here I have rediscovered the family treasures, the joys of my grandfather, set between so many other noble works of art . . .' The discovery that a notable part of these works of art had belonged to his grandfather, put him in a cheerful, sociable mood. The manuscript had made him acquainted with this house, and he now found himself reunited with his own inheritance. (318/7:519-20)

Why, then, if all these pieces come together so fully, does Wilhelm feel so strange before them? Something is missing, something has been excluded. The editing or collation process that reunites the recognizable also deletes the obscure, the ornate, the excessive--what stands in the way. The "classicization" of excess necessarily edits out what cannot be contained and rewrites the walls to house an interior. It isn't certain that the original collection is quite intact, though it constitutes a "considerable portion" [schätzbarer Teil] of the new collection. The editing process that has cut and pasted the beautiful soul's manuscript with Wilhelm's own past crosses over the diegetic line of the narrative, combining his experiences with his reading. Reference and signification are interchangeable, the passage from thing to thing the same as the passage from word to thing. This passing over, this Überlieferung, divides what it hands down: Wilhelm's "Erbteil" is indeed a partial inheritance.

As Wilhelm wanders about the uncle's house, it seems that he in [End Page 1031] fact has stumbled on Goethe's own house: "He found a library, a collection of natural history specimens, and another of stones and metals. He felt so strange before all these objects" (316-17/7:517). The residence in Weimar, too, is set up to display the owner's collections of rocks, medallions, prints, etchings, busts, plaster copies, bronze casts, coins, engraving, manuscripts. The house reconstructs the rooms' furnishings with varying degrees of historical precision; 18 the collections occupy a special pride of place not so much in the house itself as in the narrative of its presentation. Only a small portion of Goethe's possessions and collections are actually displayed in the house. But what is displayed is there to suggest the same principles of recollection and unification that we have seen in Wilhelm Meister.

Like Wilhelm, the visitor to the Goethehaus is uninitiated. Goethes Wohnhaus, a detailed publication of the Stiftung Weimarer Klassik (1996), tells us: "The observer sees a variety of things in the rooms of the front part of the house: casts of works from antiquity, a late medieval painting, a portrait of Cranach, and then paintings and copper engravings going up to Goethe's own time. Goethe knew each of these works well and saw it in its historical context." 19 In short, Goethe is the Uncle; he knows how to arrange and display his possessions to instruct and communicate knowledge. Goethe's building becomes our Bildung. His creation of himself creates his public; the housing of his present prescribes its future recollection.

The Goethe house and the Goethe collections are allowed to speak to us and teach us, following what is called Goethe's own model. Musealization allows us to be haunted by a model of correspondence and mirroring, of embodiment and spiritualization. The legibility of the collection pares away the excesses of the house to show us the wholeness of a subject who controls his universe and builds a house in which to keep it. The guide concludes, "in Goethe's work world [the back of the house], which, in its unadorned sparseness, is a symbol [Sinnbild] to show us that, behind that plenitude and its tasteful ordering and arrangement, there stood always the single man with his visionary and harmoniously synthesizing spirit" (24).

The term Sinnbild, sensory image, returns us to the problems of aesthetic ideology. The historical presentation of the Weimar residence strives to establish a classical mirroring between structure and substance, between inside and outside, spirit and body; it reduces excess and fills in gaps. In one sense, Goethe himself has provided the model and the instructions for this kind of representational restoration. [End Page 1032] But at the same time, our attention can be turned elsewhere--to the gaps and spaces that destabilize the homogenizing power of the image of spirit's wholeness. As the various strands in Wilhelm Meister begin to come together towards the end of Book Eight, Wilhelm becomes his own double as the totalizing image of a telos begins to replace the narrative extensions of his life story. This replacement itself--the step of Bildung into Bildung--produces spirit as a doubling of self, a ghost who wanders the house of its own life. And what better description could we find of a walk around Weimar than this reflection of Wilhelm's?

In this condition, neither his mind nor body could be at rest, by night or by day. When everyone else was sleeping, he was pacing up and down in the house. The presence of those old familiar paintings partly attracted and partly repelled him. He could neither accept nor reject what surrounded him, everything reminded him of something else, he could see the whole ring of his life, but at the moment it lay in pieces before him which seemed as if they would not join together for all eternity . . . . He became so lost in these lugubrious reflections that he sometimes seemed to himself like a ghost, and even when he was feeling and touching objects outside himself, he could not get rid of his doubt as to whether he really were alive and standing there. (349-50/7:570-71)

The same logic that allows the Goethehaus to invite us in and reanimate the past also haunts the present. The resulting anxiety tempts history to exclude excess and install unity and wholeness, just as Goethe himself tried to remodel and classicize the baroque house he moved into. The guide to the Goethehaus describes the complex reconstruction of the entrance and stairway, a place that occupied much of Goethe's attention, with the following detail: "Here, hidden from the visitor's view, there are remnants of the earlier baroque staircase" (26). These architectural remains point to a history for which the story of totality provides no accommodations.

Brown University


1. Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, trans. Norman Kemp Smith (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1965), 653, translation modified. See also Kritik der reinen Vernunft, 2 vols. (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1974), 2:695. Page references to this English translation (modified if necessary) and to the German will be given parenthetically.

2. For a rigorous and interesting treatment of architectonics, especially in Descartes, see Claudia Brodsky Lacour, Lines of Thought: Discourse, Architectonics, and the Origin of Modern Philosophy (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 1996). Lacour argues that the term "architectonics" deals with a productive gesture and seeks to understand the language of architectonics as something quite distinct from a thematization of architecture or from the presence of architectural metaphors (3). Instead she argues that the language of architectonics is "not symbolic in the conventional sense, but rather pragmatic and functional." Likewise, Jacques Derrida (quoted by Lacour) writes: "Contrary to appearances, 'deconstruction' is not an architectural metaphor. The word ought and will have to name a thought of architecture, a thought at work" (quoted in Lacour, 2; see Derrida, Psyché [Paris: Galilée, 1987], 517). In agreement with Derrida and Lacour, I also do not approach architecture as a metaphor, i.e., as a representation or figurative expression of something other than itself. Lacour writes: "Architectonic form is instead another kind of writing which discursive writing, including the writing of metaphor, requires" (4-5). At the same time, the syntax of the term "architectonics" is difficult to pin down. While it clearly refers somehow to architecture, it also implies a generalizing movement or systematic overview of a set of relations involving construction. In "Phenomenality and Materiality in Kant," Paul de Man uses the term "architectonic" to describe a generalizing poetic vision that suspends teleology. Quoting a passage in Kant's Critique of Judgment in which the starry heaven is called a "weites Gewölbe," de Man writes: "The predominant perception, in the Kant passage, is that of the heavens and the ocean as an architectonic construct. The heavens are a vault that covers the totality of earthy space as a roof covers a house. Space, in Kant as in Aristotle, is a house in which we dwell more or less safely, or more or less poetically, on this earth" (Aesthetic Ideology [Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1996], 81). De Man is clearly invoking the line from Hölderlin's poem "In lieblicher Bläue": "doch dichterisch wohnet / Der Mensch auf dieser Erde." Heidegger discusses this line in "Hölderlin und das Wesen der Dichtung" in Erläuterungen zu Hölderlins Dichtung (Frankfurt am Main: Vittorio Klostermann, 1981), 33-48. For a definition of "architectonique," including references to Aristotle, Leibniz, and Kant, see André Lalande, Vocabulaire technique et critique de la philosophie (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France; 1980), 77-78.

3. The relation between aesthetic production and critical theory is the main issue throughout Paul de Man's Aesthetic Ideology. In his introduction, Andrzej Warminski gives an illuminating analysis of the term "aesthetic ideology" in de Man's work, stressing the way in which ideology is not simply an object to be demystified by critique, but rather is itself generative of critical discourse. For an account of aesthetic ideology in relation to general problems of theory, see Marc Redfield's Phantom Formations: Aesthetic Ideology and the Bildungsroman. This study is extraordinarily clear with historical depth. References to the enormous field of work on the Bildungsroman can also be found in Redfield. I can refer here only to a few helpful works: James Hardin, ed., Reflection and Action: Essays on the Bildungsroman (Columbia, S.C.: University of South Carolina Press, 1991); Todd Kontje, The German Bildungsroman: History of a National Genre (Columbia, S.C.: Camden House, 1993); Gerhart Mayer, Der deutsche Bildungsroman. Von Aufklärung bis zur Gegenwart (Stuttgart: J. B. Metzler, 1992); Franco Moretti, The Way of the World. The Bildungsroman in European Culture (London: Verso, 1987); Jeffrey Sammons, "The Mystery of the Missing Bildungsroman, or What Happened to Wilhelm Meister's Legacy?" Genre 14 (1981): 229-46.

4. Bill Readings, The University in Ruins (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1996), especially 44-53.

5. Jean-François Lyotard, The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge, trans. Geoff Bennington and Brian Massumi (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1984). See especially 27-37.

6. Readings, 95.

7. Walter Benjamin seems to be describing just such a moment in an anecdote in Einbahnstraße. Dreaming of a visit to the Goethehaus, he goes to sign his name in the guest book only to find it already written there in a child's hand. Walter Benjamin, Gesammelte Schriften, 7 vols., ed. Rolf Tiedemann and Hermann Schweppenhäuser (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1991), vol. 4: 87. Thanks to Kevin McLaughlin and Anselm Haverkamp for bringing to my attention relevant passages in Einbahnstraße.

8. Martin Heidegger, Poetry, Language, Thought, trans. Albert Hofstadter. (New York: Harper and Row, 1971), 152. See also Vorträge und Aufsätze (Stuttgart: Neske, 1954), 146. Page references to the English translation and to the German text will be given parenthetically.

9. Karsten Harries gives a very helpful analysis of the problems of function and ornament in architecture within the context of the history of philosophy and especially aesthetics in The Ethical Function of Architecture (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1997), especially Part 1. He also gives a reading of Heidegger's "Bauen Wohnen Denken" in a discussion of Heidegger's critique of teleology in building and technology (Part Three). The term "tactile" is borrowed from Walter Benjamin, "Das Kunstwerk im Zeitalter seiner technischen Reproduzierbarkeit," Gesammelte Schriften, vol. I.2: 504-5.

10. A similar question remains open in Derrida's Archive Fever. Derrida remarks, on the one hand: "But where does the outside commence? This question is the question of the archive. There are undoubtedly no others" (8). Derrida's study begins with the positioning of Freud's house; the archive, he writes, "has the force of law, of a law which is the law of the house (oikos), of the house as place, domicile, family, lineage, or institution. Having become a museum, Freud's house takes in all these powers of economy" (7). Archive Fever--a Freudian Impression, trans. Eric Prenowitz (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996).

11. My approach to Goethe's architectonic is still preliminary here. There are perhaps more obvious markers that still need investigation. Architecture, building, collection, and commemoration in Die Wahlverwandtschaften, for example, would clearly be relevant here, as would a discussion of the tower society in Wilhelm Meister.

12. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Goethe on Art, trans. John Gage (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1980), 118. Translations from this source may be modified. See also Goethes Werke, 14 vols. (Hamburg: Christian Wegner Verlag, 1958), 12:177. All references to the German texts refer to this edition.

13. Immanuel Kant, Kritik der Urteilskraft (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1957),
§§23 ff.

14. In his account of the Strasbourg Cathedral experience in Dichtung und Wahrheit, the anxiety of the sublime and its mastery through representation is presented even more explicitly. "Je mehr ich die Fassade desselben betrachtete," he writes, "desto mehr bestärkte und entwickelte sich jener erster Eindruck, daß hier das Erhabene mit dem Gefälligen in Bund getreten sei. Soll das Ungeheure, wenn es uns als Masse entgegentritt, nicht erschrecken, soll es nicht verwirren, wenn wir sein einzelnes zu erforschen suchen, so muß es eine unnatürliche, scheinbar unmögliche Verbindung eingehen, es muß sich das Angenehme zugesellen. Da uns nun aber allein möglich wird, den Eindruck des Münsters auszusprechen, wenn wir uns jene beiden unverträglichen Eigenschaften vereinigt denken, so sehen wir schon hieraus, in welchem hohen Wert wir dieses alte Denkmal zu halten haben, und beginnen mit Ernst eine Darstellung, die so widersprechende Elemente sich friedlich durchdringen und verbinden konnten" (9:382-83).

15. See Sulpiz Boisserée, Briefwechsel/Tagebücher, 2 vols. (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1970) and Tagebücher 1808-1854, 2 vols. (Darmstadt: Eduard Roether Verlag, 1978). For a historical treatment of the architecture of the Cologne Cathedral, including reproductions of Boisserée's sketches and engravings of the cathedral at various points of completion, see Paul Clemen, Der Dom zu Köln (Düsseldorf: Schwann, 1980).

16. Goethe als Sammler--Kunst aus dem Haus am Frauenplan in Weimar, ed. Helmut Apel, Jochen Klauß, Margarete Oppel, and Werner Schuber (Weimar, DDR: Nationale Forschungs- und Gedenkstätte der klassischen deutschen Literatur, 1989), 14.

17. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Wihelm Meister's Apprenticeship, trans. Eric A. Blackall (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1989), 3. See also Goethes Werke, 7:12. Further English and German page references will be given parenthetically in the text.

18. On a more technical level, most of what is said to be "authentic" in the Goethehaus museum (or generally) is based mostly on texts--"aus der Überlieferung," handed down through written tradition. In museum talk, "Überlieferung" is contrasted with the term "Musealisierung" or "musealization." When a historical house is presented as being exactly the way it was, this means that there is evidence "aus der Überlieferung" to support material reconstruction. That is to say, texts are consulted to provide remarks about shape, color, furnishings, etc.--texts ranging from Goethe's diaries, letters (especially correspondence with contractors and bills for material and labor), and correspondences from visitors, etc. The authentic positioning of a historical interior, for example, embodies or implaces these textual remarks. Thus text is handed down to us in the form of a material house.

19. Gisela Maul and Margarete Oppel, eds., Goethes Wohnhaus (Munich: Hanser Verlag, 1996), 19.