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“Tout comprendre, c’est tout pardonner?” The “Case of Jauss”

In: Philological Encounters
Author: Ottmar Ette1
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Hans Robert Jauss cannot simply be excluded from the history of Romance Studies, or from the history of literary science in 20th century Germany: the attractive power of his style of thought, writing and scholarship was too profound, his machine de guerre too powerful. If the “case of Jauss” is now on its way to becoming the “paradigm of Jauss,” it is time to examine scientifically the text and work, the impact and the reception of the author of Ästhetische Erfahrung und literarische Hermeneutik (“Aesthetic Experience and Literary Hermeneutics”), and to illuminate them from the perspective of Romance Studies. The considerations put forth in this essay should in no way diminish the undeniable merits of the founder of “Reader-response criticism”. With him and with his words, one may surely hold on to the hope that “the triadic relationship of technology, communication, and world view” can be brought “once more into equilibrium.” Hans Robert Jauss—to use the words of Jorge Semprún—traveled the very short, and at the same time very long, path from Buchenwald to Weimar: a path that first led him into the most abysmal, reprehensible, and rational form of human barbarism, which he wished to leave behind him as quickly as possible after the end of the war. His path to Weimar, as the symbol of a “refined” western culture, was extremely short: indeed, all too short.

Abstract

Hans Robert Jauss cannot simply be excluded from the history of Romance Studies, or from the history of literary science in 20th century Germany: the attractive power of his style of thought, writing and scholarship was too profound, his machine de guerre too powerful. If the “case of Jauss” is now on its way to becoming the “paradigm of Jauss,” it is time to examine scientifically the text and work, the impact and the reception of the author of Ästhetische Erfahrung und literarische Hermeneutik (“Aesthetic Experience and Literary Hermeneutics”), and to illuminate them from the perspective of Romance Studies. The considerations put forth in this essay should in no way diminish the undeniable merits of the founder of “Reader-response criticism”. With him and with his words, one may surely hold on to the hope that “the triadic relationship of technology, communication, and world view” can be brought “once more into equilibrium.” Hans Robert Jauss—to use the words of Jorge Semprún—traveled the very short, and at the same time very long, path from Buchenwald to Weimar: a path that first led him into the most abysmal, reprehensible, and rational form of human barbarism, which he wished to leave behind him as quickly as possible after the end of the war. His path to Weimar, as the symbol of a “refined” western culture, was extremely short: indeed, all too short.

* This article is an abridged version of the presentation I delivered on March 3, 2016 at the Deutsches Literaturarchiv in Marbach.

In Hans Robert Jauss’ 1994 book Wege des Verstehens (“Paths of Understanding”), which culminated the cycle of monographs published during his lifetime, there is a passage that may be understood as a set of instructions for reading this particular volume, but which might also stand as a preliminary to any examination of the writings of this Romanist and literary theorist. The 14th paragraph of chapter A.3, “Tout comprendre, c’est tout pardonner,” characteristically deals with the concept, shaped by Nathalie Sarraute, of the sous-conversation, and with what Sarraute called the “predecessor” of this “new form of dialogue,”1 in reference to the 1939 novel A Family and a Fortune by Ivy Compton-Burnett. Here we find the following remark:

Im neuartigen Dialog der Ivy Compton-Burnett sind alle Personen mit der analytischen Gabe ausgestattet, die Äußerung des Gesprächspartners nicht einfach wörtlich zu nehmen, sondern auf das hin zu interpretieren, was sie absichtlich oder unwillentlich verschweigt.2

(“In the new dialog form of Ivy Compton-Burnett, all persons are equipped with the analytical gift of not merely taking literally the expressions of their conversational partner, but rather, of interpreting that about which they either deliberately or involuntarily remain silent.”)

Not only in reading the resumes that he himself had composed since 1945, but in reading all texts by Jauss, one is well-advised to take these ground rules to heart. For the texts by Jauss—in a manner similar to Erich Auerbach or Werner Krauss, upon whom he often drew—are laid out in a fashion that is highly autoreferential, so that they impart to their readership direct reading instructions which, while occasionally overt, are more often hidden. Such cryptographic writing was efficiently developed by Werner Krauss as he sat on death row at Plötzensee, having been condemned to death for being a member of the Schulze-Boysen/Harnack group (an element of the “Red Orchestra” resistance movement), when he was forced to compose Graciáns Lebenslehre and his novel pln in a highly cryptographic fashion.3 Cryptographic writing of this sort stands in a state of tension—as fruitful as it is unusual, in terms of writing technique—with the numerous explicit demands and challenges that Hans Robert Jauss formulated in Part A. It is not without reason that this part carries the inscription “Ad dogmaticos: Kleine Apologie der literarischen Hermeneutik”4 (“Ad dogmaticos: A Small Apologia for Literary Hermeneutics”).

In the foreword to his book Wege des Verstehens, which brings together his writings from 1985 to 1993, he assails from the very beginning, in the combative tone so characteristic of Jauss’ writing, all dogmatists of any stripe. Jauss again takes the field in his last book, moving against “the orthodoxists and fundamentalists of every camp,”5 as if, immediately after the end of his “activity” in the Waffen-SS, he had become a warrior against Bolshevism and on the side of world peace. Militaristic metaphorics shine forth right from the very first page of the book, written a half-century after the end of the war, wherever the author believes to find even an inkling of reasons for which his position may be subject to criticism. But these he wishes to “calmly take into account, if I henceforth turn the weapons of these adversaries against them and maintain that hermeneutics is and has always been innately undogmatic. Whoever despises it because he—to name in advance the current allegations—rejects it as conservative, enslaved by the past and faithful to tradition, beguiled by the ‘chimera of origin,’ uncritical, affirmative and—worse yet—providing stability to dominance, subjective, unsystematic, and blind to theory.” (gelassen in Kauf nehmen, wenn ich nunmehr die Waffen der Widersacher gegen sie selbst wende und behaupte: Hermeneutik war von Haus aus undogmatisch und ist es noch. Wer sie verachtet, weil er sie—um vorab die gängigen Vorwürfe zu nennen—für konservativ, vergangenheitshörig und traditionsgläubig, der ‘Chimäre des Ursprungs’ verfallen, für unkritisch, affirmativ und—schlimmer noch—für herrschaftsstabilisierend, für subjektivistisch, unsystematisch und theorieblind ablehnt.)6

The arguments of the great number of adversaries are thus enumerated, but in such a way that the self-proclaimed warrior for the undogmatic, unorthodox cause of Jaussian hermeneutics no longer sees himself obligated to deal with the arguments of even the “educated among its detractors.”7 Differing from the foreword to Literaturgeschichte als Provokation (“Literary History as Provocation”), it is here no longer a matter of the “detractors”8 of literary history or philology tout court, but rather, of the detractors of that literary hermeneutics that had long since become an enkratic discourse beleaguered “by orthodoxists and fundamentalists of every camp.”9 The paratextual embedding in the foreword, and in the choices of titles in Part A, make it unmistakably clear from the start: Jauss is armed and taking action against adversaries among whom there are at times educated persons, who are clearly not in a position to grasp, to understand, literary hermeneutics. To understand, it is made clear from the start, is solely the business of the hermeneutics propagated by Jauss, and not of any other position in the field.

Nevertheless, the attraction of this book lies in the fact that, behind the roar of battle introduced by Jauss—who in his “first life” before 1945 was known to his superiors and subordinates for his highly controlled fearlessness and capacity for rigorous action, and who was decorated several times for his courage10—there are also many passages where quieter tones are struck that are not infrequently associated with the self-involvement and the autoreferentiality of both writing and concealment. The polemical fire and aggressiveness can easily blaze up again at any point, but in between, one finds long passages containing highly sensitive interpretations that are both well-versed and erudite, and which make the volume, on the level of content, a thoroughly worthwhile read. Hans Robert Jauss understood something of cryptography, since he had not only used a variety of secret codes during his service with the Waffen-SS, but had also arranged with his father, in 1945, a specific security-code that he made use of in his postcards from the internment enclosure at Recklinghausen.11

If Jauss, in the second part of his title, claims to be promoting an open understanding that demands new envisionings, in the first element of the title (that of paths) he points to a sentence that stands at the center of the work of Marcel Proust: “On ne reçoit pas la sagesse, il faut la découvrir soi-même, après un trajet que personne ne peut faire pour nous, ne peut nous épargner, car elle est un point de vue sur les choses.”12 (“One does not receive wisdom, it is necessary to discover it oneself after a journey that no one can make for us, nor spare us, for it is a point of view about things.”) Hans Robert Jauss is quite consciously referring here to his dissertation, which was about (and schooled in) the art of remembrance in Marcel Proust’s À la recherche du temps perdu, and which, in a sense, closes, from the end of his life, a circle of remembering and writing. The commentary that immediately follows seems to refer to Proust’s novel:

Daß die vermeintlich vergebliche Suche in Wahrheit schon die unsichtbare Geschichte einer Berufung war, ist eine profane, doch späte Erleuchtung des Erzählers, die ihn erkennen läßt, daß erst sein Erinnern, wenn es den Weg durch die Zeit wieder beschreitet, den verlorenen Sinn der Vergangenheit in der wiedergefundenen Zeit zu entdecken vermag.13

(That the supposedly futile search was in truth the invisible story of a mission is a profane but late epiphany for the narrator, which enables him to recognize that only his remembering, when it again walks the path through time, is capable of discovering the lost meaning of the past in the time that is found once again.)

It becomes clear in the very next sentence that a self-referential voice inheres in this commentary, even though it is dealing with a “memory of the work by Marcel Proust, with which my own path into the career of the philologist began.”14 Softly and gently inwoven here is the decisive biographeme that puts the beginning of his own path as a philologist not at his matriculation in Bonn in 1945, nor even with his matriculation in Heidelberg in 1948, but instead—chronologically even further removed from the end of the war—with the 1952 completion of his dissertation on Proust.

Very much in the sense of the reading instructions cited above, this memory is reminiscent of the very thing about which it remains silent: it proposes a reading of what it squeezes into the spaces between the lines, between the letters, insofar as it mentions that which, at this point, hardly need be mentioned. Again it becomes clear what Jauss, here and elsewhere, injects into a phrase that could well serve as a motto for the aforementioned considerations: “With this effort, certainly no less significance accrues to the unsaid than to that which is said.”15 Its eminently cryptographic dimension certainly distinguishes Jauss’ writing style. He knew of what he spoke when he spoke of it, and he knew of what he did not, and did not wish to, speak.

The hermeneutics of understanding practiced by Jauss and demonstrated here is, against this background, only at first glance a hermeneutics of concealment, since this concealment for its part reveals something that could be made readable again, which rests, in a cryptographically subtle manner, upon a dissimulation. The hermeneutics of understanding proves to be a hermeneutics of concealment that, for its part, sets in motion a hermeneutics of dissimulation.

This dissimulation entails that the text does not merely omit that which seems to be dangerous or inappropriate; rather, the text puts forth clues that not only pretend to be harmless signs, but which also elevate the gentle, nearly unnoticeable dissimulation and misrepresentation to the level of a guiding principle. Drawing upon Roland Barthes, this can almost be compared with the behavior of the cuttlefish, that releases as much ink as possible so that in its wake it becomes ever more difficult to recognize.16 And yet this game must be constantly continued, since the motive forces behind the release of ink never weaken—a fact that may have impelled Barthes in his experimental autobiography Roland Barthes par Roland Barthes, to perceive the writer himself as a cuttlefish.17 In the case of Hans Robert Jauss too, this game never came to an end.

In his texts, an elaborate hermeneutics of dissimulation unfolds, which presents to be read and heard the sous-conversation, as it were—and specifically not the complete concealment—of the Jaussian work on the text. Offered here to the reading public is a pretended and dissimulating knowledge in the mode of autobiographical windows that only seemingly reveal a view to a life, but actually reveal work on the micronarrative of a life, the continuous circumscription and circumlocution of which had long since become second nature to the Romanist from Göppingen and—to use the term employed by Jauss himself—patron and Patrons of the Konstanz School.18 For beginning with the “falsified” resume that he submitted upon his matriculation at the University of Bonn on November 18, 1945, Jauss worked with great care on his life’s microtexts.

To enumerate but a few basic points, it has been substantiated historiographically that Jauss, during his schooldays in Swabia, did not simply join the Hitler Youth (like so many of his fellow pupils), but also rapidly took on responsibilities and, as a Jungzugführer (unit leader) in Geislingen, commanded 160 boys in his “Jungzug Jauss;”19 that before his high school graduation exams, he volunteered not for the regular army, but, out of personal conviction, for the SS-Verfügungstruppe (“SS Dispositional Troops”), the forerunner of the Waffen-SS;20 that after this he enjoyed a brilliant career with numerous promotions and distinctions within the Waffen-SS that carried him, the SS-Candidate, or SS-Anwärter (Oct. 23, 1939), to the ranks of SS-Schützen (Mar. 25, 1940), SS-Sturmmann (Nov. 9, 1940), SS-Unterscharführer (April 20, 1941), SS-Oberscharführer (June 1, 1941), SS-Untersturmführer der Reserve (Sept. 22, 1941), SS-Obersturmführer der Reserve (Nov. 9, 1943), and finally to SS-Hauptsturmführer der Reserve (Nov. 9, 1944), during which time he was decorated with numerous commendations (from the Infantry Assault Badge in Bronze (Jan. 4, 1941), the Iron Cross, second class (Feb. 22, 1942) and first class (July 4, 1943), up to the German Cross in Gold (Apr. 24, 1944); that he had served in the SS Regiment Germany, in the ss Totenkopf Infantry Replacement Batallion ii Prague, in the Volunteer Legion Nederland, in the ss-Volunteer Panzergrenadier Regiment Nederland, and even served as the leader of the 58th Batallion, 33rd Waffen-Grenadier Division of the ss, Charlemagne; and that he also indoctrinated and shaped the world-view of young ss Candidates and other members of the Waffen-SS at, among other places, the Panzergrenadier School Prosetschnitz/Kienschlag, where he served as Chief Inspector. Even his final-exam questions regarding Nazi race-ideology from his courses designed for the units of “alien ethnicity” have been preserved for us.21

Following the painstaking work by Jens Westemeier supported by the University of Konstanz, which appeared in book form in 2016,22 it is very easy to become informed about Hans Robert Jauss’s assignments with the Waffen-SS (notorious for its brutality and savagery) on the Eastern Front and, among other places, at the siege of Leningrad,23 and also about his only partially illuminated war crimes in the so-called Bandenkampf (“gang fighting”) in Croatia.24 The result of this research is unambiguous: Hans Robert Jauss committed no “sins of youth” and was no mere “fellow traveler.” His career in the Waffen-SS, which during the war years numbered among the very fastest—there was not, evidently, a younger Hauptsturmführer in the entire Waffen-SS (!)25—shows the SS-Hauptsturmführer to be one who acted on ideological conviction.

All of this is impressively documented,26 but is not the object of the considerations here. For it is quite evident that the “matter of Jauss” has long since become the “case of Jauss,” which, based on decades-long protests, polemics, and oppositions, has the capacity to become, in the end, the “paradigm of Jauss.” This is due not only to the precipitousness of the fall that resulted from the high profile of Jauss as a public figure; nor only to the circumlocution of his own life over the course of decades; nor only to the challenges to research and discussions in this sensitive area; nor even to the strong institutionalization and academic anchoring of the approach to research based on reception aesthetics. Rather, it lies more in the patterns of behavior typical of a specific sort of treatment of the ns- and ss past that has lasted even up to the present day. It is not difficult to prognosticate that the interest in this paradigm of “coming to terms with the past” will continue to increase. The hope remains that Romance Studies in the German language also will take part in this area of research with studies of its own, from a variety of methodological perspectives that range beyond polemic.

Incidentally, a quick glance through the internet already shows that the name Hans Robert Jauss stands unmistakably—not only in the corresponding Wikipedia article, but in a tremendous number of other entries—in the shadow of that so-very-successful career in the Waffen-SS. In countries like the USA, the name Hans Robert Jauss is not only missing from the list of honorary members of the mla, but has long been excluded from the bibliographies of scientific works, where the name of Wolfgang Iser has for many years represented the so-called “Reader Response theory,” or the Konstanz school of reception aesthetics. To see in this merely a superficial political correctness would fall short of the mark.

Read against this backdrop, the aforementioned “Tout comprendre, c’est tout pardonner” from his final book, influenced by Siegfried Kracauer’s The Last Things Before the Last (explicitly mentioned in the title of the chapter), imparts to Jauss’ literary-scientific writing an impressive dynamic that, in the linking of understanding and forgiving, time and again asks, from ever-changing perspectives, about the possibilities and limits of a forgiveness that is based on an understanding that at the same time, however, thematicizes a concealment at just the point where there is nothing more to forgive, where forgiveness can no longer be hoped for. Did not this same Kracauer, upon reading the first volume of Poetik und Hermeneutik, get the impression that this type of hermeneutics bespeaks “escapism” and the “wish to close one’s eyes”?27

The late texts of Jauss particularly attest to this wish, but also to its impracticability. Not only the unpublished texts, but especially the published ones indicate this fundamental impossibility. It was of no use to destroy materials that had been preserved for decades, that had survived every move, but which could unfold a dangerous present from the archives. By way of a quote from an article by Karlheinz Stierle on the modernity of French Classicism that was cited very approvingly by Jauss, one could speak here of a play “in which the ‘I’ reveals and then conceals himself, reveals itself in concealment, and in this revealing, conceals itself anew.”28

In the game of quotes as the appropriation of the words of others, in the play of interpretations and meanings, fundamental questions of the Jaussian double-life, fundamental questions of the Jaussian écriture, are examined, enacted in the motions of a revelation through hiding and of a hiding through revealing. Jauss’s own cryptographic writing also examines, as it were, his own case in the writing. In association with a continually emerging auto-reflexivity, the traces of self-examination become visible not only through the medium of literature, but far more, through the medium of literary studies.

In “Tout comprendre, c’est tout pardonner,” there arises under Jauss’s pen (and Jauss’s control) a published writing-complex encircling the case of Jauss. A self-examination that seeks through its revealing to conceal itself, but which at the same time, through its concealment, clearly shows itself. Philological writing can—even here—set in motion and develop a knowledge of life, in life, and for life:29 a knowledge that presents itself to be read in the light of “Tout comprendre, c’est tout pardonner,” in all its ambiguity, in all its unfathomableness. But was there any forgiveness to be expected for Hans Robert Jauss at this late stage of his life?

In practice, Hans Robert Jauss seems not to have really considerred a linking of the central terms of “Tout comprendre, c’est tout pardoner.” The obsessive, palpable recurrence of the maxim, the formula, undoubtedly indicates that this question of a forgiving understanding stood in the blind spot of all of the Wege des Verstehens (the “Paths of Understanding”) and gave rise to a configuration, without the involvement of which the type of literary hermeneutics so characteristic of Jauss’s writing can hardly be adequately comprehended. Reading cannot be fully removed from the life of the reader, but rather—at least in fragments—read from it.

The deeper meaning that Jauss transports to the text against the background of his own knowledge for living, his Lebenswissen, in no way entails that the literary critic’s interpretations might be reduced to only this autoreferential isotopy. But the basso continuo of this maxim is pursued with such intense creativity and obsessiveness that the question of the meaning of the hermeneutics cannot be artificially separated from the readings of a life. In Wege des Verstehens, as is signaled from the beginning in the early reference to Marcel Proust, the paths of life and the paths of the author’s own understanding are fundamentally inscribed: in the polemical, often aggressive writing of Hans Robert Jauss, shaped by contentiousness and provocation, where there is something of a Schrei (“cry”) in the Schreiben, a cri in the écriture, this must be sought and heard in those wendings and windings that gather around the formula “Tout comprendre, c’est tout pardonner.” It is here that the quieter tones are found, in a volume that, from the standpoint of literary hermeneutics, designates as dogmatist (in a truly dogmatic fashion) whatever is even suspected of seeking to oppose the dominance of its own method and, thus, its own path.

Wege des Verstehens appeared some long years after Jauss had been questioned publicly about his activities in the Waffen-SS, after he had been denied an honorary doctorate in France and an honorary membership in the us, and had found himself subject to increasingly probing questions. The strategy of a “lame defense,”30 according to his frequent explanations and demonstrations, was certainly not for him. Thus he chose, as always, the attack—and indeed, from a standpoint of moral superiority. The answer Jauss gives to possible challenges lies in such frequent passages as might be cited from the volume from 1994: in statements that, from an elevated moral standpoint, turn the critical mirror toward our world, the degenerate world. Against this backdrop of the life story of the former SS-Hauptsturmführer, for him to accuse “our time” of moral degeneracy—in the name of an earlier, better time—could hardly be described as anything short of brazenness.

In his various leadership functions on the Eastern Front, Jauss distinguished himself time and again by showing that he knew how to hold his position at any cost. This often circumspect, but always highly risky, conduct during his wartime deployment around 1944 at Narwa apparently remained with him for his whole life. Even on the twenty-eighth of August, 1995, Hans Robert Jauss wrote to his friend, the historian Reinhart Koselleck, that an order of retreat which he had issued perhaps an hour too early traumatized him “post festum” even today: “Had I held the position an hour longer, they would possibly have been saved, even with the risk that all of us might have perished.”31

Jauss knew only too well that, other than himself, only a fraction of his men survived the costly retreat at the Eastern Front. It may well have been the tactical skill which Jauss often demonstrated, especially when advancing to hold and strengthen a military position that had been entrusted to him, that was present when it came to defending at whatever cost the position he had obtained, the life-narrative he had worked out, through the mobilization of his own powers and those of others. Just at the point when he came under fire and had to think of retreat, these images of his time at the Eastern Front were clearly on his mind, as the 1995 letter to Koselleck and many more of the accounts collected by Jens Westemeier attest. Hans Robert Jauss held his position with all his strength of will and, as much as possible, alongside all of his friends, pupils, and companions. That which we can designate the Jauss System can thus obviously not be equated with the “Konstanz School.” But it was not up to Jauss to provide clarity regarding his ascent as an ideologically motivated perpetrator and war criminal of the so-called “Third Reich.” And it was equally not his business to carefully withdraw himself and cede a superior position to others. Paradoxical trench wars often arise from this, as in Wege des Verstehens: someone who demanded and facilitated the barbarism of the Hitler Era appoints himself the accuser and the assailant against those who, with their humanistic positions, would not have been able to prevent the rise of National Socialism. Hans Robert Jauss developed writing-forms of a dissimulation that were not a matter of history, but of playing a game with its readings, not a matter of the problematics of his own involvement, but of the tactical assertion of a position and therefore a matter of dissimulation. Here we find forms of writing that are of the greatest significance and expressiveness to a history of scientific writing in the field of Romance Studies.

To avoid all misunderstanding: this is not a matter of coming to terms with the past, in any meaningful sense. If we encounter here any sort of coming to terms at all, then it is coming to terms with the future. Even if historical research continues to bring to light additional information, it still appears to be an obligation, against the historical background briefly sketched here, to delve deeply into the Romanist Hans Robert Jauss and, consequently, into his texts, his work, into his reception and impact in the field of Romance Studies and far beyond. The historiographically compiled facts are openly accessible. They should be understood not as a provocation, but as elements of a worthwhile neutralizing of polemics. Beyond all polemics, beyond all provocation, within Romance Studies and beyond its disciplinary limits, it is important to examine and understand the writings and impact of this Romanist who was capable, like no other, of institutionally shaping German post-war Romance Studies and its scholarly style.

Hans Robert Jauss cannot simply be “thought out” of the history of Romance Studies, or out of the history of literary studies in Germany of the 20th century: too profound was the attractive power of his style of thought, writing, and science, too powerful his machine de guerre. If the “case of Jauss,” due to the precipitousness of the fall, has long since been on the way to becoming the “paradigm of Jauss,” it is now time, from the perspective of Romance Studies, to scientifically—and this means without any provocation—examine the text and work, the impact and the reception of the author of Ästhetische Erfahrung und literarische Hermeneutik32 (“Aesthetic Experience and Literary Hermeneutics”), and to illuminate them from various perspectives. The considerations put forth here should in no way diminish the undeniable and undenied merits of the founder of reception aesthetics. With him and with his words, one may surely hold on to the hope that “the triadic relationship of technology, communication, and world view” can be brought “once more into equilibrium”:

Diese Hoffnung läßt sich leichter rechtfertigen, wenn die Leistungen der drei Funktionen menschlichen Handelns erst einmal dort aufgezeigt sind, wo in der ästhetischen Tätigkeit Technik als Poiesis, Kommunikation als Katharsis und Weltbild als Aisthesis transparent werden—in der Erfahrung der Kunst, die ununterdrückbar und kontinuierlich durch die sich ablösenden Herrschaftsverhältnisse hindurch den Weg der ästhetischen Bildung verfolgt.33

(This hope can more easily be justified if the achievements of the three functions of human action are first of all shown at the point where, in aesthetic activity, technology becomes transparent as poiesis, communication as catharsis, and world view as aisthesis—in the experience of art, which irrepressibly and continuously, by detaching power structures, follows the path of aesthetic formation.)

Poiesis and aisthesis can then only be determined when catharsis is incorporated and, in a sense related to life-science, be included for the sake of an understanding that is as extensive and complete as possible. Without a doubt, Hans Robert Jauss represents a very specific style of scholarship (developed in no small way for historical reason), whose textual implementations this article has attempted to present and illuminate. A look at both his writing and his silence shows the ubiquity of that which is no more and yet cannot cease to be. The terminology that he developed very often contains—as, for instance, in the term explorative morality—an auto-reflexive component that, specifically through all of that which it verbosely seeks to conceal, reveals and, hiding, points toward itself.

If the concept of explorative morality—as we see already in the text “Tout comprendre, c’est tout pardonner,”—is once more the topic of discussion, even in the cover notes of Wege des Verstehens, it is further developed in the chapter just mentioned, “Hermeneutic Morality: the Moral Demands of the Aesthetic,” as “explorative morality” raises questions “about the peculiarity of human behavior (the Latin moralis is derived from mores, customs),”34 or about the “testing of the compatibility of one’s own norms of action with foreign ones.”35 Not wishing to take on the differentiation and separation of “one’s own” from “foreign” contained herein, and with it, a very specific interpretation of philosophical postulates on alterity,36 it seems to me to be necessary to take Jauss against Jauss, as it were, to connect the context of poiesis and aisthesis within Romance Studies with that Reinigungsprozeß (“purification process”) of catharsis, which by no means dispenses with the moral or, better, ethical dimensions of exploration. To perform a “fade out” of Jauss from the history of Romance Studies, or from that of the literary studies of the 20th century, obstructs in any case the paths of philology into the future.

Hans Robert Jauss—to use the words of Jorge Semprún37—traveled the very short, and yet at the same time very long, path from Buchenwald to Weimar: a path that first led him into the most abysmal, most reprehensible, and most rational form of human barbarism, which he wished to shake off and leave behind him at the end of the war as quickly as possible. His path to Weimar, as the symbol of a “refined” western culture in association with a humanity of which Romance Studies also possesses examples, was extremely short. The philologist only temporarily became free from the shadow cast by the SS skeleton badges on the collar tabs of his cast-off Uniform.38 The life and writings of Hans Robert Jauss show strikingly just how close Buchenwald is to Weimar.

At the same time, in the field of Romance Studies, where the establishment of schools of critical thought—as is shown, for instance, by Hugo Friedrich or Erich Köhler, or by Erich Auerbach, Leo Spitzer, and Ernst Robert Curtius—is unusual, Hans Robert Jauss created a school, with an approach conceived with true military precision, that without a doubt represents the most successful institutionalization of Romanistic research, reaching far beyond Romance Studies. No other Romanist in the past century was more institutionally influential or created a greater impact in the academic field than this Reader Response theorist who today has long since been connected to Konstanz in a sense that goes beyond political science. If Jauss has indeed become a paradigm, the hope nevertheless remains for a field of Romance Studies for whose thought, writing, and scientific style his name cannot be paradigmatic. This Romanistics of the future should, to the greatest extent possible, neither forget nor glorify Jauss, neither conceal nor dispossess him: it should, in a manner that is unemotional and far from any sort of polemics or provocation, learn not so much from him as through him, that it might rethink the mission of philology prospectively, and think it onward.

1 Hans Robert Jauß, Wege des Verstehens (Munich: Wilhelm Fink Verlag 1974), 77.

2 Ibid., 78.

3 See Ottmar Ette, “ ‘Von einer höheren Warte aus.’ Werner Krauss—eine Literaturwissenschaft der Grundprobleme,” in Werner Krauss. Wege—Werke—Wirkungen, ed. Ottmar Ette, Martin Fontius, Gerda Haßler, Peter Jehle (Berlin: Berlin Verlag 1999), 91-122.

4 He had already employed the concept of the apologia in the small volume: Hans Robert Jauß, Kleine Apologie der ästhetischen Erfahrung. With art-historical commentary by Max Imdahl (Konstanz: Universitätsverlag), 1972.

5 Hans Robert Jauß, Wege des Verstehens, 7.

6 Ibid.

7 Ibid., 8.

8 Hans Robert Jauß, Literaturgeschichte als Provokation (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp 1970), 7.

9 Hans Robert Jauß, Wege des Verstehens, 7.

10 For a list of these commendations and decorations, which include the “Medaille Winterschlacht im Osten” (August 1, 1942) and the bronze Nahkampfspange (April 24, 1944), see Jens Westemeier, Hans Robert Jauß, 12.12.1921 Göppingen-01.03.1997 Konstanz: Jugend, Krieg und Internierung. Wissenschaftliche Dokumentation, Geiselhöring, in May of 2015, University of Konstanz: Homepage 2015, http://www.aktuelles.uni-konstanz.de/presseinformationen/2015/48, 124.

11 Cf. ibid., 109.

12 As quoted in Hans Robert Jauß, Wege des Verstehens, 8. Cf., in the original form submitted as a dissertation in 1952 in Heidelberg, Hans Robert Jauß, Zeit und Erinnerung in Marcel Prousts “À la recherche du temps perdu”: Ein Beitrag zur Theorie des Romans (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp), 1986.

13 Hans Robert Jauß, Wege des Verstehens, 8.

14 Ibid., 9.

15 Ibid., 89.

16 See Roland Barthes, “Mythologies,” in Roland Barthes, Oeuvres complètes. Edition established and presented by Eric Marty, 3 vols. (Paris: Seuil), 1993-1995, here Vol. 1, 716.

17 Roland Barthes, “Roland Barthes par Roland Barthes,” in Roland Barthes: Oeuvres complètes, Vol. 3, 220.

18 Compare the phrase employed above with the reference to the group that he himself “patronierte” in Hans Robert Jauß, Wege des Verstehens, 306. On the other hand, Jauss frequently emphasized that he himself had not started the term “Konstanzer Schule”; see, i.a., his “Antrittsrede vor der Heidelberger Akademie” of May 30th, 1981.

19 Jens Westemeier, Hans Robert Jauß, 19.

20 Cf. (extensively) ibid., pp. 22-26.

21 Ibid., 82.

22 Cf. Jens Westemeier, Hans Robert Jauß. Jugend, Krieg und Internierung (Konstanz: KoUP), 2016.

23 Jens Westemeier, Hans Robert Jauß, 12.12.1921, 54-56.

24 Ibid., 65-76.

25 Ibid., 96; this statement was kindly substantiated by Jens Westemeier in an e-mail to this author on March 6, 2016, through the preparation of further documentation of promotions in the Waffen-SS that were nearly as fast.

26 And might well lead to further investigations in the future, specifically with a view to Jauss’ time in Croatia.

27 Cf. Ahlrich Meyer, “Der Wunsch, die Augen zu verschliessen—wovor? Siegfried Kracauer and the research group ‘Poetik und Hermeneutik’ ,” in: Neue Zürcher Zeitung (23 January 2016), online: http://www.nzz.ch/feuilleton/buecher/der-wunsch-die-augen-zu-verschliessen—wovor-1.18682190.

28 Karlheinz Stierle, “Die Modernität der französischen Klassik—Negative Anthropologie und funktionaler Stil,” in: Fritz Nies / Karlheinz Stierle (eds.), Französische Klassik. Theorie—Literatur—Malerei (Munich: Wilhelm Fink 1985), 114. Cited here from Hans Robert Jauß, Wege des Verstehens, 56.

29 Cf. Ottmar Ette, ÜberLebenswissen. Die Aufgabe der Philologie (Berlin: Kulturverlag Kadmos 2004).

30 Hans Robert Jauss, Kleine Apologie der ästhetischen Erfahrung, 5.

31 DLA Marbach, NL Jauß, K24, M1; quoted in Jens Westemeier, Hans Robert Jauß, 12.12.1921, 78.

32 Hans Robert Jauß, Ästhetische Erfahrung und literarische Hermeneutik (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp 1982).

33 Ibid., 23.

34 Hans Robert Jauß, Wege des Verstehens, 31.

35 Ibid.

36 Cf. Ottmar Ette, “Weiter denken. Viellogisches denken / viellogisches Denken und die Wege zu einer Epistemologie der Erweiterung,” Romanistische Zeitschrift für Literaturgeschichte (Heidelberg) Heft 1-4 (2016), 331-355.

37 Jorge Semprún, Mal et Modernité: le travail de l’Histoire, suivi de … “vous avez une tombe dans les nuages …,” Paris: Editions Climats 1995.

38 Cf. Jens Westemeier, Hans Robert Jauß, 39.

Bibliography

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  • Jauß Hans Robert Literaturgeschichte als Provokation 1970 Frankfurt am Main Suhrkamp

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  • Meyer Ahlrich “Der Wunsch, die Augen zu verschliessen—wovor? Siegfried Kracauer and the research group ‘Poetik und Hermeneutik’ ” Neue Zürcher Zeitung 2016 January 23 Online: http://www.nzz.ch/feuilleton/buecher/der-wunsch-die-augen-zu-verschliessen—wovor-1.18682190

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  • Westemeier Jens & Jauß Hans Robert 12.12.1921 Göppingen-01.03.1997 Konstanz: Jugend, Krieg und Internierung Wissenschaftliche Dokumentation, Geiselhöring, May 2015 2015 University of Konstanz: Homepage http://www.aktuelles.uni-konstanz.de/presseinformationen/2015/48

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  • Westemeier Jens Hans Robert Jauß. Jugend, Krieg und Internierung. 2016 Konstanz KoUP

  • 2

    Ibid., 78.

  • 3

    See Ottmar Ette, “ ‘Von einer höheren Warte aus.’ Werner Krauss—eine Literaturwissenschaft der Grundprobleme,” in Werner Krauss. Wege—Werke—Wirkungen, ed. Ottmar Ette, Martin Fontius, Gerda Haßler, Peter Jehle (Berlin: Berlin Verlag 1999), 91-122.

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  • 5

    Hans Robert Jauß, Wege des Verstehens, 7.

  • 7

    Ibid., 8.

  • 9

    Hans Robert Jauß, Wege des Verstehens, 7.

  • 11

    Cf. ibid., 109.

  • 12

    As quoted in Hans Robert Jauß, Wege des Verstehens, 8. Cf., in the original form submitted as a dissertation in 1952 in Heidelberg, Hans Robert Jauß, Zeit und Erinnerung in Marcel Prousts “À la recherche du temps perdu”: Ein Beitrag zur Theorie des Romans (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp), 1986.

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  • 13

    Hans Robert Jauß, Wege des Verstehens, 8.

  • 14

    Ibid., 9.

  • 15

    Ibid., 89.

  • 19

    Jens Westemeier, Hans Robert Jauß, 19.

  • 20

    Cf. (extensively) ibid., pp. 22-26.

  • 21

    Ibid., 82.

  • 23

    Jens Westemeier, Hans Robert Jauß, 12.12.1921, 54-56.

  • 24

    Ibid., 65-76.

  • 25

    Ibid., 96; this statement was kindly substantiated by Jens Westemeier in an e-mail to this author on March 6, 2016, through the preparation of further documentation of promotions in the Waffen-SS that were nearly as fast.

  • 30

    Hans Robert Jauss, Kleine Apologie der ästhetischen Erfahrung, 5.

  • 33

    Ibid., 23.

  • 34

    Hans Robert Jauß, Wege des Verstehens, 31.

  • 36

    Cf. Ottmar Ette, “Weiter denken. Viellogisches denken / viellogisches Denken und die Wege zu einer Epistemologie der Erweiterung,” Romanistische Zeitschrift für Literaturgeschichte (Heidelberg) Heft 1-4 (2016), 331-355.

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  • 38

    Cf. Jens Westemeier, Hans Robert Jauß, 39.

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