Of German genres and Scottish sentiments: Henry Mackenzie, Walter Scott, and the German Schauspiel

Michael Wood

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review

Abstract

Michael Wood’s essay focuses on Anglo-German exchange with reference to Scott and Scotland. Yet rather than focusing on Scott’s relationship with the German Gothic, he studies the reception of German drama in Scotland, exemplified through the experiences of Henry Mackenzie and Scott. Through an analysis of Mackenzie’s important “Account of the German Theatre” of 1788 and Scott’s subsequent interest in German plays, Wood identifies the importance of genre and generic categories in the Scottish reception of German drama at the end of the eighteenth and the beginning of the nineteenth centuries. While research to date has tended to interpret Scott’s interaction with German drama as being guided by a passion for history and medieval and Gothic motifs, Wood argues that the basis for Scott’s and Mackenzie’s curiosity with regard to German plays and playwrights arises from the particular philosophical context in which they were reading and receiving them. When Scott, Mackenzie, and others came upon German drama at the end of the eighteenth century, they were drawn to concerns of the role of the passions, the ethics of theater, and formal innovation that bore a striking resemblance to their own Scottish interests. Indeed, the formal innovation of Lessing and his successors followed a period in which Lessing’s interaction with Scottish Enlightenment philosophy led him to question traditional genre distinctions. Wood isolates the Scottish reception of German drama, using it to examine Scott’s own attempt to write a play in 1799–1800 and pointing to ways in which his reappraisal may lead us to reassess the place of German drama in Scott’s mature output.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAnglo-German Dramatic and Poetic Encouters
Subtitle of host publicationPerspectives on Exchange in the Sattelzeit
EditorsMichael Wood, Sandro Jung
PublisherLehigh University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9781611462937
ISBN (Print)9781611462920
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jun 2019

Publication series

NameStudies in Text & Print Culture

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