Seminar “Friendship in German and American Literature” - Day Trip to Weimar

by Philipp Bradl (Bamberg)

On June 29, 2013, nineteen students joined Dr. Konopka for a German-American field trip to Weimar, exploring intersections between German and American culture with a focus on changing notions of friendship.

After a three-hour train ride our guide picked us up and told us a lot about the unique friendship between Schiller and Goethe in Weimar. At the famous Goethe-Schiller monument in front of the German National Theater, right in the city center, we learned that their relationship had much more to do, at least initially, with professional cooperation and critique that with a strong personal interest in each other.

Their partnership can be placed at the intersection between the romantic cult of friendship (an intensely passionate, intimate bond between like minds), and much more rational and utilitarian notions of academic friendship ("gelehrte Freundschaft"). We also learned about some fun facts regarding their personal life styles, and, especially, about Goethe's long and complex relationship with the married Charlotte von Stein. And did you know, for example, that Goethe had a passion for skinny dipping? One of the many stories our guide Friederike told us was that he regularly joined his good friend Duke Karl-August in the river Ilm – "in all their naked glory!"

On a more serious note, we also had the chance to see the famous Bauhaus University, which is not actually built in Bauhaus style, but in Art Noveau. But that was not the only part of Weimar's higher educational facilities we had the chance to see. Another one was the FranzLisztSchool for music. During our guided tour we also visited Goethe and Schiller's private homes, the famed Anna Amalia library, and the only outdoor statue of William Shakespeare in continental Europe, discovering a number of unexpected cultural intersections during this trip to "Kulturstadt Weimar."