From Werther Fever to Bieber Fever: Adaptation, Intertextuality, and the (Re-) Discovery of Romanticism

Romanticism has been ubiquitously difficult to define. As Tim Blanning points out in The Romantic Revolution, “[the] first French historian of romanticism — F.R. Torreinx — described his subject as ‘just that which cannot be defined,’ while Baudelaire wrote that ‘romanticism is precisely situated neither in choice of subjects nor in exact truth but in a way of feeling.’”[1] Similarly, Goethe’s Romanticism has defied categorization: his works are aesthetically diverse, and, somewhat paradoxically, throughout his career Goethe distanced himself from Romanticism, describing it as “sick,” contrasting it with “healthy” Classicism.[2] In classifying Goethe’s The Sorrows of Young Werther, however, scholars have found more common ground: the novel is almost always considered a work of the pre-romantic Storm and Stress (Sturm und Drang) period, which took place in Germany during the mid to late eighteenth century.[3] It marked a move away from poetry as a rational, learnable craft, towards notions of the irrational “poetic Genius,” which favored spontaneity, feeling, sensibility, nature, and individuality as sources of powerful art.[4] In a way then, Werther, as a work of Storm and Stress, as well as Werther, a man of feeling and sensibility, constitute proto-Romantic models, comprising ideal subjects for the study of Romanticism itself.

In October 2012, my stage adaptation of Goethe’s The Sorrows of Young Werther premiered at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, BC. Starring Ryan Beil, a local actor and comedian, and directed by myself, the show “made its mark” in the season, as one critic wrote.[5] It “made its mark” perhaps because it combined Goethe’s eighteenth-century text with modern projection technology and a contemporary set and costume design, creating explicit juxtapositions of old and new, of convention and non-traditionalism, of order and chaos. These collisions, which are characteristic of Werther, were central to my production concept: my adaptation’s hypothesis was to redefine Romanticism a living, thriving, multi-medial, and multi-faceted conceptual movement – a kind of struggle – as opposed to a contained literary era, neatly framed by moments in time and defined by specific historical circumstances. This approach was most strongly anchored in my adaptation’s musical score, which mixed and conflated pop songs and rock music with period and modern classical music.

In The Romantic Revolution, Tim Blanning calls for “a willingness to enter the world of the romantics by the routes they chose themselves,” suggesting “it is through sounds and images, dreams and visions, that the gate to understanding can be opened…”[6] This essay will take precisely this approach: through an examination of my adaptation’s “sounds” including Underworld’s “Born Slippy,” Florence and the Machine’s “Breath of Life,” Moby’s “Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad,” Justin Bieber’s “Boyfriend,” and Rihanna’s “Where Have You Been,” I will lift Romanticism out of its associated time period, demonstrating how processes of adaptation function to establish vast intertexual webs – “dreams and visions” of sorts — that allow Romantic texts to autonomously redefine themselves as contemporary and complex.


Werther as Hipster, a “coincidentia oppositorum[7]

In the context of this essay, it is necessary to address a common misconception, which includes my own previously held image of Goethe, and by extension of Werther – that of the sentimental, lamenting, slightly withered, conservative poet – and define the Romanticism that Goethe and Werther actually represented. In their article “Figures of Romantic Anti-Capitalism,” Sayre and Löwy define Romanticism as a “coincidentia oppositorum: at the same time (or alternately) revolutionary and counter-revolutionary, cosmopolitan and nationalist, realist and fanciful, restorationist and utopian, democratic and aristocratic, republican and monarchist, red and white, mystical and sensual.”[8] These contradictions, they suggest, “inhabit not only the Romantic movement as a whole, but often also the life and work of a single author, and sometimes even a single text”.[9] A closer look at Goethe’s life clarifies the great extent to which he was continuously at odds with his artistic and political surroundings, torn between worldly and artistic ideologies. Goethe, by all accounts, was just as jagged, complicated, and conflicted as Werther, a kind of “literary figure” himself – that is, a subject torn between idealistic, intense fantasies of himself and the crude realities and expectations of the world. At the young age of sixteen, when the intellectually gifted Goethe left home for the city of Leipzig to begin his university studies, he already found himself vacillating between his artistic aspirations as a poet and his parents’ expectations for his law studies. At the time he was suffering emotional extremes that resemble mania and depression, moving briskly between “wild joy” and “melancholic discomfort.”[10] In an essay about Goethe’s early years, Claudia Kaiser suggests that his double life as a poet and law student jarred the young, sensitive Goethe deeply, causing recurring bouts of depression for the rest of his life, during which he repeatedly destroyed his artwork – poetry, prose, sketches – in fits of self-doubt.[11]

As such, not only Werther, but Goethe, too, resemble contemporary “lost-in-the-world” artist types, the (anti-) heroes of Ben Lerner’s recent novels Leaving the Atocha Station and 10:04, for example.[12] In the same vein, Adelle Waldman’s Nathaniel P. shares not only Goethe’s writerly aspirations, but also his near-compulsive levels of introspection.[13] And his propensity for emotional outbursts is reminiscent of Lena Dunham’s Adam of the HBO-series Girls.[14] That is to say Goethe, and by extension his character Werther, appear as what we tend to identify today as the common “hipster.” This begs the question: to what extent is “hipsterism” truly a contemporary phenomenon, or potentially a Romantic one? To what extent does a boundary between “then” and “now” exist? Is Romanticism (or “history” as a whole) a linear or potentially a cyclical phenomenon?

The parallels between contemporary hipsters and Romantic figures run deeper than superficial attributes, encompassing ideological and political – weltanschauliche – commonalities, which comprise the foundation for the soundtrack of my adaptation.[15] While the OED defines “hipster” merely as “one who is “hip,” [16] Urban Dictionary yields a slightly more satisfying result: it defines “hipsters” as “a subculture of men and women typically in their 20’s and 30’s that value independent thinking, counter-culture, progressive politics, an appreciation of art and indie-rock, creativity, intelligence, and witty banter.”[17] These qualities are mirrored in Robert Sayre and Michael Löwy’s definition of the one single “unifying element of the Romantic movement” – the “Romantic Weltanschauung” – as an “opposition to capitalism in the name of pre-capitalist values.”[18] The Romantics, then, were often political and ideological non-conformists. This applies to Goethe, but also to second-generation British Romantic writers, such as Keats, Byron, and Shelley, who consistently resisted conformism on political, philosophical-intellectual, and practical levels, which becomes evident particularly in the poets’ romantic lives: Shelley and Byron each practiced different forms of free love. During his nomadic marriage to Mary Shelley, Percy had relationships with other women, while Byron seemed to resist traditional forms of relationships altogether, pursuing instead a bisexual, mostly-single lifestyle. Goethe, too, had non-traditional romantic relationships: for years he maintained a passionate exchange of letters with the married Christiane von Stein, which ceased only after she found out about Goethe’s relationship with Christiane Vulpius, with whom the poet cohabited, even though two were not married.[19] Werther pays testimony to these non-conformist tendencies. Most importantly, he rejects the rules and customs of middle-class society:

Only nature has inexhaustible riches and only nature creates a great artist. A good deal can be said about the advantages of rules, much the same as can be said in praise of bourgeois society. A man shaped by rules will never produce anything absolutely tasteless or bad—just as a citizen who observes laws and decorum, can never be an unbearable neighbour, or a terrible villain. But yet, say what you will of rules, they destroy the true feeling of nature, as well as its true expression! Do not tell me “that this is too severe a statement; the rules only contain; they cut back the ranker growth, etc.[20]

Moreover, he is a nomad – a traveling artist without a designated home – and he despises city life, preferring nature over urbanity.[21]

As a concerted opposition to normative values, Romanticism also inadvertently comprises a movement. In other words, the Romantics’ unified resistance towards the mainstream (unwittingly) turns them into a trend – a kind of fashion or fetish – that paradoxically but inadvertently re-configures them as, and reabsorbs them into, a notion of “mainstream.” In that moment, subculture becomes an internally contradictory phenomenon – a coincidentia oppositorum. Werther exemplifies this characteristic. After its publication, the novel was an instant success, and Goethe became a celebrity overnight—not just in Germany but all over Europe. As the first novel that translated human emotion into language and examined the psyche of a commoner—Werther is an everyman, not a member of the aristocracy—the book flew off the shelves, much to the displeasure of German authorities, such as the church, which condemned the novel’s alleged glorification of suicide. In the years following publication, Germany experienced a phenomenon called “Werther Fever:” young men imitated Werther’s dress (his blue coat and yellow stockings) and supposedly even his suicide—German authorities allegedly observed an increase in the suicide rate among young men at the time. Everything “Werther” became fashionable so fast that it was not long before adaptations and parodies of Werther began to appear, the most famous perhaps being Friedrich Nicholai’s The Joys of Werther, in which Albert (knowing what Werther is up to) loads the pistol with chicken blood. After his failed and somewhat messy suicide attempt, Werther turns into a respectable citizen and lives happily ever after.


Werther on Stage: Adaptation, Pop, and Romanticism

This internally paradoxical conundrum of the Romantic non-conformist as a fetish of the mainstream, so characteristic of Werther and his author, is mirrored in contemporary culture – not just in the phenomenon of the hipster, but also in specific instances. Underworld’s song Born Slippy, which I placed right at the top of the show, opens the movie Trainspotting, which in turn is an adaptation of Irvine Welsh’s novel of the same name, which is revered by its fans for its exploration of Scottish counterculture and radicalism – and was a huge commercial success. It is now considered a cultural phenomenon and a staple text in English classrooms all over the world. Trainspotting depicts the lives (and occasional) deaths of heroin-addicted dropouts in Edinburgh, constituting a deliberate statement against capitalist values:

Choose us. Choose life. Choose mortgage payments; choose washing machines; choose cars; choose sitting on a couch watching mind-numbing and spirit-crushing game shows, stuffing fuckin junk food intae yir mooth. Choose rotting away, pishing and shiteing yersel in a home, a total fuckin embarrassment tae the selfish, fucked-up brats ye’ve produced. Choose life.[22]

In Trainspotting, life-threatening drug abuse functions as a rebellion against bourgeois life and its associated social, economic, physical, and mental demands and securities; it serves the purposes of living in the moment, of experiencing existential extremes, of avoiding responsibility, and of remaining in a state of persistent hallucination and infantry, in denial and rejection of the present and future. Trainspotting may be read as a paradox manifesto both for and against the abjection inherent in urban life. On the one hand it critiques the struggle of men and women dwindling towards death in concrete jungles, while embracing it on the other, by making it explicit and publicizing it.[i]

This anti-bourgeois context, which so clearly mirrors Werther’s own ideological and political disposition, is the setting within which I opened my stage adaptation. But referencing Trainspotting in this way allowed me to do more than simply establish thematic parallels between the two (three, if you count the film autonomously) works. It “spatialized” the texts, drawing attention to the “vertical axes” of Werther and Trainspotting.[24] That is, it established an intertextual relationship between the works that, in the words of Roland Barthes, reconfigured the texts as “multidimensional space[s] in which a variety of writings, none of them original, blend and clash.”[25] Moreover, reconfiguring the texts in such a way activated them – it allowed them to perform a series of transgressions: to cross and bridge boundaries of time, space, genre, and medium. It allowed the two (three) works – and by association many other works, too – to meld together and develop a kind of autonomous identity independent of their era and authors.

The entirety of my soundtrack for the adaptation was based on this methodology, on bursting open as many pockets of association as possible, on spinning and spreading vast vertical, intertextual webs throughout time and space. I included Florence and the Machine, for instance, because of front singer Florence’s commitment to translating emotion into music, which mirrors Goethe’s act of translating emotion into language. The specific choice of her song “Breath of Life,” featured on the soundtrack of the movie Snow White and the Huntsman, drew attention to the sheer size of Werther’s emotions — their epic breadth — projecting his “intensity of feeling” onto audiences by evoking an affective response. Moreover, much like Irvine Welsh, Danny Boyle, and Trainspotting, Florence and the Machine enjoy significant artistic credibility in hipster circles – even in those who claim a particularly strong affinity for music – despite the fact that the band has enjoyed massive commercial success. It is perhaps their adaptation of “pop, soul, and Baroque arrangements” into a specific, unique sound that allows them to maintain a broad fan base.[26] For me, their vast reach across styles – and by extension across history – constituted an analogy for the structural and methodological basis of my adaptation – and further supported my choice of song here.

Similarly, Moby’s work was a good fit for the show for many reasons, one of which was the release of his album Destroyed in 2010, which explores the loneliness and melancholy of urban life through electronic – syntheticmusic.[27] However, I picked Moby’s earlier iconic song “Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad” for the show because of its explicit relationship to Werther’s state of mind and soul, on the one hand, and for its simultaneously whimsical, lachrymose, and repetitive nature on the other. Its placement signals a dramaturgical shift in my adaptation, heralding the development of Werther’s struggle from a lover’s frenzy into an inescapable, ever-worsening downward spiral. When Werther returns to Walheim after his brief absence, despite the fact that he knows his love for Charlotte is unrealizable, his fight for her turns into a fight against himself.


Werther and Celebrity Culture

The boundaries of this paper make it just as impossible to touch on every single song and artist featured in the show’s soundtrack, as the limits of my adaptation prohibited me from including every song in the show that might have been a thematic fit. While I was doing research for my soundtrack in 2011 and 2012, I spent much time listening to radio stations and was baffled by how much of a pop song Werther is—even though we tend to think of the novel as the epitome of high art. Every song I came across reflected at least one aspect of Werther’s journey: Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance,” Michael Bolton’s “When A Man Loves A Woman,” Whitney Houston’s “I will Always Love You,” and Ke$ha’s “Your Love is My Drug” are only a few examples.

The idea of Werther’s story as a pop cultural phenomenon stuck with me, particularly because Romanticism was the movement that gave birth to modern celebrity culture in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries: figures like Goethe, Beethoven, and Lord Byron are counted among the world’s first modern celebrities. Tom Mole explains that by the Romantic period, “celebrity was no longer something you had, but something you were,” and it was in the Romantic period that “celebrity first came to be understood as a distinctly inferior variety of fame.”[28] As I explain above, Werther himself occupies a complex place in the world of fame and celebrity, having had followers all over Europe – even including Napoleon. Moreover, as a semi-autobiographical novel, the lines between fact and fiction blur in The Sorrows, a phenomenon that both complicates and intensifies Werther’s and Goethe’s positions as celebrity icons.

Werther’s rise to fame is mirrored in young pop star Justin Bieber’s vast success as a YouTube sensation. Each click that Bieber received on YouTube in 2009 mirrors a sold copy of Werther in 1774. Furthermore, the trajectory of Bieber’s popularity and his subsequent self-destructive fall from grace echoes Werther’s development.[29] Most importantly, however, looking at the glossy, colorful pages of Bieber’s biography, what emerges is a virtually all-encompassing fixation with notions of authenticity and realness.[30] From the comments section on the biography’s Amazon webpage:

I love how this book shows who Justin trully is. I love how it gives more details about how everything heppened. Fame wasnt given to him, an oppurtunity was and he took advantege of it, he worked hard to be where he is now. He is hated by people who he havent even meet, people who know nothing about him [sic].[31]

To observe reality – to peel away the outer layers of a persona to reach and connect to a kind of human “core” or “nature” – transpires as a contemporary obsession since the Romantic era. It seems particularly pertinent in the context of contemporary celebrity culture – when appearance and reality no longer overlap because persons, particularly artists, are transformed into commodified objects. Similar questions about authenticity have emerged in both scholarly and popular discussions about Werther, the most prominent likely concerning the novel’s autobiographical content: to what extent is Werther Goethe and Goethe Werther?[32] Werther himself, too, is obsessed with “authenticity” which, to him, exists in opposition to capitalist, bourgeois values, and by extension, to commodification:

A young fellow is totally infatuated with a girl. He spends every hour of the day in her company, wears out his health, and lavishes his fortune, to give her constant proof that his devotion to her knows no end. Then a man of the world, a man of public rank, comes and says to him: “My good young friend! To love is only natural, but you must love within bounds. Divide up your hours: devote a portion to business, and give the hours of recreation to your mistress. Calculate your income, and once your necessities are seen to, make her a present with what remains, but not too often—only on her birthday, and such occasions.” Pursuing this advice, the lover may become a useful member of society, but it is all up with his love, and with his genius if he is an artist. Why is it that the torrent of genius so rarely bursts forth, so rarely floods and thunders and overwhelms your astounded soul? Because on either bank dwell the cool, respectable gentlemen, whose summer-houses and tulip-beds would all be washed away. So they dig trenches, and raise embankments, in order to avert the impending danger.[33]

For Werther, love and feeling are intimately connected to nature; they necessitate each other. That is, in order for love to be experienced authentically it must not be inhibited by worldly interference. Albert, as a man “so punctual and methodical in business” – as someone “so exceedingly accurate” – and especially as a person who believes that “a man under the influence of violent passion loses all power of reflection, and is regarded as intoxicated or insane” is a member of bourgeois society, and thus incapable of authentic love.[34]

Because of these complex notions of authenticity – its relationship to nature on the one hand and to capitalist celebrity culture on the other – I included Justin Bieber’s song “Boyfriend” in my adaptation. In contrast to Florence and the Machine, Justin Bieber enjoys no credibility in hipster circles and among music aficionados. In my staging, however, Werther feels a connection to the song and even dances to it, despite his refined taste in art. Werther is enthralled; he relates to Bieber’s unequivocal love confessions, because to him they are authentic – regardless of the fact that Bieber is both a product of capitalist celebrity culture and deemed musically unworthy. In this moment, the many complex layers of, and relationships among authenticity, celebrity, love, and nature become indiscernible, falling out of time and context, taking on a life of their own. Both Bieber and Werther posit complex, irresolvable, paradoxical conundrums – they embody a quintessentially Romantic disposition, a “coincidentia oppositorum.”[35]

It is for similar reasons that I included Rihanna’s “Where Have You Been” as the closing song of the adaptation. Simultaneously revered for her persona and shunned as musical trash by members of the same circles – sometimes even by the same person — Rihanna occupies a rare position in contemporary culture. When asked recently about her preference between Beyoncé and Rihanna, Camille Paglia responded,

Rihanna! I am everywhere about Rihanna. I am an enormous Rihanna fan. [. . .] I adore her. She is so sexy. And she’s obviously bisexual. I think she’s involved with Melissa Forde. They’re always holding hands. I think Pour it up is truly artistic. I played it in my class. It’s a true work of art. Lady Gaga doesn’t even know what art is compared to Rihanna.[36]

Rihanna embodies the irresolvable, inherently contradictory identity of the modern artistic subject. She outfits herself with ironic contradictions that ultimately comprise her entire public image: ranging from her ambiguous, paradoxical relationship with Chris Brown to the release of her most recent album Anti – that is, her simultaneously most heavily commercialized (consider her overt pre-release partnership with Samsung) and musically most non-mainstream album yet — Rihanna is a “coincidentia oppositorum.” As such, she possibly practices the only authentic way of being – a kind of nihilistic negation of self. In Rihanna’s case, any possibility of a human core – nature – is implicitly acknowledged as absent. It does not exist; the onion has no center. The thing that remains, paradoxically, is affective freedom – an ability to feel independently of rules, structures, and prescriptions.

Sayre and Löwy define the “Romantic Weltanschauung” as an “opposition to capitalism in the name of pre-capitalist values,” and indeed, contemporary hipster circles also quest for authenticity – for “real” music – which implies a kind of nostalgia, a retro affinity. Since it seems that truth cannot be found in contemporary artists – in those who abnegate the possibility of “nature” altogether – consumers turn to the past to rediscover the trajectory during which nature seems to have been lost. “Less synth equals ,” might be considered the consumer credo here, and it is in light of this motto that I included Lou Reed’s song “Perfect Day” in the first dramaturgical climax of the adaptation – when Werther tells us of his meeting with Charlotte. That this motto might be as misleading — and ultimately possibly as fatal – as Werther and Lotte’s meeting, might have been the subtext of my choice. And Lou Reed’s melancholic, almost ironic tone only served to underline the paradoxes – the coincidentia oppositorum — that formed as a result of the intertextual relationships I set up in the adaptation..


Conclusion: Adaptation as Activation

The goal of this paper was to “enter the world of the romantics by the routes they chose themselves … through sounds and images, dreams and visions.” Through an examination of the “sounds” of my stage adaptation of Goethe’s The Sorrows of Young Werther, I have attempted to lift Romanticism out of its associated time period, discovering and examining parallels between Romantic and contemporary Weltanschauungen, demonstrating how processes of adaptation function to establish vast intertexual webs – dreams and visions of sorts – that allow Romantic texts to autonomously redefine themselves as contemporary and complex. I have thus hoped to challenge common perceptions of Romanticism as a finite literary movement of the nineteenth century and bring to light its contemporary nature.[37]

It is important to note that that I was able to make the discoveries I describe above only through my artistic activities. As well–represented as my questions about Romanticism might be in scholarship, my methodology developed out of an artistic pursuit – out of a strong, complex aesthetic affinity for Werther. It was through my interest in, and application of, processes of adaptation that was I able to reconfigure Werther from a static text into a “multidimensional space” – a malleable, permeable unit – that was then able to autonomously move through time and space, spinning vast intertextual webs. In order to reconsider Romanticism as a whole; that is, in order to reframe Romanticism as an artistic movement as opposed to a literary era, it might be necessary to reawaken and activate the works in ways that the Romantics chose themselves: through contemporary art and artistic processes. And of course this has been done repeatedly over the years – consider, for example, Patti Smith’s and U2’s engagement of Blake in their music. Such activations contain great artistic and scholarly potential: as interdisciplinary projects, they might combine literary specialists, contemporary artists, philosophers, theorists, historians, and sociologists in a common pursuit of engaging Romanticism in a search for responses to (contemporary) social and cultural phenomena. However important the reframing of Romanticism as an ongoing artistic movement may be for literary studies – and I think it is very important – the true extent of Romanticism’s significance for, and applicability to, contemporary culture can only be unlocked through collaborations between, and adaptations of, different fields, competencies, and disciplines. Such collaborations may indeed be the way to discovering that the Romantic poets were – and are – the unacknowledged legislators of the world.





[1] Tim Blanning, The Romantic Revolution (London: Orion, 2010), 6, my emphasis.

[2] Johann Wolfgang Goethe, Maximen und Reflexionen, Ed. Karl-Maria Guth, (Berlin: Hofenberg, 2014), 106, my translation.

[3] The Sorrows of Young Werther (Die Leiden des Jungen Werther) by Johann Wolfgang Goethe is perhaps Germany’s most famous novel. The plot is simple: Werther meets and falls in love with Lotte, who is already engaged to another man, Albert. Despite Lotte’s commitment to her fiancé, Werther pursues a relationship with her, and after spiraling into devastating, ever-increasing emotional turmoil he commits suicide.

[4] Wolfgang Beutin, Deutsche Literaturgeschichte: Von den Anfaengen bis zur Gegenwart, (Stuttgart: J.B. Metzler, 2008), 158, my translation.

[5] Jeremy Brian Avery, “Out with the Old in Contemporary Vision of Goethe Stage Adaptation” The Ubyssey, October 12, 2012, accessed December 24, 2015,

[6] Blanning, Romantic Revolution, 6, my emphasis.

[7] Robert Sayre and Michael Löwy, “Figures of Romantic Anti-Capitalism,” New German Critique 32 (1984): 43.

[8] Ibid., 43.

[9] Ibid., “Figures,” 43.

[10] Compare Christiana Engelmann, Cornelia Gyrafas, and Claudia Kaiser, Möglichst Goethe, ein Lesebuch, (Muenchen: DTV, 2007), 43-76.

[11] Engelmann, Gyrafas, and Kaiser, Möglichst Goethe, 45-50.

[12] Ben Lerner, Leaving the Atocha Station, (Minneapolis: Coffee House Press, 2011) and Ben Lerner, 10:04, (London: Granta Books, 2014).

[13] Adelle Waldman, The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P., (London: Random House, 2014).

[14] Lena Dunham, GIRLS, Television Series, directed by Lena Dunham (2012, New York: HBO), DVD.

[15] On p. 51 of “Figures of Romantic Anti-Capitalism,” Sayre and Löwy define the German term Weltanschauung as “a collective mental structure characteristic of certain social groups.” The literal English translation of Weltanschauung is worldview.

[16] “hipster, n.1,” The Oxford English Dictionary, last modified 1976,

[17] “hipster,” Urban Dictionary, last modified November 22, 2007,

[18] Sayre and Löwy, “Figures,” 46.

[19] For examples of other Romantic poets who lived non-conformist lives, such as Lord Byron and the Shelleys, compare Daisy Hay, Young Romantics (London: Bloomsbury, 2010).

[20] Johann Wolfgang Goethe, The Sorrows of Young Werther, trans. R.D. Boylan, ed. Fannina Waubert de Puiseau (manuscript, The University of British Columbia, 2012), 3-4.

[21] Compare Johann Wolfgang Goethe, The Sorrows of Young Werther, trans. R.D. Boylan, ed. Fannina Waubert de Puiseau (manuscript, The University of British Columbia, 2012), 2-3: “I am very well off here. The town itself is disagreeable, but all around you find an inexpressible beauty of nature. [Gestures to the very obviously fake plastic tree/bouquet on his desk.] Every tree, every bush, is full of flowers, and one might wish himself transformed into a butterfly to float about in this ocean of perfume. [. . .] I have a way of settling anywhere, and here too I have found a little spot which I find especially charming. About a half an hour from the town is a place called Walheim. It is delightfully situated on the side of a hill, and from one of the footpaths which lead out of the village, you can have a view of the whole valley. But the chief charm of this spot consists in two linden-trees, spreading their enormous branches over the little green before the church. I have seldom seen a place so retired and peaceable, and there I often drink my coffee and read my Homer.”

[22] Irvine Welsh, Trainspotting (London: Mandarin, 1993),187.

[23] Compare Sayre and Löwy, “Figures”, 49, for their definition of Romantic “critical unrealism:” “It would perhaps be useful to introduce a new concept – ‘critical unrealism’ — to designate the creation of an imaginary, ideal, utopian or fantasy universe radically opposed to the grey, prosaic and inhuman reality of industrial capitalist society. Even when it apparently takes the form of a flight from reality, this ‘critical unrealism’ may contain a powerful negative load of (explicit or implicit) protest against the established order.”

[24] Brian Richardson, Narrative Dynamics: Essays on Plot, Closure, and Frames (Columbus: Ohio State UP, 2002), 162, 218. See also Julia Kristeva, Desire in Language: A Semiotic Approach to Literature and Art (New York: Columbia UP, 1980).

[25] Roland Barthes, Image-Music-Text (London: Fontana, 1977).

[26] “iTunes Preview,” iTunes, 2015, “Hailing from South London, Florence Mary Leontine Welch writes songs that occupy the same confessional territory as gossip-loving, genre-bending contemporaries like Amy Winehouse, Kate Nash, Adele, and Lily Allen and the moody, classic art rock of Kate Bush, blending pop, soul, and Baroque arrangements into a sound that earned the young artist considerable buzz in 2007. Managed by the Camden-based DJ duo the Queens of Noize and backed by a rotating lineup of musicians, Florence + the Machine released their debut single, ‘Kiss with a Fist,’ on the Moshi Moshi label in June 2008. The critically acclaimed debut album Lungs followed in July 2009 and quickly became one of the year’s most popular releases in the U.K., where Florence charted four Top 40 singles in less than 12 months. The songs gathered steam in other parts of the world, too, particularly in America, where ‘Dog Days Are Over’ peaked at number 21, went platinum, and even earned its own performance on the TV show Glee.”

[27] “Destroyed,” Soundcloud, May 16, 2011,

“i don’t sleep very well when i travel. and as a result, i tend to be awake in cities when everyone else is asleep. and that’s where this album comes from. it was primarily written late at night in cities when i felt like i was the only person awake (or alive). being the only person awake (or alive) in an empty city is strange and disconcerting, but it’s also comforting. the streets are empty and quiet. the streetlights are all on but are only illuminating emptiness. i don’t know if any of this will make sense to anyone listening to the album, but for me ‘destroyed’ is an album that makes the most sense late at night in an empty city when everyone else has gone to sleep. and, as always, i presumptuously ask that you listen to the album in its entirety at least once, as it was put together as a, hopefully, cohesive body of work, and i believe that it makes the most sense when listened to from start to finish. a soundtrack for empty cities at 2 a.m, at least that’s how i hear it. and, as always, thank you for listening. and hopefully see you soon [sic].”

[28] Tom Mole, Byron’s Romantic Celebrity: Industrial Culture and the Hermeneutic of Intimacy (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007), xii.

[29] Compare for example Justin Bieber’s deposition video on YouTube: “Justin Bieber Deposition (Full Video),” YouTube, March 10, 2014,

[30] Justin Bieber, Justin Bieber: Just Getting Started (New York: Harper Collins, 2012).

[31] “Justin Bieber: Just Getting Started,” Amazon,

[32] See for example Engelmann, Gyrafas, and Kaiser, Möglichst Goethe, 82-86.

[33] Goethe, The Sorrows of Young Werther, trans. R.D. Boylan, ed. Fannina Waubert de Puiseau, 4.

[34] Goethe, The Sorrows of Young Werther, trans. R.D. Boylan, ed. Fannina Waubert de Puiseau, 12ff.

[35] Sayre and Löwy, “Figures,” 43.

[36] Emma Teitel, “Camille Paglia on Rob Ford, Rihanna, and Rape Culture,” Macleans, November 16, 2013, accessed December 27, 2015.

[37] Blanning, Romantic Revolution, 6.

































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