A tribute to Professor Hellmut Ammerlahn's scholarship upon his retirement by Professor Jane K. Brown

Submitted by Michael Neininger on

A tribute to Professor Hellmut Ammerlahn's scholarship by Professor Jane K. Brown, Departmental Newsletter of Spring 2008, (PDF), p. 5:


Hellmut Ammerlahn retires this spring, forty-five years from the time he first joined the faculty of the Department of Germanics at UW as an instructor in 1963. When I came twenty-five years later, I felt honored to become the colleague of the man whose influential essays on Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre had long been familiar to me. For it would be difficult to overestimate Hellmut’s standing as a scholar on the Lehrjahre. Long before he published his widely acclaimed Imagination und Wahrheit. Goethes Künstler-Bildungsroman Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre: Struktur, Symbolik, Poetologie (Würzburg: Konigshausen & Neumann, 2003), he was regarded both in the US and Germany as a scholar whose work must be taken into account whenever one works on this novel. He achieved this reputation on the basis of his very first two published essays (1968, 1972), but continually enhanced it with the succeeding essays, and with his book on Torquato Tasso (1990). His work is famous for its exacting standards of clear analysis, its control of the scholarship on the texts, and a precise knowledge of the primary texts that is unsurpassed in the discipline. It is admired and cited equally by older scholars who share Hellmut’s definitions of our discipline as the close study of literary texts and by younger scholars in cultural studies to whose approaches Hellmut himself is not always fully sympathetic. I have yet to meet a colleague in Goethe studies here or in Europe (or in Australia), whether older or much younger than I, who did not immediately recognize Hellmut’s name and call to mind his work on Wilhelm Meister. And also, who did not tell me how lucky I was to be his colleague. This last, however, was something I already knew for myself. To have colleagues who share work with one another, who will read colleagues’ work, who teach undergraduate and graduate students all with profound commitment to rigor is the greatest pleasure of being in this department, and Hellmut has been for me at the center of that culture in Germanics. What good fortune for all of us to have had such a colleague and teacher! —Professor Jane Brown