Public lecture by University of Tartu honorary doctor Heinrich Detering

On Wednesday, 30 November, University of Tartu honorary doctor in literary studies Heinrich Detering will give a public lecture  “Folksong as a remedy: Samuel Taylor Coleridge in Göttingen”.

In early February 1799, Samuel Taylor Coleridge moved in a narrow side street of the University town of Göttingen, close to the Harz mountains. Shortly before, he had written a visionary poem called Kubla Khan, situated in an imaginary place named “Xanadu” and to this day one of the most popular poems in English literary history. He felt depressed and “in ill health”. In retrospect, Coleridge recalled time he had spent in Göttingen as virtually the happiest time of his entire life, indeed the only one which he remembered “with unmingled satisfaction”.

Wondering what miraculous cure had healed his depression, one stumbles over the poems that he wrote during this time. Recovering from his first experiments with opioids and with surrealistic imagery, he discovered the beautiful simplicity of German folksong while taking strolls through the neighbouring villages and made some successful attempts to translate them into his maternal English. Thus, taking inspiration from Herder’s proclamation of the Volkslied, Coleridge became the first to open a new path for romanticist poetry – and to find, as he himself put it, poetic healing in the refreshing well waters of popular songs.

Heinrich Detering's talk will attempt to reconstruct this line of events, present some poetic examples, and maybe find a common topic for German, English, and Estonian studies of ‘high’ and popular literature.

The lecture will start at 16:15 in Jakobi 2–114.

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