Throughout the first half of the nineteenth century, America was captivated by a muddled notion of "etymology." New England Transcendentalism was only one outcropping of a nationwide movement in which schoolmasters across small-town America taught students the roots of words in ways that dramatized religious issues and sparked wordplay. Shaped by this ferment, our major romantic authors shared the sensibility that Friedrich Schlegel linked to punning and christened "romantic irony." Notable punsters or etymologists all, they gleefully set up as sages, creating jocular masterpieces from their zest for oracular wordplay. Their search for a primal language lurking beneath all natural languages provided them with something like a secret language that encodes their meanings. To fathom their essentially comic masterpieces we must decipher it. Interpreting Thoreau as an ironic moralist, satirist, and social critic rather than a nature-loving mystic, Transcendental Wordplay suggests that the major American Romantics shared a surprising conservatism. In this award-winning study, Professor West rescues the pun from critical contempt and allows readers to enjoy it as a serious form of American humor.
"Based on years of study of unpublished letters, musical autographs, reviews, and the autobiographical poetry of Lang's husband, Reinhold Kostlin, the biographical portions of the book offer a stunning portrait of the composer as a woman and an artist. The manifold primary sources have enabled Harald and Sharon Krebs to flesh out and amend the image of the composer set forth in earlier accounts (for example, that by Lang's youngest son, Heinrich Adolf Kostlin). The authors have clarified Lang's place within the artistic circles of her time by studying her interactions with numerous prominent musicians, including Felix Mendelssohn, Stephen Heller, Franz Lachner, Robert and Clara Schumann, and Ferdinand Hiller.".