I finished this book and will share my insights into some things that stood out to me about Germanistik, the study of German literature and language.
Schwarz's remarks about Higher Criticism coincide with mine. Looking at a text, for example, a novel, without any consideration of the environment that produced it, does a disservice not only to the novel and author but to criticism itself. He uses the example of treating a text as if it were divinely inspired as such, immune from any study. (Actually, modern biblical criticism does perform such an exegesis, as I was learning when I knew the professor).
When he expressed these views, he was a tenured professor and a renowned scholar. I was a graduate student and had to keep these thoughts to myself, As I read this book, for a moment I wondered what if I had switched gears and left the University of California-Irvine (where he was a visiting professor) and studied under him at Washington University in St. Louis? My seminary studies actually began in that city, and I did pay him a visit there.
But I do not have a single regret about how things turned out. I have been blessed with wonderful careers, experiences, and people in my life. Had I stayed with Germanistik I likely, given the job market, become the German professor at a small school, or be one of two or three at a slightly larger school. Not terrible, but not able to teach out of my dissertation and interests.
Back to his thoughts on Higher Criticism: Schwarz was a teenager when he and his parents fled from Vienna to escape Nazi persecution. After some unsettled times in Hungary and Czechoslovakia, they went to Latin America- Chile, Bolivia, and Ecuador. Schwarz worked a variety of jobs, became fluent in Spanish and English, and eventually studied at the Ohio State University. Most all of his relatives who remained in Europe died in the Holocaust.
Given the circumstances of his life, he could not separate literature from the environment in which it was produced. To me a lot of the scholarship seems like what Hermann Hesse described in his final novel, Magister Ludi- Das Glasperlenspiel/The Glass Bead Game. And I am thankful that I did other things with my life, many of which involved Germanistik in one way or another.
Incidentally, I completed a doctorate (a D.Litt.) at Drew University in Madison, NJ, in 2007. IT is an excellent program that gave full-time teachers/administrators a 50% discount. My school district paid most of the rest, and gas was cheap, enabling me to drive a 220-mile round trip!
A link to the obituary of Dr. Schawrz: https://source.wustl.edu/2017/02/obituary-egon-schwarz-professor-emeritus-94/