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Amber Paulen


24 January 2011



No one who has not been here can have any conception of what an education Rome is. One is, so to speak, reborn and one’s former ideas seem like a child’s swaddling clothes. Here the most ordinary person becomes somebody, for his mind is enormously enlarged even if his character remains unchanged. —Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe, Italian Journey

Goethe’s stay in Rome and journey through Italy did more than inform a knowledge he did not previously have—of Classical architecture and art and Renaissance paintings: the journey transformed him. Such are journeys, and even a mention of the metaphor quest is sufficient to feel oneself travelling along, charting new and unexplored land.

More than anyone else, in the above quote, Goethe was writing about himself: in Rome he was reborn. It seems to me that anyone can be reborn anywhere and the only important component would be what one takes from it. The conscious self-observer notices even the smallest internal quiver; a long drawn out change can impact him in a similar way volcanos once impacted the crust of the Earth.


It gives me great pleasure to write that I am now working with Crimson Bamboo, creating a tour of Rome for an app called Rama. Some free tours of New York City have been written; reading them and looking at the photos is like being transported to a time I’ve never lived in and a city I’ve only seen once. Although the point of Rama is to enhance one’s experience of place while being there, it seems to work as well from one’s couch.


My writing is pushing its way up, like I am. Much to my own surprise, you can now find me on Facebook!


In W.H. Auden’s introduction to Italian Journey, he makes another argument for what could be the cause of Goethe’s rebirth. Apparently, when Goethe set out from Carlsbad at the age of 37, he was a sexual novice. One can only imagine what Italian passion would mean to an intellectual German under such circumstances. Though the conventions of the 18th Century must be considered, the anonymity of the traveller allowed ample space for discovery and for letting go.

The painting Tischbein created during Goethe’s stay in Rome depicts a man who has known sexual satisfaction, W.H. Auden claims. Goethe leans on a fallen pillar, his eyes focused on an invisible distance, straight ahead.



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