Reviews of "Faust: My Soul be Damned for the World: Vol. 1


Here are reviews received for "Faust: My Soul be Damned for the World, Vol I. 

Reviews also include those from academic journals.  I believe in sharing the good, the bad and the ugly, so all reviews I find are here!

This is the one place I may make a comments on the reviews received, namely, on those written by the academic professors - it's rather surprising to see some of their reviews when the general readers and other reviewers love the book and the information.  Judging from the academics' comments, it looks like they never read the book properly, or, were a bit miffed a non-professor with only a music degree wrote this!  I expected professors to be a little more on the 'uptake'!  So, it is only fair the reader hears my side of the issue when I think a professor has missed something.

(My comments will be marked out.)


The Midwest Book Review  has awarded both Volumes 1 and 2 a  five star rating.

Michael Dunford:

The Faust myth of a man who makes a pact with the Devil has been an enduringly popular subject from the days of Christopher Marlowe's play down to the present time. Now a two-volume study has been created by E. A. Bucchianeri with "Faust: My Soul Be Damned For The World". Volume I provides new insights into the life and times of the historical Dr. Faustus, an occultist and medieval charlatan who is said to have announced that the Devil was his brother-in-law. Also provided is a detailed study of the first Faust books and popular Faustian folktales; original discussions on Christopher Marlowe's drama (including a unique and controversial analysis of the A and B texts of the play); the Faust puppet plays; and Gotthold Ephraim Lessing's unfinished Faust drama. Volume II is composed of an in-depth account of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's literary masterpiece "Faust' parts one and two; a detailed examination of the early sketches of his classic drama, and informed and informative commentaries on Goethe's hidden symbolism in his texts, his interests in history and science, the occult, alchemy, Freemasonry, and his warnings to future generations. A seminal body of meticulous scholarship, research, and original commentary, "Faust: Volumes 1 & 2" is a critically significant and strongly recommended addition to personal and academic library Literary Studies reference collections in general, and Faustian Studies selected reading lists in particular.

Michael Feld - Five Stars 

Faust: My Soul Be Damned for the World, Volume I by E.A. Bucchianeri is a painstakingly researched investigation into the life and times of the historical Faust. Bucchianeri gives the modern reader, typically one only familiar with the Goethe’s legendary character, a detailed picture of the education, career and ultimate doom of the actual Faust; Georg Helmstetter. 

 Faust: My Soul Be Damned for the World, Volume I is a scholarly work replete with supporting historical documentation, commentary (especially by Frank Baron) and gives the reader a proper understanding of the religious and political climate of the mid 15th to mid 16th centuries of Europe in which the “real” Faust lived. After setting the historical context of Faust, Bucchianeri traces the development of the legendary Faust. Relying on such sources as the “Wolfenb├╝ttel Manuscript” the author recounts how, using knowledge gained from his pact with Mephistopheles, Faust travels Europe providing divinations, horoscopes, and other occult services to his patrons. Of particular note is the recognition Bucchianeri gives the invention of the printing press and its effect on the rapid spread of Faustian mythos. 

 Faust: My Soul Be Damned for the World, Volume I by E.A. Bucchianeri is not an easy read; the meticulous historical research requires close attention. The reader will however, gain a deeper understanding not only of the character of Faust himself, but also an appreciation of the process whereby historical fact becomes myth. 

Quill says: For those interested in a deeper understanding of Faust, Bucchianeri's Faust is a must read.


The Academic Reviews


"Folklore"  (Journal of the Folklore Society UK)

Review By Nicholas Holland, Published April 2012,
E.A. Bucchianeri's book, the first of a two-volume study, surveys works concerned with the famous magician Doctor Faustus from the earliest German notices to Christopher Marlowe's eponymous play. A short final section discusses seventeenth-century and eighteenth-century works before Goethe.
The first chapter reviews German accounts of Faustus prior to the earliest known version of the German Faust Book, and places a particular emphasis on the search for biographical evidence about the historical Faustus. Bucchianeri surveys the various early accounts, including those of Trithemius, Melanchthon, and Weyer. The majority of the material covered will be familiar from other modern studies, but whereas the studies of Frank Baron, for example, draw out the complexities of the relationship between historical evidence and the subsequent fashioning of the legend, this study tends to place great emphasis on searching for insight into the biography of the historical Faustus; an approach that can be detrimental to the consideration of the sources surveyed in their historical context.

(My comment here:  I tend to place more emphasis on the biography?  Of course, we cannot see how the folklore developed without arriving at a clear picture of the real historical Faustus, this man of mystery. To all intents and purposes, I followed Baron's analytical example in discovering the historical Faustus, and offered additional findings / observations to the material Baron provided and discussed.  The chapter dealing with Faustus' biography is only one quarter of my Volume I, (125 pages) and roughly half of this chapter also examines the legend-formation processThe rest of Volume I (nearly 400 pages), features the Faust folklore / literature.  Holland then declares in so many words it is 'detrimental' to piece together a biography of Faustus from the sources that exist and that I did not consider their historical context.  Did Mr. Holland actually read and comprehend my work? Sounds more like he was trying to critique an academic professor, Baron, who also did this! ~  E.A.B.)

(Back to the review) For example, when considering the account of the famous abbot and philosopher Trithemius that Faustus declared himself the source of the necromancers, Bucchianeri's bewilderment that Faustus "would freely choose a profession that would utterly ruin his reputation" (p. 28) seemingly takes Trithemius's report at face value. Trithemius's opinions concerning Faustus surely demand more cautious consideration in the light of his own possible motivations, reputation, and interests; in particular since so little concerning the historical Faustus and his magical practices can confidently be corroborated using other sources. More generally, Bucchianeri's biographical focus in the early part of the book tends to direct the reader's attention away from what must be the most significant and astonishing aspect of the documentary legacy: the impact, durability, and openness to further interpretation of the legend of Faustus through the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, first in German and later in English culture. Whereas the historical Faustus is an almost invisible footnote in early modern intellectual history, the legend of Faustus became, in the hands of a number of important writers, a means of expressing early modern interest concerning both the potential power and also the potential dangers of magic.
(Me again offering my side of things: I could find no evidence presented to date to doubt Trithemius' letter written to a friend and colleague, warning him to be wary of Faustus.  The letter was reprinted during Faustus' lifetime, it could not be a bogus document.  Trithemius  may have aggrandized Faustus' claims concerning his magic skills, but this topic is discussed in detail. Faustus was known to declare himself a "necromancer" according to well-documented historical sources, therefore, according to the historical evidence, Trithemius was accurate in describing Faustus.  I have examined the content of Trithemius' letter minutely from all aspects, similar to Frank Baron.  To declare oneself a 'necromancer' was a serious matter in those times, Faustus could have been tried and executed.  A lot of witch trials went on in Europe, many were executed for witchcraft.  Why take such a risk?  Hence my so-called 'bewilderment'. Faustus' motives had to be questioned, and these questions hypothetically answered.  I find it curious Mr. Holland believes the biographical material in Volume I detracts from the efforts to describe the "impact" and the "openness to further investigation" of the legend: as I said, three quarters of Volume I (about 400 pages) explores the rich Faustian material inspired by his legend over the centuries and how it was used to deter people from studying magic in addition to admonishing people to live good Christian lives. Holland's conclusion that I digressed from explaining the "early modern" fascination and fear of black magic is erroneous.  ~ E.A.B.)
(Back to the review). The remainder of the volume is mostly dedicated to substantial descriptive accounts of the German and English Faust books, and of Marlowe's Doctor Fautus. Bucchianeri's major new proposition concerning the latter is that the B-text shows that "Marlowe had regained a considerable measure of the defiant 'Machiavellian' optimism", which was absent from the A-Text (p. 368). Although precisely what she means by "Machiavellian" (or "liberal Epicurean," a phrase she applies to Marlowe's Faustus in the same passage) is unclear, her reading of the play evidently belongs to the school of interpretations which considers the overarching admonitory message of the play as being in some way questioned by the manner of its presentation. However, her core interest again is in trying to establish firm connections between biography and text. Her proposal is that the B-text of the play is a revision of the A-text chiefly undertaken by Marlowe himself in the light of personal experiences and historical events that enable it to be dated to 1592. This is an unusually precise stance concerning the genesis and authorship of this text, but ultimately fails to persuade. For example, some basic textual evidence seems to conflict with such a precise and confident dating. The author argues, in particular, that the references to the Anti-Pope Bruno in the B-Text are inspired by news of the arrest of Giordano Bruno in Venice in 1592. However, if a similar method is applied to the reading of two of the most striking points of similarity between the fictional Bruno and the historical Bruno, these events have no direct connection to 1592. The fictional Bruno undergoes excommunication, a punishment which the historical Bruno stated to his interrogators in Venice he knew had been imposed on him in absentia by a hearing convened by the Dominicans in Naples prior to this period in England (1583-5). The execution by burning for heresy, pronounced on the fictional Bruno by Faustus in disguise, was visited on the historical Bruno as late as 1600, seven years after Marlowe's death. While there is a case to be made for the influence of the historical Bruno's person and thought on Marlowe via the circle of Earl of Northumberland, there is in fact nothing tangible to link the scene in Doctor Faustus more strongly to the news of 1592 than to the news of any other year of a period spanning the whole of Marlowe's writing career. Furthermore, by attempting to bind the play's genesis too tightly to Marlowe's biography, the author underestimates not only the imaginative capacities of Marlowe himself and of the other writers who most probably had a hand in the B-Text, but also the uncertainties that cloud our understanding of Marlowe's personal beliefs. Such an approach also fails to place sufficient emphasis on the need to understand the contents of Doctor Faustus in the context of the early modern performance traditions upon which it draws.

(Here is  my side of the matter again: The terms "Machiavellian" and "Epicurean" may be on the same page, but not in the same paragraph. From the context of the study, Holland should have understood the term "machiavellian" to mean Faustus' thirst for power and his determination to acquire it by whatever means or cost.  The philosophical term Epicurean was in fact explained in the first chapter, but possibly Holland forgot: (I quote the explanation as given in the book): "... pleasure is the supreme goal one should aim for in life, particularly intellectual pleasures above those of sensual ones. Epicurus taught that one could only acquire true happiness and serenity by conquering one’s fear of the gods, death, and the afterlife. He also believed that humans ceased to exist after death, declaring the soul died with the body."   The term was referred to in this philosophical context throughout the chapter on Marlowe, and we note Faustus in Marlowe's play begs his soul to dissolve at death.  The context of Epicurean should have been clear from the beginning.
I am sorry if my argument concerning the dating of the A and B Texts "failed to persuade" Mr. Holland, but I notice he discussed only one piece of evidence I presented, and omitted to mention all other observations pertaining to the 1592 date.  If it was a matter of that one detail, Bruno's arrest, then there would not be enough evidence, but a good detective should look at all the evidence presented.
 I also notice Mr. Holland points out every historical detail of the the real Bruno, and how this factual information does not match the action of Marlowe's play: must everything in the drama display historical fact?  Surely, Marlowe, an artistic playwright, had the creativity to imagine the scene of Bruno's arrest and make artistic predictions concerning the possible future outcome of that event, even if such predictions proved incorrect in the future.  In this instance, Holland has failed to follow his own conclusion and has committed the same supposed 'error' he condemns me for, that is, by trying to find the historical details that correspond with Marlowe's biography and that are included in the play ~ let us note that Holland's states "by attempting to bind the play's genesis too tightly to Marlowe's biography, the author underestimates not only the imaginative capacities of Marlowe himself and the other writers who most probably had a hand in the B Text".  In so many words, Holland has proposed that authors, playwrights and artists are uncreative and unimaginative when they draw upon their life experiences, (and therefore, contemporary history), for their material.  Interesting observation, Mr. Holland.
He also says by binding the play´s genesis too closely to Marlowe's biography, I also "underestimated the uncertainties" that cloud everyone's understanding of Marlowe's personal beliefs.  Not so.  It was due to these uncertainties I conducted a close reading of Doctor Faustus with Marlowe's known biography.  I simply examined the claims Marlowe was an "atheist" in that he did not believe in the established Christian religions, and noted how these claims may have a basis in fact through a close reading of Doctor Faustus.  I endeavored to shed some light on the glaring accusations levied against Marlowe, and if possible, display how close the creative soul of the writer is to his work. ~ E.A.B) 
(Back to the review): The stated aim of this study is to provide a "comprehensive exploration" of Faustus and his legacy. It provides lengthy descriptive discussion of the contents of the texts surveyed and, to some extent, it offers a useful single point of reference for them, although it must also be noted that the author's digressive style makes it relatively hard to read. As a work of analysis, however, its most serious failing is that it does not examine more fully and in a more systematic way the complex forces that worked to shape the legend of Faustus within a wider cultural context, and instead places its primary focus on an attempt to find close relationships between biography and text. As a consequence, it fails to offer readings of the material under consideration which have the depth of insight or nuance of the most valuable works already written on the various works it surveys.

(Here I am again: The aim of this study was to provide "a comprehensive exploration of Dr. Faustus, the man who sold his soul to the devil, and those who lived to tell his tale" ~ so yes, providing detailed explanations of the texts and why each author presented the Faust material as they did was the object of the work.  I do not see how Holland thinks this does not present the "complex forces" that shaped the legend of Faustus, when everything from religious intolerance, the Reformation, academic competition, fear of black magic, the scientific discoveries of the day such as the Copernican / Galileo controversy, folklore and history, and how they were included in the Faustian tales, are discussed.  Can the "cultural context" become any wider?  If this study lacks "the depth of insight or nuance of the most valuable works" already written on the subject of Faust and Faustian literature,  I shall leave it to you, the reader, to discover if this be true or not.  I thank Mr. Holland for his review, albeit it took nearly four years for it to appear from the time the paperback edition was published and sent in for review. E.A.B.)

Next review!

Review by Roger Hards. 

The publishers describe this two-volume book as "A comprehensive exploration of Dr. Faust, the man who sold his soul to the devil, and of those who lived to tell the tale." Volume 1 introduces the original Faust, and early popular Faust folk tales, followed by a substantial chapter on Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus. Volume 2 is devoted to Goethe’s Faust. 

This review is confined to the Marlowe chapter (130 pages) alone. 

There is a summary of the generally accepted version of Marlowe’s life— if one allows it to include "Marlowe’s scandalous appreciation of pederasty." The author bases this smear on the hostile and uncorroborated Baines accusation about "tobacco and boies," which the author misquotes, even in his Appendix 7 that purports to give the text of the Baines Note, as "tobacco and boys." He is apparently unaware of any other possible meaning, such as "tobacco and booze" (which makes an association with Raleigh that taints him too with Baines’ accusations).
(My comment: well, I was using a source as transcribed by another academic, and they give the original spelling as 'boies' (which of course can be read as 'boys' and has been read as such, I am not the first), -- that is definitely not a spelling for 'booze', or the variant old English spellings of 'bouze' or 'bouse' -- and, since Marlow is then accused for declaring Christ committed sodomy in the next line after the 'tobacco and boies' line, it is obvious 'boys' is what was meant in the accusation of the Baines note.   Some academic just got angry that I presented the same evidence that other academics have showing that Marlowe MAY have been such a character, and that there are 'hints' of it presented in his work that Marlow was fascinated or inspired by perverse topics.)

  (Back to the review)  There follows a close examination of Marlowe’s texts (both A and B) in a study, learned, readable, interesting, and detailed. For example, an analysis and discussion of Wagner’s early logic-chopping conversation with the two scholars who wanted to see Faustus, occupies three pages.
 It is noted incidentally that what first kindled Faustus’ interest in the occult were the subjects taught at the university. 

The play’s lively consideration of the human soul, sin, damnation, and hell, vicarious punishment, blood sacrifice, faith, redemption, and heaven, might make a fascinating portrayal of these concepts to a spectator of the play, or even at a reading of it; but their extended analysis in the pages of this book, where they are treated with plodding literalism, takes the reader into a sad world of sick fantasy.
(Here is my comment: Read that again very carefully ...the academic reviewer, is  actually saying topics regarding the human soul, sin, damnation, hell, etc etc, make for a fascinating portrayal in a play like Marlowe's play to a spectator, or fascinating reading if you just read the play, but when I go into a serious analysis of these concepts ...I take you the reader into a world of 'sick fantasy' aka, that religion and the salvation of the soul is just good material for a play or entertainment, but not to be taken as something serious to discuss, or literal, it becomes 'plodding' or is a 'sick fantasy' to this guy. -- Unfortunately, many who teach in the universities these days think like this. E.A. Bucc.)

 It is not said what version of the Bible the many quotations are drawn from. They generally follow the sense of the Authorised Version, but often not the exact words, as if they were being quoted from memory.

Generally the author’s English is a little curious, with here and there a strange choice of words, or uncertain syntax, or a lapse into business-speak, or bombast. But it is always readable, and always interesting — a good sourcebook for anyone who wants to know all that can be said about any particular passage in Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus.

 (Note: I would not dare presume to paraphrase the Bible, or to misquote anything or anyone. Obviously the reviewer ignored my references and bibliography in which it is clear I used the Douay-Rheims Bible. I thought professors read footnote and bibliographies?  They sure do when grading essays.  I find it funny how he flip flops through this review -  he says my study is 'learned', readable, detailed and interesting, but has to critique the writing style, and calls me a' literal plodder' who is taking you the reader into a 'sick fantasy', possible because he doesn't agree with what I have to say basically, but still finds the chapter on Marlow 'always readable and 'always interesting'!   That's the point, if the book is always interesting, it's a good book, right? So readers, you be the judge!  — E.A. Bucchianeri) 

No comments:

Post a Comment