THE ART of interpreting literary works written in German is not an accomplishment for which contemporary literary critics can claim a monopoly; it is an old field, older than formal German literary criticism itself. Friedrich and August Wilhelm Schlegel, Schiller in his letters about Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre, Goethe in many reviews, Herder and Lessing in a number of articles produced interpretations of great sensitivity, often using methods that might now be excusably mistaken as modern. Dilthey, Scherer, Haym, and Hehn were also masters in this area, although they themselves might have had different notions about this characterization of their work. There is probably no literary historian of importance who did not address the problem that engages us. To be sure, as a scientific movement with all the usual polemics and the programmatic formulations, interpretation—that is, intrinsic text criticism, the criticism of style—began to assert itself only ten to fifteen years ago. Not until recently has it become clear that the investigator is to be concerned exclusively with the word of the poet and is to attend solely to what is present in language. Biography, for example, is outside the domain of his work. Life is not concerned with art, as Goethe believed and wanted others to believe. Under no circumstances is a poem to be interpreted by the use of biographical data. Similarly, the personality of the poet is also without interest for the philologist who takes his own role seriously; it is psychology that occupies itself with the puzzle of art's occurrence. No less does Geistesgeschichte miss the goal: it surrenders the literary work of art to the philosophers and then only sees what any thinker understands much better than any poet does. The positivist, who inquires about the difference between what is inherited and what is learned, misuses the scientific law of causality and appears to forget that creativity, precisely because it is creative, can never be deduced. Overall, then, the nature and distinctive value of the poetic world are slighted. Only the critic who interprets without looking to the right or to the left and especially not behind the poem does the problem full justice and maintains the integrity of the science of German literary studies.