Rainer Lengeler (1933-2022)

Rainer Lengeler, a long-time member of the Connotations Society and a close colleague of the founding editor Inge Leimberg, died on 29 October 2022. He was born in 1933 and grew up in the Eupen-Malmedy region, then and now a part of Belgium. He attended Belgian schools and was fluent in French as a result (German being his mother tongue). He subsequently studied at the universites of Leuwen and Cologne and he obtained his Ph.D. from the University of Bonn. He taught at the Universities of Kiel, Düsseldorf and Bonn, and he was elected a member of the prestigious Northrhine-Westfalian Academy of the Humanities and the Sciences.

Rainer Lengeler often said that the reason why he devoted his academic career to English Literature rather than German medieval studies was Shakespeare. He wrote his doctoral thesis on the grotesque in Shakesepeare’s tragedies, and his second book was a study of A Midsummer Night’s Dream that situates the play in a Neo-Platonic framework and unfolds its implicit poetics in a brilliant close reading. In addition to his lifelong fascination with Shakespeare and other early modern writers, Lengeler took a keen interest in twentieth-century literature, in particular the poetry of such writers as Dylan Thomas, Charles Tomlinson and Derek Walcott. He also worked on translations of poetry by Paul Celan and others. It would be difficult to find a scholarly oeuvre more devoted to the Connotations goal of focussing on “the semantic and stylistic energy of the language of literature in a historical perspective”.

Rainer Lengeler grew up in a numerous and close-knit family of which he was very fond, but he remained single himself. He devoted his life to scholarship and also, to some extent, to music (a second unlived life, apart from German medieval studies, was a career as a pianist). He was a conscientious man with a wry sense of humour, a great store of anecdotes and an unflagging scholarly work ethic which he maintained until a very old age. He will be missed and remembered by his students and colleagues.