Lesarten von Goethes Faust by Ulrich Gaier, and: Johann Wolfgang Goethe, Faust: Eine Tragödie, Erster Theil, Frühere Fassung (“Urfaust”), Paralipomena, Studienausgabe ed. by Ulrich Gaier, and: Johann Wolfgang Goethe, Faust: Zweyter Theil, Paralipomena, Studienausgabe ed. by Ulrich Gaier (review)
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Reviewed by
Ulrich Gaier, Lesarten von Goethes Faust. Konstanz, Eggingen: Edition Isele, 2012. 856 pp.
Ulrich Gaier, ed., Johann Wolfgang Goethe, Faust: Eine Tragödie, Erster Theil, Frühere Fassung (“Urfaust”), Paralipomena, Studienausgabe. Stuttgart: Reclam, 2011. 882 pp.
Ulrich Gaier, ed., Johann Wolfgang Goethe, Faust: Zweyter Theil, Paralipomena, Studienausgabe. Stuttgart: Reclam, 2011. 1024 pp.

In 2011, Reclam published a two-volume Studienausgabe of Faust I and II (based on the Ausgabe letzter Hand), edited and with commentary by Ulrich Gaier. The following year, Edition Isele published Gaier’s Lesarten von Goethes “Faust.” These three volumes were originally published in 1999 as part of a box set titled Faust-Dichtungen (Reclam). The Studienausgabe and Lesarten von Goethes “Faust,” as Gaier explains in the preface to the latter, are revised and expanded versions of the second and third volumes of his Faust-Dichtungen (9). The publication history of these texts does not take away from their contribution to Faust scholarship or their usefulness for both scholars and students at all levels; however, readers should note that, due to their publication history, they do not necessarily reflect the most recent advances in the field. The correspondence between these texts is especially significant for readers of the Studienausgabe, as Gaier’s introductions to scenes and acts refer throughout to the various “readings” in Lesarten von Goethes “Faust,” which address the following categories: religious, natural philosophical, magical, historical, sociological, economic, anthropological, and poetic. In the preface to Lesarten von Goethes [End Page 258] “Faust,” he notes that the earlier religious and historical readings have been expanded and that the poetic section has the most new material, including sections elaborating on lesser-known connections to art, music, and world literature as well as Goethe’s use of “Chronotextualität” and “Chronomarker zur Kennzeichnung der historischen Entwicklungsstufen der Handlung” (12). Gaier defines the former as “ein Verfahren Goethes, Kulturepochen durch Nachbildung der für sie kennzeichnenden Gattungen, Genres und Formen von Dichtung für den Leser und Hörer sinnfällig zu machen” (759). He then offers specific examples of “Chronomarker” from both parts of Faust and concludes that in the final scenes “Grablegung” and “Bergschluchten” Goethe merges the time periods between 1500 and 1830 (763). With some background on the history of these three texts, let us turn to Gaier’s primary argument, which runs throughout both Lesarten von Goethes “Faust” and the two volumes of the Studienausgabe.

Lesarten von Goethes “Faust” begins with a short chapter covering the Faust legend and related texts prior to Goethe. The next chapter addresses the development of Goethe’s Faust from its inception to end. In this chapter, Gaier introduces the work of the Renaissance philosopher Marsilio Ficino (1433–99), whose Plato commentary Goethe references in 1781. Gaier argues that Ficino offers fundamental insight into Faust: “Buch XIV von Ficinos Theologia platonica, auf das auch relativ viele Stellen im Faust direkt anspielen, trägt den Titel: ‘Die Seele strebt Gott zu werden,’ und beschreibt sieben Formen der Wege dieses Strebens, die auf eine bemerkenswerte Weise mit Gelehrtendrama, Gretchendrama und den fünf Akten des Faust II inhaltlich im Einklang stehen” (98–99). The seven forms of striving seek, in order, (1) “die höchste Wahrheit und das höchste Gut” (137); (2) “alle Dinge [zu] werden” (219); (3) “alles zu leisten und alles zu beherrschen” (279); (4) “überall und immer zu sein” (347); (5) “vier Gewalten Gottes sich zu verschaffen: Voraussicht, Gerechtigkeit, Stärke und Mäßigung” (460); (6) “den höchsten Grad von Reichtum und Lust” (522); and (7) “daß wir uns verehren wie Gott” (570). Each of these corresponds not only to the seven parts of the tragedy (Gelehrtendrama, Gretchendrama, acts 1–5) but also to the first seven “Lesarten,” as they are presented in the book. Faust’s repeated failures, from beginning to end and in all of Ficino’s categories, ultimately result in the poetic success of Goethe’s “Tragödie des neuzeitlichen Menschen” (120). While Ficino is present throughout Lesarten von Goethes “Faust,” he remains one among many thinkers who contributed to the development of Faust. Gaier also credits Herder, Lessing, and Schiller, as well as Dante, Shakespeare, and Rousseau, among...


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