Goethe's Allegories of Identity
Publication Year: 2014
Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press
Series: Haney Foundation Series
Title Page, Copyright Page
Part I. The Problem
Chapter 1. Representing Subjectivity
European culture underwent a paradigm shift in the last third of the eighteenth century that, depending on point of view and disciplinary focus, goes by various names—the displacement of classicism (or Enlightenment) by Romanticism, a fundamental change in literary style, the emergence of historicism, an epistemological shift from surface to depth, and above all the...
Chapter 2. Goethe Contra Rousseau on Passion
Interiority hardly begins with Rousseau, but the notion of a self inaccessible to the light of reason, knowable at best through dreams and inchoate feelings, does find its earliest widely influential formulation in his work, especially in Julie, ou La nouvelle Héloïse of 1761, in which the heroine renounces her lover, marries the older, rational husband selected by her father, and settles...
Chapter 3. Goethe Contra Rousseau on Social Responsibility
Both Goethe and Rousseau framed their versions of the subject in terms not only of passion, explored in the previous chapter, but also in terms of the individual’s place in society. Renaissance man though he was, Goethe did not write essays in political theory and cannot be compared directly to Rousseau...
Part II. Experiments in Subjectivity
Chapter 4. The Theatrical Self
The classical plays Egmont, Iphigenie auf Tauris, and Torquato Tasso all deal at bottom with how to recognize and represent identity, even though they seem quite different on the surface: Egmont, in prose, has a large cast and disjointed scenes and owes much to Shakespeare and English bourgeois drama of the eighteenth century, while Iphigenie and Tasso, in blank verse, have small casts...
Chapter 5. The Scientific Self: Identity in Faust
Faust has already appeared in these pages as a document of Goethe’s engagement with the problematic morality generated by Rousseau’s interior self. Now, in the wake of the epistemological problems raised in the classical dramas and Goethe’s initial struggles to represent interiority, it is time to consider the representational issues in Faust, which was first published in 1790 as a fragment...
Chapter 6. The Narrative Self
Faust is not only Goethe’s most sophisticated dramatic allegory, achieved after the coherent cosmos on which allegory depends had passed, and managed by sheer force of individual genius, but it also remains unclassifiable for our essentially secular culture today and tends to be received as epic as much as drama.1 Since narrative allegory has had a different history from allegory in...
Part III. The Language of Inferiority
Chapter 7. Goethe’s Angst
When passion was repressed and turned inward in the previous chapter, it seemed reduced in intensity: anger and guilt appeared merely as Verdruss. The most recognizable form of this phenomenon for children of the twentieth century is the reduction of the German Angst (fear of what is to come) to anxiety or “angst” as used in English, the generalized sense of insecurity coupled...
Chapter 8. “Es singen wohl die Nixen”: Werther and the Romantic Tale
Goethe’s adaptation of dramatic personification allegory into a tool for representing the subconscious demands precisely the readiness to read allegorically that emerged among the young Romantic generation assembled in Weimar and Jena in the second half of the 1790s (the Schlegels, Tieck, Novalis, Fichte, Schelling, Hegel), all of whom came to be near Goethe and Schiller. This readiness...
Chapter 9. Goethe and the Uncanny
The trajectory from Werther to Die Wahlverwandtschaften was the starting point of this investigation because it marked so clearly the period of Goethe’s struggles with Rousseau. Since Werther was also the starting point for the Romantics’ encounter with representing depth psychology, it is only appropriate to end with Die Wahlverwandtschaften, where the last building block for...
Conclusion: Classicism and Goethe’s Emotional Regime
In his autobiography Goethe revealed his works to be “fragments of a great confession”—so convincingly, that generations of readers, professional and lay alike, considered his poetry above all “poetry of experience.”1 It is known that Goethe was susceptible to powerful emotions, to great enthusiasm and to profound depression. On more than one occasion he suffered the kinds of physical...
The earliest section of this book was first drafted in 1976, so a list of the colleagues, friends, and students who offered suggestions and support would overwhelm the book itself, even if I could reconstruct it. Instead I can point only to a few especially bright beacons and devoted encouragers along the way of its specific development—my supportive editor Jerry Singerman; the graduate...