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I examine the relationship between Goethe’s understanding of Weltliteratur and his project of universal humanism. I argue that Goethe’s understanding of Weltliteratur cannot be straightforwardly assimilated to his broader project of universal humanism, as the late Goethe grew skeptical of universal Enlightenment principles and shifted toward an anthropological understanding of the human being. I do so first by investigating Goethe’s evolving philosophy of history and locate his usage of Weltliteratur within a larger shift in his historical thinking away from neoclassical humanism and toward a proto-historicism. I then argue that this shift is rooted in the late Goethe’s philosophy of nature and, in particular, his vitalist empiricism and broader naturalism.