Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe: Literature and Science





Instructor: Robert J. Richards                                                         





I.  The following texts for the course may be found at the Seminary Co-operative Bookstore:


            A.  Primary Texts:


Goethe, Sorrows of Young Werther (Random House; trans. Mayer, Elizabeth and Auden, W. H.)


Goethe, Italian Journey (Viking Penguin, trans. Auden, W.H. and Meyer, Elizabeth)


Goethe, Faust, Part One (Oxford U.P.–World’s Classics; trans. David Luke)


Goethe, The Collected Works: Poetry & Truth; Pts. 1-3. (Princeton University Press)


Goethe, Selected Verse (Penguin)


B.  German editions for those who would like to try their hand; the following are also in the Seminary Co-Operative Bookstore:


Goethe, Die Leiden des jungen Werther (Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag)


Goethe, Italienische Reise (Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag)


Goethe, Faust, Erster und zweiter Teil (Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag)



            C.  Packets of Photocopies:


                        1.  Goethe:  Primary Readings (for sale in Social Sciences 205)


                        2.  Goethe: Secondary Readings (for sale in Social Sciences 205)



II.  Requirements:


            A.  You will be responsible for preparing texts assigned for discussion, and it is imperative that you do so.   You should also take seriously those items under recommended reading.  For each class, you should come with a question and answer typed on a half-sheet of paper.  You should pose a question that you believe central to the text we will be dealing with for that class, and you should succinctly sketch out an answer.  Those questions and answers will then be presented to the entire class.  You must turn in the paper at the end of class.  Your accumulated papers will constitute part of your grade.


B.  There will be three five-to-eight page papers.  The papers should deal with the primary material--i.e., under texts for discussion--of the indicated sections.  The papers should also utilize the considerations, arguments, etc. to be found in the respective recommended readings.  The first paper should deal with sections II III and IV, and is due on Monday, Oct. 18; the second on V, V I, and VII is due on Monday, Nov. 8; and the third on VIII, IX, and X is due Monday, Nov. 29.   The papers should be typed, stapled, and handed in on the date due.  Turn them into the secretary in the Fishbein Center (Social Sciences 207).  You must also retain a copy of your paper. 


     Instead of three shorter papers, you may wish to do one longer paper.  This should be a paper of some considerable research significance.  If you wish to undertake this, you should discuss your project with the instructor.  This paper will be due Monday, Dec. 7.



III. General Information:


            Office:  Social Sciences Research 205.  Hours:  TT:  1:45 p.m.-3:00 p.m.  Phone:  702-8348; fax:  743-8949; email:


I.          Introduction: 

A.        Themes of the course:

1.         Goethe a romantic?

2.         The construction of the self through science and literature.

a.         The nature of human nature

b.         Bildung (development)


B.        Recommend reading: 

1.         Henry Hatfield, Goethe: A Critical Introduction, chaps. 1 & 2.  In Goethe: Secondary Readings.


II.          Sturm und Drang

A.        Text for discussion: Sorrows of Young Werther

B.        Recommended reading:  Hans Reiss, “Die Leiden des jungen Werthers,Goethe’s Novels.  In Goethe: Secondary Readings.


III.         Goethe’s Poetry: the Creation of the Self

A.        Texts for discussion: Selections of Goethe’s Poetry (mostly from Selected Verse): “Mailied” (p. 7); “Willkommen und Abschied” (pp. 9-10); “Heidenroselein” (pp. 10-11); “Ganymed“ (pp. 15-16); “Prometheus” (pp. 17-19);“Wanders Nachlied, I and II” (pp. 49-50); “An den Mond” (two versions, pp. 50-54); ”Bin so in Lieb...” (P. 75); “Erlkönig” (pp. 80-82); “Kennst du das Land . . .” (pp. 85-86); “Nur wer die Sehnsucht kennt. . .“(p. 87); “Römische Elegien” (in selected reading); “Metamorphose der Pflanzen”(pp. 147-51); “Natur und Kunst” (p. 197); “Das Tagebuch”(pp. 202-211); and “Gefunden” (p. 218).


B.        Recommend reading: Ronald Gray,

1.         “Poems before 1786,” in Goethe, A Critical Introduction.  In Goethe, Secondary Reading.

2.         Sander Gilman, “Goethe’s Touch: Touching, Seeing, and Sexuality,” Inscribing the Other.  In Goethe, Secondary Reading.

3.         Robert Tobin, “In and Against Nature: Goethe on Homosexuality and Heterotextuality,” in Outing Goethe & His Age.  In Goethe, Secondary Readings.


IV.        “Brother and Sister” and Charlotte von Stein

A.        Texts for discussion:

1.         Selected Letters to Frau von Stein (from Selections from Goethe’s Letters to Frau von Stein, 1776-1789, ed. and trans. Robert M. Browning [Columbia, S.C.: Camden House, 1990]): numbers 4, 6-7, 72, 145-46, 161-63, 189-91, 206, 252-56, 286, 349, 356, 408, 422, 429, 430-31.  In Goethe: Primary Readings.

2.         “Brother and Sister,” in Goethe: Primary Readings.


B.        Recommended Texts:

1.         Kurt Issler, Goethe, A Psychoanalytic Study, chap. 4: “Goethe’s Sexual Life.”  In Goethe, Secondary Readings.

2.         K. Issler, chap. 5: “The Siblings.”  In Goethe, Secondary Readings.


V.        The Italian Journey

A.        Text for discussion: Goethe, Italian Journey, pp. 23-48, 68-79, 90-97, 102-104, 109-113, 116-119, 128-137, 145, 149-151, 153-154, 163-176, 179-195, 200-203, 207-209, 215-220, 258-259, 265-272, 286-290, 301-312, 327-330, 348-349, 353-354, 358-359, 362-364, 366-372, 376-379, 383-385, 401-404, 407-414, 478-483.

B.        Recommended reading: Frederick Amrine, “Goethe’s Italian Discoveries as a Natural Scientist (the Scientist in the Underworld),” in Goethe and the Sciences: A Reappraisal, eds. Frederick Amrine, Francis Zucker, and Harvey Wheeler (Dordrecht: Reidel, 1987).


VI.        Aesthetic Theory

A.        Texts for discussion:

1.         Friedrich Schiller, Letter to Goethe (August 23, 1794).  In Goethe: Primary Readings.

2.         Friedrich Schiller, “Naive and Sentimental Poetry”, selections.  In Goethe: Primary Readings.

3.         Goethe, “Essays on Art and Literature,” selections.  In Goethe: Primary Readings.


B.        Recommended reading: Karl Bohrer, “Covert Confessions: The Tension between Goethe and Schiller, a Prelude to Modernism,” Goethe Revisited.  In Goethe: Secondary Reading.


VII.       Autobiography

A.        Texts for discussion:

1.         Goethe, From My Life: Poetry and Truth (Parts One to Three): pp. 15-17, 21-27, 33-45, 69-71, 95-105, 130-42, 160-66, 169-90, 202-32, 233-63, 264-72, 289-94, 295-307, 319-31, 335-72, 399-409, 428-39, 460-61.


B.        Recommended reading: Ronald Gray, “Autobiographies and Diaries,” in his Goethe, A Critical Introduction (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1967).  In Goethe: Secondary Readings.


VIII.      Scientific Methods:

A.        Texts for discussion: Selections from Goethe’s Essays on Scientific Method (from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Scientific Studies, ed. and trans. Douglas Miller (New York: Suhrkamp Publishers, 1988): “Nature,” “A Commentary on the Aphoristic Essay ‘Nature,’” “A Study Based on Spinoza,” “The Experiment as Mediator between Object and Subject,” “Fortunate Encounter,” “The Extent to Which the Idea ‘Beauty is Perfection in Combination with Freedom’ May be Applied to Living Organisms,” “Empirical Observation and Science,” “Symbolism,” “The Influence of Modern Philosophy,” “Judgment through Intuitive Perception,” “Doubt and Resignation,” “The Formative Impulse,” “A Friendly Greeting,” “Significant Help Given by an Ingenious Turn of Phrase,” “A General Observation,” “Problems,” “Ernst Stiedenroth,” “Natural Philosophy,” “Analysis and Synthesis.”  In Goethe: Primary Readings.


B.        Recommend reading:

1.         Ernst Cassirer, “Goethe and the Kantian Philosophy” In Goethe: Secondary Readings.

2.         Walter Wetzels, “Art and Science: Organicism and Goethe’s Classical Aesthetics,” in Approaches to Organic Form, ed. Frederick Burwick (Dordrecht: Reidel, 1987).  In Goethe: Secondary Readings.


IX.        Morphology:

A.        A Texts for discussion: Selections from Goethe’s Essays on Morphology (from Goethe, Scientific Studies): “Toward a General Comparative Theory,” “Observation on Morphology in General,” “The Enterprise Justified,” “The Purpose Set Forth,” “The Content Prefaced,” “Excerpt from ‘Studies for a Physiology of Plants,’” “The Metamorphosis of Plants,” “An Intermaxillary Bone,” “Excerpt from ‘outline for a General Introduction to Comparative Anatomy,’” and “Excerpt from ‘Tibia and Fibula.’”


B.        Recommended reading:

1.         Timothy Lenoir, “The Eternal Laws of Form,” Goethe and the Sciences.  In Goethe: Secondary Readings.

2.         Dorothea Kuhn, “Goethe’s Relationship to the Theories of Development of his Time,” Goethe and the Sciences.  In Goethe:  Secondary Readings.

3.         Vernon Pratt and Isis Brook, “Goethe’s Archetype and the Romantic Concept of the Self,” Studies in History and Philosophy of Science 27 (1996).  In Goethe: Secondary Readings.


X.        Faust

A.        Text for discussion: Goethe, Faust, part one.


B.         Recommend reading: David Luke, “Introduction,” Faust (Oxford U.P.)