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Goethe and Rousseau

Goethe and Rousseau: Resonances of the Mind

Carl Hammer
Copyright Date: 1973
Pages: 232
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  • Book Info
    Goethe and Rousseau
    Book Description:

    The profound impact of Jean-Jacques Rousseau on Western thought has been frequently examined, yet the extent of Goethe's relationship to Rousseau has never before received thorough study. Carl Hammer Jr. here analyzes Goethe's works, paying particular attention to his mature production, to reveal the profound affinities of thought between these two European giants.

    Scholars have long recognized the direct influence of Rousseau on Goethe's first novel,Werther, but have believed that Goethe's enthusiasm waned thereafter. Hammer, in contrast, finds the affinity revealed even more strongly in Goethe's later works.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-6309-3
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. vii-vii)

    The initial plan of the following study proposed a comparison ofDie WahlverwandtschaftenwithLa Nouvelle Héloïse. It soon became apparent that a re-examination of the entire Goethe-Rousseau problem was advisable. Many circumstances (among them, frequently, “the challenge of the day,” to quote Goethe) combined to delay completion of the investigation; nevertheless, it has thereby acquired a broader scope and profited from numerous publications of recent date.

    Direct quotations of prose passages are given in English translations which, with occasional minor exceptions, are my own. In the case of titles, verse, and short expressions of special import, the original is...

  4. Explanation of Page References
    (pp. viii-viii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-9)

    Within the scholarship of comparative literature there is, of course, a plethora of “influence studies,” so much so that one hesitates to add another such item to the bibliography. The cultural relationship between such giants as Goethe and Rousseau is of such obvious importance, however, that it merits investigation, despite the critical dangers involved.

    The linkage has been attempted before and remains a debated topic of Franco-German literary relations. For more than a century the popular view held that Goethe’s interest in Rousseau ended with the “Sturm und Drang” era, and echoes of this now outmoded notion still persist. Rousseau...

  6. I The Cultural Background
    (pp. 10-31)

    As a background to an understanding of the Goethe-Rousseau relationship, the first part of this chapter deals with the reception of Rousseau’s works in Germany during the third quarter of the eighteenth century, the period of Goethe’s youth, and the second offers a résumé of Goethe’s knowledge of French literature, particularly that of his own century, in which Rousseau played a momentous role.

    A frequently repeated story tells how Immanuel Kant became so absorbed in reading Rousseau’sÉmilethat he forgot to take his daily walk, by which the citizens of Königsberg were said to have set their clocks. It...

  7. II Jean-Jacques according to Goethe
    (pp. 32-56)

    Goethe made numerous statements concerning Rousseau during his lifetime. Despite the obvious significance of these comments for the proper understanding of his relationship to Rousseau, they have not been treated in their entirety: that task is attempted here. This chapter includes all references to Rousseau in Goethe’s works, letters, diaries, and conversations, some in shortened form. The material appears in chronological order, except for quotations fromDichtung und Wahrheitreferring to earlier periods of his life.

    Most of Goethe’s allusions to his first awareness of Rousseau occur in the distant retrospect of his autobiography, written more than half a century...

  8. III Literary Echoes from Four Decades
    (pp. 57-80)

    Goethe’s own statements show that his interest in Rousseau continued unabated until his death in 1832. This chapter summarizes the often-treated effect of Rousseau upon Goethe’s early production and that of his middle years, covering works from the late 1760’s to 1806, the year in which he finishedFaust I. In some instances the alleged influence of Rousseau is demonstrable, in others his inspiration seems probable, and in still others striking parallels testify to a kinship of spirit, even where direct influence cannot be proved. The subsequent chapters will study in some detail analogies and similarities between Rousseau’s writings and...

  9. IV Memories and Memoirs
    (pp. 81-106)

    Like Rousseau, Goethe preferred biography to history. His extensive acquaintance with autobiographical writings started with Augustine’sConfessiones, although his closer preoccupation with famous men began with the Renaissance. His interest in Benvenuto Cellini’s autobiography caused him to translate it, and he admired the memoirs of the Milanese physician Girolamo Cardano. Like Rousseau, he was fascinated by Montaigne’s self-analysis. Most important of all, a sixteenth-century German knight’s account (anapologia) of his tempestuous career inspired Goethe to dramatize it asGötz von Berlichingen, which in 1773 first brought him national renown.

    Yet it was three autobiographies from Goethe’s own time which...

  10. V Of Love and Marriage
    (pp. 107-121)

    “Hardly any other of Goethe’s works,” says Martin Sommerfeld, “followed such a strange and contradictory course throughout the nineteenth century … asDie Wahlverwandtschaften.” Like theWestöstlicher Divan, this novel, which concerned many of the same perennial problems of humanity treated in Werther thirty-five years earlier, did not fully come into its own until our time. It was finally revealed to the poet’s nation as a “true and lasting possession.”¹ Both the number and the variety of recent studies devoted toDie Wahlverwandtschaftentestify to the impact of that work upon present-day “Goethekenner.” One notes an increasing tendency to relate...

  11. VI Ideals of Culture
    (pp. 122-136)

    The pedagogical element is discernible in most of Rousseau’s writings. In theConfessionshe devotes much space to relating his own progress in cognition and knowledge, whether it be his early desultory readings and the limited amount of formal instruction which he enjoyed, or his intimate account of the great educational role played by experience. TheDiscoursesthemselves, like theLettre à d’Alembert, the musical works, and particularly theLettres relatives à la botanique, all reveal the teacher. Even in the most external senseLa Nouvelle Héloïseis a novel of didactic tendency, and Rousseau dedicated hisÉmilewholly to...

  12. VII Utopian Visions
    (pp. 137-150)

    This chapter will deal with parallels in the utopias envisioned by Goethe and Rousseau. Special attention will be given to Goethe’s mature works, with emphasis onWilhelm Meisters WanderjahreandFaust, and to Rousseau’sContrat social.

    The impression has stubbornly persisted that Rousseau was from the people and of the people, while Goethe became the creature of aristocrats. Jean-Jacques is often pictured as the fond parent of revolution to come, the implacable hater of the rich and powerful, and the staunch friend of the poor. A distorted view of Goethe, on the other hand, sees him as the defender and...

  13. VIII God, Man, and Cosmos
    (pp. 151-170)

    Rousseau and Goethe both early departed from the conventionality of orthodox Christian belief in which they were brought up. Yet, despite their rejection of dogma, they were both profoundly religious and remained so until the end of their lives, as will be demonstrated in the course of this chapter.

    For Rousseau as for Goethe mankind finds in itself the preferred object of study and contemplation. Both cherish the ideal of elevating Man to a higher plane. As previously noted, neither Rousseau nor Goethe would have the human being subordinated to mechanical aids for the sake of expediency. Theirs is an...

  14. Abbreviations of Titles Used in Notes and Bibliography
    (pp. 171-172)
  15. Notes
    (pp. 173-190)
  16. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 191-216)
  17. Index
    (pp. 217-223)