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Faust the Theologian

Faust the Theologian

Jaroslav Pelikan
Copyright Date: 1995
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 158
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  • Book Info
    Faust the Theologian
    Book Description:

    In this erudite and beautifully written book, an eminent scholar meditates on the theological implications of Goethe'sFaust. Jaroslav Pelikan reflects on Goethe's statement that he was a pantheist when it came to science, a polytheist in art, and a monotheist in ethics, and he uses it for the first time to analyze Faust's development as a theologian. By so doing, Pelikan enables us to see Goethe's masterpiece in a surprising new light.Pelikan begins by discussing Faust's role as natural scientist or pantheist. He examines Faust's disenchantment with traditional knowledge, considers his interests in geology, oceanography, and optics, and analyzes his perception of nature as a realm inspirited throughout by a single unifying Power. Pelikan next follows Faust on his journeys to the two Walpurgis Nights, where he shows how Faust reveals his delight in the polytheistic extravaganzas of Germanic and especially of Greek mythology. Finally Pelikan describes the operatic finale of the book, where Faust's spirit is drawn upward to salvation by the Eternal Feminine, and he argues that this marks Faust's evolution into moral philosopher and monotheist. Pelikan's analysis thus reveals thematic unities and a dialectical development of Faust's character that have been unnoticed heretofore.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-14661-5
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. CHAPTER ONE Faust as Doctor of Theology
    (pp. 1-24)

    AT LEAST FOUR MONUMENTAL DRAMAS in the spiritual and literary history of the West are situated in the framework of the days of Holy Week: Palm Sunday was, according to the custom in Leipzig, the day for the performance of Johann Sebastian Bach’sPassion of Our Lord According to Saint Matthew;¹ the morning of Good Friday was the setting for the opening of Dante Alighieri’sDivine Comedy;² that day is also, in the Good Friday Spell, the time of the climax, both dramatically and musically, of Richard Wagner’sParsifal,when “every creature gives thanks, everything that blooms and soon perishes,...

  5. CHAPTER TWO The Natural Scientist as Pantheist
    (pp. 25-58)

    WHETHER HE is a Doctor of Theology or not, Doctor Faust definitely is a scientist, both in the general sense of “science” as it is being used here to render “Wissenschaft” as a comprehensive term for learning and scholarship also in the humanities and social sciences (1851) and in the more usual present-day sense of “science” to refer specifically to “Naturwissenschaft.”¹ And therefore, in keeping with the epigram of Goethe that forms the organizing principle of this book, “When we do natural science, we are pantheists,” Doctor Faust the natural scientist is also Doctor Faust the pantheistic theologian.²

    Faust’s scientific...

  6. CHAPTER THREE The Poetic Artist as Polytheist
    (pp. 59-90)

    IN SPITE OF THE pantheistic-sounding language about the All that Faust the natural scientist employs—as when, in defending his religion to Margarete, he speaks of God as “the All-embracing, All-preserving” (3438–39), or when, in his introductory soliloquy, he describes how “all resounds harmoniously through the All” (453)—the termpantheismas such does not of course appear in the poem. The nearestFaustcomes to the term is a scene in which the Chorus of Nymphs seems to pun on the Greek wordPanwhen it announces: “Here he comes! The All of the world is being set...

  7. CHAPTER FOUR The Moral Philosopher as Monotheist
    (pp. 91-128)

    FOR GOETHE’SFaustas a drama, if not always for Faust as a character in that drama, science and poetry are and remain necessary to the definition of what makes human beings human; to reject one or the other is either to despise “reason and science” as the highest power of which humanity is capable (1851–52) or to blaspheme “Sacred Poesy” (9863). Nevertheless, Faust’s spiritual development shows that science and poetry, although necessary, are not sufficient, separately or even together. So, too, both the pantheism of the science and the polytheism of the poetry do not lose their validity...

  8. Bibliography
    (pp. 129-145)