Reading Goethe

Reading Goethe

A Critical Introduction to the Literary Work

Martin Swales, Erika Swales


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At last an engaging and highly readable guide to the works and significance of Goethe.
The year 1999 saw the 250th anniversary of the birth of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Germany's greatest writer. Appropriately, literary scholars within Germany and beyond paid tribute to this remarkable talent. But a number of commentators also noted that Goethe is often revered rather than read, known of rather than known. It is the aim of this study to provide a corrective to this state of affairs. The authors concentrate on the literary work and offer analyses that represent an impassioned, but by no means uncritical, advocacy -- one that seeks to persuade both academic critics and general readers alike that Goethe is one of the key figures of European modernity. To an extent that is virtually unique in modern literature, Goethe was active in a whole number of literary genres. He was a superb poet, unrivaled in the variety of his expressive modes, and in his ability to combine intellectual sophistication withexperiential immediacy. He also wrote short stories and novels throughout his life, ranging from the The Sorrows of Young Werther, to The Elective Affinities. He was also a highly skilled dramatist, both in the historical mode and in the classical verse-drama. Above all else, Goethe is the author of Faust: a workthat attempts -- and achieves -- more than any other modern European drama.

Erica Swales is College Lecturer and Fellow of King's College, Cambridge. Martin Swales is Professor of German at University College London.

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Table of Contents

Narrative Fiction
Goethe's Discursive Writings
Works Consulted and Works for Further Reading


Recipient of CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title Award, 2002

Presents a judicious corrective, not only to the tradition of uncritical adulation of Goethe as a cultural monument, but also to some twentieth-century caricatures of Goethe as an escapist poet of untroubled serenity and comforting affirmation. JOHN R. WILLIAMS, University of St. Andrews

An invaluable companion reference. LIBRARY BOOKWATCH

[I]mmense in scale, succinct in its explicit and elaborate readings of Goethe texts, and profound in its assessments of Goethe's accomplishments as a writer. GERMAN QUARTERLY

An example of excellent scholarship, sensitivity, and attention to the formal as well as interpretive aspects of Goethe's writing. CHOICE

The authors pack in an astonishing number of stimulating suggestions ... For this reader, the close readings of selected poems were outstanding, as were the discussions of "Goetz," "Egmont," "Iphigenie," and "Tasso," which put forward concentrated and arresting arguments about each play. BRITISH JOURNAL OF 18TH-c. STUDIES

...a very good and often thought-provoking read...Mature, experienced, and considered opinions on important works of Goethe. GERMAN STUDIES REVIEW

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