Goethe and the Sublime

Das Erhabene bei Goethe

  • The dissertation situates the Goethean sublime in an obscured countermovement of resistance to the aestheticization the concept underwent in the 18th century. Before the encounter with the English aesthetic concept of the sublime, the German notion of das Erhabene (the sublime) named not a category of aesthetic experience, but a social affect. In contrast to the Sublime of Edmund Burke's theory, which explicitly excludes melancholy from the sources of the Sublime, das Erhabene is an affect related to the self-overcoming of melancholic subjectivity. As the aestheticized notion of the sublime displaced das Erhabene, Goethe became one of the most radical innovators of the aesthetics of the sublime. But as is demonstrated in chapters on The Sorrows of Young Werther, Elective Affinities, Faust and Wilhelm Meister, he did so with the aim of recovering the displaced meaning of das Erhabene as social affect. Goethe's sublime aims to show at every turn that the so-called "aesthetic experience" of the sublime is really displaced social affect. His treatment of the sublime therefore constitutes a radical critique of the establishment of aesthetics as an independent sphere of inquiry. There is for Goethe no way to understand aesthetic experience independently of its social context. By reconnecting the sublime it to the original social meaning of das Erhabene, Goethe recovers the aesthetics of the sublime as a means of mediating and facilitating the movement of subjectivity from frustrated stasis to divine creativity; i.e., from exclusion to participation in the material creation of reality.

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Author:John Matthew Koster
Referee:Willi Goetschel
Document Type:Doctoral Thesis
Year of Completion:2013
Year of first Publication:2013
Publishing Institution:Universit├Ątsbibliothek Johann Christian Senckenberg
Granting Institution:University of Toronto
Release Date:2014/02/14
Tag:German Literature; Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von; aesthetics; critique; the sublime
Last Page:193 S.
This item is licensed under a Creative Commons License. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.5/ca/
Toronto, Univ., Diss., 2013
Dewey Decimal Classification:8 Literatur / 83 Deutsche und verwandte Literaturen / 830 Literaturen germanischer Sprachen; Deutsche Literatur
Sammlungen:Germanistik / GiNDok
Licence (German):License LogoCreative Commons - Namensnennung, Nicht kommerziell, Keine Bearbeitung 2.0