War in Goethe's Writings- Representation and Assessment

Author: Larkin, Edward
This study expands the body of knowledge on Goethe's understanding of war by linking his particular portrayals of war to larger intellectual and aesthetic concerns, including the nature of individual development, the organization of human society, the efficacy of human activity, and the impact of transcendent forces. Based on the analytical techniques developed by Frenzel, Luthi, Ziolkowski and Daemmrich, it provides an amplification of earlier, exclusively historical analyses, through a consideration of the thematic dynamics of specific literary texts. This work delineates Goethe's philosophical position on war and illuminates the forms of its representation. It should be of interest to Goethe scholars, those engaged in motif studies, and in peace studies.


". . . a carefully documented, well-organized, and clearly written study of great significance. Professor Larkin details the narrative function of war in a metaphoric field that sustains such basic thematic constellations as aggression, power, chance, and freedom. Based on precise analyses of well-chosen, representative works ranging from Götz to Faust and Reineke Fuchs to Die Novelle, the study demonstrates convincingly the importance of the motif for the development of characters and the design of action sequences. . . . should serve as a touchstone for future theoretic investigations." - Horst Daemmrich

". . . Larkin is unique in proceeding by systematic thematic analysis, rather than in the more traditional diachronic-biographical manner of presenting Goethe's views as deriving from external historical events. . . . In this thoughtful close analysis of both well-known and more obscure works, it results in a nuanced and refined assessment of significant ideas, focused on human personality in the crucible of violent historical change, and their inscripture into literary texts. . . . Larkin's prose is lucid and the organization and presentation of his analysis meticulously considered; the text and notes provide a first-rate critical discussion of secondary sources, much of it very recent scholarly writing on Goethe. This examination of war in Goethe's writings is well conceived and executed, and in the breadth and detail of its argumentation a welcome contribution to the study of Goethe, history and German literature." - Richard Fisher