The Life of Goethe: A Critical Biography

The Life of Goethe: A Critical Biography

by John R. Williams
     
 

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Johann Wolfgang von Goethe is Germany's most celebrated, prolific and versatile writer. He established a major European reputation and profoundly influenced his contemporaries and literary successors, not least among them the British Romantic writers Coleridge, Scott, and Byron. Goethe's life spanned a long period of profound change in German and European history.

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Overview

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe is Germany's most celebrated, prolific and versatile writer. He established a major European reputation and profoundly influenced his contemporaries and literary successors, not least among them the British Romantic writers Coleridge, Scott, and Byron. Goethe's life spanned a long period of profound change in German and European history. This book, by the author of a critically acclaimed study of Goethe's Faust, sets Goethe's creative work in the context of his biography and of the literary and political movements of his time. It contains chapters on his life, his poetry, drama, prose and verse narratives, and on his scientific work. It is a study not only of his major works, but also of his less well known literary output: epigrams, aphorisms, satires, libretti, masquerades, dramatic and narrative fragments.

John R. Williams gives an account of Goethe's wide range of public activities as a minister of the Duchy of Sachsen-Weimar, his relations with the leading figures of the day, his influence on contemporary culture, and his personal and literary reactions to historical events of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, from the ancien régime to the French Revolution, from the Napoleonic invasion of Germany to the defeat of Napoleon, from the Congress of Vienna to the July Revolution of 1830, from the declining years of the Holy Roman Empire to the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution in Germany. Goethe's life and work are introduced and explained to the student of literature and to the interested general reader. Williams reveals his subject in all the great variety of his character, his occasionally scurrilous humour and exuberance, his characteristic ironic ambivalence, and his sometimes flawed wisdom and humanity.

Catering for the specialist in German literature and for the non-German reader, The Life of Goethe offers English translations of all quotations given in the text. An extensive bibliography details a wide selection of Goethe's works in English translation.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"The Life of Goethe admirably fills a gap in Goethe studies. John Williams provides a patient and thorough life-story." Alain de Botton

"Williams's study of Goethe's life and letters is a welcome contribution to Goethe scholarship. By translating all German citations, quotations, and references into English, Williams makes Goethe accessible to the English-speaking audience. "The German Quarterly

"Details importantly formative or influential are mentioned. All examples of significant experience conveyed in his poetry are given in both German as originally written and in English translation. "Psychological Reports

"To attempt a critical biography of a writer of Goethe's stature is no mean task and John Williams has shown that he is more than equal to it. He has provided what must be one of the most scholarly and readable accounts in English of Goethe's life and massive achievement. The style is lively and energetic and the English translations of the Goethe quotations are always apt and remarkably close to the original. This is an excellent book, lucid and penetrating. Dr Williams is to be congratulated on this major contribution to Goethe scholarship and for the infectious way in which he communicates his knowledge of, and love for, his subject." Forum for Modern Language Studies

"Intended for Germanists and non-Germanists alike, John Williams's The Life of Goethe: A Critical Biography deserves to go straight to the top of undergraduate reading lists. As a critical survey, it is hard to see this being surpassed." Modern Language Review

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780631163763
Publisher:
Wiley
Publication date:
10/23/1998
Series:
Wiley Blackwell Critical Biographies Series
Pages:
352
Product dimensions:
6.30(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.30(d)

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Meet the Author

John R. Williams is honorary Senior Lecturer in the Department of German at the University of St Andrews. He has published numerous scholarly articles on German literature and is the author of Goethe's 'Faust' (1987). In 1982 he was awarded a prize by the Theodor-Storm-Gesellschaft in an international competition for verse translation.

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