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A Symbolic-Mystic Monstrosity: Ideology and Representation in Goethe's Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Arts, Department of Literature.
2009 (English)In: Goethe Yearbook, ISSN 0734-3329, Vol. 16, 69-99 p.Article in journal (Other academic) Published
Abstract [en]

The article examines the “metamimetic” representational space in Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s novel Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre (1795–96), that is, the representational space in the novel, where the text reflects its own mimetic representation. In the article, two such spaces are singled out: firstly, the acting of the body in the theatre and, secondly, the ekphrastic representation of formative art. Goethe, I argue, employed these types of representation in an attempt to form an immediate and natural sign. Thus, the body of the actor is supposed to represent immediately, through its presence on stage. Goethe, therefore, emphasizes the bodily aspect, rather than the verbal, of acting. However, in the course of the novel, theatre reveals itself as a predominantly economic enterprise, whose financial logic of assets and lack undermines its immediate signification. Consequently, Goethe turns to formative art, paintings and sculptures, to find an equivalent to the natural sign. Art, it seems, is able to perform what the theatre failed to do, namely, represent the absolute and, thus, unite signifier and signified into a natural expression. Nonetheless, the image, like the theatre, is biased by economy, which transforms the image into a fetish, that is, a commodity that is not seen as a natural object but as a supernatural thing. Thus, the all-powerful image becomes what Goethe in an aphorism labels a “symbolic-mythic monstrosity,” an all-devouring fetish that turns everything into commodities.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Rochester, NY: Camden House , 2009. Vol. 16, 69-99 p.
Keyword [en]
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, ideology, representation, mimesis, symbol
Keyword [sv]
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, ideologi, representation, mimesis, symbol
National Category
General Literature Studies
Research subject
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-107139DOI: 10.1353/gyr.0.0011OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-107139DiVA: diva2:227857
Available from: 2009-07-20 Created: 2009-07-20 Last updated: 2012-08-02Bibliographically approved

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Pirholt, Mattias
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