From the archaic into the aesthetic: myth and literature in the "Orphic" Goethe

Bishop, P. (2013) From the archaic into the aesthetic: myth and literature in the "Orphic" Goethe. In: Burnett, L., Bahun, S. and Main, R. (eds.) Myth, Literature, and the Unconscious. Karnac Books: London, UK, pp. 189-210. ISBN 9781782200024

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Goethe’s interest in neo-Platonism is well documented, particularly as mediated through the work of Plotinus (see P.F. Reiff, 1912; H.F. Müller, 1915-1919; F. Koch, 1925; and Hansen, 2005). At first glance, his late poem Primal Words. Orphic looks like a series of initiatory invocations, leading the reader from a (daimonic) world (in ΛΑΙΜΩΝ), via a process of transformation (in ΤΥΧΗ), to a (loving) encounter with the ineffable One (in ΕΡΩΣ). As Goethe’s subsequent notes on the poem make clear, however, this initiation can also be understood in a psycho-existential sense; and his poem takes us beyond the (neo-Platonic) One to a consideration of the dialectical relation between freedom and necessity (in ΑΝΑΓΚΗ) and finally (in ΕΛΠΙΣ) to a transcendence of Time and Space themselves. This paper examines the relationship between the intellectual background to Goethe’s composition of this text — his reception of Creuzer and Hermann, and his involvement with the early nineteenth-century debate about myth — and reads it as an aesthetic transformation of ancient Orphic teaching.

Item Type:Book Sections
Keywords:aesthetic; archaic; Goethe; Orphic
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Bishop, Professor Paul
Authors: Bishop, P.
College/School:College of Arts & Humanities > School of Modern Languages and Cultures > German
Publisher:Karnac Books

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