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200 × 130 mm
256 pages
48 illustrations
10 Feb 2020
Critical Lives
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Johann Wolfgang von Goethe Jeremy Adler

This new critical biography provides a complete picture of German novelist, playwright and poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. The book offers fresh, thought-provoking interpretations of all the major works, including novels such as The Sorrows of Young Werther and The Elective Affinities, plays such as Egmont and Iphigenia in Tauris, and Goethe’s greatest work, Faust. There are also many original readings of Goethe’s poetry, beginning with the poems written in early youth. Alongside the work the incidents of his life are analysed, including his love-affairs and his meetings with the great people of the age such as Napoleon Bonaparte.

A special feature of the book is to show how Goethe’s encyclopaedic interest in literature, science, philosophy, law and many other fields became important for a wide range of later scientists and thinkers. Among the figures he influenced were Charles Darwin and Albert Einstein, Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud, Émile Durkheim and Susan Sontag. Goethe has often been called the last Renaissance man. This biography shows that Goethe was in fact the first of the moderns - a maker of modernity.

Jeremy Adler is Professor Emeritus of German and Senior Research Fellow at King’s College London. He has published numerous books, and writes and reviews regularly for The New York Times Book Review, The Times Literary Supplement, The London Review of Books, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung and the Neue Zürcher Zeitung.


1 The Birth of a Poet
2 Sturm und Drang
3 First Years in Weimar
4 The Italian Turn
5 The Classical Centre
6 The Intellectual Capital of the World
7 The Faustian Age

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