Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, 1749-1832

Biographical note

Goethe is considered by many to be the most important writer in the German language and one of the most important thinkers in Western culture. Goethe's works span the fields of poetry, drama, literature, theology, philosophy, and science. His magnum opus, lauded as one of the peaks of world literature, is the two-part drama Faust. Goethe's other well-known literary works include his numerous poems, the Bildungsroman Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship, and the epistolary novel The Sorrows of Young Werther.

Goethe was one of the key figures of German literature and the movement of Weimar Classicism in the late 18th and early 19th centuries; this movement coincides with Enlightenment, Sentimentality (Empfindsamkeit), Sturm und Drang and Romanticism. The author of the scientific text Theory of Colours, his influential ideas on plant and animal morphology and homology were extended and developed by 19th century naturalists including Charles Darwin.

Goethe is the originator of the concept of Weltliteratur ("world literature"), having taken great interest in the literatures of England, France, Italy, classical Greece, Persia, the Arab world, and others. His influence on German philosophy is virtually immeasurable, having major effect especially on the generation of Hegel and Schelling, although Goethe himself refrained from practicing philosophy in the specialized sense.

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