Goethe, Faust, and Science
UH 348 - Honors Seminar - Spring 2005
Classes: 2:10-3:25 Thursdays in Claxton Addition 202
Bruce MacLennan, PhD
This course is offered in conjunction with UTK's Environmental Semester.
Office: Claxton Complex 217
Office Hours: 3:30-5:30 T & Th, or make an
Although best known as a novelist, dramatist, and poet, Goethe
considered his scientific work to be more important than his
literary activities, but his conception of science was quite different
from ours, for his approach to nature was empathetic, participatory, and holistic rather than analytic, observational, and reductive.
As a result Goethean science has emerged as a possible foundation for a
twenty-first century renewal of natural science and as a basis for an
Goethe's approach to natural science also permeates his epic drama, Faust,
on which he worked for more than 60 years. Faust, who sacrifices
his soul for "the good life," is often interpreted as a symbol of
modern industry, technology, and economy, which use knowledge to
dominate nature for our benefit, but the drama, especially the
enigmatic Part II, also depicts Faust's evolving relationship with the
feminine, both immanent and transcendent, and thus suggests a
different, post-patriarchal orientation for science and technology.
In this seminar we will read selections from Goethe's Faust (in
English) and from his scientific writings, and weave around them a
critical dialogue about our relationship to nature, science, and
technology, now and in the future. Among the Faustian
technologies we will consider are nanotechnology, artificial
intelligence, and germ-line genetic engineering.
- Goethe, Faust (Parts I & II), tr. Arndt, 2nd ed., Norton Critical Edition, 2000. ISBN: 0393972828.
- Goethe, Goethe on Science: An Anthology of Goethe's Scientific Writings, ed. J. Naydler, Floris Books, 1997. ISBN: 0863152376.
- Goethe in General:
- Goethe's Philosophy of Science:
- Goethe's Faust:
- The Renaissance Magus:
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Last updated: 2005-04-21.