Reading Bloom Reading Goethe

by MT

Regarding human spirit (2nd nature?) and the spirit of nature (1st nature?)
“What is Faust’s sin? Restlessness of spirit. What is Faust’s salvation? Restlessness of spirit. … What he could not write was the tragedy of the human spirit. It is here that the tragedy of Faust fails and becomes illegitimately ambiguous, because there is for Goethe in the last analysis no specifically human spirit. It is fundamentally at one with the spirit of nature.” (Erich Heller, The Poet’s Self and the Poem: Essays on Goethe, Nietzsche, Rilke and Thomas Mann, 1976)
Heiter (serenity) in Goethe:
“[Ernst Robert] Curtius adroitly remarks that “Predominance of light over darkness is the condition that suits Goethe best,” and reminds us that Goethe’s word for this condition is heiter, not so much “joyous” as the equivalent of the Latin serenus, a cloudless sky, whether night or day. Like Shelley after him, Goethe found his personal emblem in the morning start, but not for its moment of exquisite waning into the dawn as Shelley did. The serene Goethe is now a temperamental burden for us; neither we nor our writers are tranquil. … Nietzsche taught us a poetics of pain; only the painful, he brilliantly insisted, could truly be memorable. Curtius ascribes to Goethe a poetics of pleasure in an old tradition, but a poetics of serenity, of unclouded skies, is even closer to the Goethean vision.” [204]
Regarding trope:
“to the Oriental, all things suggest all things, so that, accustomed to connecting the most remote things together, he does not hesitate to derive contrary things from one another by very slight changes in letters or syllables. Here we see that language is already productive in and of itself, and indeed, in so far as it coincides with the imagination, is poetic. If, then, we should being with the first, neccessary , primary tropes and then mark the freer and bolder, until we finally reached the most daring and arbitrary , and even the inept, conventional, and the hackneyed, we should have obtained a general view of Oriental poetry.” ~Goethe, “Notes and Essays,” West-Ostlicher Divan. [205]
Regarding Childlike, Unconsciousness, and Awareness
“The imitatio Goethe… can still shape and mythically mould the life of an artist–rising out of his unconscious, yet playing over–as is the artist way–into a smiling, childlike, and profound awareness.” ~Thomas Mann, Freud and the Future (1936)[207]
Key Question:
“Are we baffled by the apparent serenity of Goethe’s poetic personality and the squalid intensities of Faust? Or is it that we cannot locate ourselves in relation to Goethe’s world theater, so we wonder what is going on and ask why we should be involved at all?” [209]
Regarding Necessity and Will:
“The person, considered as a character, is under a certain necessity; he is constrained, appointed to a certain particular line of action; but as a human being he has a will, which is unconfined and universal in its demands. Thus arises an inner conflict, and Shakespeare is superior to all other writers in the significance with which he endows this. But now an outer conflict may arise, and the individual through it may become so aroused that an insufficient will is raised through circumstance to the level of irremissible necessity. These motives I have referred to earlier in the case of Hamlet. ~Goethe, “Shakespeare ad Infinitum” (1815)
“A lovely, pure, noble, and most moral nature, without the strength of nerve which forms a hero, sinks beneath a burden which it cannot bear, and must not cast away. All duties are holy for him; not in themselves impossibilities, but such for him. He winds, and turns, and torments himself; he advances and recoils; is ever put in mind, ever puts himself in mind; at last does all but lose his purpose from his thoughts; yet still without recovering his peace of mind.” ~Goethe, “Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship” (1796) [Bloom, 212-3]