Rereading Goethe, Rethinking Culture

By Gerald Peters.

Published by New Directions in the Humanities, a book imprint by Common Ground Publishing

Format Price
Book: Electronic $US15.00
Book: Print $US40.00

In this critical reading of Goethe’s Wilhelm Meister novels, Gerald Peters re-evaluates Goethe’s “theory” of aesthetic self-fashioning, or Bildung, as an educational model for a modern capitalist meritocracy. Drawing on his background in autobiography studies and incorporating perspectives from anthropology, literary criticism, gender studies, performance theory, philosophy, and religious studies, Peters turns a personal reading of a once influential text into an interdisciplinary reflection on individuation and self-culture in America. Rereading Goethe, Rethinking Culture treats various aspects of human self-development—love, work, family life, social status—in relation to topics as diverse as initiation rites, physiognomy, secret and utopian societies, craftsmanship, popular culture, exteriority, and the human face. Written in the spirit of Goethe’s Bildungsroman, Rereading Goethe illustrates the power of a book to shape a life, demonstrating that Goethe’s philosophical novel of culture and self-development can still be used as a critical “lens” through which readers can re-examine their own cultural assumptions and “rethink” the choices they have before them.

Book: Electronic (PDF File; 7.052MB). Book: Print (Paperback). Published by New Directions in the Humanities, a book imprint by Common Ground Publishing, Illinois.

Gerald Peters

Associate Professor, English and Comparative Literature, University of Southern Maine, USA

Gerald Peters is an associate professor of English and comparative literature at the University of Southern Maine. His research interests encompass what he calls “discourses of self-determination,” ranging from diaries and travel journals to confessions, autobiographies, and the Bildungsroman. His published works include Diary of Anna Baerg, 1917–1924, The Mutilating God: Authorship and Authority in the Narrative of Conversion, and Autobiography and Postmodernism.


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