Title

Romantic Science

Presentation Type

Presentation

Abstract

The German authors Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Friedrich von Hardenberg, known as Novalis, left behind important literary and scientific legacies that helped shape the way the world considers nature. Both of these authors have backgrounds in science – Goethe highly regarded scientific observation and study, especially in the field of botany, and Novalis was a scientist skilled in mineralogy, physics, chemistry, mathematics, and physiology – and their appreciation of science comes through in much of their writing, and in this paper, I examine their scientific background within the context of how each author writes about nature. While different from each other’s, their respective treatments of nature go against the traditional Enlightenment approach to nature, which was to view it as something to be observed, catalogued, and subsequently controlled. In his early work, Die Leiden des jungen Werthers, Goethe uses nature as a tool to mirror the moods and emotions of his title character. Werther has an intensely personal connection with the natural world around him, and this kind of relationship with nature was quite novel at the time. Novalis, who greatly admired Goethe’s writing and his background in science, approached nature in a very quintessentially romantic fashion. His fragment novel Heinrich von Ofterdingenplaces nature at the forefront of his main character’s spiritual and poetic transformation. In this presentation, I will analyze both works from the perspective that the authors’ scientific backgrounds helped shape their treatment of nature and thus helped shape the view of nature for following generations.

Category

Humanities

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Apr 17th, 9:20 AM Apr 17th, 9:40 AM

Romantic Science

UC 332

The German authors Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Friedrich von Hardenberg, known as Novalis, left behind important literary and scientific legacies that helped shape the way the world considers nature. Both of these authors have backgrounds in science – Goethe highly regarded scientific observation and study, especially in the field of botany, and Novalis was a scientist skilled in mineralogy, physics, chemistry, mathematics, and physiology – and their appreciation of science comes through in much of their writing, and in this paper, I examine their scientific background within the context of how each author writes about nature. While different from each other’s, their respective treatments of nature go against the traditional Enlightenment approach to nature, which was to view it as something to be observed, catalogued, and subsequently controlled. In his early work, Die Leiden des jungen Werthers, Goethe uses nature as a tool to mirror the moods and emotions of his title character. Werther has an intensely personal connection with the natural world around him, and this kind of relationship with nature was quite novel at the time. Novalis, who greatly admired Goethe’s writing and his background in science, approached nature in a very quintessentially romantic fashion. His fragment novel Heinrich von Ofterdingenplaces nature at the forefront of his main character’s spiritual and poetic transformation. In this presentation, I will analyze both works from the perspective that the authors’ scientific backgrounds helped shape their treatment of nature and thus helped shape the view of nature for following generations.