This study fills a gap in Goethe criticism caused as much by Goethe’s sweeping claim that all his poems are ‘Gelegenheitsgedichte’ as by the traditional tendency to dismiss the ‘occasional’ segment of the poet’s work, especially works written for the Weimar court, as imposed exercise. The author examines a representative number of Goethe’s poems, masques, theatrical prologues, and so on, from the boy’s family poems to the ‘Maskenzug’ of 1818, and defines the circumstances of their origin, sometimes in detail and always in the context of the great artistic, social, and political movement of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. In many instances Professor Oppenheimer points out complementary or antithetical relationships to other works, occasional or otherwise, and thus illuminates a sizable portion of the poet’s oeuvre. The concluding analysis of Toruato Tasso puts into relief Goethe’s life-long struggle to protect the development and integrity of his art without ceasing to be on speaking terms with the world around him. This study therefor represents a contribution to the perennial debate on art and society.
About the author
ERNST M. PPENHEIMER is a member of the Department of German, Carleton University.