Article ID: CBB107142269

Sexual Division and the New Mythology: Goethe and Schelling (2020)


The new mythology for which the German Romantic period called was not envisioned as antithetical to empiricism or experiential/experimental knowledge, but rather as emerging in dialogue with it to form a cultural foundation for such inquiry. Central to the mytho-scientific project were problematic theories of sexual division and generativity that established cultural baselines. This article examines the mythological investments of two influential thinkers of the period—Goethe and Schelling. It then analyzes Goethe’s unique merger of mythological approaches to sex and generation with empirical observation in The Metamorphosis of Plants. It next traces Schelling’s expansion of Goethe’s theories of nature beyond their empirical justifications to develop a metaphysics of sexual differentiation. Finally, the article illuminates Goethe’s final reply to the sexual dynamics of Naturphilosophie at the end of his life, through the analysis of a single poem, “Finding Again,” in the collection God and World. Ultimately and in spite of its empirical commitments, Goethe’s more flexible view of sexual correlations would lose ground to the powerful metaphysical mythology of sexual opposition as both scientific and cultural bedrock.

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Authors & Contributors
Fleming, Paul
Levin, Thomas Y.
Ulfers, Friedrich
Siegel, Elke
Goldstein, Amanda Jo
Butler, Judith
Journal of the History of Biology
Cartographica Helvetica
Science and Education
University of Chicago Press
Science and literature
Poetry and poetics
Nature and its relationship to culture; human-nature relationships
Literary analysis
Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von
Ritter, Johann Wilhelm
Blake, William
Kant, Immanuel
Shelley, Percy Bysshe
South America
Great Britain
United States
19th century
18th century
20th century

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