Sexual division and the new mythology: Goethe and Schelling.

Journal Article (Journal Article)

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.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Engelstein, S

Published Date

  • August 2020

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 42 / 3

Start / End Page

  • 39 -

PubMed ID

  • 32852629

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1742-6316

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0391-9714

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1007/s40656-020-00331-0


  • eng