Goethe and Law: Advancement Through Narrative and Arbitration
MetadataShow full item record
CitationChaevitch, Anton. 2019. Goethe and Law: Advancement Through Narrative and Arbitration. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
AbstractAlthough Goethe was not only a literary writer, but also a lawyer and a statesman, his views on how law and why law advances have not been considered. Through a reading of Faust and the Wahlverwandtschaften, this dissertation shows that the two components of legal advancement in Goethe’s mind were narrative and gränzunbewußte arbitration [arbitration unconscious of borders]. Narratives shape the way we think, and thus affect laws and legal outcomes. As the legal significance of borders diminishes – as the legal order becomes more gränzunbewußt – narratives cross borders more easily, and their effect becomes more global.
A focus on legal advancement in Goethe’s works opens a novel understanding of them. For instance, it is unclear whether Gretchen killed her child – even though she has become one of literature’s most famous child-killers. The evidence against her consists merely of contradictory narratives. The dominant narrative of infanticide in Goethe’s time dictated that only the mother could kill the child, and that is why Gretchen has been deemed guilty. The resolution of the pact between Faust and Mephistopheles can also be understood in a novel way. Mephisto’s defeat has been understood with reference to the terms of the written pact. However, it is better understood in terms of the legal advancement that has taken place since Faust I: in the gränzunbewußte legal order at the end of Faust II, Mephisto’s pact to claim Faust’s soul is no longer enforceable. The tragic ending of the Wahlverwandtschaften can be seen as the failure of legal advancement to materialize – for divorce fails to occur in spite of the fact that it has become legally possible – because the right narratives are missing, and the legal order is not gränzunbewußt.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:42029624
- FAS Theses and Dissertations