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On the Ruins of BabelArchitectural Metaphor in German Thought$
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Daniel Purdy

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780801476761

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: August 2016

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9780801476761.001.0001

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Goethe’s Architectural Epiphanies

Goethe’s Architectural Epiphanies

(p.162) 6 Goethe’s Architectural Epiphanies
On the Ruins of Babel

Daniel L. Purdy

Cornell University Press

This chapter argues that Goethe's praise of the Gothic Strasbourg cathedral in his 1772 essay, “On German Architecture,” stands in opposition to the reigning canon of architectural taste, as does his rejection of his father's classicizing tendency, yet Goethe's paean to the cathedral recuperates terms from classical architectural theory, raising the question of whether the poet ultimately affirms the paternal aesthetic he so passionately rejects. His engagement with architecture turns around the question of the individual's capacity to assert himself within an arena that claims to have already determined him. The essay on the cathedral includes a struggle with the aesthetic canon of the day, his father's comprehensive and highly classical pedagogy, and Goethe's own uncertainty as an artist.

Keywords:   Johann Wolfgang Goethe, On German Architecture, Gothic architecture, Strasbourg cathedral, Johann Caspar Goethe, classical architectural theory, aesthetic canon

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