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Culture and Recreation

Literature

What was Goethe’s contribution to world literature?

Johann Wolfgang Goethe (1749–1832) is considered Germany’s greatest writer. He also was a scientist, artist, musician, and philosopher. As a writer, Goethe experimented with many genres and literary styles, and his works became a shaping force of the major German literary movements of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. His masterwork, the poetic drama Faust (1808; rewritten 1832), embodies the author’s humanistic ideal of a world literature—one that transcends the boundaries of nations and historical periods. Indeed, the story of Faust, a German astrologer, magician, and soothsayer (c. 1480–1540), remains one of universal interest, and has been treated often in both literature and music: the legendary figure was believed to have sold his soul to the devil in exchange for the opportunity to experience all of life’s pleasures.



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