Review of Goethes politisches Denken und Handeln im Spiegel seiner Amtlichen Schriften: Eine politikwissenschaftliche Analyse

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Carter, William
Carter, William
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World Languages and Cultures
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World Languages and Cultures

Goethe’s Amtliche Schriften document in great detail the many responsibilities he undertook during his public service in Weimar, which began in 1776 and continued for decades following his return from Italy. Whether one is familiar with this side of Goethe or desires to learn more about it, Wolfgang Pollert provides a welcome contribution to this area of Goethe studies, one which still remains largely unexplored. As the title suggests, Pollert’s study is not a literary analysis. While there are a few brief references to Faust, West-östlicher Divan, and the Wilhelm Meister novels, the author concentrates primarily on Goethe’s official writings and related texts. He situates them within the larger contexts of both Weimar and Goethe’s lifelong engagement with politics. The first five sections, which vary substantially in length, cover the following topics: “Der historische Hintergrund,” “Goethes Jugendzeit,” “Von Frankfurt nach Weimar,” “Goethe und die Politik überhaupt,” and “Goethe in politischen Ämtern.” These eighty-seven pages provide a backdrop against which to view Goethe’s decision to accept the position of Geheimer Legationsrat offered to him by the then eighteen-year-old Duke Carl August, eight years his junior. The last of the sections listed above gives a concise summary of Goethe’s duties during the decade leading up to his Italian trip. In addition to his seat on the Privy Council (Geheimes Consilium), Goethe was tasked with overseeing the Bergwerkskommission, Wegebaudirektion, Kriegskommission, and Ilmenauer Steuerkommission. Throughout his study, Pollert emphasizes Goethe’s prowess in financial matters, which he utilized with respect to his duties in Ilmenau, where he dealt extensively with taxation and the revival and operation of its mine.


This is a book review from Goethe Yearbook 18 (2011): 309, doi:10.1353/gyr.2011.0458. Posted with permission.