Bettina L. Knapp's work is an act of daring. Long known as a distinguished writer on aspects of French literature from Racine to the contemporary French theater, she undertakes to examine here an ancient myth in its international ramifications through the ages as exemplified by men living in different worlds such as Albertus Magnus, Paracelsus, Rabbi Judah Loew, and Goethe. She also analyzes the reactions thereto in the Age of Enlightenment by Balzac and Hesse, and a contemporary writer like André Malraux. The main facet of the Promethean myth is represented here as the "ego consciousness" of an "archetype of the defiant, rebellious, and gigantically ambitious type who refuses to submit to the existing structure and thus to destiny." Out of this struggle of a powerful ego were born even such attempts as the creation of a homunculus, who found his fullest expression in the Golem, according to myth created by "High" Rabbi Loew of sixteenth-century Prague. It is immaterial whether Rabbi Loew, the creator, had ever heard of the Prometheus myth and whether he really acted to represent the power of the ego. The rabbi's main objective was to create a creature which could help him reveal a brewing conspiracy among Prague Christains to attack their Jewish compatriots. In contrast, Goethe's homunculus was the outcome of Faust's immensely ambitious nature. It was Faust's assistant who said: "Though I know. much, yet I seek to know all."

To be sure, skeptics like Voltaire tried to undermine the very foundations of the myth. However, in Goethe's more romantic reaction the reply to Voltarian criticism consisted not in the usual reliance on nineteenth-century historicism, but rather on the return to the profound mythology of the ancients. In his defense of ancient legends against the factual philological- historical arguments advanced by the historical schools of the early 1800s, the great German poet protested against detached critical analyses which "through some pedantic truth, displace


Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this page

Cited page

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
The Prometheus Syndrome


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 290

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?