Narcissism and Paranoia in the Age of Goethe

Narcissism and Paranoia in the Age of Goethe

Narcissism and Paranoia in the Age of Goethe

Narcissism and Paranoia in the Age of Goethe

Synopsis

This study examines how literary narcissism in the Age of Goethe intersects with concepts of creativity, language, gender, and national identity, and how German writers anticipate the formation of the Freudian concepts of narcissism and paranoia.

Excerpt

Hier sitz’ ich, forme Menschen
Nach meinem Bilde,
Ein Geschlecht, das mir gleich sei,
Zu leiden, weinen
Genießen und zu freuen sich,
Und dein nicht zu achten,
Wie ich.

—J. W. Goethe, Hamburger Ausgabe, 1:46

[Here I sit, form human beings
After my image,
A race that will be equal to me,
To suffer, to weep,
To take pleasure and feel joy,
And not to respect you,
Like me!]

Vergiß dein Ich: Dich selbst verliere nie.
Nichts Größres konnt’ aus ihrem Herzen dir
Die reiche Gottheit geben, als Dich selbst.

—J. G. Herder, Werke in zehn Bänden, 3:830

[Forget your I: do never lose yourself.
Nothing greater than yourself
Could rich divinity give you from her heart.]

Long before the freudian popularization of narcissism, late eighteenth-century German writers used the Greek myth of Narcissus to explore the understanding of the self. in this context narcissism refers to the creation of an idealized image of the self and the desire to merge with this image. I claim that this merger with an ideal self is motivated by the ambiguous enlightenment promise of selfassertion and self-transformation. Beginning in the 1770s writers like . . .

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