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Open SecretsLiterature, Education, and Authority from J-J. Rousseau to J. M. Coetzee$
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Michael Bell

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780199208098

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199208098.001.0001

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Pedagogy, Fiction, and the Art of Renunciation: Wilhelm Meister’s Journeymanship, or the Renunciants

Pedagogy, Fiction, and the Art of Renunciation: Wilhelm Meister’s Journeymanship, or the Renunciants

Chapter:
(p.108) 4 Pedagogy, Fiction, and the Art of Renunciation: Wilhelm Meister’s Journeymanship, or the Renunciants
Source:
Open Secrets
Author(s):

Michael Bell (Contributor Webpage)

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199208098.003.0005

This chapter shows how Goethe's much later Wilhelm Meister novel presses even more radically the critique of Wilhelm's Bildung. It becomes not just a critique of Wilhelm, but a renunciation of his very ideal of rounded humanistic culture. Following hints in the last book of the Apprenticeship, Wilhelm rejects theatre for the pursuit of medical science as his contribution to the Society of the Tower of which he is now a member. The later book advocates acceptance of specialisation as the best form of personal development in modernity, avoiding the seductive illusions of dilettantism. Meanwhile the book itself, renouncing narrative authority and the more accessible attractions of the earlier novel, derives its material, largely as a series of sub-narratives, from the archive of the Society. Thematically, it concentrates on the follies of parenthood and middle age while its aphoristic wisdom is constantly bracketed with self-undercutting irony.

Keywords:   Goethe, Bildung, pedagogy, mentor, renunciation, specialisation

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