The Alienated Form of Nature: The Critique of Imitation and Aesthetic Knowing in the young Goethe's Aesthetic Writings
This essay examines the transformation of the concept of mimesis (imitation, Nachahmung der Natur) in the theoretical writings of the young Johann Wolfgang Goethe and its implications for the conception of aesthetic knowing. The Sturm und Drang period in general and Goethe, the period's most influential writer, in particular are usually regarded as skeptical about or even hostile to the classicist ideal of imitation. In this essay I argue that Goethe's conception of mimesis is closely related to his idea that nature is not immediately represented in art. Imitation of nature is the result of a process of alienation, which transforms nature into an aesthetic object. It is only in this transformed state, as "inner form" (innere Form), that nature is available to man. Furthermore, this notion of imitation as alienation points to the profound change that epitomizes epistemology in the late eighteenth century, that is, the transition from the classical episteme of representation to the modern, organic episteme.
Uppsala: Svenska Litteratursällskapet , 2012. Vol. 133, 145-165 p.