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10 - Exploring the “Three-Fold World”: Faust as Alchemist, Astrologer, and Magician

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 May 2013

Helen Watanabe-O'Kelly
Affiliation:
Oxford University
J. M. van der Laan
Affiliation:
Illinois State University
Andrew Weeks
Affiliation:
Illinois State University
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Summary

The title page of the original edition of the Historia von D. Johann Fausten prepares the reader for a straightforward black-and-white “damnation narrative,” the inverse of the salvation narrative of the saint's vita so well established in contemporary Catholic piety. It emphasizes that this is a tale about a man who, entirely through his own fault, comes to a bad end and that it should serve as an awful warning to all “hochtragenden fürwitzigen und Gottlosen Menschen” (arrogant, inappropriately curious, and godless people). The title page even quotes, surprisingly for a Lutheran work, the Epistle of St. James (4:7): “submit yourselves to God, resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” By the time the actual story commences, the same message has been hammered home twice more, and at considerably greater length: in the dedication to the publisher Spies's two schoolfriends, Kaspar Kolle and Hieronymus Hoff, and in the preface to the reader. By the end of the first short chapter, our expectations of Faust's turpitude are already on the way to being fulfilled, and we might think the novel is almost over before it has started. What gives the succeeding narrative its gripping intensity, however, and what keeps us reading right up to Faust's violent death is the intellectual journey of the protagonist, who moves through all the branches of contemporary knowledge, not only losing his soul but betraying his own intellectual gifts in the process.

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The Faustian Century
German Literature and Culture in the Age of Luther and Faustus
, pp. 241 - 256
Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
Print publication year: 2013

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