The Conflict of Epistemologies in Goethe's Faust: Of Smiths and Snakes
Goethe's Faust is not just a work of German literature but an example of what Goethe termed world literature. This paper will focus on the mythology of the gender and culture conflicts and their underlying epistemologies. To that end, I will delineate the double helix of the smith and Medusa mythological subtexts that constitute in the main "Die Ketzermythologie in Goethe's Faust" (Richard Ilgner, Centaurus Verlag, Herbolzheim, 2001). The smith mythology represented mainly by Mephistopheles in his role as Voland, but also by Euphorion/Icarus and the Daedalus/Erichthonius complex, as well as other minor smith figures, highlights Faust's "pact" with the Western Cartesian/Newtonian epistemology that provides the context for the tragedy. The snake symbolism, on the other hand, represented by the "Medusa" figures of Gretchen, Lilith, and Helena, among others, points to a "feminist" trans-Western epistemology whose tragedy is precisely constituted by its marginalization by the globalizing smith mythology.
Keywords: Gender as Culture Conflict, Epistemological Mythologies in Faust
Dr. Richard Max Ilgner
Head of Department, Department of German and Russian, Memorial University