The first part of Goethe’s dramatic poem Faust (1808), one of the great works of German literature, grabbed the attention of Byron and Percy Shelley in the 1810s, engaging them in a shared fascination that was to exert an important influence over their writings. In this comparative study, Ben Hewitt explores the links between Faust and Byron’s and Shelley’s works, connecting Goethe and the two English Romantic poets in terms of their differing, intricately related experiments with epic. In so doing, Hewitt enters the three writers into a literary and philosophical dialogue concerning ‘epic’ and ‘tragic’ perspectives on human knowledge and potential – perspectives crucial to the very structure and significance of Goethe's masterpiece – and illuminates hitherto unacknowledged affinities between these key figures in Romantic literature, and between British and German Romanticisms.
Ben Hewitt is a Teaching Fellow in English Literature at the University of St Andrews.
‘This is not the first study of the relationship of Goethe's Faust to English Romantic writing, but it is an original contribution in its own right by virtue of the particular texts it focuses on and the wide-ranging, complex picture that emerges... the material is carefully assembled, and the twists and turns of the discussion are full of valuable insights.’ — David Hill, British Association for Romantic Studies Review 47, 2016, 32
‘Hewitt’s study is a thoughtful and fascinating discussion of the complex interconnections between the three authors... this thoughtful and knowledgeable study which successfully brings together a wealth of theories and innovative ideas.’ — Dagmar Paulus, Comparative Critical Studies 13.3, October 2016, 397-400
‘Hewitt’s approach to the relationship between these three writers is certainly speculative, not least about what Byron and Shelley knew of Faust I and how they read it. But its speculations are interesting and persuasive, and allow Hewitt to achieve something exciting and original: a comparative study of ‘similar aspects’ in the work of three major Romantic-period thinkers that has ‘nothing to do with the palpable influence of one writer upon another’ but does have ‘real significance for our understanding’ of the international ‘Romantic heritage’ handed down to our own time and especially its ‘struggle for the soul [...] not just of a modernity emergent, as it was, during our writers’ lifetimes, but of our modern world also’.’ — Alan Rawes, The Byron Journal 45.1, 2017, 97-99
‘A wide-ranging and stimulating account of Anglo-German Romantic literary exchange... Hewitt’s study generates a number of perceptive readings that shed new light on its primary texts. Covering an epic range of topics itself, Byron, Shelley, and Goethe’s ‘Faust’ demonstrates the potential of an approach that, taking the idea of influence as its point of departure, uses a more ‘conjectural’ or ‘suggestive’ (1) method to read texts comparatively and thus discover ‘epic connections’ where none were seen before.’ — Tim Sommer, Romanticism 23.2, July 2017, 196-98
Hewitt, Ben, Byron, Shelley, and Goethe’s Faust: An Epic Connection, Studies In Comparative Literature, 33 (Cambridge: Legenda, 2015)
First footnote reference:35 Ben Hewitt, Byron, Shelley, and Goethe’s Faust: An Epic Connection, Studies In Comparative Literature, 33 (Cambridge: Legenda, 2015), p. 21.