Morals for Human Development in the Art of Lessing, Goethe, and Schiller: How Lessing, Goethe, and Schiller, Became Seminal to the Spread of Western Autonomy

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May 2023

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Abstract

Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, and Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller, introduced a naturally occurring, non-heteronomous, independence and morality to the common man through their literary efforts in the last half of the eighteenth century. In a time of church and state censorship, when written and spoken Enlightenment efforts were directed toward universal freedom, when freedom for the masses, in aggregate, was an unacceptable idea, Lessing, Goethe, and Schiller proselytized individual freedom through self-development. They demonstrated, via didactive parables and other message carrying written vehicles, an awareness of self, i.e., the presence of an inherent, functional, personal spirit, whose engagement could lead to singular independence for every individual . They created literary role models that demonstrated independent behavior, and gave men and women the vision of new possibilities, and the potential for a fulfilled future. They hid these subversive parables as subplots, within acceptable plots, which would pass the censors. As well-known and popular German writers and critics, their literature, dramas, poetry, reviews, and essays, presented as entertainment, became conscious-raising tools for a literate public. A nexus of societal evolution, a literate public, and the art of Lessing, Goethe, and Schiller, formed a connection that enabled submissive men and women to develop agency. This dissertation contains in-text quotations and premises from parables, fables, etc., from the works of the canons of each, which demonstrate and teach the value and application of self- awareness, self-direction, and self-applied moral standards. The literature from which these quotations and premises are taken, the works which define their didactive intent, are Lessing’s, The Jews, Miss Sara Sampson, Laocoon, Emilia Galotti, and Nathan the Wise; Goethe’s, Maying, Prometheus, The Sorrows of Young Werther, and Egmont; Schiller’s, The Robbers, The Lessing’s, The Jews, Miss Sara Sampson, Laocoon, Emilia Galotti, and Nathan the Wise; Goethe’s, Maying, Prometheus, The Sorrows of Young Werther, and Egmont; Schiller’s, The Robbers, The Stage as a Moral Institution, Don Carlos, Letters on the Aesthetic Education of Man, and The Wallenstein Trilogy. plus On Epic and Dramatic Poetry, an essay Goethe and Schiller wrote jointly, and Correspondence Between Schiller and Goethe From 1794 to 1805, both of which Goethe published after Schiller’s death. This unique exposition extrapolated from correspondence, from autobiographies, and from biographical historiography, illustrates the heretofore unrecognized morals for human development in the art of Lessing, Goethe, and Schiller. As previously noted, this is a vital documentation that has been overlooked in the scholastic history of 18th century Enlightenment, the German Enlightenment, and the record of the contributions of Lessing, Goethe, and Schiller. A review of currently available publications about Lessing, Goethe, and Schiller, follows:

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Literature, Germanic

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