Other Literary Forms
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s genius extended beyond the short story to embrace all the major genres: the novel, drama, and lyric poetry, as well as nonfiction. Much of his work is autobiographical yet goes well beyond the personal in its focus on the individual’s place in society and the struggle of the artist to express his humanity in the face of opposing forces, both external and internal. His novels Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre (1795-1796; Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship, 1825), Die Wahlverwandtschaften (1809; Elective Affinities, 1849), and Wilhelm Meisters Wanderjahre: Oder, Die Entsagenden (1821, 1829; Wilhelm Meister’s Travels, 1827) are the prototypcial Bildungsroman; his diverse lyrics and ballads are among the best in Western literature; and his nonfiction works—even extending to scientific treatises—chronicle some of the most important socio-literary thought of his day, especially his correspondence with Friedrich Schiller. Perhaps his crowning achievement, the Faust plays summarize the artistic and philosophical preoccupations not only of Goethe’s Romantic age but also, in many senses, of the twentieth century as well.