Tracing Subversive Currents in Goethe's Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship

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In this new reading of Goethe's most influential novel Blair's close attention to the text brings startling insights to light, often taking issue with received critical opinions. He shows, for example, that Goethe slyly introduced material full of low-cultural, subversive vitality that mocks conservative, authoritarian power interested in conformity or propriety. The novel does not just find fault with developments of the late Enlightenment but rather seductively describes loci of resistance to them: the marketplace, the travelling theatre, the Hanswurst. Equally, the author argues that although 'high' aesthetics, morals, institutions and rationality are impugned, they are not completely discredited: the problem with such high principles is demonstrated as being their tendency to present themselves as the only valid voice.