Date of Award

Summer 8-15-2019

Author's School

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department

Germanic Languages and Literatures

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Type



This dissertation argues that Faust can be read as a modern epic and, further, that its epic qualities can be used to open up a new perspective on the work and its relation to Goethe’s conception of World Literature. Building on the work of Jane Brown, Franco Moretti, and others, I explore the epic potential of both parts of Goethe’s drama by reading Faust against Paradise Lost, The Divine Comedy, and Byron’s Don Juan, situating all of these works within the broader context of the European epic tradition. My first chapter interprets Faust’s final vision as a reconstruction of Milton’s “paradise within”—in which divine creation is relegated to literary representation—as a metaphor for the creation of the epic in a secular, modern world. In the second chapter, I look at various spectacles and demonstrate that they illuminate the “super” within the natural, enabling the natural world to take the place of the divine in Faust. In the third chapter, I consider Faust as a variant of the English romantic epic and juxtapose Byron’s performative rewriting of the epic with Goethe’s dramatic reworking of it. Together, these chapters illuminate not only Faust’s place in the tradition, but also how it modifies conventions and establishes the drama as the legitimate successor to the ancient epic. Finally, in the epilogue, I demonstrate that Faust’s intertextuality and generic hybridity resists the representation of a single world or nation, dismantling the (national) boundaries that the epic genre has traditionally been seen to demarcate. Ultimately, Faust reorients the epic from the prevailing model of “national literatures” in Europe and toward one that promotes an international literary exchange that serves as the foundation for Goethe’s ideas on World Literature.


English (en)

Chair and Committee

Matt Erlin

Committee Members

Lynne Tatlock, Paul Michael Lützeler, Tili Boon Cuillé, Gerhild Scholz Williams,


Permanent URL: https://doi.org/10.7936/rxzr-1611

Available for download on Tuesday, August 15, 2119