Goethe's Faust

Faust and the German Nation: How Literature Dictates Manifestations of Nationalism College

As Benedict Anderson makes evident in Imagined Communities, literature and the nation are often intertwined in a multitude of ways. In the case of Goethe’s Faust, a single work of literature became so meaningful to the German people that they made it their national text, and use it, whether consciously or unconsciously, to help them decipher what it means to be German. The story of Faust itself conveys truths about nationalism and nationhood; throughout their journeys, Faust and Mephistopheles encounter various portrayals of nations, and Faust also endeavors to create his own nation. Among the principles that the text conveys are the idea of the nation as a people bound by their past as well as the present, the existence of the nation as an expression of a homogeneous community, and the symbolic importance of women to the national imagination.

Ernest Renan’s What is a Nation? is an overview of one important definition of a nation. In the course of his analysis, Renan develops this definition in a series of points. It is his belief that people wishing to become a part of a larger nation must display active consent toward doing so. He also argues that members of a nation should share both a common past and the desire to exhibit...

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