Leonardo F. Lisi is Associate Professor at the Humanities Center at Johns Hopkins University. He was in Berlin in June 2015 for a Global Humanities Senior Research and Teaching Stay.
In this paper, Leonardo F. Lisi argues for a new understanding of the formal organization of Part I of Goethe’s Faust and its implications for philosophy and history. Taking as his point of departure the striking difference between the Gretchen narrative and the scenes concerned with Faust and Mephistopheles’ “magical” exploits, he proposes that the play must be understood to center on the constitutive and irreconcilable contradiction between the narrative principles of contingency necessity. This structure is at odds with the conception of tragedy found in German idealist aesthetics and instead finds its most important elaboration in Kierkegaard’s theory of modern tragedy as the modality of doubt. To Kierkegaard, Faust becomes the representative of modernity not in the form of striving, but of stasis.