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Faust Readings

Page history last edited by Eric Leonidas 7 years, 5 months ago


Some possible ways of understanding Faust in relation to Humanist and Protestant values, drawn from our two days discussing the play


1.  Play as pro-Humanism:

            Faust is following the Humanist pursuit of social impact, self-regard, and fame

                        These need not be regarded as “black magic,” and in pursuing his goals Faust commits no ethical wrongdoing

            Faust fails the values of Humanism: misunderstands or misemphasizes these, and so play cautions against reductionism

                       Play as a critique of the mischaracterization of Humanism as prideful, ambitious, solipsistic



2.  Play as anti-Humanism: it extends or exaggerates values (listed above) to point of parody

            Faust's learning actually leads him to consider himself the equivalent of God; many of Faust's ambitions self-serving or commercial

            From the Protestant perspective, the Humanist (think Pico) idea of empowered or plastic self ("faith in works") looks ridiculous


3.  Play as pro-Protestantism: Faust only thinks he has control; his desire for control and his ambition clear evidence of damnation

            What the reprobate look like; a caution against misreading the signs of "success"


4.  Play as anti-Protestant: a man with control of his salvation in his hands (pen?); enjoys free will, with multiple chances to repent

            Misses chances because convinces himself of God’s neglect; so, a sketch of the ways in which Protestant theology can precipitate despair

            Play shows that the Humanist desire for freewill is so strong and the advancement of the self is so important that F trades his soul to assert it

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