Digital Humanities Planning Grant Awarded to Collaborative Project:

Prof. John H. Smith (Department of European Languages and Studies, UCI), together with collaborators Prof. Clark Muenzer (Department of German, Pittsburgh University) and Prof. Bryan Klausmeyer (Department of German, Virginia Tech University), has been awarded $20,000 as a School of Humanities Digital Scholarly Projects Planning & Proof-of-Concept Grant for a Goethe project.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) is most widely known as a major literary figure of the German tradition (lyric poet, the “German Shakespeare,” dramatist of the most famous version of Faust).But within his vast literary oeuvre, as well as within his work in natural science, aesthetics, and cultural history, he also engaged with a broad range of philosophical issues. Far from just a passive recipient of other philosophers’ ideas, Goethe produced a dynamic, non-systematic yet integrated mode of thinking that was influential in its own time and remains still productive today. Our aim is to demonstrate the unique contribution that Goethe made to developments in modern philosophy and to highlight many pathways he provided as alternatives to more well-known systems of thought.

The Goethe-Lexicon of Philosophical Concepts (GLPC) is a collaborative research initiative investigating the central role played by concepts and their re-invention in Goethe’s development as a philosopher. Guided by the writer’s estimation of his own approach to philosophical problems as “heterodox,” the project’s international team of cross-disciplinary contributors will identify, collect, and explicate a network of philosophical concepts that, when taken together, allowed Goethe to reformulate central questions of traditional metaphysics, ethics, epistemology, theology, and aesthetics. Drawing on digital technologies, the lexicon will position users to connect Goethe to an exemplary line of predecessors and successors in philosophical conceptualization. It will also facilitate “reading” and systematically organizing a vast Goethe-database of 146 volumes, thereby putting each of the writer’s discrete disciplinary practices into a virtual dialog with all the others on the basis of shared philosophical investments.

The lexicon will be published in English and online as an open-access research tool. The format as a “Dynamic Reference Work” (DRW) will enable a production and distribution process that is flexible and interactive.

The grant will support hosting a workshop of international scholars at UCI in May, 2021; underwriting student assistance for conversion of entries into HTML for publication in the lexicon; and applying for a Level 2 NEH “Digital Humanities Advancement Grant” or an NEH “Humanities Collections and Reference Resources Grant” in order to place our digital lexicon on secure footing for the future.