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It Takes a Real Man to Show True Femininity: Gender Transgression in Goethe’s and Humboldt’s Concept of Bildung

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Chapter Summary

'All that is masculine displays more independence, all that is feminine more suffering receptivity', Wilhelm von Humboldt wrote in 1795. For Humboldt, genius, art, and Bildung followed a heterosexual structure with an active man and a passive woman. For Goethe, Bildung in women was not attractive, or as he bluntly put it, 'We love in a young woman things entirely different from her intelligence'. This chapter argues in line with Solomon-Godeau's idea of a particular representation of masculinity with an inner femininity, that Goethe and Humboldt's representation of masculinity can be read as part of the same political and aesthetic discourse that produced not only a new, biologically based misogyny, but also a new interest in a 'feminine' masculinity. It discusses the new type of masculinity. The chapter elucidates a particular sense of androgyny at work, which appears to be a prerogative for Bildung, and somehow only accessible to men.

Keywords: androgyny; Bildung; Femininity; Goethe; masculinity; Wilhelm von Humboldt



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