The reception of J. W. Goethe's The Sorrows of Young Werther in the context of the Second Enlightenment. The review by Friedrich Blanckenburg

Martín Ignacio Koval About the author


We discuss here Friedrich Blanckenburg’s review of J. W. Goethe’s The Sorrows of Young Werther (1774). The review, of which we include the Spanish translation of several passages, was published only a few months later than Goethe’s controversial and revolutionary novel and constitutes a valuable document not only of its reception, but also of the theorisation about the genre in the context of the late Second Enlightenment in Germany. Indeed, it accounts for a central feature of this period: the sensible, empfindsam reception, which would have a beneficial effect on sociability and customs. Moreover, in a somewhat ambiguous relationship with this call for the socially useful empathy of the critic and the reader, the author presents elements that point strikingly towards a doctrine of the autonomy of the aesthetic sphere. It remains unclear whether this is due to a “lack of clarity” in the review or a lucid interpretation of the “double voice” proposed by Goethe in his famous epistolary novel.

Werther’s reception; sensibility; theory of the novel; period of the Second Enlightenment

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