In the New Yorker, Adam Kirsch explains Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.
His genius. Some of his work, including “The Sorrows of Young Werther,” “Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship,” or “Faust.” Goethe’s scientific endeavors and sense of holism. His fascination with Bildung—the “apprenticeship to life and society” with the aim to learn “who he really is and how he should live.”
[The] combination of earnestness and jovial detachment is what characterizes the mature Goethe, and what makes him unique; no other writer gives us the same sense that he has both seen life and seen through it.