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Johann Wolfgang von Goethe lived nearly 200 years ago, but his work continues to shape ideas today.

Goethe’s life and work will be celebrated through film screenings, a poetry contest, panel discussions, and performances at a festival to be held November 12–13.

All Goethe Festival events are free and open to the public.

“Goethe is such an important figure in German literature and culture, but he’s almost unknown in America,” said Sarah Eldridge, assistant professor of German. “This festival aims to introduce Goethe’s life, works, and influence to English-speaking audiences and to share the enthusiasm that German scholars have for his creations with a wider community.”

Goethe was a major figure in the era in which he lived, 1749–1832, often called the Age of Goethe. The Department of Modern Foreign Languages and Literatures will host the festival to introduce members of the community and the university to this fascinating figure in history.

In addition to being a literary author during that time—publishing poems, novels, dramas, travel reports, and more—Goethe was a diplomat, scientist, and cultural critic. His works have helped mold thinking about individuality, professional identity, and love that are still relevant today.

Capping off the Goethe festival will be a keynote lecture by Professor Heather Sullivan of Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas. Her talk will begin at 3:45 p.m. on Friday, November 13, in the auditorium of the McClung Museum. A reception will follow.

Sullivan’s lecture is titled “Goethe and the Anthropocene.” The Anthropocene is defined as the age in which human activity has a significant effect on the planet. Her talk will show how literature and the sciences can be part of one conversation.

This is the second in a series of festivals called AuthorFest. The series began with the Tolstoy Festival, which took place in the spring and featured many of Leo Tolstoy’s works.


Sarah Eldridge (865-974-9758,

Lola Alapo (865-974-3993,