2 , 2002, Gazette)
There is often a wide gap between the arts and the sciences, but Dr. Richard
Ilgner, Department of German and Russian, is aiming to bridge that gap.
He hopes that the follow-up to his first book, Die Ketzermythologie
in Goethes Faust, will assist in understanding how creativity
develops in a scientifically-based culture.
Prior to arriving at Memorial, Dr. Ilgner taught at Dalhousie University.
When developing a course on world literature, he decided to focus on the
Faust theme; that is, the idea of someone making a pact with the devil
for greater knowledge. He saw this as a central human theme concerning
good and evil, something that all students could relate to. When Dr. Ilgner
moved to Memorial in 1981, he brought that course with him and it became
popular here. It was at this time that Dr. Ilgner decided to pursue more
in-depth research on Goethe and the Faust theme, which he sees as an important
part of the last 200 years of German history.
Goethe, a prolific writer, completed 143 volumes in his lifetime, and
Dr. Ilgner was instrumental in ensuring that Memorial acquired the entire
collection. He concentrated on Faust, a drama that has been the
focus of many previous works. While pouring through those texts, Dr. Ilgner
noticed that no previous scholars had examined the second part of Faust
as a mythological code, coherently structured and dealing with Goethes
central concept of Praegnanz, or thick description. In examining
the drama, Dr. Ilgner interpreted this poetic mythology and subtext as
a way for Goethe to communicate his very controversial ideas in a rigid
and hierarchal world, to challenge the dominant scientific discourses
that were integral to the emerging modern paradigm of his time. It is
from this vantage that Dr. Ilgner wrote his first book, which focuses
on the implicit coding found in Faust.
His next book, envisioned as a second volume to Die Ketzermythologie in
Goethes Faust, will examine Goethes ideas as a proto-ecologist
and a proto-feminist. Furthermore, Dr. Ilgner asserts that Goethe likely
coded his ideas because of his critical attitude towards the Church, which
was so powerful at the time that it was dangerous for an individual to
be outspoken. Dr. Ilgner feels that much of Goethes ecological and
feminist attitudes were related to his critique of the Church as well.
This second volume will also link Goethe with artists in the twentieth
century, not only in Germany, but in America and to Canadas Group
of Seven as well. He intends to show how, in the twentieth century, the
ideas in the subtext of Faust play out. He will deal with the artistic/technological
interface, as artists take a critical stance towards the scientific mainstream
culture, as Goethe himself had observed and objected to a privileging
of science over culture in his own time.
While this work will centre on Goethe, Dr. Ilgner feels that his work
is applicable to our contemporary world, as we still tend to privilege
science in todays society, even though artists make large contributions
to how culture and society function as a whole. By looking at what makes
a person creative and innovative, Dr. Ilgner hopes his research will have