Date of Degree
Comparative Literature | Women's Studies
Faust, Jungian psychology, archetypal theory, Sophia, Mater Gloriosa, patriarchy
This thesis traces the phenomenological history and significance of the archetype of the Eternal Feminine, as well as her role in Goethe’s Faust. Although the Eternal Feminine (Goethe’s “das Ewig-Weibliche”) first appears in literary form in 1832 with the publication of Faust: Part II, she has an ancient archetypal history that reaches from the age of pre-patriarchal domination into the modern era. This thesis contends that the Eternal Feminine is a Jungian archetype—a “primordial image” or motif that exists unconsciously and evokes a universal experience within both the individual and the society. Five historical figures exemplify the archetype of the Eternal Feminine: the Great Goddess of prehistory, the supreme life-sustaining force; the Gnostic Sophia, hypostasis of God in the first century B. C. who administers divine guidance on her own authority; Mary of the medieval cult who is promoted to Co-Redemptrix with Christ; the phenomenon of the Black Madonna, whose dark skin symbolizes empowered female wisdom; and the mystical Sophia, the reclaimed goddess of the Gnostic texts who encourages her own reintegration into consciousness and a restored cooperation of the sexes.
What unites these examples is their shared autonomy, wisdom, and power of transformation, which together constellate the Eternal Feminine as the archetype of dynamic femininity liberated from patriarchal suppression. Goethe’s reasons for incorporating the Eternal Feminine in Faust will likely never be known; nonetheless she is a powerful and compelling force instrumental to the drama’s conclusion. Faust is widely recognized as the myth of the modern age, but it also abides as the myth of “patriarchal power.” The central hypothesis of this thesis is that Goethe’s Faust indeed mythologizes the patriarchal paradigm, but also subverts it: it is the female Mater Gloriosa who saves Faust, and the Eternal Feminine who redeems Faustian society. Faust’s final effort is to reclaim the land beneath the sea and conquer nature, and he is so satisfied by his success that he utters the words that nullify his pact with the devil Mephistopheles and initiate his damnation. In the Enlightenment Nature is the “Other,” the object of patriarchal domination, and Faust’s dominion over her exemplifies his patriarchal drive. Though his damnation may be deserved, the Mater Gloriosa, who displays the qualities of the five archetypal figures, nevertheless appears and redeems Faust. This redemption signifies the reconciliation of patriarchal society and autonomous femininity. As the archetype of feminine authority and dynamism, the Eternal Feminine thus redeems the Faustian West by empowering her own reintegration into patriarchal society.
Weisler, Mariana, "The Redemption of Goethe’s Eternal Feminine: Discovering the Reality and Significance of an Archetypal Phenomenon" (2018). CUNY Academic Works.