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Goethe & the Ginkgo
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Goethe & the Ginkgo: A Tree & a Poem

Siegfried Unseld

Abstract

In 1815, Goethe gave symbolic expression to his intense relationship with Marianne Willemer, a recently married woman thirty-five years his junior. He gave her a leaf from the ginkgo tree, explaining that, like its deeply cleft yet still whole leaf, he was “single yet twofold.” Although it is not known if their relationship was ever consummated, they did exchange love poetry, and Goethe published several of Marianne's poems in his West-East Divan without crediting her authorship. This book considers what this episode means to our estimation of a writer many consider nearly godlike in stature. ... More

Keywords: Goethe, Marianne Willemer, ginkgo tree, single yet twofold, love poetry, West-East Divan, aphrodisiac, anti-aging serum, passion, symbolic expression

Bibliographic Information

Print publication date: 2003 Print ISBN-13: 9780226841946
Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: February 2013 DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226841953.001.0001

Authors

Affiliations are at time of print publication.

Siegfried Unseld, author

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