Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Modern Foreign Languages

Major Professor

Adrian Del Caro

Committee Members

Maria Stehle, Sarah Eldridge, Allen R. Dunn


My research examines three German dramas – J. M. R. Lenz’s Die Soldaten (1776), Friedrich Schiller’s Die Räuber (1781), and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s Faust: eine Tragödie (1808). The three plays exhibit with remarkable parallel a three-phase dramatic structure that serves as the inner framework for a tragic process. This shared inner tragic process is suggestive evidence of an enlightening intertextuality within the purview of the Sturm und Drang. Featuring prominently in this tragic trilogy of the Sturm und Drang is Lenz, the tragic innovator whose template for inner tragic not only influences works of literature in this sequence of plays, but also serves as the transition and point of departure from classical tragedy to the modern notion of the tragic within the philosophical framework of German Idealism.

The inner arrangement of tragic elements, the Lenzian inner tragic structure, is composed of 1) a psychological exposition, 2) physical climax , and 3) emotional dénouement. The inner tragic structure captures the tragic process, a series of experiences and events that the protagonists suffer as they prepare for tragic action. The tragic phases of this process are captured respectively by each element of the inner structure as follows: 1) self-shattering, 2) tragic selfhood, and 3) death wish. The individuals experiencing the inner tragic are the literary protagonists who represent three profiles of Menschen in a continuum of ascendency, Mensch (Die Soldaten), Kraftmensch (Die Räuber), and Übermensch (Faust I), respectively.

The literary figures who experience this tragic process embody several cultural threads within the greater context of the Enlightenment, Sturm und Drang and early Romanticism in the German-speaking world. My research uncovers an inner structure and an intertextual unity along tragic lines between the three plays in an era known for formlessness and divergence. Moreover, my findings reveal an exceptional Sturm und Drang manifestation of tragic that fills a void between a poetics of tragedy and a philosophy of modern tragic. Foreshadowing several other developments in the nineteenth century such as existentialism and depth psychology, the Sturm und Drang inner tragic process delivers timeless wisdom about self-transformation and the efficacy of reason.

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