The Mythic Foundation of Ibsen's Realism


In lieu of an abstract, the first paragraph of the essay follows:

In the Germ.an tradition of intellectual life to which Ibsen acknowledged his deep indebtedness, the nature of modem man's spiritual history was explored through the development of his earliest mythic concepts. Jacob Grimm's Teutonic Mythology (1844) was only one such example of the German investigation of the spiritual origins of the north, while the powerful influence of Hellenism upon the Germ.an imagination has often been attested. After Ludwig Feuerbach called on his fellow-men to renounce a false, other-worldly Christianity for a profound humanism and had demonstrated that all concepts of God are only concepts of Man, then the "hierarchies of human genius" of all of man's spiritual traditions became of interest, being parts of his essential human identity. Feuerbach is a good example of one development of Hegelianism in Ibsen's lifetime (The Essence of Christianity was published in 1841), and whether Ibsen read Feuerbach, his employment of the Hegelian dialectic was as concerned as Feuerbach's philosophy to transform the abstract and distant intellectual dialectic of Hegel into a passionately experienced human drama. If the various spiritual streams feeding into modem man-Judeo-Christian, Hellenic and Germanic---constituted the essence of the modem identity, they were made up of not stages of a calm intellectual progress, but of a painful and often tragic human history. Reliving the past, as Hegel enjoined; in order to sublate it, meant suffering the past again: much as Odysseus wept at hearing the bard of the Phaiákians retell the story of the fall of Troy.

Comparative Drama is carried by JSTOR and Project MUSE.