Elective Affinities (admirers)

In cultural reactions, Elective Affinities (admirers), as compared to its enemies, refers to admires, fans, or proselytes of German polymath Johann Goethe’s 1809 physical chemistry based novel Elective Affinities (see: Goethe timeline) and or adherents or advocators of the great revolutionary doctrine embodied within.

“In 1809, Goethe printed the most exceptionable of his novels, the Wahlverwandschaften (“Elective Affinities”), in which the charms and graces of this style are employed in the description of the impulses which spring from the collision of passion and duty in the relations of marriage. By the title of the book, and in the whole spirit of it, he would represent that sexual affinities follow the same inevitable law as chemical affinities, and that humanity struggles impotently against the dictates of nature. Like all his productions, this was suggested by circumstances in his own experience. The work shocked the moral world, in spite of the beauty with which it was written, and to this day tasks the ingenuity of those of his admirers who seek to defend it from attack [by] [enemies].”
New American Cyclopedia (1859), edited by George Ripley and Charles Dana

“In 1809, Goethe published a book which was a puzzle both to his admirers and his enemies. This was Elective Affinities.
Hjalmar Boyesen (1885), “The Life of Goethe”

The following is a listing of admirers, followers, and devotees of Elective Affinities:


Germaine Stael 75Germaine Stael
French-born Swiss writer
c.1810 In her publication On Germany, written following her 1803-date exile to Germany by Napoleon, for publishing her controversial novel Delphine (1802), during which time she entered into the Goethe-Schiller circle, she, supposedly, commented on Goethe’s Elective Affinities “one cannot deny that there is in this book a profound understanding of the human heart, but it is a discouraging one. Life is presented as a thing of indifferent value, however one regards it—sad when one gets to the bottom of it, pleasant enough when one evades it, prone to moral ills, which one must cure if one can and of which one must die if one cannot.” [3]
Heinrich Heine 75Heinrich Heine
German poet
c.1810Claimed, supposedly that that Goethe was a corrupter of religion; that the novel overturns "everything holy" and is an attack against religion, morality, and the social forms. [2] In his later writings, he commented how beautiful was the explanation about the laws of reproduction by Goethe.
Schopenhauer 75Arthur Schopenhauer
German philosopher
1816Goethe’s sole direct human chemistry protégé; based his will to power theory, and a large amount of his monumental two-volume The World as Will and Representation (1818, 1844), on Goethe's human elective affinities theory, whom he talked to personally about (1816-1819), explaining, therein, how chemical phenomena and reactions scale up to the human-human interaction level.
Eliot 75George Eliot
English realism philosopher / novelist
1854 In a debate with German literary historian Adolf Stahr (1805-1876), she defended the dénouement of Goethe's Elective Affinities, and in most of her works to follow—most notably her 1872 novel Middlemarch on Elective Affinities—employed Goethe's human chemical theory as the structural backbone of her realism views.
Victoria Woodhull 75Victoria Woodhull (1838-1927)
First female US presidential candidate
1871Believes that a “subtle insinuation of a great revolutionary doctrine pervades the whole.”
Max Weber 75Max Weber
German sociologist
1878At the age of 14, read Elective Affinities in the classroom, "hiding it behind his textbook", and went on to formulate a large amount of sociology theory, through the his reformulation or rather reinterpretation of the standard Goethean elective affinities into what has come to be known as Weberian elective affinities, proposing that there is an “elective affinity” between important ideological, economic, and social interests, conditions, forces, and processes constituting the development of rational capitalism; the 2013 University of Sao Paulo, Brazil, “Architectural Elective Affinities Conference”, is themed on the subject of “architectural elective affinities”, defined as a “complex borrowing of Weberian elective affinities”. [1]
icon 75 (test)Joseph Cook
1879In his collected lectures book Scepticism and Rationalism: Elective Affinities and Hereditary, gave a 15-point set of rules as to how Goethe’s elective affinities regulate relationships. [2]
Wilhelm Bolsche 75Wilhelm Bolsche (1861-1939)
German natural scientist
1889Is of the opinion that the novel is realistic due to its portrayal of natural forces and psychology, but that it should be seen as a predecessor to such realistic works such as George Eliot and Balzac, and is a pioneering work of literary realism.
Ernst Haeckel 75Ernst Haeckel
German physician and biologist
1899Believes that “Goethe, in his classical romance, Affinities, compares the relations of pairs of loves with the phenomenon of the same name in the formation of chemical combinations. The irresistible passion that draws Edward to the sympathetic Ottilie, or Paris to Helen, and leaps over all bounds of reason and morality, is the same powerful unconscious attractive force which impels the living spermatozoon to force an entrance into the ovum in the fertilization of the egg of the animal or plant—the same impetuous movement which unities the two atoms of the hydrogen to one atom of the oxygen for the formation of the a molecule of water. This fundamental unity of affinity in the whole of nature was recognized by the great Greek scientist Empedocles in the fifth century BC in his theory of the love and hatred of the elements.”
Leopoldo Alas 75Leopoldo Alas
Spanish realism novelist
1890His novel His Only Son, supposedly, is a so-called successor to Elective Affinities.
Fielding Garrison 75Fielding Garrison
American science historian
1901Believes Goethe’s "chemical anthropomorphisms" (see: anthropomorphism), as he calls them, “seem so plausible and fascinating”, and are in some way related to American engineer Willard Gibbs’ 1876 chemical thermodynamics.
RenĂ© Magritte 75René Magritte
Belgian surrealist artist
1933Painted “Elective Affinities” of very large egg about to hatch in a very confined cage.
Witold Gombrowicz 75Witold Gombrowicz
Polish lawyer turned dramatic novelist
1955His Pornographia (and 2003 film adaptation) is a remake, described by him as a “descent to the dark limits of the conscience and the body”.
Jeremy Adler 75Jeremy Adler
English affinity chemistry historian and German-languages scholar
1969Spent 1969 to 1977 doing research into the history, chemistry, and background to the reactions used to construct each chapter of the novella; published many expansions of this work in both English and German, in chapter and article form, into the 1990s.
Tom Stoppard 75Tom Stoppard
English playwright
1993Did a remake of Elective Affinities in the form of the play Arcadia, albeit with a twist: the story is juxtaposed between the years 1809 (time of publication of original) and the modern day, and the storyline involves heat, the second law, the steam engine, the “attraction that Newton left out”, chaos theory, among other modern day science aspects.
Kevin Yee 75Kevin Yee
American Germanic-languages scholar
1997His “The Captain as Catalyst in Goethe’s Wahlverwandtschaften” attempts to argue that Captain acts as a catalyst (or human catalyst) who “propels, accelerates, and alters the reaction without being affected himself.”
Karl Fink 75 newKarl Fink
(c. 1960-)
American Germanic-languages scholar
1999His 1999 conference presentation turned 2001 book chapter “Goethe’s Intensified Border” builds on the earlier human chemical reaction theory work of Jeremy Adler (1969), to present tentative formulations and gives discussion of nine of the supposed thirty-six Bergman-style chemical reactions that Goethe, supposedly, used as frameworks for each of his 36 chapters.
Astrida Tantillo 75Astrida Tantillo (c.1963-)
American Germanic-languages and Goethean scholar
2001Published Goethe's Elective Affinities and the Critic.
Jurgen Mimkes 75Jurgen Mimkes
German metalurgist, thermodynamicist, and physical socio-economist
2000sHis circa 2000s articles and working manuscript Chemistry of Social Bonds (2010-present) open to quotes and discussions of Goethe and his elective affinities theories.
Thims 75Libb Thims
(1972- ACM) (222- AG)
American electrochemical engineer (IQ=~190)
2006Discovered Goethe and his affinity chemistry based human chemical reaction theory in 2006, via footnote 2.5 of Belgian chemical thermodynamicist Ilya Prigogine's 1984 Order Out of Chaos, after previous searching for the first theorizer of this topic and researching the same topic for a period of eleven years, following the supplanting of the question into his mind while sitting in his undergraduate chemical engineering thermodynamics class, but for whatever reason not raising his hand to ask the question openly in class (see: reverse engineering puzzle; love thought experiment; Thims history).
Wolfe von Lenkiewicz 75Wolfe von Lenkiewicz
British artist
2011Painted an oil on canvas 210 x 160 centimeter artwork entitled “Elective Affinities”, depicting a mixture of the thematics of Lewis Carol’s 1865 fantasy novel Alice and Wonderland and Goethe’s Elective Affinities.

To note, the distinction between those who are admirers as contrasted with those who are enemies, seems to fall within the framework or distinction of those who, in modern times, consider themselves to be giant molecules (human molecules), as contrasted with those who do not, such as indicated in the 2001-present polling numbers of English physicist Jim Eadon, the results of which show that about 43 percent of people do "not" believe that they are in fact a large animated molecule; this number should likely corroborate similarly with the percent of people who are enemies of Goethe's Elective Affinities.

1. Falbel, Anat. (2012). “Architectural Elective Affinities: Call for Papers”, Google Groups, Apr. 2.
2. Cook, Joseph. (1881). Scepticism and Rationalism: Elective Affinities and Hereditary (15 elective affinity rules, pgs. 107-09) Descent. Ward, Lock & Co.
3. (a) Stael, Madame. (date). On Germany. Publisher.
(b) Benjamin, Walter. (1921). “Goethe’s Elective Affinities” (scribd), first published by Hugo von Hofmannsthal in the Neue Deutsche Beitrage (1924/25); in: Selected Writings, Volume 1: 1913-1926 (Elective Affinities, pgs. 297-360; Stael, pg. 310). Harvard University Press, 1996.
(c) Redei, Anna C. (2007). An Inquiry into Cultural Semiotics: Germaine de Stael’s Autobiographical Travel Accounts. (§Stael, Goethe and Schiller, pgs. 87-101). Lund University.
4. Tantillo, Astrida O. (2001). Goethe's Elective Affinities and the Critics (§Unpublished Comments, pgs. 7-12; §Negative Reviews and Responses, pgs. 12-26). Camden House.

TDics icon ns

More pages