Ach (Ah, Alas)

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John H. Smith


The lexeme Ach (ah, alas), though hardly a concept, let alone a traditional philosophical one, plays an important role in Goethe’s writing as a means of enacting and performing some of the poet’s fundamental conceptual principles. The very mode of this interjection’s production in speech—which makes possible the voicing of the almost imperceptible flow of breath through a mild constriction of the throat—embodies Goethe’s dialectical understanding of the conjunction of materiality and spirituality (from spiritus, which in Latin means breath). With its prominent use in a number of works in verse (including Faust), where it often serves to initiate or interrupt a line, this common interjection offers a heterodox Goethean reconceptualization of the creative process as an opening and a bridging. It thereby also captures a caesura within being that is comparable to the transitions between inhalation and exhalation.

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How to Cite
Smith, J. H. “Ach (Ah, Alas)”. Goethe-Lexicon of Philosophical Concepts, Vol. 1, no. 1, Jan. 2021, doi:10.5195/glpc.2021.28.


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