Words of wisdom

June 4, 2009

Paul Bishop, professor of German at the University of Glasgow, considers what Goethe's work can teach today's university leaders

"It is not for nothing that the central figure of arguably Goethe's most famous work, Faust, is an aged - and despairing - academic.

"And from his time as privy councillor and rector of the University of Jena, Goethe knew something of the grim realities behind the shining facades of universities.

"'Whoever cannot give an account of 3,000 years of human culture,' he once wrote, 'remains condemned to stay on the level of the day-to-day.'

"But Goethe's own ambition, in the words of Faust, was to discern in the moment the quality of eternity - surely a 'mission statement' everyone can embrace?"

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