A Novel “Kepler” by John Banville in the Context of Protestant Work Ethi

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Abstract. The article defines the place and role of the Protestant work ethic in the creative interpretation of the main character, the great scientist astronomer Johann Kepler, in John Banville’s novel “Kepler” (1981). A new approach, which involves reconfiguration of suggested reasons and motives of the hero’s deeds, is proposed through the prism of the Lutheran paradigm and its particular attitude to work and God-pleasing vocation. The article argues a direct connection between the Protestant work ethic and Kepler’s scientific zeal, which is reflected in his concept of the world (the beauty and harmony of God’s world as an ideal calculation), his actions (everyday scientific hardwork) and values (the ideas of utility, success, prosperity, guilt and duty). Protestant ethics (the importance of contemplation and hard work, the desire to fully realize one’s personal vocation, fervor in the service of God and the public good, etc.) is deduced by the writer as the most important motivation in the image of a great scientist. Creating a biographical portrait of Kepler, who is aware of the goodness of his works, but goes through years of physical hardships, privation and rejection, as well as doubts about the correctness of his own scientific hypotheses, Banville connects the heroes of his scientific trilogy, the great Copernicus, Kepler and Newton.

Keywords: J. Banville, Kepler, Protestant work ethic, M. Weber, M. Luther, reformation, vocation, God’s chosen.

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