Molnár, Géza von, 1932-2001
- Existence: 1932 - 2001
Born in Leipzig in 1932 of Hungarian and Jewish-German ancestry, Géza von Molnár, a respected scholar and beloved teacher, grew up in Nazi Germany. Von Molnar established Northwestern University's Graduate Program in German Literature and Critical Thought as well as the Undergraduate Program in European Thought and Culture. His research interests included Goethe, Kant, and the moral structure of Germany's national relationship with
Von Molnar was sent to a Hungarian boarding school during the Nazi regime and credits his survival to a governess and a Hungarian farmer, who hid him during the war. Von Molnár graduated magna cum laude from Hunter College in New York City in 1958. Two years later he received his Masters degree in German Literature from Stanford University, and was awarded his PhD from the same institution in 1966.
The list of his awards and honors is extensive, including a Scholarship, Fellowship and Research Grant from Stanford and three Research grants from Northwestern University. While he taught at Northwestern University, von Molnár received four Outstanding Teaching Awards.
Von Molnár joined the faculty of Northwestern University in 1963. After he taught at Dartmouth College for a year in the 1970s, he returned to Northwestern University and served as Chair of the Department of German, teaching at NU for a total of ten years. He established Northwestern's Graduate program in German Literature and Critical Thought, while co-founding and directing the Undergraduate program in European Thought and Culture.
Beginning with an essay published in 1979, “Die Fragwürdigkeit des Fragezeichens: Eine Überlebungen zur Paktszene,” von Molnár published some ten essays and an independent monograph on the relationship between Goethe's work and the Critical Philosophy of Kant and Fichte. Von Molnár was the author of three books: Novalis' Fichte Studies (1970), Romantic Vision, Ethical Contest: Novalis and Artistic Autonomy (1987), and Goethe's Kantstudien (1994). His research sought to link the ethical dimensions of Enlightenment thought with the aesthetic vision of Romantic Idealism. The ethical considerations of his work also led von Molnár to investigate the moral vacuum that structured Germany's tragic relationship with European Jewry.
Everything he did seemed to issue from an ethical conviction so generous in its regard for family, friends, students, and colleagues that he came to embody the very spirit of poesy that was the subject of his writing
Géza von Molnár died in Evanston, Illinois, on July 27, 2001, survived by Barbara von Molnár, his wife of forty-three years; two daughters, Karen and Anina; a brother, Stephen; and a granddaughter.