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Area and Ethnic Studies > German Studies

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Novel Translations Cover

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Novel Translations

The European Novel and the German Book, 1680–1730

Many early novels were cosmopolitan books, read from London to Leipzig and beyond, available in nearly simultaneous translations into French, English, German, and other European languages. In Novel Translations, Bethany Wiggins charts just one of the paths by which newness-in its avatars as fashion, novelties, and the novel-entered the European world in the decades around 1700. As readers across Europe snapped up novels, they domesticated the genre. Across borders, the novel lent readers everywhere a suggestion of sophistication, a familiarity with circumstances beyond their local ken.

Into the eighteenth century, the modern German novel was not German at all; rather, it was French, as suggested by Germans' usage of the French word Roman to describe a wide variety of genres: pastoral romances, war and travel chronicles, heroic narratives, and courtly fictions. Carried in large part on the coattails of the Huguenot diaspora, these romans, nouvelles, amours secrets, histoires galantes, and histories scandaleuses shaped German literary culture to a previously unrecognized extent. Wiggin contends that this French chapter in the German novel's history began to draw to a close only in the 1720s, more than sixty years after the word first migrated into German. Only gradually did the Roman go native; it remained laden with the baggage from its "French" origins even into the nineteenth century.

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Of Mind and Matter

The Duality of National Identity in the German-Danish Borderlands

by Peter Thaler

Of Mind and Matter analyzes identity formation in the multicultural border region of Sleswig. It highlights the changeability of national sentiments and explores what has motivated local inhabitants to define themselves as Germans or Danes. The analysis focuses especially on the respective national minorities, among whom the transitional and flexible aspects of Sleswig identity surface most clearly.

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On the Ruins of Babel

Architectural Metaphor in German Thought

The eighteenth century struggled to define architecture as either an art or a science-the image of the architect as a grand figure who synthesizes all other disciplines within a single master plan emerged from this discourse. Immanuel Kant and Johann Wolfgang Goethe described the architect as their equal, a genius with godlike creativity. For writers from Descartes to Freud, architectural reasoning provided a method for critically examining consciousness. The architect, as philosophers liked to think of him, was obligated by the design and construction process to mediate between the abstract and the actual.

In On the Ruins of Babel, Daniel Purdy traces this notion back to its wellspring. He surveys the volatile state of architectural theory in the Enlightenment, brought on by the newly emerged scientific critiques of Renaissance cosmology, then shows how German writers redeployed Renaissance terminology so that "harmony," "unity," "synthesis," "foundation," and "orderliness" became states of consciousness, rather than terms used to describe the built world. Purdy's distinctly new interpretation of German theory reveals how metaphors constitute interior life as an architectural space to be designed, constructed, renovated, or demolished. He elucidates the close affinity between Hegel's Romantic aesthetic of space and Daniel Libeskind's deconstruction of monumental architecture in Berlin's Jewish Museum.

Through a careful reading of Walter Benjamin's writing on architecture as myth, Purdy details how classical architecture shaped Benjamin's modernist interpretations of urban life, particularly his elaboration on Freud's archaeology of the unconscious. Benjamin's essays on dreams and architecture turn the individualist sensibility of the Enlightenment into a collective and mythic identification between humans and buildings.

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On the Way to Heidegger’s Contributions to Philosophy

Parvis Emad

     One of the most significant philosophical works of the twentieth century, Contributions to Philosophy is also one of the most difficult. Parvis Emad, in this collection of interpretive and critical essays, unravels and clarifies this challenging work with a rare depth and originality. In addition to grappling with other commentaries on Heidegger, he highlights Heidegger's "being-historical thinking" as thinking that sheds new light on theological, technological, and scientific interpretations of reality. At the crux of Emad's interpretation is his elucidation of the issue of "the turning" in Heidegger's thought and his "enactment" of Heidegger's thinking. He finds that only when Heidegger's work is enacted is his thinking truly revealed.

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The Opinion System

Impasses of the Public Sphere from Hobbes to Habermas

Kirk Wetters

This book revises the concept of the public sphere by examining opinion as a foundational concept of modernity. Indispensable to ideas like public opinionand freedom of opinion,opinion-though sometimes held in dubious repute-here assumes a central position in modern philosophy, literature, sociology, and political theory, while being the object of extremely contradictory valuations. Kirk Wetters focuses on interpretative shifts begun in the Enlightenment and cemented by the French Revolution to restore the concept of opinionto a central role in our understanding of the political public sphere. Locke's law of opinion,underwritten by the ancient conceptions of nomos and fama, proved to be inconsistent with the modern ideal of a rational political order. The contemporary dynamics of this problem have been worked out by Jrgen Habermas and Reinhart Koselleck: for Habermas the private law of opinion can be brought under the rational control of public discourse and procedural form, whereas Koselleck views modernity as the period in which irrational potentials were unleashed by a political-conceptual language that only intensified and accelerated the upheavals of history. Modernity risked making opinions into the idols of collective representations, sacrificing opinion to ideology and individualism to totalitarianism. Drawing on an intriguing range of thinkers, some not widely known to American readers today, Kirk Wetters argues that this transformation, though irreversible, is resisted by literary language, which opposes the rigid formalism that compels individuals to identify with their opinions. Rather than forcing thought to bind itself to stable opinions, modern literary forms seek to suspend this moment of closure and representation, so that held opinions do not bring all deliberative processes to a standstill.

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Ordinary Germans in Extraordinary Times

The Nazi Revolution in Hildesheim

Andrew Stuart Bergerson

Hildesheim is a mid-sized provincial town in northwest Germany. Ordinary Germans in Extraordinary Times is a carefully drawn account of how townspeople went about their lives and reacted to events during the Nazi era. Andrew Stuart Bergerson argues that ordinary Germans did in fact make Germany and Europe more fascist, more racist, and more modern during the 1930s, but they disguised their involvement behind a pre-existing veil of normalcy.

Bergerson details a way of being, believing, and behaving by which "ordinary Germans" imagined their powerlessness and absence of responsibility even as they collaborated in the Nazi revolution. He builds his story on research that includes anecdotes of everyday life collected systematically from newspapers, literature, photography, personal documents, public records, and especially extensive interviews with a representative sample of residents born between 1900 and 1930.

The book considers the actual customs and experiences of friendship and neighborliness in a German town before, during, and after the Third Reich. By analyzing the customs of conviviality in interwar Hildesheim, and the culture of normalcy these customs invoked, Bergerson aims to help us better understand how ordinary Germans transformed "neighbors" into "Jews" or "Aryans."

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The Origins of Christian Democracy

Politics and Confession in Modern Germany

Maria Mitchell

This book is a pioneering contribution to the history of the founding of the West German political system after the Second World War. The political cooperation between Catholics and Protestants that resulted in the formation of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) in occupied and early West Germany represented a significant change from a long history of hostility in confessional relations. Given that the CDU went on to dominate politics in West Germany well into the 1960s, Maria D. Mitchell argues that an understanding of what made this interconfessional party possible is crucial to an exploration of German history in the postwar period. She examines the political history of party formation as well as the religious beliefs and motivations that shaped the party's philosophy and positions. She provides an authoritative guide to the complex processes of maneuvering and negotiation that produced the CDU during 1945-46. The full range of political possibilities is discussed, including the suppressed alternatives to the Adenauer/Erhard axis that eventually defined the party's trajectory during the 1950s and the abortive Christian Socialism associated with Jacob Kaiser.

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Other Germans

Black Germans and the Politics of Race, Gender, and Memory in the Third Reich

Tina M. Campt

It's hard to imagine an issue or image more riveting than Black Germans during the Third Reich. Yet accounts of their lives are virtually nonexistent, despite the fact that they lived through a regime dedicated to racial purity. Tina Campt's Other Germans tells the story of this largely forgotten group of individuals, with important distinctions from other accounts. Most strikingly, Campt centers her arguments on race, rather than anti-semitism. She also provides oral history as background for her study, interviewing two Black Germans for the book. In the end, the author comes face to face with an inevitable question: Is there a relationship between the history of Black Germans and those of other black communities? The answers to Campt's questions make Other Germans essential reading in the emerging study of what it meant to be black and German in the context of a society that looked at anyone with non-German blood as racially impure at best.

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The People's Own Landscape

Nature, Tourism, and Dictatorship in East Germany

Scott Moranda

East Germany’s Socialist Unity Party aimed to placate a public well aware of the higher standards of living enjoyed elsewhere by encouraging them to participate in outdoor activities and take vacations in the countryside. Scott Moranda considers East Germany’s rural landscapes from the perspective of both technical experts (landscape architects, biologists, and physicians) who hoped to dictate how vacationers interacted with nature, and the vacationers themselves, whose outdoor experience shaped their understanding of environmental change. As authorities eliminated traditional tourist and nature conservation organizations, dissident conservationists demanded better protection of natural spaces. At the same time, many East Germans shared their government’s expectations for economic development that had real consequences for the land. By the 1980s, environmentalists saw themselves as outsiders struggling against the state and a public that had embraced mainstream ideas about limitless economic growth and material pleasures.

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Politics of Ethnic Survival

Germans in Prague, 1861-1914

by Gary Cohen

This book examines how one of Imperial Austria's principal ethnic conflicts, that between Czechs and Germans, developed in one of the major cities during the era of industrialization and urban growth. It shows how the inhabitants of Prague, the capital of Bohemia, constructed and articulated ethnic group loyalties and social solidarities over the course of the nineteenth century. The German-speaking inhabitants of the Bohemian capital developed a group identification and defined themselves as a minority as they dealt with growing Czech political and economic strength in the city and with their own sharp numerical decline: in the 1910 census only seven percent of the metropolitan population claimed that they spoke primarily German.

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