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Nationalism, Cosmopolitanism, and the "Bildungsroman"
The Bildungsroman, or "novel of formation," has long led a paradoxical life within literary studies, having been construed both as a peculiarly German genre, a marker of that country's cultural difference from Western Europe, and as a universal expression of modernity. In Formative Fictions, Tobias Boes argues that the dual status of the Bildungsroman renders this novelistic form an elegant way to negotiate the diverging critical discourses surrounding national and world literature.
Since the late eighteenth century, authors have employed the story of a protagonist's journey into maturity as a powerful tool with which to facilitate the creation of national communities among their readers. Such attempts always stumble over what Boes calls "cosmopolitan remainders," identity claims that resist nationalism's aim for closure in the normative regime of the nation-state. These cosmopolitan remainders are responsible for the curiously hesitant endings of so many novels of formation.
In Formative Fictions, Boes presents readings of a number of novels-Goethe's Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship, Karl Leberecht Immermann's The Epigones, Gustav Freytag's Debit and Credit, Alfred Döblin's Berlin Alexanderplatz, and Thomas Mann's Doctor Faustus among them-that have always been felt to be particularly "German" and compares them with novels by such authors as George Eliot and James Joyce to show that what seem to be markers of national particularity can productively be read as topics of world literature.
The Matter of Obscenity in Nineteenth-Century Germany
Fragile Minds and Vulnerable Souls investigates the creation of "obscene writings and images" as a category of print in nineteenth-century Germany. Sarah L. Leonard charts the process through which texts of many kinds—from popular medical works to stereoscope cards—were deemed dangerous to the intellectual and emotional lives of vulnerable consumers. She shows that these definitions often hinged as much on the content of texts as on their perceived capacity to distort the intellect and inflame the imagination.
Leonard tracks the legal and mercantile channels through which sexually explicit material traveled as Prussian expansion opened new routes for the movement of culture and ideas. Official conceptions of obscenity were forged through a heterogeneous body of laws, police ordinances, and expert commentary. Many texts acquired the stigma of immorality because they served nonelite readers and passed through suspect spaces; books and pamphlets sold by peddlers or borrowed from fly-by-night lending libraries were deemed particularly dangerous. Early on, teachers and theologians warned against the effects of these materials on the mind and soul; in the latter half of the century, as the study of inner life was increasingly medicalized, physicians became the leading experts on the detrimental side effects of the obscene. In Fragile Minds and Vulnerable Souls, Leonard shows how distinctly German legal and medical traditions of theorizing obscenity gave rise to a new understanding about the mind and soul that endured into the next century.
Narration, Rhetoric, and Reading
Franz Kafka: Narration, Rhetoric, and Reading presents essays by noted Kafka critics and by leading narratologists who explore Kafka’s original and innovative uses of narrative throughout his career. Collectively, these essays by Stanley Corngold, Anniken Greve, Gerhard Kurz, Jakob Lothe, J. Hillis Miller, Gerhard Neumann, James Phelan, Beatrice Sandberg, Ronald Speirs, and Benno Wagner examine a number of provocative questions that arise in narration and narratives in Kafka’s fiction. The arguments of the essays relate both to the peculiarities of Kafka’s story-telling and to general issues in narrative theory. They reflect, for example, the complexity of the issues surrounding the “somebody” doing the telling, the attitude of the narrator to what is told, the perceived purpose(s) of the telling, the implied or actual reader, the progression of events, and the progression of the telling. As the essays also demonstrate, Kafka’s narratives still present a considerable challenge to, as well as a great resource for, narrative theory and analysis.
Women and the Import of Fiction, 1866-1917
In postbellum America, publishers vigorously reprinted books that were foreign in origin, and Americans thus read internationally even at a moment of national consolidation. A subset of Americans’ international reading—nearly 100 original texts, approximately 180 American translations, more than 1,000 editions and reprint editions, and hundreds of thousands of books strong—comprised popular fiction written by German women and translated by American women. German Writing, American Reading: Women and the Import of Fiction, 1866–1917 by Lynne Tatlock examines the genesis and circulation in America of this hybrid product over four decades and beyond. These entertaining novels came to the consumer altered by processes of creative adaptation and acculturation that occurred in the United States as a result of translation, marketing, publication, and widespread reading over forty years. These processes in turn de-centered and disrupted the national while still transferring certain elements of German national culture. Most of all, this mass translation of German fiction by American women trafficked in happy endings that promised American readers that their fondest wishes for adventure, drama, and bliss within domesticity and their hope for the real power of love, virtue, and sentiment could be pleasurably realized in an imagined and quaintly old-fashioned Germany—even if only in the time it took to read a novel.
The Troubled Inheritance of Modern Literature
Vol. 1 (1982) through current issue
The Goethe Yearbook, first published in 1982, is the flagship publication of the Goethe Society and is dedicated to North American Goethe scholarship. The Yearbook invites submissions in English or German on Goethe, his works, his contemporaries, or the period 1770-1832 in general. For further information about back issues or manuscript submission, please visit http://www.goethesociety.org/pages/yearbook.html
Life, Literature, Legacy
Toward a New Poetics of Dasein
Heidegger's interpretations of the poetry of Hlderlin are central to Heidegger's later philosophy and have determined the mainstream reception of Hlderlin's poetry. Gosetti-Ferencei argues that Heidegger has overlooked central elements in Hlderlin's poetics, such as a Kantian understanding of aesthetic subjectivity and a commitment to Enlightenment ideals. These elements, she argues, resist the more politically distressing aspects of Heidegger's interpretations, including Heidegger's nationalist valorization of the German language and sense of nationhood, or Heimat.In the context of Hlderlin's poetics of alienation, exile, and wandering, Gosetti-Ferencei draws a different model of poetic subjectivity, which engages Heidegger's later philosophy of Gelassenheit, calmness, or letting be. In so doing, she is able to pose a phenomenologically sensitive theory of poetic language and a new poetics of Dasein,or being there.