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Labors of Imagination Cover

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Labors of Imagination

Aesthetics and Political Economy from Kant to Althusser

Jan Mieszkowski

This book is a major new study of the doctrines of productivity and interest in Romanticism and classical political economy. The author argues that the widespread contemporary embrace of cultural historicism and the rejection of nineteenth-century conceptions of agency have hindered our study of aesthetics and politics. Focusing on the difficulty of coordinating paradigms of intellectual and material labor, Mieszkowski shows that the relationship between the imagination and practical reason is crucial to debates about language and ideology.From the Romantics to Poe and Kafka, writers who explore Kant's claim that poetry sets the imagination freediscover that the representational and performative powers of language cannot be explained as the products of a self-governing dynamic, whether formal or material. A discourse that neither reflects nor prescribes the values of its society, literature proves to be a uniquely autonomous praxis because it undermines our reliance on the concept of interest as the foundation of self-expression or self-determination. Far from compromising its political significance, this turns literature into the condition of possibility of freedom. For Smith, Bentham, and Marx, the limits of self-rule as a model of agency prompt a similar rethinking of the relationship between language and politics. Their conception of a linguistic labor that informs material praxis is incompatible with the liberal ideal of individualism. In the final analysis, their work invites us to think about social conflicts not as clashes between competing interests, but as a struggle to distinguish human from linguistic imperatives.

Legal Tender Cover

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Legal Tender

Love and Legitimacy in the East German Cultural Imagination

by John Griffith Urang

At first glance, romance seems an improbable angle from which to write a cultural history of the German Democratic Republic. By most accounts the GDR was among the most dour and disciplined of socialist states, so devoted to the rigors of Stalinist aesthetics that the notion of an East German romantic comedy was more likely to generate punch lines than lines at the box office.

But in fact, as John Urang shows in Legal Tender, love was freighted as a privileged site for the negotiation and reorganization of a surprising array of issues in East German public culture between 1949 and 1989. Through close readings of a diverse selection of films and novels from the former GDR, Urang offers an eye-opening account of the ideological stakes of love stories in East German culture. Throughout its forty-year existence the East German state was plagued with an ongoing problem of legitimacy. The love story's unique and unpredictable mix of stabilizing and subversive effects gave it a peculiar status in the cultural sphere.

Urang shows how love stories could mediate the problem of social stratification, providing a language with which to discuss the experience of class antagonism without undermining the Party's legitimacy. But for the Party there was danger in borrowing legitimacy from the romantic plot: the love story's destabilizing influences of desire and drive could just as easily disrupt as reconcile. A unique contribution to German studies, Legal Tender offers remarkable insights into the uses and capacities of romance in modern Western culture.

Malicious Objects, Anger Management, and the Question of Modern Literature Cover

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Malicious Objects, Anger Management, and the Question of Modern Literature

Jorg Kreienbrock

Why do humans get angry with objects? Why is it that a malfunctioning computer, a broken tool, or a fallen glass causes an outbreak of fury? How is it possible to speak of an inanimate object's recalcitrance, obstinacy, or even malice? When things assume a will of their own and seem to act out against human desires and wishes rather than disappear into automatic, unconscious functionality, the breakdown is experienced not as something neutral but affectively--as rage or as outbursts of laughter. Such emotions are always psychosocial: public, rhetorically performed, and therefore irreducible to a "private" feeling. By investigating the minutest details of life among dysfunctional household items through the discourses of philosophy and science, as well as in literary works by Laurence Sterne, Jean Paul, Friedrich Theodor Vischer, and Heimito von Doderer, Kreienbrock reconsiders the modern bourgeois poetics that render things the way we know and suffer them.

Memory, Metaphor, and Aby Warburg's Atlas of Images Cover

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Memory, Metaphor, and Aby Warburg's Atlas of Images

by Christopher D. Johnson

The work of German cultural theorist and art historian Aby Warburg (1866-1929) has had a lasting effect on how we think about images. This book is the first in English to focus on his last project, the encyclopedic Atlas of Images: Mnemosyne. Begun in earnest in 1927, and left unfinished at the time of Warburg's death in 1929, the Atlas consisted of sixty-three large wooden panels covered with black cloth. On these panels Warburg carefully, intuitively arranged some thousand black-and-white photographs of classical and Renaissance art objects, as well as of astrological and astronomical images ranging from ancient Babylon to Weimar Germany. Here and there, he also included maps, manuscript pages, and contemporary images taken from newspapers. Trying through these constellations of images to make visible the many polarities that fueled antiquity's afterlife, Warburg envisioned the Atlas as a vital form of metaphoric thought.

While the nondiscursive, frequently digressive character of the Atlas complicates any linear narrative of its themes and contents, Christopher D. Johnson traces several thematic sequences in the panels. By drawing on Warburg's published and unpublished writings and by attending to Warburg's cardinal idea that "pathos formulas" structure the West's cultural memory, Johnson maps numerous tensions between word and image in the Atlas. In addition to examining the work itself, he considers the literary, philosophical, and intellectual-historical implications of the Atlas. As Johnson demonstrates, the Atlas is not simply the culmination of Warburg's lifelong study of Renaissance culture but the ultimate expression of his now literal, now metaphoric search for syncretic solutions to the urgent problems posed by the history of art and culture.

Modernist Form and the Myth of Jewification Cover

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Modernist Form and the Myth of Jewification

Neil Levi

Why were modernist works of art, literature, and music that were neither by nor about Jews nevertheless interpreted as Jewish? In this book, Neil Levi explores how the antisemitic fantasy of a mobile, dangerous, contagious Jewish spirit unfolds in the antimodernist polemics of Richard Wagner, Max Nordau, Wyndham Lewis, and Louis-Ferdinand Celine, reaching its apotheosis in the notorious 1937 Nazi exhibition "Degenerate Art." Levi then turns to James Joyce, Theodor W. Adorno, and Samuel Beckett, offering radical new interpretations of these modernist authors to show how each presents his own poetics as a self-conscious departure from the modern antisemitic imaginary. Levi claims that, just as antisemites once feared their own contamination by a mobile, polluting Jewish spirit, so too much of postwar thought remains governed by the fear that it might be contaminated by the spirit of antisemitism. Thus he argues for the need to confront and work through our own fantasies and projections not only about the figure of the Jew but also about that of the antisemite.

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Monatshefte

Vol. 99 (2007) through current issue

Founded in 1899, Monatshefte is the oldest continuing journal of German studies in the U.S. It offers scholarly articles dealing with the language and literature of German-speaking countries and with cultural matter which has literary or linguistic significance. Issues contain extensive book reviews of current scholarship in German Studies. Every Winter issue features Personalia, a listing of college and university German Department personnel from across the U.S. and Canada, and special surveys and articles dealing with professional concerns.

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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.

The Opinion System Cover

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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.

Prosaic Conditions Cover

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Prosaic Conditions

Heinrich Heine and the Spaces of Zionist Literature

Na'ama Rokem

In her penetrating new study, Na’ama Rokem observes that prose writing—more than poetry, drama, or other genres—came to signify a historic rift that resulted in loss and disenchantment. In Prosaic Conditions, Rokem treats prose as a signifying practice—that is, a practice that creates meaning. During the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, prose emerges in competition with other existing practices, specifically, the practice of performance. Using Zionist literature as a test case, Rokem examines the ways in which Zionist authors put prose to use, both as a concept and as a literary mode. Writing prose enables these authors to grapple with historical, political, and spatial transformations and to understand the interrelatedness of all of these changes.

Re-mapping Polish-German Historical Memory Cover

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Re-mapping Polish-German Historical Memory

Physical, Political, and Literary Spaces since World War II

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