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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.
Books, Literature, and the Culture of Consumption in Germany, 1770–1815
The consumer revolution of the eighteenth century brought new and exotic commodities to Europe from abroad—coffee, tea, spices, and new textiles to name a few. Yet one of the most widely distributed luxury commodities in the period was not new at all, and was produced locally: the book. In Necessary Luxuries, Matt Erlin considers books and the culture around books during this period, focusing specifically on Germany where literature, and the fine arts in general, were the subject of soul-searching debates over the legitimacy of luxury in the modern world.
Building on recent work done in the fields of consumption studies as well as the New Economic Criticism, Erlin combines intellectual-historical chapters (on luxury as a concept, luxury editions, and concerns about addictive reading) with contextualized close readings of novels by Campe, Wieland, Moritz, Novalis, and Goethe. As he demonstrates, artists in this period were deeply concerned with their status as luxury producers. The rhetorical strategies they developed to justify their activities evolved in dialogue with more general discussions regarding new forms of discretionary consumption. By emphasizing the fragile legitimacy of the fine arts in the period, Necessary Luxuries offers a fresh perspective on the broader trajectory of German literature in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, recasting the entire period in terms of a dynamic unity, rather than simply as a series of literary trends and countertrends.
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.
Impasses of the Public Sphere from Hobbes to Habermas
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.
Heinrich Heine and the Spaces of Zionist Literature
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.
On the Particularity and Generality of Nazi Myth
This is an extremely exciting manuscript—path-breaking, bold, and comprehensive—that could be received in the intellectual world as a major theoretical statement, while also representing an insightful treatment of a specific cultural historical moment (Nazi Germany) but also key intellectual lineages that surround it. There's a lot at stake here, in the big picture (the question of sacrifice and the interpretation of Germany) as well as in the many rich building blocks of the argument (the treatments of Kant, Nietzsche, Adorno, Bataille, Girard, etc.).
Vol. 42 (2006) through current issue
The objective of Seminar is to propagate the scholarly and critical knowledge und understanding of Germanic Studies, meaning the study primarily of literature and culture of the German-speaking countries, and secondarily of literature and culture in other Germanic languages excluding English.
Nietzsche and the Art of Virtue
In The Smile of Tragedy, Daniel Ahern examines Nietzsche’s attitude toward what he called “the tragic age of the Greeks,” and shows it to be the foundation not only for his attack upon the birth of philosophy during the Socratic era, but also for his overall critique of Western culture. Through an interpretation of “Dionysian pessimism” (the need to risk suffering and death), Ahern clarifies the ways in which Nietzsche sees ethics and aesthetics as inseparable and how their theoretical separation is at the root of Western nihilism. Ahern explains why Nietzsche, in creating this precursor to a new aesthetics, rejects Aristotle’s medicinal interpretation of tragic art and concentrates on Apollinian cruelty as a form of intoxication without which there can be no art. Ahern shows that Nietzsche saw the human body as the vessel through which virtue and art are possible, as the path to an interpretation of “selflessness,” as the means to determining an order of rank among human beings, and as the site where ethics and aesthetics are inseparable.
Sonnets to Orpheus is Rainer Maria Rilke's first and only sonnet sequence. It is an undisputed masterpiece by one of the greatest modern poets, translated here by a master of translation, David Young.
Rilke revived and transformed the traditional sonnet sequence in the Sonnets. Instead of centering on love for a particular person, as has many other sonneteers, he wrote an extended love poem to the world, celebrating such diverse things as mirrors, dogs, fruit, breathing, and childhood. Many of the sonnets are addressed to two recurrent figures: the god Orpheus (prototype of the poet) and a young dancer, whose death is treated elegiacally.
These ecstatic and meditative lyric poems are a kind of manual on how to approach the world - how to understand and love it. David Young's is the first most sensitive of the translations of this work, superior to other translations in sound and sense. He captures Rilke's simple, concrete, and colloquial language, writing with a precision close to the original.