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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.
Vacation, Magic, and the Attraction of Goethe
Wearied by his life as an administrator at the Duke’s court in Weimar, in 1786 Johann Wolfgang von Goethe departed unannounced in the middle of the night for what had been the destination of his imagination since childhood: Italy. His extended stay there dramatically affected his views of art, architecture, prose, poetry, and science. When he returned to Germany and Weimar, Goethe’s experiences translated into his life and work in ways that influenced countless others as they developed Germany’s own brand of high culture. The Spell of Italy: Vacation, Magic, and the Attraction of Goethe tracks the peculiar space Italy occupies in the cultural consciousness of German writers by reconsidering the Italian journeys of Goethe and Winckelmann and the legacy of those journeys in the works of Heine, Nietzsche, Freud, Mann, Carossa, and Bachmann. Author Richard Block contests previous assumptions about Italy as a place to encounter classical culture and creative rebirth. His study examines the degree to which Germany’s literary and cultural traditions appropriated a phantasmic Italy, showing how Winckelmann’s art history and Goethe’s Italian journey predisposed later writers to search for an aesthetic ideal in Italy that did not exist, and how their search for this absent ideal eventually resulted in disillusionment and deception. Building on previous work on Goethe, literary theory, and cultural history, The Spell of Italy offers compelling new ways of understanding Germany’s fascination with Italy from the eighteenth century to its troubled political history of the twentieth century.
A Novel by Christa Wolf
First published in 1963, in East Germany, They Divided the Sky tells the story of a young couple, living in the new, socialist, East Germany, whose relationship is tested to the extreme not only because of the political positions they gradually develop but, very concretely, by the Berlin Wall, which went up on August 13, 1961.
The story is set in 1960 and 1961, a moment of high political cold war tension between the East Bloc and the West, a time when many thousands of people were leaving the young German Democratic Republic (the GDR) every day in order to seek better lives in West Germany, or escape the political ideology of the new country that promoted the "farmer and peasant" state over a state run by intellectuals or capitalists. The construction of the Wall put an end to this hemorrhaging of human capital, but separated families, friends, and lovers, for thirty years.
The conflicts of the time permeate the relations between characters in the book at every level, and strongly affect the relationships that Rita, the protagonist, has not only with colleagues at work and at the teacher's college she attends, but also with her partner Manfred (an intellectual and academic) and his family. They also lead to an accident/attempted suicide that send her to hospital in a coma, and that provide the backdrop for the flashbacks that make up the narrative.
Wolf's first full-length novel, published when she was thirty-five years old, was both a great literary success and a political scandal. Accused of having a 'decadent' attitude with regard to the new socialist Germany and deliberately misrepresenting the workers who are the foundation of this new state, Wolf survived a wave of political and other attacks after its publication. She went on to create a screenplay from the novel and participate in making the film version. More importantly, she went on to become the best-known East German writer of her generation, a writer who established an international reputation and never stopped working toward improving the socialist reality of the GDR.
Karl Philipp Moritz and the Space of Autonomy
Karl Philipp Moritz (d. 1793) was one of the most innovative writers of the late Enlightenment in Germany. A novelist, travel writer, editor, and teacher he is probably best known today for his autobiographical novel Anton Reiser (1785-90) and for his treatises on aesthetics, foremost among them Über die bildende Nachahmung des Schönen (On the Formative Imitation of the Beautiful), published in 1788. In this treatise, Moritz develops the concept of aesthetic autonomy, which became widely known after Goethe included a lengthy excerpt of it in his own Italian Journey (1816-17). It was one of the foundational texts of Weimar classicism, and it became pivotal for the development of early Romanticism.
In The Topography of Modernity, Elliott Schreiber gives Moritz the credit he deserves as an important thinker beyond his contributions to aesthetic theory. Indeed, he sees Moritz as an incisive early observer and theorist of modernity. Considering a wide range of Moritz's work including his novels, his writings on mythology, prosody, and pedagogy, and his political philosophy and psychology, Schreiber shows how Moritz's thinking developed in response to the intellectual climate of the Enlightenment and paved the way for later social theorists to conceive of modern society as differentiated into multiple, competing value spheres.
Ethics and Tragedy in the Age of Translation
Tragic Effects: Ethics and Tragedy in the Age of Translation confronts the peculiar fascination with Greek tragedy as it shapes the German intellectual tradition, with particular focus on the often controversial practice of translating the Greeks. Whereas the tradition of emulating classical ideals in German intellectual life has generally emerged from the impulse to identify with models, the challenge of translating the Greeks underscores the linguistic and historical discontinuities inherent in the recourse to ancient material and inscribes that experience of disruption as fundamental to modernity. Friedrich Hölderlin’s translations are a case in point. Regarded in his own time as the work of a madman, his renditions of Sophoclean tragedy intensify dramatic effect with the unsettling experience of familiar language slipping its moorings. His attention to marking the distances between ancient source text and modern translation has granted his Oedipus and Antigone a distinct longevity as objects of discussion, adaptation, and even retranslation. Cited by Walter Benjamin, Martin Heidegger, Bertolt Brecht, and others, Hölderlin’s Sophocles project follows a path both marked by various contexts and tinged by persistent quandaries of untranslatability.
Victims, Perpetrators, and Postwar Germans
"This book will provoke intellectually, ideologically, and emotionally loaded responses in the U.S., Germany, and Israel. Barnouw's critique of the 'enduringly narrow post-Holocaust perspective on German guilt and the ensuing fixation on German remorse' questions taboos that the political and cultural elites in those three countries would rather leave alone.... [Barnouw] makes us understand why the maintenance of a privileged memory of the Nazi period and World War II may not survive much longer." -- Manfred Henningsen, University of Hawai'i
In Germany, the reemergence of memories of wartime suffering is being met with intense public debate. In the United States, the recent translation and publication of Crabwalk by Günter Grass and The Natural History of Destruction by W. G. Sebald offer evidence that these submerged memories are surfacing.
Taking account of these developments, Barnouw examines this debate about the validity and importance of German memories of war and the events that have occasioned it. Steering her path between the notions of "victim" and "perpetrator," Barnouw seeks a place where acknowledgment of both the horror of Auschwitz and the suffering of the non-Jewish Germans can, together, create a more complete historical remembrance for postwar generations.