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The Hidden Openness of Tradition
"In Kafka's Jewish Languages David Suchoff quite persuasively argues that the Germanic interplay between high and low (Yiddish) languages and the rise of modern Hebrew account for far more of the plays and innovations of Kafka's writing than has previously been acknowledged. Suchoff's diligent, innovative, and supremely intelligent work adds significantly to Kafka scholarship and Judaic studies."--Henry Sussman, Yale University After Franz Kafka died in 1924, his novels and short stories were published in ways that downplayed both their author's roots in Prague and his engagement with Jewish tradition and language, so as to secure their place in the German literary canon. Now, nearly a century after Kafka began to create his fictions, Germany, Israel, and the Czech Republic lay claim to his legacy. Kafka's Jewish Languages brings Kafka's stature as a specifically Jewish writer into focus. David Suchoff explores the Yiddish and modern Hebrew that inspired Kafka's vision of tradition. Citing the Jewish sources crucial to the development of Kafka's style, the book demonstrates the intimate relationship between the author's Jewish modes of expression and the larger literary significance of his works. Suchoff shows how "The Judgment" evokes Yiddish as a language of comic curse and examines how Yiddish, African American, and culturally Zionist voices appear in the unfinished novel, Amerika. In his reading of The Trial, Suchoff highlights the black humor Kafka learned from the Yiddish theater, and he interprets The Castle in light of Kafka's involvement with the renewal of the Hebrew language. Finally, he uncovers the Yiddish and Hebrew meanings behind Kafka's "Josephine the Singer, or the Mouse-Folk" and considers the recent legal case in Tel Aviv over the possession of Kafka's missing manuscripts as a parable of the transnational meanings of his writing. David Suchoff is Professor of English at Colby College.
Hysteria and Its Discontents
Surrealist writer André Breton praised hysteria for being the greatest poetic discovery of the nineteenth century, but many physicians have since viewed it as the "wastebasket of medicine," a psychosomatic state that defies attempts at definition and cure and that can be easily mistaken for other pathological conditions. In light of a resurgence of critical interest in hysteria, leading feminist scholar Elisabeth Bronfen reinvestigates medical writings and cultural performance to reveal the continued relevance of a disorder widely thought to be a romantic formulation of the past. Through a critical rereading, she develops a new concept of hysteria, one that challenges traditional gender-based theories linking it to dissatisfied feminine sexual desire. Bronfen turns instead to hysteria's traumatic causes, particularly the fear of violation, and shows how the conversion of psychic anguish into somatic symptoms can be interpreted today as the enactment of personal and cultural discontent.
Tracing the development of cultural formations of hysteria from the 1800s to the present, this book explores the writings of Freud, Charcot, and Janet together with fictional texts (Radcliffe, Stoker, Anne Sexton), opera (Mozart, Wagner), cinema (Cronenberg, Hitchcock, Woody Allen), and visual art (Marie-Ange Guilleminot, Cindy Sherman). Each of these creative works attests to a particular relationship between hysteria and self-fashioning, and enables us to read hysteria quite literally as a language of discontent. The message broadcasted by the hysteric is one of vulnerability: vulnerability of the symbolic, of identity, and of the human body itself.
Throughout this work, Bronfen not only offers fresh approaches to understanding hysteria in our culture, but also introduces a new metaphor to serve as a theoretical tool. Whereas the phallus has long dominated psychoanalytical discourse, the image of the navel--a knotted originary wound common to both genders--facilitates discussion of topics relevant to hysteria, such as trauma, mortality, and infinity. Bronfen's insights make for a lively, innovative work sure to interest readers across the fields of art and literature, feminism, and psychology.
Originally published in 1998.
The Princeton Legacy Library uses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.
Aesthetics and Political Economy from Kant to Althusser
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.
On the night of September 22, 1912, Franz Kafka wrote his story "The Judgment," which came out of him "like a regular birth." This act of creation struck him as an unmistakable sign of his literary destiny. Thereafter, the search of many of his characters for the Law, for a home, for artistic fulfillment can be understood as a figure for Kafka's own search to reproduce the ecstasy of a single night.
In Lambent Traces: Franz Kafka, the preeminent American critic and translator of Franz Kafka traces the implications of Kafka's literary breakthrough. Kafka's first concern was not his responsibility to his culture but to his fate as literature, which he pursued by exploring "the limits of the human." At the same time, he kept his transcendental longings sober by noting--with incomparable irony--their virtual impossibility.
At times Kafka's passion for personal transcendence as a writer entered into a torturous and witty conflict with his desire for another sort of transcendence, one driven by a modern Gnosticism. This struggle prompted him continually to scrutinize different kinds of mediation, such as confessional writing, the dream, the media, the idea of marriage, skepticism, asceticism, and the imitation of death. Lambent Traces: Franz Kafka concludes with a reconstruction and critique of the approaches to Kafka by such major critics as Adorno, Gilman, and Deleuze and Guattari..
Love and Legitimacy in the East German Cultural Imagination
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.
On Classic German Rogues
In The Making of a Terrorist, Jeffrey Champlin examines key figures from three canonical texts from the German-language literature of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries: Goethe’s Gotz von Berlichingen, Schiller’s Die Rauber, and Kleist’s Michael Kohlhaas. Champlin situates these readings within a larger theoretical and historical context, exploring the mechanics, aesthetics, and poetics of terror while explicating the emergence of the terrorist personality in modernity. In engaging and accessible prose, Champlin explores the ethical dimensions of violence and interrogates an ethics of textual violence.
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.
Eberhard Werner Happel, 1647-1690
Eberhard Happel, German Baroque author of an extensive body of work of fiction and nonfiction, has for many years been categorized as a “courtly-gallant” novelist. In Mediating Culture in the Seventeenth-Century German Novel, author Gerhild Scholz Williams argues that categorizing him thus is to seriously misread him and to miss out on a fascinating perspective on this dynamic period in German history.Happel primarily lived and worked in the vigorous port city of Hamburg, which was a “media center” in terms of the access it offered to a wide library of books in public and private collections. Hamburg’s port status meant it buzzed with news and information, and Happel drew on this flow of data in his novels. His books deal with many topics of current interest—national identity formation, gender and sexualities, Western European encounters with neighbors to the East, confrontations with non-European and non-Western powers and cultures—and they feature multiple media, including news reports, news collections, and travel writings. As a result, Happel’s use of contemporary source material in his novels feeds our current interest in the impact of the production of knowledge on seventeenth-century narrative. Mediating Culture in the Seventeenth-Century German Novel explores the narrative wealth and multiversity of Happel’s work, examines Happel’s novels as illustrative of seventeenth-century novel writing in Germany, and investigates the synergistic relationship in Happel’s writings between the booming print media industry and the evolution of the German novel.
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.
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.