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The Spell of Italy Cover

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The Spell of Italy

Vacation, Magic, and the Attraction of Goethe

Richard Block

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.

They Divided the Sky Cover

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They Divided the Sky

A Novel by Christa Wolf

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.

Thomas Mann's Artist-Heroes Cover

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Thomas Mann's Artist-Heroes

Jeffrey Meyers has written acclaimed biographies of many of the most influential authors of the twentieth century, but none has affected him as deeply as Thomas Mann. From his first youthful encounter with Death in Venice, Meyers has cultivated a lifetime obsession with Mann’s elegant style, penetrating irony, and insight into the life of the artist.

Thomas Mann’s Artist-Heroes follows Mann’s own obsession with the artistic life through his characters: from the fiction of Gustav von Aschenbach in Death in Venice and the music of Adrian Leverkühn in Doctor Faustus, to Tonio Kröger’s life as a writer, to the artistically minded patient Hans Castorp in The Magic Mountain, and finally to Mann’s time in America and later memoirs by his family. Mann probes deeper than perhaps any other author into questions of how an artist is formed, why he must defy conventional society, and how suffering and disease affect his work.

Admirers of Thomas Mann and of Jeffrey Meyers’s biographies will find in this remarkable book the best introduction to one of the greatest writers of the modern age.

The Topography of Modernity Cover

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The Topography of Modernity

Karl Philipp Moritz and the Space of Autonomy

by Elliott Schreiber

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.

Tragic Effects Cover

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Tragic Effects

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.

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The War in the Empty Air

Victims, Perpetrators, and Postwar Germans

Dagmar Barnouw

"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.

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Women in German Yearbook: Feminist Studies in German Literature & Culture

Vol. 1 (1985) through current issue.

Women in German Yearbook is a refereed publication presenting a wide range of feminist approaches to all aspects of German literature, culture, and language, including pedagogy. Reflecting the interdisciplinary perspectives that inform feminist German studies, each issue contains critical inquiries employing gender and other analytical categories to examine the work, history, life, literature, and arts of the German-speaking world.

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Yoko Tawada's Portrait of a Tongue

An Experimental Translation by Chantal Wright

Yoko Tawada

Yoko Tawada's Portrait of a Tongue: An Experimental Translation by Chantal Wright is a hybrid text, innovatively combining literary criticism, experimental translation, and scholarly commentary. This work centres on a German-language prose text by Yoko Tawada entitled ‘Portrait of a Tongue’ [‘Porträt einer Zunge’, 2002]. Yoko Tawada is a native speaker of Japanese who learned German as an adult.

Portrait of a Tongue is a portrait of a German woman—referred to only as P—who has lived in the United States for many years and whose German has become inflected by English. The text is the first-person narrator’s declaration of love for P and for her language, a ‘thinking-out-loud’ about language(s), and a self-reflexive commentary.

Chantal Wright offers a critical response and a new approach to the translation process by interweaving Tawada’s text and the translator’s dialogue, creating a side-by-side reading experience that encourages the reader to move seamlessly between the two parts. Chantal Wright’s technique models what happens when translators read and responds to calls within Translation Studies for translators to claim visibility, to practice “thick translation”, and to develop their own creative voices. This experimental translation addresses a readership within the academic disciplines of Translation Studies, Germanic Studies, and related fields.

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