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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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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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More Than Life

Georg Simmel and Walter Benjamin on Art

Stéphane Symons

More Than Life: Georg Simmel and Walter Benjamin on Art is the first book to trace the philosophical relation between Georg Simmel and his one-time student Walter Benjamin, two of the most influential German thinkers of the twentieth century.

Reading Simmel’s work, particularly his essays on Michelangelo, Rembrandt, and Rodin, alongside Benjamin’s concept of Unscheinbarkeit (inconspicuousness) and his writings on Charlie Chaplin, More Than Life demonstrates that both Simmel and Benjamin conceive of art as the creation of something entirely new rather than as a mimetic reproduction of a given. The two thinkers diverge in that Simmel emphasizes the presence of a continuous movement of life, whereas Benjamin highlights the priority of discontinuous, interruptive moments.

With the aim of further elucidating Simmel and Benjamin’s ideas on art, Stéphane Symons presents a number of in-depth analyses of specific artworks that were not discussed by these authors. Through an insightful examination of both the conceptual affinities and the philosophical differences between Simmel and Benjamin , Symons reconstructs a crucial episode in twentieth-century debates on art and aesthetics.  

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A Mythic Journey

Gunter Grass's Tin Drum

Edward Diller

Although The Tin Drum has often been called one of the great novels of the 20th century, most critics have been baffled in attempting to draw its apparent chaos into a single literary framework. Here is the full-length study to penetrate the brilliance of Gunter Grass's style and uncover the novel's mythopoetic core. In A Mythic Journey: Gunter Grass's Tin Drum, author Edward Diller convincingly demonstrates the still valid relationship between modern and classical literary criticism. By reading The Tin Drum as both modern myth and historical epic, he provides a profound and sensitive interpretation of one of the masterpieces of 20th century literature.

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Necessary Luxuries

Books, Literature, and the Culture of Consumption in Germany, 1770–1815

by Matt Erlin

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.

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Nothing Happened

Charlotte Salomon and an Archive of Suicide

Darcy C. Buerkle

Charlotte Salomon's (1917-43) fantastical autobiography, Life? or Theater?, consists of 769 sequenced gouache paintings, through which the artist imagined the circumstances of the eight suicides in her family, all but one of them women. But Salomon's focus on suicide was not merely a familial idiosyncrasy. Nothing Happened argues that the social history of early-twentieth-century Germany has elided an important cultural and social phenomenon by not including the story of German Jewish women and suicide. This absence in social history mirrors an even larger gap in the intellectual history of deeply gendered suicide studies that have reproduced the notion of women's suicide as a rarity in history. Nothing Happened is a historiographic intervention that operates in conversation and in tension with contemporary theory about trauma and the reconstruction of emotion in history.

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Novel Translations

The European Novel and the German Book, 1680–1730

by Bethany Wiggin

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.

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On Four Modern Humanists

Arthur R Evans Jr.

Five experts present their viewpoints on four of the most important figures in recent intellectual and cultural history. Professor Egon Schwarz evaluates Hofmannsthal as a critic; Professors C. V. Bock and Lother Helbing combine forces in an analysis of Gundolf; Professor Yakov Malkiel has provided an evocative, ornately styled document luimain on Kantorowicz; Professor Evans presents the first substantial study of Curtius. The combined insight of the authors gives us a new and better understanding of these cultural figures, their associations with and influences on each other, and the broad impact they still have.

Originally published in 1970.

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.

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On Hitler's Mein Kampf

The Poetics of National Socialism

Albrecht Koschorke

Hitler's Mein Kampf was banned in Germany for almost seventy years, kept from being reprinted by the accidental copyright holder, the Bavarian Ministry of Finance. In December 2015, the first German edition of Mein Kampf since 1946 appeared, with Hitler's text surrounded by scholarly commentary apparently meant to act as a kind of cordon sanitaire. And yet the dominant critical assessment (in Germany and elsewhere) of the most dangerous book of the twentieth century is that it is boring, unoriginal, jargon-laden, badly written, embarrassingly rabid, and altogether ludicrous. (Even in the 1920s, the consensus was that the author of such a book had no future in politics.) How did the unreadable Mein Kampf manage to become so historically significant? In this book, German literary scholar Albrecht Koschorke attempts to explain the power of Hitler's book by examining its narrative strategies.Koschorke argues that Mein Kampf cannot be reduced to an ideological message directed to all readers. By examining the text and the signals that it sends, he shows that we can discover for whom Hitler strikes his propagandistic poses and who is excluded. Koschorke parses the borrowings from the right-wing press, the autobiographical details concocted to make political points, the attack on the Social Democrats that bleeds into an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory, the contempt for science, and the conscious attempt to trigger outrage. A close reading of National Socialism's definitive text, Koschorke concludes, can shed light on the dynamics of fanaticism. This lesson of Mein Kampf still needs to be learned.

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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.

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