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Knowledge Power and Discipline: German Studies and National Identity

Pier Carlo Bontempelli
Translated by Gabriele Poole
Series: Contradictions
Volume: 19
Copyright Date: 2004
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 296
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  • Book Info
    Knowledge Power and Discipline
    Book Description:

    German Studies has confronted many crises, and yet it has managed to maintain its disciplinary system. Using the works of Michel Foucault and Pierre Bourdieu, Bontempelli investigates the principles of German Studies and critically reconstructs its history. Mindful of choice and domination operating at every turn, his book exposes the repressed social and political history of German Studies._x000B_

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-9458-7
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction: The Metamorphoses of Domination and the Subject of German Studies
    (pp. xi-xxxii)

    The purpose of this book is to analyze German Studies as a disciplinary system. Accordingly, this is not a historical account of representative authors, currents, and methods, but a critical history addressing the institutional and exclusionary practices that have constituted and established German Studies as a discipline. As should be clear from my title, the theoretical framework of my study has been provided by the works of Michel Foucault and Pierre Bourdieu, whose critical insights have helped me define my object and offered the conceptual tools for my investigation and interpretation of the history and development of German Studies.


  5. One The Origins of Modern German Studies
    (pp. 1-34)

    The termGermanistik(German Studies) is usually applied to the “Wissenschaft von deutscher Sprache und Literatur” (the science of German language and literature), which in turn branches out to various specialized areas and subareas.¹ Starting in 1810, when the first chair of German Studies was established in the newly created University of Berlin and assigned to Friedrich von der Hagen, the discipline developed according to a two-pronged system: on the one hand, the study of the German language and literature of the Middle Ages; on the other, in what was originally an inferior position, the study of literature from the...

  6. Two Under the Aegis of Goethe: Liberal Historiography from Gervinus to Dilthey
    (pp. 35-53)

    The philological paradigm embraced by institutionalGermanistikwas by no means the only available option: an alternative path existed that, however, proved less viable under the circumstances due to political implications that could not easily be accepted at that point in German history. This alternative path was provided by the liberal historiographers’ attempt to connect the study of national literature with the overall development of the German national identity in a liberal sense. The most significant instance of this attempt was Gervinus’s effort to shape liberal historiography as a veritable “oppositional science” vis-à-vis both the general political situation of Pre-1848...

  7. Three The Science of Literature and the Steam Engine: Wilhelm Scherer and the Positivist School
    (pp. 54-68)

    Wilhelm Scherer (1841–86) was the first professor ofNeuere deutsche Literatur(modern German literature) to become a member of the Royal Science Academy of Berlin. This event marked the positive conclusion of the long march of German literature toward full acceptance within the academy. And it was by no means accidental that this conclusion was brought about by a charismatic Germanist like Scherer. The dominant philological school had little interest for contemporary literature and tended to dismiss as amateurish and nonscientific any effort to discuss it within an academic context. On the contrary, Scherer, a distinguished philologist and linguist,...

  8. Four Wilhelm Dilthey and Geistesgeschichte
    (pp. 69-93)

    Around 1900 the disciplinary consolidation of German Studies was accomplished. The progress of the discipline that followed the successes of the positivist school is undeniable: Scherer’s replacement in Berlin by his student Erich Schmidt (1853–1913) ensured the continuity and controlled evolution of the ideology and apparatus of the discipline. Historically, Germany was in the process of becoming the world’s second industrial power and the entire ideological, philosophical, literary, and artistic scene was undergoing a tumultuous process of transformation, characterized by a series of innovative movements and tendencies. German Studies, while maintaining its institutional structure, was increasingly concerned with its...

  9. Five German Studies in the Years of National Socialism
    (pp. 94-116)

    From what I have written so far, it is clear that the transition from the Weimar Republic to National Socialism was not particularly traumatic for German Studies: during the Weimar years the ground had been accurately laid and the entire official discipline had already been reoriented in its methods and contents toward goals that were perfectly compatible with the ideology of the National Socialists, who gained power in 1933. However, beyond this general affinity, the relation between the new regime and the university discipline of German Studies was more complex, varied, and, I might add, problematic than one might expect...

  10. Six The Break in Political Continuity and the Continuity of the Disciplinary Apparatus, 1945–1968
    (pp. 117-143)

    In the spring of 1945, Hitler’s armies were finally defeated and the Nazi regime came to an end. The country was occupied by the Allied Forces (the United States, the Soviet Union, Great Britain, and France) and divided into four zones of influence roughly corresponding to the territories occupied by their respective armies. From that moment on, all decisions in Germany had to go through the military commands of the Allies. No German individual or German institution could decide anything. There was undeniably a sharp break with the immediate past on political, administrative, and economic levels.

    However, when we shift...

  11. Seven The Dialectics of Rebellion: 1968 and Its Consequences
    (pp. 144-158)

    Toward the mid-1960s German society entered an entirely new phase. The traumatic postwar years were definitely over, unemployment was almost nonexistent, the reconstruction process was almost accomplished, and the people of the German Federal Republic were gradually coming to realize, with ill-concealed pride, that their country had become an economic superpower. The new society of affluence promised prosperity and happiness to all its members in the form of an unprecedented abundance of commodities. Many of those born during or after the war had had access to higher education, and, for the first time in German history, the universities were turning...

  12. Eight After 1968: Transforming the Canon, Shifting the Paradigms
    (pp. 159-179)

    The period from 1968 to the mid-1970s was characterized by the production of critical and theoretical studies that marked a significant difference from the past. The study of literature and the debate on literary theory were now seen as integral parts of a general effort to transform society and the rules that govern its reproduction. Critics sought to apply to German Studies Karl Marx’s XI thesis on Feuerbach—“Philosophers have only variously interpreted the world; the point, however, is to change it”—involving it in a general project of social change.¹ Germanists were forced to quickly update their theoretical tools....

  13. Nine Beyond the Year 2000: German Studies between New Approaches and the Resurgence of Philology
    (pp. 180-198)

    German Studies has been in a state of crisis for more than thirty years, or rather it seems to go from one crisis to the next: the Congress of Munich; the movement of 1968; the self-criticism of the 1970s; the expansion and revision of the national literary canon, the emergence of new subjects; the renewed interest in literary history as social history; the 1980s and the end of master narratives; the critique of logocentrism, phallocentrism, and Eurocentrism; and, finally, 1989 and the fall of the German Democratic Republic with all its consequences. At present, German Studies seems to be still...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 199-246)
  15. Index
    (pp. 247-258)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 259-259)