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Imagining the Age of Goethe in German Literature, 1970-2010

Imagining the Age of Goethe in German Literature, 1970-2010

John D. Pizer
Volume: 103
Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 220
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  • Book Info
    Imagining the Age of Goethe in German Literature, 1970-2010
    Book Description:

    The Age of Goethe is widely viewed as the apogee of German culture. Its writers and thinkers, especially Goethe, have been exalted as role models for life and art, particularly after 1945. Yet in the 1970s, a new generation of German writers in both East and West rebelled against the postwar hagiography, taking up a tradition of imaginatively engaging with the giants of the period, casting them in major roles in their works in order to critique the nation's past and its present, a tradition that has been carried on by more contemporary writers. This is the first book-length study devoted to modern German "author-as-character" fiction set in the Age of Goethe. It shows for the first time in a sustained manner the powerful hold the ‘Goethezeit’ continues to exercise on the imagination of many of Germany's leading writers. This inner-German dialogue across the ages provides an important corrective to the dominant critical view that contemporary German-language literature is composed primarily under the sign of both globalization and the influence of mass American culture. The book will be of interest to both scholars of the ‘Goethezeit’ and of contemporary German literature and culture. John D. Pizer is Professor of German and Comparative Literature at Louisiana State University.

    eISBN: 978-1-57113-816-3
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
    John Pizer
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-27)

    The eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries have long been considered the “Golden Age” of German literature. This was never more the case than in the years immediately following the Second World War‚ when Germany’s reputation was at its lowest ebb as National Socialist atrocities were being revealed in their horrific dimensions. By contrast‚ the Germany of the so-called Goethezeit‚ or Age of Goethe‚ seemed truly golden. Even before the war‚ Goethe and his fellow writers of the period named after him were upheld as model cosmopolitans who eschewed the rigid nationalism marking the Third Reich and focused on the ideals...

  5. 1: Staging Violence and Transcendence‚ Embracing Feminism: The Instantiation of Kleist and German Romanticism
    (pp. 28-55)

    This chapter is primarily devoted to an examination of the most canonic work of the subgenre that is the focus of Imagining the Age of Goethe: Christa Wolf’s novel Kein Ort. Nirgends¹ (No place on earth‚ 1979). In order to understand Wolf’s fictional treatment of the Age-of-Goethe authors Heinrich von Kleist and Caroline von Günderrode‚ Wolf’s essays on Kleist and Günderrode will be frequently cited. This will also be the case with Wolf’s article on Bettine Brentano. This latter personage appears to be a minor figure in Wolf’s novel‚ but plays a more significant‚ albeit tacit role‚ than previous critics...

  6. 2: Hölderlins East and West
    (pp. 56-86)

    In a brief essay examining the rediscovery of German Romanticism in the German Democratic Republic‚ published shortly after the dissolution of that nation‚ Sonja Hilzinger concisely describes the circumstances inspiring this rediscovery and the sort of imaginative and critical writing to which it gave rise. She opens with a long quotation from a 1982 interview in which Christa Wolf describes the origins of Kein Ort. Nirgends‚ noting the centrality of the expulsion of Wolf Biermann in polarizing the GDR’s intellectual elite. Hilzinger’s choice of Wolf’s voice as the vehicle for commencing her essay is appropriate‚ as Kein Ort. Nirgends continues...

  7. 3: Between Feminism and National Identity: The Historical Novels of Renate Feyl
    (pp. 87-110)

    In the introduction to a collection of essays exploring the somewhat discordant relationship between feminism and cultural studies‚ Sue Thornham lists a series of issues explored by a woman she sees as a forerunner for those working at the intersection of these two areas — Mary Wollstonecraft. Thornham’s list includes “questions about women’s relation to (the dominant) culture‚ to power‚ to discourse‚ to identity‚ to lived experience‚ to cultural production and to representation.”¹ In novels written both during the existence and subsequent to the demise of the East German state where she resided‚ Renate Feyl pursues precisely these issues‚ and...

  8. 4: Goethe Contra and Pro
    (pp. 111-155)

    The previous chapters of this book have hinted at a consistent antipathy toward Germany’s most canonical writer‚ Johann Wolfgang Goethe‚ in German historical fiction from the late 1960s to the present. Chapter 1 examined Christa Wolf’s Kein Ort. Nirgends in the context of the German Democratic Republic’s embrace of Early Romanticism and its concomitant refutation of a postwar critical orthodoxy led by Georg Lukács‚ which valorized Goethe and the values of Weimar Classicism. In chapter 2‚ we saw that fictional treatments of Friedrich Hölderlin in both East and West Germany highlighted the cruel slights this poet received at the hands...

  9. 5: Savaging and Salvaging the German Enlightenment
    (pp. 156-186)

    The European Enlightenment placed great faith in human reason and scientific progress. Its adherents believed that rational thought and progressive education could help curb humanity’s dark impulses‚ create greater social harmony‚ and promote equality and peace among nations. Already during the German Storm-and-Stress and Romantic periods‚ this focus on reason at the expense of faith and emotion provoked resistance. However‚ it was the employment‚ particularly in more recent times‚ of scientific progress for human exploitation‚ the use of technology for ever-more-destructive wars‚ and the massive despoiling of nature in the pursuit of its resources that helped inspire German authors from...

  10. Conclusion
    (pp. 187-192)

    Writers frequently look to authors from the past for inspiration‚ guidance‚ and‚ conversely‚ as foils against whom they develop new styles‚ techniques‚ political perspectives‚ and themes. As demonstrated by the essays collected in the volume The Author as Character‚ discussed in the introduction‚ imaginative writers often make their literary precursors into fictional characters in pursuing their own diverse agendas. In the realm of cinema‚ the popular success of films such as Shakespeare in Love (1998) and the recent Jane Austen biopic Becoming Jane (2007) show author-as-character movies can generate mass cultural appeal. Not all such fiction stays within the national...

  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 193-204)
  12. Index
    (pp. 205-214)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 215-215)