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New Perspectives in German Literary Criticism: A Collection of Essays

New Perspectives in German Literary Criticism: A Collection of Essays

Richard E. Amacher
Victor Lange
Translated by David Henry Wilson
Copyright Date: 1979
Pages: 500
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  • Book Info
    New Perspectives in German Literary Criticism: A Collection of Essays
    Book Description:

    Presented here are selected critical essays from five volumes of thePoetik und Hermeneutikseries published in Germany by the Wilhelm Fink Verlag of Munich. These essays represent some of the newest and most advanced thinking of fifteen leading scholars in the German-American interdisciplinary school of literary criticism. Until now no single volume has provided such an extensive contemporary treatment of literatures, problems, and methodologies representative of European criticism. The book's significance rests in the potential this new interdisciplinary criticism has for increasing the interplay between the two major critical movements of our day, namely, the objective, pragmatic Anglo-American criticism and the more subjective, phenomenological Continental criticism.

    Originally published in 1979.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses 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.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-6698-4
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 3-26)

    The essays contained in this volume are contributions to that intense and self-conscious assessment of the perspectives, resources, and terms by which contemporary literary criticism has sought to justify its validity, its function, and its historical legitimacy. If literature itself seems in our time to have lost its innocence, if neither its subjective nor its objective character is self-evident but demands of its readers a sharp awareness of its modality, it has by this challenge called forth a breathtaking variety of systems of critical discourse; indeed, it has created a pre-eminence of theoretical consciousness that may tend, at times, to...

  5. I. Imitation and Illusion.: From Poetik und Hermeneutik I

    • The Concept of Reality and the Possibility of the Novel
      (pp. 29-48)

      The history of Western literary theory can be summed up as a continuous debate on the classical dictum that poets are liars.¹ Even Nietzsche was still under the influence of this assertion, when, claiming a metaphysical dignity for art, he had to invert it, contrasting thetruth fulness of artto thefalseness of Nature.² Halfway between the classical topos and the modern antithesis stands the scholastic concession to literature of a “minimum veritatis.”

      If we are to consider the pros and cons of the classical dictum, we must first decide what is meant by its antithesis—i.e., that poets...

    • The Transformation of the Concept of Imitation in Eighteenth-Century French Esthetics
      (pp. 49-85)

      The topic suggested to me was: “The concept of fidelity-tonature in French esthetics and its development by Diderot.” I changed this to: “The transformation of the concept of imitation in eighteenthcentury French esthetics.” I have done this not in order to broaden the scope of the subject, but because a change in formulating the title is appropriate.La Vérité de la natureis, of course, a common term in the esthetics of eighteenth-century France, but it is neither productive nor central. Moreover, the meaning of the term seems to me to have been unduly influenced by the contrasting terms—fidelity-to-nature...

    • Fiction—The Filter of History: A Study of Sir Walter Scott’s Waverley
      (pp. 86-104)

      In the “General Preface” to theWaverley Novels,Scott reflects on his own situation as narrator. He tries to clarify his intentions, which—unlike those of earlier novelists—are no longer concerned with expounding moral norms. Instead, he takes as his guide his own personal development, as he seeks to explain the curious innovation of history as the subject of fiction. His starting point, he says, is as follows: “I had nourished the ambitious desire of composing a tale of chivalry, which was to be in the style of theCastle of Otranto, with plenty of Border characters and supernatural...

  6. II. Immanent Esthetics and Esthetic Reflection, The Lyric as Paradigm of the Modern.: From Poetik und Hermeneutik II

    • Art and Philosophy of Art Today: Reflections with Reference to Hegel
      (pp. 107-133)

      At the present time there is only a loose connection between the philosophical discipline of esthetics and efforts to diagnose the condition of the arts today. The assumption would hardly be disputed that art and philosophical theory move forward in such a way as to permit their situation of the moment to be reciprocally illustrated and interpreted; nevertheless, scarcely any effort has been made to test the circumference and limits of this presupposition.

      A project of this sort must exert itself to do two things: It must designate the basic conditions pertaining in philosophical theory today. Secondly, it must try...

    • Syntax and Obscurity in Poetry: On Mallarmé’s A la nue accablante
      (pp. 134-149)

      “Guerre à la rhétorique et paix à la syntaxe!” With this warcry Victor Hugo declared, in his oft-quoted Réponseá un acte d’accusation(1854), donning the mantle of a romantic Malherbe (“Alors . . . je vins . . .”) that he had brought about a “quatre-vingt-treize” in French literature. Concerning the nature of his campaign against rhetoric, Hugo tells us two things: at his very appearance, he says, all metaphors fled in terror to hide beneath the robes of the “Academie, aieule et douairiere”; but at the same time he lets us know, as so often in his lyrical...

    • Coleridge, Baudelaire, and Modernist Poetics
      (pp. 150-181)
      M. H. ABRAMS

      I have been asked to say something about Coleridge, both as a representative Romantic critic of poetry and in relation to Symbolist and Modernist theories of poetry. An intimidating assignment! Yet clearly pertinent to the topic of this conference,* and timely as well. Although on the continent Coleridge as a critic has been important mainly to scholars, in England and America he has played not only a prominent, but a double, role, as both villain and hero of the major literary movements of the last half-century. By participating in post-Kantian intellectual currents Coleridge, more than any English writer of his...

    • Group Interpretation of Apollinaire’s Arbre (From Calligrammes)
      (pp. 182-208)

      Jauss (in the chair): This group interpretation* is to be a kind of specimen test—that is to say, we shall try and clarify certain still unsettled questions concerning relations between clarity and ambiguity, indeterminacy and formin praxi.We shall discuss what functions ambiguity can have in poetic language, how in its various possible stages it is to be understood as a positive esthetic category, whether observation of poetic ambiguity (or a subsequent removal of it) can count as part of the esthetic pleasure, and how one is to conceive the “new clarity” of the poem that will arise...

  7. III. The No Longer Fine Arts:: Border Phenomena of Esthetics. From Poetik und Hermeneutik III

    • Chance as Motivation for the Unexplained in Historical Writing: Notes on Archenholtz’s History of the Seven Years’ War
      (pp. 211-224)

      The main difficulty in discussing chance in historiography is the fact that this subject has its own history, which as yet is unwritten. It is certainly impossible to discuss the role of chance in any given situation without first taking into account the whole terminology of the historian concerned. One needs to ask what is the opposite term that will exclude chance, or what is the overall term that makes it relative. Raymond Aron, for instance, begins his introduction to the philosophy of history with the antithesis, based on Cournot, between “ordre” and “hasard”; he concludes: “Le fait historique est,...

    • Bridging the Gap Between Heine the Poet and Heine the Journalist
      (pp. 225-259)

      All contemporaries of Heine valued his prose writings as a new beginning, even as a revolution. We might quote just three voices from the choir:

      Arnold Ruge, 1838: “Heine—starting from theReisebilder—is ‘the poet of the modern age.’ With him, there has arisen in poetry an emancipation from the old belief in authority, and a new genre. Thus he takes a decisive place in the modern evolution that we have shared in, and have felt and are feeling in the agitations of our own hearts.”¹

      Georg Herwegh, 1840: “The new literature is a child of the July Revolution....

    • On the Importance of the Theory of the Unconscious for a Theory of No Longer Fine Art
      (pp. 260-278)

      1. The following is an obituary to the living: Art, says Hegel in his lecture on esthetics, is “nach der Seite ihrer hochsten Bestimmung fur uns ein Vergangenes” (on the side of its highest definition something past for us).¹ Perhaps Hegel was right; if so, then the time is ripe—indeed, overripe—for acceptance of the thesis that art and its theory, known since 1750 as “esthetics,” from now on has no place in philosophy. “Nach der Seite ihrer hochsten Bestimmung,” esthetics are a thing of the past. Undoubtedly—even from an unHegelian point of view—Hegel was right: for...

    • Overstepping Esthetic Limits in Visual Art: Four Aspects of the Problem
      (pp. 279-292)

      This subject is open to many different approaches. One might, for instance, discuss such themes as hell and damnation, which produce something unmistakably and positively ugly that casts no esthetic doubts on itself or on its beautiful antithesis. However, we shall not be dealing with this positive ugliness. Nor shall we discuss H. Sedlmayr’s¹ reflections onArs humilisas a (specifically Christian) “complexio oppositorumof the poleshumilissublimis.”

      We shall confine ourselves here to considering four aspects of the problem of overstepping esthetic limits:

      1. The destruction of traditional esthetics and the consequent release of a new esthetic consciousness....

    • [Illustrations]
      (pp. None)
  8. IV. Myth and Modern Literature.: From Poetik und Hermeneutik IV

    • Myth as a Recurrent Theme in Greek Tragedy and Twentieth-Century Drama
      (pp. 295-319)

      1. The seemingly pedantic titleAmphitryon38 points to a phenomenon which is obviously characteristic of dramatizations of Greek myths, i.e., repetition, the assiduous rehandling of well-worn material. Twentieth-century plays are not the first to conform to this principle of repetition, nor are all those “modern” dramas which have adapted ancient legends. Even the authors of Attic tragedies staged the same stories over and over again.

      The principle of following on from one’s predecessors has obviously existed right from the beginning. We know of about a dozen titles of tragedies written by Aeschylus’ competitors, Choerilus, Phrynichus, and Pratinas. They show...

    • Patterns of Communication in Joyce’s Ulysses
      (pp. 320-356)

      Joyce called his novelUlyssesafter Homer’s hero, though the latter never appears in the book. Instead Joyce deals with eighteen different aspects of a single day in Dublin, mainly following the involvement of two characters—Leopold Bloom and Stephen Dedalus—in events that take place between early morning and late at night. What, then, is the connection between theOdysseyand June 16th, 1904? Most answers to this question try to join these two poles of the novel through the “tried and tested” ideas of the recurrence of archetypes, or the analogy between the ideal and the real.¹ In...

    • The “New Myth” of Revolution—A Study of Mayakovsky’s Early Poetry
      (pp. 357-386)

      In these lines from Vladimir Mayakovsky’s revolutionary poem 150,000,000 (1919/20), revolutionary action is linked to the demand for a “new myth”; out of them arises the question of the extent to which revolution can be mythicized, the relation of the old myth to the new, and the function of poetry in the creation of new myths. A full discussion of these questions, either in general or in relation to Mayakovsky’s poetry, would be far beyond the scope of this essay, but we shall attempt to provide a basis for such discussion by outlining certain facets of the subject, with concrete...

  9. V. History and Literary History.: From Poetik und Hermeneutik V

    • Story as Exemplum—Exemplum as Story: On the Pragmatics and Poetics of Narrative Texts
      (pp. 389-417)

      To begin with, a few remarks concerning the methods we shall use in approaching this subject.

      If one understands texts as a permanent rendering of continuous speech actions, then the most common frame of reference as regards the constitution of texts must be a theory of action.¹ At the beginning of hisPhilosophische Untersuchungen, Wittgenstein makes the far-reaching observation that speech occurs in actions.² This is only a short step away from the idea that speech occurs as an action. It is characteristic of actions that the impulses of which they consist are orientated towards a particular meaning, which in...

    • The Fall of Literary History
      (pp. 418-431)

      Some thirty years ago I wrote a book entitledThe Rise of English Literary History.¹ Today one could write a book on its decline and fall. George Watson, inThe Study of Literature,speaks of “the sharp descent of literary history from the status of a great intellectual discipline to that of a convenient act of popularization.”² Christopher Ricks, in a review of Watson’s book, even doubts that “literary history is a worthwhile activity” and that it ever was “a great intellectual discipline.”³ Ricks cannot think of any literary historians who would represent the “tradition of confident historiography of literature,”...

    • History of Art and Pragmatic History
      (pp. 432-464)

      At first sight, history in the realm of the arts presents two con tradictory views. With the first, it would appear that the history of architecture, music, or poetry is more consistent and more coherent than that of society. The chronological sequence of works of art is more closely connected than a chain of political events, and the more gradual transformations of style are easier to follow than the transformations of social history. Valery once said that the difference between art history and social history was that in the former the products were “filles visibles Ies unes des autres,” whereas...

  10. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. 465-470)
  11. Index of Names
    (pp. 471-480)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 481-481)