Imperial Fictions: German Literature Before and Beyond the Nation-State

Imperial Fictions: German Literature Before and Beyond the Nation-State

by Todd Kontje

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Overview

Imperial Fictions explores ways in which writers from late antiquity to the present have imagined communities before and beyond the nation-state. It takes as its point of departure challenges to the discrete nation-state posed by globalization, migration, and European integration today, but then circles back to the beginnings of European history after the fall of the Roman Empire. Unlike nationalist literary historians of the nineteenth century, who sought the tribal roots of an allegedly homogeneous people, this study finds a distant mirror of analogous processes today in the fluid mixtures and movements of peoples. Imperial Fictions argues that it is time to stop thinking about today’s multicultural present as a deviation from a culturally monolithic past. We should rather consider the various permutations of “German” identities that have been negotiated within local and imperial contexts from the early Middle Ages to the present.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780472130788
Publisher: University of Michigan Press
Publication date: 04/25/2018
Series: Social History, Popular Culture, And Politics In Germany Series
Pages: 342
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Todd Kontje is Distinguished Professor of German and Comparative Literature at the University of California, San Diego.

Table of Contents

1 Introduction 1

Of Empires and the German Nation 2

From National to World Literature 6

Disclaimers and a Glance Ahead 11

2 National Origins and the Imperial Past 15

Hermann: A German Hero? 19

The Janus-Faced Roman Empire 22

Imperial Germany and the Legacy of Rome 24

3 German Literary History and the Medieval Renaissance 33

The Song of Anno 35

Walther von der Vogelweide 40

Early Modern Nuremberg 48

Conclusion 54

4 Silesian Patriots and Imperial Subjects 55

Seventeenth-Century Silesia 59

Andreas Gryphius: Religious Faith and Imperial Politics 61

Daniel Casper von Lohenstein: The Trauerspiel as a Trojan Horse 69

Race and Resistance in Lohenstein's Arminius 75

Conclusion 78

5 Goethe and the End of the Holy Roman Empire 81

The End of an Empire 83

Goethe's Early Experience of the Empire 85

Young Goethe and the German Nation 89

Literary Politics in a Revolutionary Age 95

Hermann and Dorothea: Infinitely Limited 98

Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship: Personal Bildung and National Theater 101

Faust II: Anachronistic Empire and the New Imperialism 107

Weltliteratur in Contemporary Context 113

6 Romantic Nationalism and Imperial Nostalgia 119

Friedrich Schiegel's Political Theory 123

Eichendorff: Conservative Catholic and Prussian Civil Servant 126

Presentiment and Presence: Local Patriotism and Philosophical Pessimism 128

Durande Castle: Elegiac Conservatism 135

7 Worldly Provincialism in Imperial Germany 143

Gottfried Keller: A Swiss Liberal for the German Kulturnation 148

Between Germany and Switzerland 151

Swiss Federalism versus German Imperialism 157

Theodor Fontane: A Prussian Cosmopolitan 160

Effi Briest: Psychographic Realism 161

Conclusion 174

8 Collapsing Empires and Nascent Nations 177

Thomas Mann and Franz Kafka: Antipodes and Affinities 178

Locating Franz Kafka 180

Minor Literatures and the Yiddish Language 185

The Chinese Wall and a Talking Ape 188

Continuity and Change in the Work of Thomas Mann 195

From the German Empire to the Weimar Republic 201

9 Revisiting the Heimat after the Third Reich 215

Siegfried Lenz: The Joys of Duty and the Language of Silence 217

Günter Grass: A Rootless Cosmopolitan Resists Reunification 225

The Flounder: Local History in Global Context 228

Coda 234

10 Popular Fiction and the Imperial Past 237

Daniel Kehlmann, Measuring the World 239

Christian Kracht, Imperium 248

11 Conclusion: National Literature in an Era of World Literature 255

Notes 265

Works Cited 293

Index 321

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