Origin of the German Trauerspiel

Origin of the German Trauerspiel


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Origin of the German Trauerspiel was Walter Benjamin’s first full, historically oriented analysis of modernity. Readers of English know it as “The Origin of German Tragic Drama,” but in fact the subject is something else—the play of mourning. Howard Eiland’s completely new English translation, the first since 1977, is closer to the German text and more consistent with Benjamin’s philosophical idiom.

Focusing on the extravagant seventeenth-century theatrical genre of the trauerspiel, precursor of the opera, Benjamin identifies allegory as the constitutive trope of the Baroque and of modernity itself. Allegorical perception bespeaks a world of mutability and equivocation, a melancholy sense of eternal transience without access to the transcendentals of the medieval mystery plays—though no less haunted and bedeviled. History as trauerspiel is the condition as well as subject of modern allegory in its inscription of the abyssal.

Benjamin’s investigation of the trauerspiel includes German texts and late Renaissance European drama such as Hamlet and Calderón’s Life Is a Dream. The prologue is one of his most important and difficult pieces of writing. It lays out his method of indirection and his idea of the “constellation” as a key means of grasping the world, making dynamic unities out of the myriad bits of daily life. Thoroughly annotated with a philological and historical introduction and other explanatory and supplementary material, this rigorous and elegant new translation brings fresh understanding to a cardinal work by one of the twentieth century’s greatest literary critics.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780674744240
Publisher: Harvard
Publication date: 02/04/2019
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 810,392
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Walter Benjamin (1892–1940) was the author of many works of literary and cultural analysis.

Howard Eiland is an editor and translator of Benjamin’s writings.

Table of Contents

List of Abbreviations ix

Translator's Introduction xi

I Epistemo-Critical Foreword

1 Concept of the tractatus

2 Knowledge and truth

3 Philosophical beauty

4 Division and dispersion in the concept

5 Idea as configuration

6 The word as idea

7 Idea not classificatory

8 Burdach's nominalism

9 Verism, syncretism, induction

10 The genres of art in Croce-

11 Origin

12 Monadology

13 Neglect and misinterpretation of Baroque tragedy

14 "Appreciation"

15 Baroque and Expressionism

16 Pro domo

II Trauerspiel and Tragedy 40

17 Baroque theory of trauerspiel

18 Influence of Aristotle insignificant

19 History as content of the trauerspiel

20 Theory of sovereignty

21 Byzantine sources

22 Herodian dramas

23 Irresolution

24 Tyrant as martyr, martyr as tyrant

25 Underestimation of the martyr drama

26 Christian chronicle and trauerspiel

27 Immanence of Baroque drama

28 Play and reflection

29 Sovereign as creature

30 Honor

31 Annihilation of historical ethos

32 Setting

33 The courtier as saint and intriguer

34 Didactic intention of the trauerspiel

35 Volkelt's Aesthetic of the Tragic

36 Nietzsche's Birth of Tragedy

37 Theory of tragedy hi German Idealism

38 Tragedy and legend

39 Kingship and tragedy

40 "Tragedy" old and new

41 Tragic death as framework

42 Dialogue: tragic, juridical, and Platonic

43 Mourning and tragedy

44 Sturm und Drang, Classicism

45 Haupt- und Staatsaktion, puppet play

46 Intriguer as comic character

47 Concept of fate in the drama of fate

48 Natural and tragic guilt

49 The prop

50 The witching hour and the spirit world

51 Doctrine of justification, apatheia, melancholy

52 Dejection of the prince

53 Melancholy of the body and of the soul

54 Theory of Saturn

55 Emblems: dog, globe, scone

56 Acedia and inconstancy

57 Hamlet

III Allegory and Trauerspiel 165

58 Symbol and allegory in Classicism

59 Symbol and allegory in Romanticism

60 Origin of modern allegory

61 Examples and illustrations

62 Antinomies of allegoresis

63 The ruin

64 Allegorical disenchantment

65 Allegorical fragmentation

66 The allegorical character

67 The allegorical interlude

68 Titles and maxims

69 Metaphorics

70 Elements of the Baroque theory of language

71 The alexandrine

72 Dismemberment of language

73 The opera

74 Ritter on script

75 The corpse as emblem

76 Bodies of the gods in Christianity

77 Mourning in the origin of allegory

78 The terrors and promises of Satan

79 Limit of profundity

80 "Ponderacion Misteriosa"

Appendix A "Trauerspiel and Tragedy" (1916) 261

Appendix B "The Role of Language in Trauerspiel and Tragedy" (1916) 267

Guide to Names 271

Acknowledgments 293

Index 295

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