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The Self as Muse: Narcissism and Creativity in the German Imagination 1750-1830
     

The Self as Muse: Narcissism and Creativity in the German Imagination 1750-1830

by Alexander Mathas, Richard Block (Contribution by), Fritz Breithaupt (Contribution by), Susan Gustafson (Contribution by), Gail K. Hart (Contribution by)
 

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While there are countless philosophical and psychological studies that focus on sources of the self, narcissism has found relatively little attention in a pre-Freudian context. The Self as Muse fills this gap by examining various aspects of narcissism and their significance for the outpouring of creativity in late eighteenth and nineteenth-century German literature.

Overview

While there are countless philosophical and psychological studies that focus on sources of the self, narcissism has found relatively little attention in a pre-Freudian context. The Self as Muse fills this gap by examining various aspects of narcissism and their significance for the outpouring of creativity in late eighteenth and nineteenth-century German literature. In many Eighteenth-century works of the period narcissism refers to the creation of an idealized image of the self and the desire to merge with this image. It provided an impetus for poetic production as writers resorted to the Greek myth of Narcissus to express what they perceived as the inner workings of their soul. Yet they were also acutely aware of the vain, and therefore narcissistic, motivations for their explorations of the self. While those influenced by the Pietist tradition attempted to distinguish between an "unselfish" self-scrutiny and self-indulging vanity, others like Goethe took advantage of narcissism's creative potential and integrated it into their aesthetic endeavors. The abundance of confessional and autobiographical accounts, the burgeoning of poetry drawing on personal experience, the emergence of a type of drama that is based on empathy, and the concern with an individual's ability to control one's senses and emotions in general testify to an unprecedented interest in notions of the self in German literature. Mathäs explains the emergence of narcissism in the literature of the period as a sense-inspired concept that aims to bring about a better comprehension of both the self and other human beings, and how writers used narcissism to improve the moral behavior of their readers. It examines eighteenth-century representations of narcissism against the background of Freudian and post-Freudian notions of the concept, and explores narcissism as a creative process that engages both reader and writer in the production of meaning. By showing narcissism's pervasive allure for a broad array of literary productions, the vol

Editorial Reviews

CHOICE
This volume treats the unprecedented interest in notions of the self in German literature from 1750 to 1830. The legitimacy of the use of the term "narcissism" in connection with texts of this period is put into question by the fact that authors were ignorant of the meaning of the word as used today. Mathäs (Univ. of Oregon) seeks to avoid this dilemma by using the term as preoccupation with the self in the broadest sense. The editor divides the book's nine essays into four parts: "Narcissism and the Senses," "Narcissism and Morality," "Over and against Freud" (which focuses on the narcissistic structure of the modern psyche), and "Reading and Writing Narcissism." The contributors discuss works and theories of authors both well known and less familiar--Goethe's Werther, Theodor Gottlieb von Hippel's Lebensläufe, Kant, Schiller, Herder, Lessing, Hamann, von Kleist, Hoffmann, Poe. Each of the essays has its own footnotes and bibliography, and a general index serves the entire volume. This is a handsome, well-edited volume that will undoubtedly provoke further discussion of the main topic.
Choice
This volume treats the unprecedented interest in notions of the self in German literature from 1750 to 1830. The legitimacy of the use of the term "narcissism" in connection with texts of this period is put into question by the fact that authors were ignorant of the meaning of the word as used today. Mathäs (Univ. of Oregon) seeks to avoid this dilemma by using the term as preoccupation with the self in the broadest sense. The editor divides the book's nine essays into four parts: "Narcissism and the Senses," "Narcissism and Morality," "Over and against Freud" (which focuses on the narcissistic structure of the modern psyche), and "Reading and Writing Narcissism." The contributors discuss works and theories of authors both well known and less familiar—Goethe's Werther, Theodor Gottlieb von Hippel's Lebensläufe, Kant, Schiller, Herder, Lessing, Hamann, von Kleist, Hoffmann, Poe. Each of the essays has its own footnotes and bibliography, and a general index serves the entire volume. This is a handsome, well-edited volume that will undoubtedly provoke further discussion of the main topic.
Monatshefte
The nine essays in this focused and consistently fruitful collection explore the extensive interest in the self and self-examination in late eighteenth- and early nineteenth century German culture. Alexander Mathäs, has already established his credentials as a scholar of literary narcissism.

It is a strength of the volume that so many of its essays directly support the central theses put forth in the introduction

A good deal of scholarly work has already been devoted to the invention of selfhood and modern individuality in the late- eighteenth century, but there remains an open spot on that shelf for this thoughtful collection to fill. By focusing on narcissism’s productive potential, within both German art and letters and the rise of modern subjectivity, the books’ contributors produce a valuable set of insights.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781611480320
Publisher:
Bucknell University Press
Publication date:
04/22/2011
Series:
Transits: Literature, Thought & Culture, 1650-1850 Series
Pages:
232
Product dimensions:
6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.00(d)

Meet the Author

Alexander Mathäs is professor of German at the University of Oregon and author of Narcissism and Paranoia in the Age of Goethe and Der Kalte Krieg in der deutschen Literaturkritik: Der Fall Martin Walser.

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