The German Joyce

The German Joyce

The German Joyce

The German Joyce

Synopsis

In August 1919, a production of James Joyce's Exiles was mounted at the Munich Schauspielhaus and quickly fell due to harsh criticism. The reception marked the beginning of a dynamic association between Joyce, German-language writers, and literary critics. It is this relationship that Robert Weninger analyzes in The German Joyce.

Opening a new dimension of Joycean scholarship, this book provides the premier study of Joyce's impact on German-language literature and literary criticism in the twentieth century. The opening section follows Joyce's linear intrusion from the 1910s to the 1990s by focusing on such prime moments as the first German translation of Ulysses, Joyce's influence on the Marxist Expressionism debate, and the Nazi blacklisting of Joyce's work. Utilizing this historical reception as a narrative backdrop, Weninger then presents Joyce's horizontal diffusion into German culture.

Weninger succeeds in illustrating both German readers' great attraction to Joyce's work as well as Joyce's affinity with some of the great German masters, from Goethe to Rilke, Brecht, and Thomas Mann. He argues that just as Shakespeare was a model of linguistic exuberance for Germans in the eighteenth century, Joyce became the epitome of poetic inspiration in the twentieth.

Excerpt

Effi Briest’s father had a favorite phrase, as Robert Weninger reminds us at the end of his introduction: “ein weites Feld”—“a wide field.” It was his way of dismissing the incomprehensible, and as such has made its way into the lexicon of useful German phrases, along with Schadenfreude, Lebensraum, and Schlimmbesserung (the act of making something worse by improving it). The study of Joyce’s reception history in Germany is truly ein weites Feld, yet in Robert Weninger we have a scholar with the historical and critical range to scan the entire ground.

Within these pages you will find not only an exhaustive review of Joyce’s direct influence on German literary production in the twentieth century (what Weninger calls rapports de fait), you will also find detailed those elective affinities, or intertextual echoes, that defy categorization, as when Goethe, Rilke, and the Dadaists appear to be writing in the key of Joyce. The dynamics of reception are never so compelling as here, as the march of Nazism across the landscape of German ideas gives real urgency to the terms of the debate, and as the shifting requirements of Marxist ideology on the other side of the political spectrum place Ulysses front and center as the quintessential literary object of the twentieth century. To critics of both the left and the right, Ulysses is “entartete Kunst” (degenerate art); it is Weninger’s great gift that he can find a balance between so many one-sided arguments, and steer his craft safely past the fascist rock and the Marxist whirlpool. He shows us Bloch’s corrective to Lukács’s rejection of Ulysses, and Brecht’s defense of the book as more populist than the work of Thomas Mann. He points out that Ulysses, despite being blacklisted in Nazi Germany for its lack of “any healthy ethically racial bond,” was allowed to stay in print in Germany until April 1939, an act attributed to “commercial cynicism.” The subject of these critiques is the real story: Ulysses becomes, as Weninger suggests, “a defining space” for critics of all political . . .

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