Academic journal article Goethe Yearbook

German Literature as World Literature

Academic journal article Goethe Yearbook

German Literature as World Literature

Article excerpt

Thomas Oliver Beebee, ed., German Literature as World Literature. New York: Bloomsbury, 2014. x + 214 pp.

This dynamic volume shifts the discussion from German literature as a national literature to German literature as world literature. The book's chapters extend the dialogue that began with Goethe's highly influential 1827 remarks to Eckermann concerning world literature. German literature is defined as "verbal art in a single language (allowing for dialectal variants) produced by subjects or citizens of at least five different nation-states (Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Lie chtenstein, and Luxembourg) and beyond that by a constellation of emigrés and adoptees" (3). The book is a "re-visioning of a specific 'national' linguistic canon as a particular nodal point of world literature's international, intersystemic relations" (2). In his introductory comments, Beebee outlines five of the most popular definitions of world literature and offers a model of world literature that illustrates how literary zones intersect. He suggests that much more data is still needed to complete the model but offers it as a way to begin the analysis of German literature as world literature (13). The volume identifies the prismatic effects of relations between German-language literary texts and geographically separated literatures and spaces, including those in Latin America and Asia in addition to other Central European and immigrant communities (11). The book's broad geo- graphic scope distinguishes it from many other comparative and transnational studies.

The volume is separated into three parts: part 1, "Goethe's Weltliteratur/ World Literature"; part 2, "Ausstrahlungen/Emanations"; and part 3, "Schnittmengen/Intersections." German Literature as World Literature provides both an index as well as a helpful bibliography of world literature scholarship.

The essays in part 1 work in tandem to provide an overview of Goethe's early use of the term Weltliteratur as shaped by his engagement with Chinese literature. In "Reading Goethe's Elective Affinities (Die Wahlverwandtschaften) through Cao Xueqin's The Story of the Stone (Hong Lou Meng): Immanent Divinity, Vegetative Femininity, and the Mood of Transience," Chunjie Zhang sees a connection between Goethe's Spinozism and Chinese Buddhist-Daoist creational ideas that she labels "immanent divinity" (29). Together with her term "vegetative femininity" she not only offers a fresh reading of Elective Affinities but also illustrates the way in which Goethe conveyed an ecologically shaped aesthetics similar to that in Chinese texts. In "Goethe, Rémusat, and the Chinese Novel: Translation and the Circulation of World Literature," Daniel Purdy provides the larger picture behind Goethe's change in perspective toward Chinese literature and culture as well as valuable background information on Goethe's privatepublic conversations with Eckermann. Part 1 is recommended particularly for Goethe scholars and is of interest more generally as an exploration of the tradition of intersections that Beebee discusses in his "World-Literature Model" (13). …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.