Academic journal article German Quarterly

Complex Pleasure. Forms of Feeling in German Literature

Academic journal article German Quarterly

Complex Pleasure. Forms of Feeling in German Literature

Article excerpt

Corngold, Stanley. Complex Pleasure. Forms of Feeling in German Literature. Stanford: Stanford UP, 1998. 243pp. $18.95 paperback.

Setting out to study "[...] the various sorts of feeling tensed between reason and imagination that figure in the production of literature (poiesis)-and as the things that literature may be 'about' (mimesis)-and as effects owed entirely to the literary process (aesthesis/catharsis)" (xvi), the author's five theses are: "where there is literature, there is complex pleasure; this pleasure is complex because it involves the impression of a disclosure; this fact is foremost in the minds of a number of canonical writers; important literary works in the German tradition-fiction, poetry, critique-can be illuminated by the way they identify and discuss literary feeling; as a result the forms of feeling continually vary" (xv). Literary feeling, Corngold theorizes, is a type of aesthetic feeling highlighting the complex pleasure of literary experience, which, however, may be "intricately pleasurable or negatively pleasurable" (1). Drawing his examples from Lessing, Kant, Holderlin, Nietzsche, Musil, Kafka, Trakl, and Benjamin, he incisively proves the variety of disclosures inherent in individual cases, such as wit and aesthetic judgment, mood, rapture, sensory confusion, bliss, etc. Furthermore, while he acknowledges his debt to both strictly historical theories of literary aesthetics and contemporary criticism, he departs from each in crucial ways. Rather than adhering to a systematic historical articulation that may lead to accusations of being blindly ideological, he proposes new directions by illuminating a number of major variants of the term feeling. And eschewing the separation of art interests from cognitive interests, he points to the fact that many types of faculties constitute humanistic learning. …

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