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Modern German Literature

ISBN: 978-0-7456-2920-9
232 pages
March 2011, Polity
Modern German Literature  (0745629202) cover image


This accessible and fresh account of German writing since 1750 is a case study of literature as a cultural and spiritual resource in modern societies.

Beginning with the emergence of German language literature on the international stage in the mid-eighteenth century, the book plays down conventional labels and periodisation of German literary history in favour of the explanatory force of international cultural impact. It explains, for instance, how specifically German and Austrian conditions shaped major contributions to European literary culture such as Romanticism and the ‘language scepticism’ of the early twentieth century.

From the First World War until reunification in 1990, Germany’s defining experiences have been ones of catastrophe. The book provides a compelling overview of the different ways in which German literature responded to historical disaster. They are, first, Modernism (the ‘Literature of Negation’), second, the literature of totalitarian regimes (Third Reich and German Democratic Republic), and third the various creative strategies and evasions of the capitalist democratic multi-medial cultures of the Weimar and Federal Republics.

The volume achieves a balance between textual analysis and cultural theory that gives it value as an introductory reference source and as an original study and as such will be essential reading for students and scholars alike.
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Table of Contents

Introduction: Cultural History of Literature
Chapter one: A European German Literature
Chapter two: Poetry and Politics
Chapter three: Imperial Modernity
Chapter four: The Literature of Negation
Chapter five: The Fate of Affirmative Literature
Chapter six: Literature in Democratic Capitalism
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Author Information

Michael Minden is Senior Lecturer in German at Jesus College, University of Cambridge
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The Wiley Advantage

  • Provides an accessible and fresh account of German writing since 1750.
  • Achieves a balance between textual analysis and cultural theory that gives the book value as both a key introductory text and a cutting edge original study.
  • Shows how specifically German and Austrian conditions shaped major contributions to European literary culture, such as Romanticism.
  • Provides a compelling overview of the ways in which German literature responded to its particular historical circumstances, most strikingly in the 20th Century.
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"A rich and rewarding book"
Modern Langauge Review

"A valuable contribution to cultural studies. Highly recommended."

"Minden's study is intellectually exciting, full of intriguing insights, opinionated and argumentative in the best sense. The book is eloquently written and challenging and will be a major contribution to German Studies and to Cultural Studies."
Elizabeth Boa, University of Nottingham

"Michael Minden's cultural history of modern German literature provides a rich context for astute and stimulating re-readings of canonical works. In scrutinizing German literature as a variety of social and artistic practices, he offers refreshing perspectives on the interaction between writers, texts and readers."
Katrin Kohl, Jesus College, Oxford

"This synthetic account of 250 years of Europe's central literary culture is a history of modernity which shows how literature assimilated, anticipated, and countered the effects of rapid social change. Minden's readings of the most influential examples of high and low German literary writing are uncompromisingly intelligent, memorably sententious, and nearly always invite contestation. Modern German Literature is the distillation of a lifetime's reading and teaching; it is a rare feat by a unique scholar and fluent writer."
Julian Preece, Swansea University

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