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Goethe's Ghosts

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Invoking Goethe's name has become fashionable again. With new methods and technologies of reading threatening to render literature virtual and insubstantial, we have the sense that "Goethe's ghosts" - the otherwise neglected voices and traditions that, finding their most trenchant expression in Goethe, inform the Western storehouse of literature - can show us long-forgotten dimensions of literature. Inspired by the distinguished Goethe scholar Jane Brown, whose life's work has called attention to the allegorical modes haunting the mimetic forms that dominate modern literature, the contributors to this volume take a rich variety of approaches to Goethe: cultural studies, history of the book, semiotics, deconstruction, colonial studies, feminism, childhood studies, and eco-criticism. The persistence, omnipresence, and modalities of the "ghosts" they find suggest that more than influence or standards is at issue here. Goethe's work informs current debates on nineteenth-century nationalism, while his Faust increasingly serves to express contemporary culture's anxiety about new technologies. The stubborn reappearance of these revenants testifies to more fundamental issues concerning the status of literature and the task of the reader. As the contributors demonstrate, these questions acquire renewed urgency in writers as diverse as Hegel, Adorno, Benn, Droste-Hulshoff, and Nietzsche. Each of the essays testifies to the enduring salience and presence of Goethe. Contributors: Helmut Ammerlahn, Benjamin Bennett, Richard Block, Dieter Borchmeyer, Franz-Josef Deiters, Richard T. Gray, Martha B. Helfer, Meredith Lee, Clark Muenzer, Andrew Piper, Simon Richter, Jurgen Schroeder, Peter Schwartz, Patricia Simpson, Robert Tobin, David Wellbery, Sabine Wilke. Simon Richter is Professor of German Literature at the University of Pennsylvania. Richard Block is Associate Professor of German at the University of Washington.
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[The editors] provide a complex introduction . . . . [T]he essays [are] all by renowned scholars who possess broad comparative expertise. . . . Recommended. CHOICE If the introduction by the editors bears the subtitle "Reading with Jane Brown," and the volume as a whole, in allusion to Brown's 2007 monograph on allegory, the subtitle Reading and the Persistence of Literature, Richter and Block assert the claim to the survival and continuance of an exact reading practice, a "reading" in Jane K. Brown's sense: the intensive, at times even hair-splitting reading of literary texts. The contributions in this worthy volume prove them right-even if this reviewer is not always in agreement on the details. GOETHE-JAHRBUCH

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