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The Self as Muse

While there are countless philosophical and psychological studies that focus on sources of the self, narcissism--the creation of an ideal image of the self and the vain attempt to merge with it--has found relatively little attention in a pre-Freudian context. The Self as Muse fills this gap by examining various aspects of narcissism and their significance for the outpouring of creativity in late eighteenth and nineteenth-century German literature. Narcissism provided an impetus for poetic production when writers expressed what they perceived as the inner workings of their soul. By showing narcissism's pervasive allure for a broad array of literary productions, the volume shows that narcissism is a constitutive force in both literary production and the construction of modern subjectivity. Yet this construction is by no means complete and invites the reader to strive toward the illusive image of an ideal.
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Table of Contents

1 Acknowledgments 2 Narcissism and the Self: An Introduction 3 Part I: Narcissism and the Senses 4 Narcissism and the Sublime 5 Narcissism, the Self, and Empathy: The Paradox that Created Modern Literature 6 Part II: Narcissism and Morality 7 Self-Reflection and Knowledge in a Hamann's Early Philosophical and Aesthetic Writings 8 Narcissistic Investments and Transformations in Theodor Gottlieb von Hippel's Lebenslaufe nach aufsteigender Linie and Uber die Ehe 9 "Some Day My Prince Will Come": Furstenspiegel and the Bourgeos Writer 10 Part III: Over and Against Freud 11 Werther's Sentimental Narcissism: Consciousness, Communication, and the Origin of the Modern Psyche 12 "I suffered and I loved": Narcissism and Abject Desire in Goethe's "Confessions of a Beautiful Soul" 13 Part IV: Reading and Writing Narcissism 14 Textual Narcissism in Kleist's "Uber das Marionettentheater" 15 That Specter in My Name: Writing and Its Mirror Effects in Hoffmann and Poe 16 Notes on Contributors

About the Author

Alexander Mathas is professor of German at the University of Oregon and author of Narcissism and Paranoia in the Age of Goethe and Der Kalte Krieg in der deutschen Literaturkritik: Der Fall Martin Walser.


This volume treats the unprecedented interest in notions of the self in German literature from 1750 to 1830. The legitimacy of the use of the term "narcissism" in connection with texts of this period is put into question by the fact that authors were ignorant of the meaning of the word as used today. Mathas (Univ. of Oregon) seeks to avoid this dilemma by using the term as preoccupation with the self in the broadest sense. The editor divides the book's nine essays into four parts: "Narcissism and the Senses," "Narcissism and Morality," "Over and against Freud" (which focuses on the narcissistic structure of the modern psyche), and "Reading and Writing Narcissism." The contributors discuss works and theories of authors both well known and less familiar--Goethe's Werther, Theodor Gottlieb von Hippel's Lebenslaufe, Kant, Schiller, Herder, Lessing, Hamann, von Kleist, Hoffmann, Poe. Each of the essays has its own footnotes and bibliography, and a general index serves the entire volume. This is a handsome, well-edited volume that will undoubtedly provoke further discussion of the main topic. CHOICE The nine essays in this focused and consistently fruitful collection explore the extensive interest in the self and self-examination in late eighteenth- and early nineteenth century German culture. Alexander Mathas, has already established his credentials as a scholar of literary narcissism. It is a strength of the volume that so many of its essays directly support the central theses put forth in the introduction A good deal of scholarly work has already been devoted to the invention of selfhood and modern individuality in the late- eighteenth century, but there remains an open spot on that shelf for this thoughtful collection to fill. By focusing on narcissism's productive potential, within both German art and letters and the rise of modern subjectivity, the books' contributors produce a valuable set of insights. Monatshefte

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