Skip to main content

30% Off New Releases: Explore the List

Harvard University Press - home
A New History of German Literature

A New History of German Literature

Edited by Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht, Anton Kaes, Joseph Leo Koerner, and Dorothea E. von Mücke

ISBN 9780674015036

Publication date: 02/15/2005

The revolutionary spirit that animates the culture of the Germans has been alive for at least twelve centuries, far longer than the dramatically fragmented and reshaped political entity known as Germany. German culture has been central to Europe, and it has contributed the transforming spirit of Lutheran religion, the technology of printing as a medium of democracy, the soulfulness of Romantic philosophy, the structure of higher education, and the tradition of liberal socialism to the essential character of modern American life.

In this book leading scholars and critics capture the spirit of this culture in some 200 original essays on events in German literary history. Rather than offering a single continuous narrative, the entries focus on a particular literary work, an event in the life of an author, a historical moment, a piece of music, a technological invention, even a theatrical or cinematic premiere. Together they give the reader a surprisingly unified sense of what it is that has allowed Meister Eckhart, Hildegard of Bingen, Luther, Kant, Goethe, Beethoven, Benjamin, Wittgenstein, Jelinek, and Sebald to provoke and enchant their readers. From the earliest magical charms and mythical sagas to the brilliance and desolation of 20th-century fiction, poetry, and film, this illuminating reference book invites readers to experience the full range of German literary culture and to investigate for themselves its disparate and unifying themes.

Contributors include: Amy M. Hollywood on medieval women mystics, Jan-Dirk Müller on Gutenberg, Marion Aptroot on the Yiddish Renaissance, Emery Snyder on the Baroque novel, J. B. Schneewind on Natural Law, Maria Tatar on the Grimm brothers, Arthur Danto on Hegel, Reinhold Brinkmann on Schubert, Anthony Grafton on Burckhardt, Stanley Corngold on Freud, Andreas Huyssen on Rilke, Greil Marcus on Dada, Eric Rentschler on Nazi cinema, Elisabeth Young-Bruehl on Hannah Arendt, Gordon A. Craig on Günter Grass, Edward Dimendberg on Holocaust memorials.


  • The essays making up this new history of the literary and philosophical culture of the people of the German lands (and of Germans abroad) are of an unfailingly high standard. Many are noteworthy contributions to scholarship and criticism. The ingenious plan of the book permits a variety of style and approach, while strong editing has resulted in exemplary clarity and pithiness of expression. Well conceived, eclectic, lively, and informative, this New History gives us a model overview of what German literature and thought looks like from the twenty-first century.

    —J M Coetzee, author of Elizabeth Costello and Doubling the Point


  • David E. Wellbery is LeRoy T. and Margaret Deffenbaugh Carlson University Professor, University of Chicago.
  • Judith Ryan is the Robert K. and Dale J. Weary Professor of German and Comparative Literature at Harvard University.
  • Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht is Albert Guérard Professor of Literature at Stanford University.
  • Anton Kaes is Chancellor Professor of German and Film Studies at the University of California, Berkeley.
  • Dorothea von Muecke is Professor of German Literature at Columbia University.

Book Details

  • 1032 pages
  • 6-1/2 x 10 inches
  • Belknap Press
  • Editor-in-chief David E. Wellbery
  • General editor Judith Ryan