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This essay asks: How does the creative act that is literature align with a notion of evolution in biological and geological terms? What role did specifically Darwin’s theory of evolution and its adaptations play in the evolution of literature around 1900? My focus on Nietzsche reveals an essential quality of ‘evolutionary literature’ because his vitalism frequently conflated the organic and inorganic operations of nature. After sketching the relevant scientific environment that shaped Nietzsche’s view of the world, I seek to define his understanding of the creative act and demonstrate how Nietzsche’s own literary production mirrors prevalent evolutionary ideas.

In: The Evolution of Literature
This book is about intersections among science, philosophy, and literature. It bridges the gap between the traditional “cultures” of science and the humanities by constituting an area of interaction that some have called a “third culture.” By asking questions about three disciplines rather than about just two, as is customary in research, this inquiry breaks new ground and resists easy categorization. It seeks to answer the following questions: What impact has the remapping of reality in scientific terms since the Copernican Revolution through thermodynamics, relativity theory, and quantum mechanics had on the way writers and thinkers conceptualized the place of human culture within the total economy of existence? What influence, on the other hand, have writers and philosophers had on the doing of science and on scientific paradigms of the world? Thirdly, where does humankind fit into the total picture with its uniquely moral nature? In other words, rather than privileging one discipline over another, this study seeks to uncover a common ground for science, ethics, and literary creativity.
Throughout this inquiry certain nodal points emerge to bond the argument cogently together and create new meaning. These anchor points are the notion of movement inherent in all forms of existence, the changing concepts of evil in the altered spaces of reality, and the creative impulse critical to the literary work of art as well as to the expanding universe. This ambitious undertaking is unified through its use of phenomena typical of chaos and complexity theory as so many leitmotifs. While they first emerged to explain natural phenomena at the quantum and cosmic levels, chaos and complexity are equally apt for explaining moral and aesthetic events. Hence, the title “Remapping Reality” extends to the reconfigurations of the three main spheres of human interaction: the physical, the ethical, and the aesthetic or creative.

Abstract

This essay addresses the question of how Comparative Literature contributes to a sense of being at home in the world. Comparative Literature is today more than ever a ‘peculiar’ discipline. It is better understood as an inter-discipline or a trans-discipline, maybe even a meta-discipline, for it has no clear text corpus, no distinct methodology, no identifiable center of inquiry. Perhaps because of this heterogeneity it can fit into our culturally heterogeneous world anywhere and can provide ‘knowledge for living.’ Recent reflections on the nature of world literature and Comparative Literature’s relation to it have begun to redirect our attention back to literariness itself. Critical to this move is a double consciousness of being in the world but not just in the cultural world one physically inhabits. Double consciousness makes possible multiple windows on the world that ‘neither trap the world as our (only) home nor render the world as radically other.’ It involves a basic form of cognitive processing and aesthetic experience. What changes with the introduction of a work of literature to different world ‘cultures’ is the local perspective (texture, tone, attunement, shading) of its new language, not the essence of the original meaning or its literary quality, at least in a successful translation attuned to affective aesthetics. The problem of ‘virulent centrisms,’ I argue, is not necessarily an attribute of ‘coercive’ qualities of a canonical work itself but is rather the result of the faulty reception of that aspirational work. My argument about being at home in the world is anchored in the notion of the ideal (or at least, ‘envisioned’) reader, on the one hand, and on the Enlightenment principles of educability and humanitas, on the other. The best aesthetic writers from around the world address our common humanity regardless of cultural or ethnic coloration. Yet the aesthetic experience of their products requires astute readers unbound by territory and marked by mental mobility that allows openness to imagined and communicative communities. A theoretical discourse should not be valued because it allows new readings; rather it should be valued because it can explain why a particular text is considered canonical. Eurocentrism is re-examined from this perspective. Exemplary cases considered here are Flaubert’s Madame Bovary and Günter Grass’s Die Blechtrommel.

In: Taking Stock – Twenty-Five Years of Comparative Literary Research

Abstract

This essay addresses the question of how Comparative Literature contributes to a sense of being at home in the world. Comparative Literature is today more than ever a ‘peculiar’ discipline. It is better understood as an inter-discipline or a trans-discipline, maybe even a meta-discipline, for it has no clear text corpus, no distinct methodology, no identifiable center of inquiry. Perhaps because of this heterogeneity it can fit into our culturally heterogeneous world anywhere and can provide ‘knowledge for living.’ Recent reflections on the nature of world literature and Comparative Literature’s relation to it have begun to redirect our attention back to literariness itself. Critical to this move is a double consciousness of being in the world but not just in the cultural world one physically inhabits. Double consciousness makes possible multiple windows on the world that ‘neither trap the world as our (only) home nor render the world as radically other.’ It involves a basic form of cognitive processing and aesthetic experience. What changes with the introduction of a work of literature to different world ‘cultures’ is the local perspective (texture, tone, attunement, shading) of its new language, not the essence of the original meaning or its literary quality, at least in a successful translation attuned to affective aesthetics. The problem of ‘virulent centrisms,’ I argue, is not necessarily an attribute of ‘coercive’ qualities of a canonical work itself but is rather the result of the faulty reception of that aspirational work. My argument about being at home in the world is anchored in the notion of the ideal (or at least, ‘envisioned’) reader, on the one hand, and on the Enlightenment principles of educability and humanitas, on the other. The best aesthetic writers from around the world address our common humanity regardless of cultural or ethnic coloration. Yet the aesthetic experience of their products requires astute readers unbound by territory and marked by mental mobility that allows openness to imagined and communicative communities. A theoretical discourse should not be valued because it allows new readings; rather it should be valued because it can explain why a particular text is considered canonical. Eurocentrism is re-examined from this perspective. Exemplary cases considered here are Flaubert’s Madame Bovary and Günter Grass’s Die Blechtrommel.

In: Taking Stock – Twenty-Five Years of Comparative Literary Research

Abstract

There has been no dearth of writing on Shakespeare reception in Germany. This introduction acknowledges the richness of scholarship while simultaneously suggesting how the making of the German Shakespeare can be read anew and fruitfully by drawing more emphatically than has been the case on aspects of book history, on the development of translation theory and practice in the eighteenth century, and on thinking about the mechanisms of cultural transfer. Combining these perspectives offers a fuller response to the guiding question here: how could the Briton so rapidly become a mainstay of the German literary canon and be seen as a German writer alongside Goethe and Schiller in full accord with the German spirit? Moreover, critiques of Shakespeare’s spirit central to his “naturalization” have been ignored or drastically underrepresented in previous research, e.g., Chr.M. Wieland’s early seminal essay, “Der Geist Shakespeares” (1773), J.J. Eschenburg’s monograph, On W. Shakespeare (1787), and G.G. Gervinus’ multivolume study, Shakespeare (1849–50). All three are considered here as primary markers of the Bard’s induction into German culture. This introduction also establishes the broader historical and theoretical framework for the individual case studies that follow.

In: Shakespeare as German Author

Abstract

The Enlightenment was a watershed event of reform and renewal that transformed society. With his concepts of radical, moderate and counter Enlightenment, Jonathan Israel inspired debate on the Enlightenment’s contours. This essay examines those concepts against the backdrop of Ernst Cassirer’s ‘attitude of mind’ and Rudolf Vierhaus’s notion of process without end. These concepts stretch the movement’s essence well into our own time and across disciplinary borders. Motion is a major metaphor for mental operations. Like the English radical freethinker Anthony Collins seventy years before him, Christoph Martin Wieland firmly believed that great benefits would accrue to society through the freedom to philosophize on any matter. Wieland’s emphasis on cosmopolitanism serves as a paradigm for understanding the nature of ‘radical’ Enlightenment. Because his insistence that tolerance and human dignity are liberal positions, whereas his call to maintain order is conservative, Wieland can be characterized as a ‘moderate liberal’. His approach is the middle way between the extremes of too much and too little freedom of speech.

In: The Radical Enlightenment in Germany

This essay asks: How does the creative act that is literature align with a notion of evolution in biological and geological terms? What role did specifically Darwin’s theory of evolution and its adaptations play in the evolution of literature around 1900? My focus on Nietzsche reveals an essential quality of ‘evolutionary literature’ because his vitalism frequently conflated the organic and inorganic operations of nature. After sketching the relevant scientific environment that shaped Nietzsche’s view of the world, I seek to define his understanding of the creative act and demonstrate how Nietzsche’s own literary production mirrors prevalent evolutionary ideas.

In: The Evolution of Literature
In: The Early History of Embodied Cognition 1740-1920
In: The Early History of Embodied Cognition 1740-1920