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John A. McCarthy

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.

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John A. McCarthy

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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.

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John A. McCarthy

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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.

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Remapping Reality

Chaos and Creativity in Science and Literature (Goethe – Nietzsche – Grass)

John A. McCarthy

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.
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Shakespeare as German Author

Reception, Translation Theory, and Cultural Transfer

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Shakespeare as German Author, edited by John McCarthy, revisits in particular the formative phase of German Shakespeare reception 1760-1830. Following a detailed introduction to the historical and theoretical parameters of an era in search of its own literary voice, six case studies examine Shakespeare’s catalytic role in reshaping German aesthetics and stage production. They illuminate what German speakers found so appealing (or off-putting) about Shakespeare’s spirit, consider how translating it nurtured new linguistic and aesthetic sensibilities, and reflect on its relationship to German Geist through translation and cultural transfer theory. In the process, they shed new light, e.g., on the rise of Hamlet to canonical status, the role of women translators, and why Titus Andronicus proved so influential in twentieth-century theater performance.

Contributors are: Lisa Beesley, Astrid Dröse, Johanna Hörnig, Till Kinzel, John A. McCarthy, Curtis L. Maughan, Monika Nenon, Christine Nilsson.
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The Early History of Embodied Cognition 1740-1920

The Lebenskraft-Debate and Radical Reality in German Science, Music, and Literature

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This pioneering book evaluates the early history of embodied cognition. It explores for the first time the life-force ( Lebenskraft) debate in Germany, which was manifest in philosophical reflection, medical treatise, scientific experimentation, theoretical physics, aesthetic theory, and literary practice esp. 1740-1920. The history of vitalism is considered in the context of contemporary discourses on radical reality (or deep naturalism). We ask how animate matter and cognition arise and are maintained through agent-environment dynamics (Whitehead) or performance (Pickering). This book adopts a nonrepresentational approach to studying perception, action, and cognition, which Anthony Chemero designated radical embodied cognitive science. From early physiology to psychoanalysis, from the microbiome to memetics, appreciation of body and mind as symbiotically interconnected with external reality has steadily increased. Leading critics explore here resonances of body, mind, and environment in medical history (Reil, Hahnemann, Hirschfeld), science (Haller, Goethe, Ritter, Darwin, L. Büchner), musical aesthetics (E.T.A. Hoffmann, Wagner), folklore (Grimm), intersex autobiography (Baer), and stories of crime and aberration (Nordau, Döblin). Science and literature both prove to be continually emergent cultures in the quest for understanding and identity. This book will appeal to intertextual readers curious to know how we come to be who we are and, ultimately, how the Anthropocene came to be.
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Disrupted Patterns

On Chaos and Order in the Enlightenment

This collection of essays explores the significance of modern chaos theory as a new paradigm in literary studies and argues for the usefulness of borrowings from one discipline to another. Its thesis is that external reality is real and is not merely a social construct. On the other hand, this volume reflects the belief that literature, as a social and cultural construct, is not unrelated to that external reality. The authors represented here furthermore believe that learning to communicate across disciplinary divides is worth the risk of looking silly to purists and dogmatists. In applying a contemporary scientific grid to a by-gone era, the authors play out Steven Weinberg's exhortation to mind the clues to the past that cannot be obtained in any other way. It is of course necessary to get the science right, yet the essays in this collection do not seek to do science, but rather to suggest that science and literature often share common assumptions and realities. Thus there is no attempt to legitimize literary study through the adoption of a scientific approach. Interaction between the disciplines requires mutual respect and a willingness to investigate the broader implications of scientific research. Consequently, this volume will be of interest to students and scholars of the long eighteenth century whether the focus is on England (Locke, Milton, Radcliffe, Lewis), France (Crébillion, Diderot, Marivaux, Montesquieu) or Germany (Kant, Moritz, Goethe, Fr. Schlegel). Moreover, given its multiple thrust in employing mythological, philosophical, and scientific notions of chaos, this volume will appeal to historians and philosophers of the European Enlightenment as well as to literary historians. The volume ultimately aspires to promote communication across centuries and across disciplines.