Narcissism & Paranoia in the Age of Goethe

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1st Edition

240 x 160 mm. 256pp 11 b&w illustrations.... [In stock in Australia, for immediate delivery]

The first book-length study that examines how literary narcissism in the Age of Goethe intersects with concepts of creativity, language, gender, and national identity, and how major German writers of this period anticipate the formation of what today is recognised as the Freudian concept of narcissism (Herder, Moritz, Goethe, Tieck, Hoffmann).

Long before the Freudian interpretation of narcissism, late 18th-century German writers used the Greek myth of Narcissus to explore the understanding of the self. Narcissism refers to the creation of an idealised image of the self and the desire to merge with this image.

Beginning in the 1770s, writers like Goethe, Herder, Schiller, and Moritz shaped a new bourgeois aesthetics by depicting and working through the discrepancies between their real-life constraints and their idealist ambitions. The literature of the period is highly self-reflective. It provides insights into how writers attempted to contend with uncertainties connected to the loss of faith in a universal order. For the writers of this time, literature became a mirror that reflected their struggle with bourgeois identity.

The study shows that the narcissistic scenario was particularly attractive to 18th-century authors because it could both capture and conceal the contradictions inherent in enlightenment thinking. Failure to reconcile these contradictions, however, can reveal the inadequacies of the self and result in unbearably haunting visions that give way to paranoid delusions. The insecurities and the narcissistic responses expressed in these texts have helped shape ideas about art, language, gender, and national identity in German and Western culture.

The analyses of poems, narratives, dramas, and critical texts by Moritz, Schiller, Herder, Tieck, Goethe, Lavater, and others shed new light on how progress in the medical, philosophical, and anthropological discourses of the time converge with aesthetic and literary considerations.

The volume illustrates how aspects of Freud's psychology have grown out of notions of subjectivity not confined to the Victorian age, as is often assumed, but with roots in the contradicting values of bourgeois emancipation. These values were passed on and contested in the middle-class family, whose patriarchal structure and ethics have survived the technological and social transformations of the last two hundred years. The masculinist presentations or exclusions of the feminine bear witness to how male authors themselves became enwrapped and even restricted by patriarchal power structures. The autocratic yet also bourgeois traditions both conflicted and conjoined with the incompatible values of modernity. The challenge of reconciling these tensions played out in the dialectic of narcissism and paranoia that has been so richly present in German literature of the past two centuries.

Alexander Mathas is Associate Professor of German at the University of Oregon.
^ Literary Criticism ^


SKU 9780874130140
Barcode # 9780874130140
Brand AUP
Artist / Author Alexander MATHAS

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