Pretexts for Writing: German Romantic Prefaces, Literature, and Philosophy (New Studies in the Age of Goethe) (Hardcover)
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Around 1800, print culture became a particularly rich source for metaphors about thinking as well as writing, nowhere more so than in the German tradition of Dichter und Denker. Goethe, Jean Paul, and Hegel (among many others) used the preface in order to reflect on the problems of writing itself, and its interpretation. If Sterne teaches us that a material book enables mind games as much as it gives expression to them, the Germans made these games more theoretical still. Weaving in authors from Antiquity to Agamben, Williams shows how European–and, above all, German–Romanticism was a watershed in the history of the preface. The playful, paradoxical strategies that Romantic writers invented are later played out in continental philosophy, and in post-Structuralist literature. The preface is a prompt for playful thinking with texts, as much as it is conventionally the prosaic product of such an exercise.
Published by Bucknell University Press. Distributed worldwide by Rutgers University Press.
About the Author
Seán M. Williams is a lecturer in German and European cultural history in the School of Languages and Cultures at the University of Sheffield, UK, following an appointment as Vice-Chancellor’s Fellow. He was previously lecturer (“wissenschaftlicher Assistent”) in German and comparative literature at the University of Bern, Switzerland. He has publishedon German literature and philosophy around 1800, in comparative contexts.
"Pretexts for Writing discusses the history of the literary and philosophical self-authored preface in the German speaking world around 1800 with an intensity and analytical depth previously unachieved in scholarship."
— Till Dembeck
"a study of tremendous academic rigor with original insights. it shows deep knowledge of both eighteenth- and nineteenth-century German literature and philosophy and the many conversations in contemporary literary studies pertaining to them.it is an achievement in scholarship pertaining to the age of Goethe, romanticism, and literary studies at large."
— The German Quarterly
"This debut book, in short, contains much that is scintillant and surely announces the arrival of an important new scholarly voice in Germanistik."
— Modern Language Review