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The Literary Absolute: The Theory of Literature in German Romanticism

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The Literary Absolute is the first authoritative study of the emergence of the modern concept of literature in German romanticism. The authors trace this concept from the philosophical crisis bequeathed by Kant to his successors, to its development by the central figures of the Athenaeum group: the Schlegel brothers, Schelling, and Novalis. This study situates the Jena roma The Literary Absolute is the first authoritative study of the emergence of the modern concept of literature in German romanticism. The authors trace this concept from the philosophical crisis bequeathed by Kant to his successors, to its development by the central figures of the Athenaeum group: the Schlegel brothers, Schelling, and Novalis. This study situates the Jena romantics' fragmentary model of literature--a model of literature as the production of its own theory--in relation to the development of a post-Kantian conception of philosophy as the total and reflective auto-production of the thinking subject. Analyzing key texts of the period, the authors articulate the characteristics of romantic thought and at the same time show historical and systematic connections with modern literary theory. Thus, The Literary Absolute renews contemporary scholarship, showing the romantic origins of some of the leading issues in current critical theory.


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The Literary Absolute is the first authoritative study of the emergence of the modern concept of literature in German romanticism. The authors trace this concept from the philosophical crisis bequeathed by Kant to his successors, to its development by the central figures of the Athenaeum group: the Schlegel brothers, Schelling, and Novalis. This study situates the Jena roma The Literary Absolute is the first authoritative study of the emergence of the modern concept of literature in German romanticism. The authors trace this concept from the philosophical crisis bequeathed by Kant to his successors, to its development by the central figures of the Athenaeum group: the Schlegel brothers, Schelling, and Novalis. This study situates the Jena romantics' fragmentary model of literature--a model of literature as the production of its own theory--in relation to the development of a post-Kantian conception of philosophy as the total and reflective auto-production of the thinking subject. Analyzing key texts of the period, the authors articulate the characteristics of romantic thought and at the same time show historical and systematic connections with modern literary theory. Thus, The Literary Absolute renews contemporary scholarship, showing the romantic origins of some of the leading issues in current critical theory.

51 review for The Literary Absolute: The Theory of Literature in German Romanticism

  1. 4 out of 5

    Meghan O'Dea

    One of the lines that most struck me in The Literary Absolute was the Jean-Luc Nancy and Phillippe Lacaue-Labarthe's explanation of what was so absolute about Romantic literature, “Rather, it is theory itself as literature or, in other words, literature producing itself as it produces its own theory. The literary absolute is also, and perhaps above all, this absolute literary operation.” This perhaps best sums up what they attempt to do with this work-- that is, the authors don't so much present One of the lines that most struck me in The Literary Absolute was the Jean-Luc Nancy and Phillippe Lacaue-Labarthe's explanation of what was so absolute about Romantic literature, “Rather, it is theory itself as literature or, in other words, literature producing itself as it produces its own theory. The literary absolute is also, and perhaps above all, this absolute literary operation.” This perhaps best sums up what they attempt to do with this work-- that is, the authors don't so much present their own theories around German Romanticism, but investigate what the romantics theorized about their own work as they were writing it. They distill the poems, essays, fragments, etc. into their crystalized theoretical content. It's intentionally dense and requires you to sit with the concepts, much like the approach you need to take with good poetry. This only reenforces the point Nancy and Lacaue-Labarthe make about the alignment of literature and theory in the German Romantics' work. Overall an excellent work that provided a lot of food for thought and really good insight into the fundamental romantic texts.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Daniel

    Lacoue-Labarthe and Nancy characterize German Romanticism as a reaction to the Kantian theoretical revolution. More specifically, the Romantics grappled with the problem of Kant’s emptying of the subject: “From the moment the subject is emptied of all substance, the pure form it assumes is reduced to nothing more than a function of unity or synthesis.” The subject becomes a pure functionary of bringing together the transcendental unity of apperception and does nothing more than accompany represe Lacoue-Labarthe and Nancy characterize German Romanticism as a reaction to the Kantian theoretical revolution. More specifically, the Romantics grappled with the problem of Kant’s emptying of the subject: “From the moment the subject is emptied of all substance, the pure form it assumes is reduced to nothing more than a function of unity or synthesis.” The subject becomes a pure functionary of bringing together the transcendental unity of apperception and does nothing more than accompany representations as an empty form. What Kant leaves us with as a replacement is the moral subject. For Kant, the freedom of this subject exists in its ability to follow the categorical imperative, the moral law of necessity that constitutes an end in itself. Unsurprisingly, a model of freedom that’s just about following rules really well is not the most convincing. The moral subject that Kant offers does not recover any of the subject’s substance and the question of the freedom of the subject still remains. This is where the Romantics intervene. Through a reading of Friedrich Schlegel and other members of the Jena crew, Lacoue-Labarthe and Nancy claim that the Romantics offer a new conception of the subject as the System-Subject. The philosophy of the Romantics present the Subject in its absoluteness, as a living System that sublates all the organic oppositions within it - most importantly, the opposition of System and freedom. For the Romantics, the force that forms (bilden) this organically unified Subject is fundamentally aesthetic and the forming power (bildende Kraft) is no different from aesthetic power (ästhetische Kraft). The goal of this forming power is to rescue the Kantian moral subject’s freedom by bringing it to self-consciousness (Hence the importance of Fichte for the Romantics). The rest of the book proceeds through the Romantics’ elaboration of this development of the System-Subject and the aesthetic tools they used: the fragment, the Idea, the poem, and aesthetic criticism.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Ivana Bulj

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    Shawna

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    Stefano Ortiz

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    Claire

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    Alex Mika

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    chateau no more

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    Sara

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    Joke

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    Mari0nnette

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    Christine

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    TOMÁS SCARPATTI

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jean-paul

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    Bryan Norton

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    William Patterson

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    Abdullah Başaran

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    Maziyar

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    John

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    Blue Montakhab

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    Ekaitz Ruiz De Vergara

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    Theresia

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    Manchester

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    E. C. Koch

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    Richard Deming

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    Mathew

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    Ammon

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    Erica Wissick

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    Charly

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