German Literature, German Law

By | December 9, 2011

Continuum is proud to announce the publication of Citation and Precedent: Conjunctions and Disjunctions of German Law and Literature by Thomas O. Beebee (Distinguished Professor of Comparative Literature and German, Penn State University, USA), the third and latest monograph to be released in our New Directions in German Studies series.

The intersections of German law and German literature are manifold indeed. For starters, among Western literatures, only the German-speaking world boasts such an impressive roster of world-class writers — including Goethe, Kleist and Kafka, to name but a few — who were also trained as legal scholars. There is also the fascinating history of the German legal system's unique interventions into the world of literature, ranging from attempts to save literature from the tidal wave of Schund (pulp fiction) in the early twentieth century to audiences suing theaters over the improper production of classics in the twenty-first. The long list of complex interactions between German literature and law signals German culture's dream of a unity of interests and objectives between different spheres of activity, a dream whose very vitality yet stems from precisely those historical and social processes which increasingly autonomize these domains and keep them separate from each other. Beebee analyzes this dialectical tension through close readings of a variety of cases and texts, ranging from Jacob Grimm to Carl Schmitt.

Praise for Citation and Precedent:

"Citation and Precedent widens our historical and conceptual perspective. Beebee reconstructs not only a dense intertextual network of law, literature, and philosophy that pervades German culture from Kant to Peter Weiss; he also shows that these crossings and borrowings are driven by the dream, or the nightmare, of a 'culture' capable of uniting law and life, codified norm and everyday reality. This is an excellent book." — Andreas Gailus, Associate Professor of German, University of Michigan, USA

"In a series of subtle and imaginative readings of German-language texts and cultural history, Beebee shows how the autonomy and differentiation of systems allows for registering levels of law’s and literature’s mutual observation that more common theories of representation fail to capture. Especially fascinating are his analyses of Carl Schmitt’s self-identification with Melville’s Benito Cereno and Peter Weiss’s play on the 1960s’ Auschwitz trials." — William Rasch, Professor, Department of Germanic Studies, Indiana University, USA

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