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Critical Time in Modern German Literature and Culture


Edited By Dirk Göttsche

The fleeting nature of time is a defining feature of modern and postmodern existence. Identified by Reinhart Koselleck as the temporalization («Verzeitlichung») of all areas of human knowledge and experience around 1800, the concept of critical time continues to intrigue researchers across the arts and humanities. This volume combines theoretical and critical approaches to temporality with case studies on the engagement with the modern sense of time in German literature, visual art and culture from the eighteenth century to the present. Contributions explore key areas in the cultural history of time: time in art and aesthetic theory, the intellectual history of time, the relationship between time and space in literature and visual art, the politics of time and memory, and the poetics of time. Essays question the focus on acceleration in recent critical discourse by also revealing the contrapuntal fascination with slowness and ecstatic moments, notions of polyphonous time and simultaneity, the dialectic of time and space, and complex aesthetic temporalities breaking with modern time-regimes.
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Dirk Göttsche – Introduction


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In Hugo von Hofmannsthal’s libretto for Richard Strauss’s comic opera Der Rosenkavalier [The Knight of the Rose / The Rose-Bearer] one of the protagonists, the Princess Werdenberg, ponders the mystery of time as follows:

Die Zeit, die ist ein sonderbares Ding. Wenn man so hinlebt, ist sie rein gar nichts. Aber dann auf einmal, da spürt man nichts als sie: sie ist um uns herum, sie ist auch in uns drinnen. In den Gesichtern rieselt sie, im Spiegel da rieselt sie, in meinen Schläfen fließt sie. Und zwischen mir und dir da fließt sie wieder. Lautlos, wie eine Sanduhr.1

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