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Literary Theory in Germany

A Study of Genre and Evaluation Theories 1945-1965


Margot E. Zutshi

This study examines the genre theories of Emil Staiger (Grundbegriffe der Poetik) and Käte Hamburger (Die Logik der Dichtung), and the evaluation theories of Hans-Egon Hass and Walter Müller-Seidel, in the context of post-war literary theory in West Germany. The close analysis of these theories, representative of developments up to 1965, shows that they have fundamental characteristics in common which are absent from later work in this field. To a greater or lesser extent all four are ahistorical, normative, and indebted to eighteenth- and nineteenth-century ideas on aesthetics. Changes in literary theory since 1965 involve a complete break with the past: these include the substitution of a descriptive concept of literature for a normative and aesthetic one, the narrowing of the gap between theory and contemporary literature, and the demand that literary study should become a historical discipline with particular emphasis on the role of the reader.
Content: «Germanistik» and literary theory in Germany in 1945 - Genre theory: Staiger's «Grundbegriffe der Poetik» and Hamburger's «Die Logik der Dichtung» - Problems of literary evaluation: the theories of H.-E. Hass and Müller-Seidel - Developments and trends after 1965.