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Between Fontane and Tucholsky

Literary Criticism and the Public Sphere in Imperial Germany


Russel A. Bermann

This investigation examines the emergence of a specifically modern literary critical discourse in Germany at the turn-of-the-century. The commercialization and industrialization of the press contributed to the reorganization of the public sphere and posed new problems for the critic facing an anonymous and heterogeneous public. The rapid transformation of criticism during this important period is described both in sociological terms and with references to specific texts by figures such as Theodor Fontane, Otto Brahm, Alfred Kerr, Kurt Tucholsky and others. The relationship between subjective discourse and political engagement is explored, an antimodernist hostility toward criticism is portrayed, and ties to the status of contemporary West German literary criticism are drawn.
Contents: Critical Theory and Literary Criticism - Nineteenth-Century Liberalism and the Wilhelmine Press, Karl Frenzel, Paul Lindau, and Feuilletonism - Fontane's Criticism and its Reception - Critical Theory in the Kritische Waffengänge - Literary Criticism in Naturalism - Otto Brahm, Alfred Kerr - Subjectivity and Political Criticism.