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The Demise of the Author

Autonomy and the German Writer, 1770-1848


Roger F. Cook

This book examines how the concept of the autonomous writer evolved in German culture. Its scope includes various forms of representation that both engendered the notion of the autonomous writer and became vehicles for casting the writer's tenuous position in society. Taking the «writer» as a function not only of a literary discourse, but also of a network of interlocking discourses, it explores the genesis of the autonomy concept in relation to the changing make-up of the reading public, new practices in reading, and the intermediary role of the literary market between author and public. Combining the results of sociological studies with critical readings of theoretical and literary texts, this work contributes to the ongoing reassessment of how the aesthetic and the real act dialectically in the determination of social reality. It also adds to the growing critical assault on the persistent tendency to privilege aesthetic autonomy over the interaction of art and history.
Contents: Classicist and Romantic concepts of the autonomous in German literary history, in relation to the growth of the reading public and developments in publishing practices. Depictions of the writer in works of Goethe, Novalis, Spitzweg, E.T.A. Hoffmann and Grillparzer.