Maertz, Gregory

Literature and the Cult of Personality


Essays on Goethe and His Influence



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The construction of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe as an Anglo-American sage and literary icon was the product of a cult of personality that lay at the center of nineteenth-century cultural politics. A reconstruction of the culture wars fought over Goethe’s authority, a previously hidden chapter in the intellectual history of the period ranging from the late eighteenth century to the threshold of Modernism, is the focus of Literature and the Cult of Personality.  Marginal as well as canonical writers and critics figured prominently in this process, and Literature and the Cult of Personality offers insight into the mediation activities of Mary Wollstonecraft, Henry Crabb Robinson, the canonical Romantic poets, Thomas Carlyle, Margaret Fuller, George Eliot, Matthew Arnold, and others. For women writers and Jacobins, Scots, and Americans, translating Goethe served as an empowering cultural platform that challenges the myth of the self-sufficiency of British literature. Reviewing and translating German authors provided a means of gaining literary enfranchisement and offered a paradigm of literary development according to which 're-writers' become original writers through an apprenticeship of translation and reviewing.
In the diverse and fascinating body of critical writing examined in this book, textual exegesis plays an unexpectedly minor role; in its place, a full-blown cult of personality emerges along with a blueprint for the ideology of hero-worship that is more fully mapped out in the cultural and political life of twentieth-century Europe.

254 Seiten, Paperback. 2017
ISBN 978-3-8382-0981-4



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“[Gregory Maertz' book is] characterized by a deep knowledge of both the literary scene in Germany and the critical debates in the Anglophone world. The book appeals to students and scholars of German and Comparative Literature, but also to anybody interested in questions of cultural transfer.“
Prof. Dr. Wynfrid Kriegleder, University of Vienna, Austria

“Literature and the Cult of Personality, wide ranging and comparative in scope, brilliantly examines the strong impact of Goethe—his force as intellect, writer, and modern personality—on British literature and culture. Offering insight after insight, Maertz masterfully outlines how the Goethezeit occurred in Great Britain, too, and that Goethe's presence is part of the late Enlightenment and Romantic era everywhere.“
James Engell, Gurney Professor of English and Professor of Comparative Literature, Harvard University


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