The Wanderer in Nineteenth-Century German Literature

The Wanderer in Nineteenth-Century German Literature

Intellectual History and Cultural Criticism

Andrew Cusack


Camden House



Pathbreaking examination of the prominent 19th-c. motif with an eye toward literature as social commentary.
The wanderer is an indispensable part of the German cultural imaginary. The nineteenth-century prominence of the motif owes much to the self-conception of the intellectual pioneers of the day as wanderers. The motif is also a key to interpretation of the social and cultural phenomena of a turbulent century that began with the emancipatory claims of the Enlightenment and ended in untrammeled industrialism. Writers from Goethe to Büchner, Fontane to Holtei were keenly aware of the motif's interpretive value, attempting to grasp with it not only such developments as mass migration and disappearing institutions but also unprecedented opportunities for artistic and scientific innovation. This book re-interprets canonical works such as Goethe's Wilhelm Meister novels, Heine's Harzreise, and Büchner's Lenz, examines underresearched works by Fontane and Raabe, and charts new territory with readings of works by Gotthelf and Holtei -- a selection of texts that reveals the vast scope and changing function of the wanderer motif. Andrew Cusack pays scrupulous attention to the historical specificity of each work and to its relationship to contemporary aesthetic and philosophical currents, revealing the wanderer motif to be a significant vehicle of cultural memory that sustained the ideas of the Enlightenment and of Romanticism.

Andrew Cusack is a Lecturer in the Department of Germanic Studies at Trinity College Dublin.

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August 2008
2 black and white illustrations
268 pages
9x6 in
Studies in German Literature Linguistics and Culture
ISBN: 9781571133861
Format: Hardback
Camden House
BISAC LIT004170, HIS037060, HIS014000
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Related Titles

Table of Contents

The Wanderer as the Subject of Education
The Wanderer in the Romantic Imagination
The Wanderer in Political Discourse
Wandering at the Margins: Journeymen and Vagabonds
Works Cited


[T]his study . . . illustrates the explanatory potential of a literary theme that has never been tackled systematically - in spite of the fact that the wanderer is one of the most potent cultural symbols of Germany identity. THE EIGHTEENTH-CENTURY CURRENT BIBLIOGRAPHY

Shrewdly, Cusack intuits a link between the wanderer motif and Goethe's neo-classicistic principle of attention to the present moment -- between "Gedenke zu wandern!" and the motto "Gedenke zu leben." Taken together, both injunctions culminate in Nietzsche's insight that the "Freiheit der Vernunft" makes wanderers of us all.. [A] well-structured and clearly written study. JOURNAL OF EUROPEAN STUDIES

Cusack persuasively argues that the presence of the wanderer fades from the literary scene with the rise of Germany as a nation state. GERMAN STUDIES REVIEW

[The] value of this book lies in its local interpretations, which are consistently perceptive and stimulating; they will repay consideration by anyone concerned with any of these texts. MODERN LANGUAGE REVIEW

[Cusack has] created a wide-ranging, rich, and variegated cultural history of the nineteenth-century individual as wanderer.... GERMAN QUARTERLY

[A] brilliant and original monograph. JAHRBUCH DER GERMANISTIK IN IRLAND

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