Twentieth-Century Reworkings of German Literature

Twentieth-Century Reworkings of German Literature

An Analysis of Six Fictional Reinterpretations from Goethe to Thomas Mann

Gundula M. Sharman


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Camden House



A study of six modern reworkings of classic works of German literature.
A "literary reworking" is a fictional work based on an earlier, usually canonical, literary work. Gundula M. Sharman considers six twentieth-century examples of this phenomenon in German literature, including Peter Schneider's Lenz as a reworking of Georg Büchner's novella of the same title, Ulrich Plenzdorf's Die neuen Leiden des jungen W. as a reworking of Goethe's Werther, Wolfgang Koeppen's Der Tod in Rom, based on Thomas Mann's Der Tod in Venedig, and three other pairs of reworkings/original works from the genres of drama, the novella, and the novel. The indebtedness of such reworkings to the original works is openly acknowledged -- often in the title -- and this invites the reader to draw comparisons and to note contrasts between reworking and original. The twentieth-century author's interpretation and the reader's reception of the older work merge to form a subtext of the reworking, giving rise to a third narrative in the reader's imagination. The better the reader knows the literary model, the more multi-faceted the reworking appears. The purpose of each reworking is unique. One may demonstrate how much the world has changed since the publication of the original, while another argues that society has not changed at all. One may be conceived as an anti-work to the original, while another serves to endorse its message. Common to all reworkings, however, is a gain in historical depth, and in each case themes and issues arise from the relationship of reworking to original that are not immediately apparent when the reworking is considered on its own.

Gundula M. Sharman teaches in the German Department at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland.


September 2002
233 pages
9x6 in
Studies in German Literature Linguistics and Culture
ISBN: 9781571132451
Format: Hardback
Camden House
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Table of Contents

Abbreviations of Works Frequently Cited
Allusion to Classicism: Friedrich Schiller's Die Jungfrau von Orleans and Bertolt Brecht's Die heilige Johanna der SchlachthöfeSchlachthöfe
Ironic Reproduction: Friedrich Hebbel's and Franz Xaver Kroetz's Maria Magdalena
Fragmentation: Thomas Mann's Der Tod in Venedig and Wolfgang Koeppen's Der Tod in Rom
Integration: Georg Büchner's and Peter Schneider's Lenz
Quotation: Goethe's Die Leiden des jungen Werther and Ulrich Plenzdorf's Die neuen Leiden des jungen W.
Constellation of Character: Goethe's Die Wahlverwandt- schaften; Hugo von Hofmannsthal's The Chandos Letter; and John Banville's The Newton Letterand John Banville's The Newton Letter
Works Cited

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