Thomas O. Beebee
Citation and precedent: conjunctions and disjunctions of German law and literature
Continuum Publishing Corporation (New Directions in German Studies)
New York, 2012, 296 pp.
Among Western literatures, only the German-speaking countries can boast a list of world-class writers such as Goethe, Hoffmann, Kleist, Kafka, Schmitt, and Schlink who were trained as legal scholars. Yet this list only scratches the surface of the complex interactions between German law and literature. It can be supplemented, for example, with the unique interventions of the legal system into literature, ranging from early 20th century attempts to save literature from the tidal wave of Schund (pulp fiction) to audiences suing theaters over the improper production of classics in the 21st. The long list of instances where German literature cites law, or where German law serves literature as a precedent, signal the dream of German culture for a unity of interests and objectives between spheres of activity. Yet the very vitality of this dream stems from real historical and social processes that increasingly autonomize and separate these domains from each other.
Beebee examines the history of this dialectical tension through close readings of numerous cases in the modern era, ranging from Grimm to Schmitt.
Table of Contents
1.2 Subsystem or Public Sphere?
2.1 In Search of the Invisible Precedent: Grimm Writes to Savigny
2.2 Kant, Codification, and Goethe’s Elective Affinities
3.1 A Recursive Process: Kafka’s Law - and Ours
3.2 Walter Benjamin reads the Weimar Constitution
3.3 From Schiller to Schund: Zensur and the Canonization of Literature
3.4 German Literature Fights for its Rights: A Thick Description of an Incident of Weimar Literary Culture
4.1 Carl Schmitt and/as Benito Cereno
4.2 Citation as Second-Order Observation: Peter Weiss's The Investigation
Thomas O. Beebee is Distinguished Professor of Comparative Literature and German, Penn State University, USA. He is the author of Millennial Literatures of the Americas, 1492-2002 (Oxford University Press, 2008), Epistolary Fiction in Europe (Cambridge University Press, 1999), The Ideology of Genre: A Comparative Study of Generic Instability (Penn State Press, 1994) and Clarissa on the Continent: Translation and Seduction (Penn State Press, 1990).