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At the Limit of the Obscene: German Realism and the Disgrace of Matter
by Erica Weitzman
Northwestern University Press, 2021
eISBN: 978-0-8101-4318-0 | Cloth: 978-0-8101-4317-3 | Paper: 978-0-8101-4316-6
Library of Congress Classification PT143.R4W45 2021
Dewey Decimal Classification 830.912

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ABOUT THIS BOOK

As German-language literature turned in the mid-nineteenth century to the depiction of the profane, sensual world, a corresponding anxiety emerged about the terms of that depiction—with consequences not only for realist poetics but also for the conception of the material world itself. At the Limit of the Obscene examines the roots and repercussions of this anxiety in German realist and postrealist literature. Through analyses of works by Adalbert Stifter, Gustav Freytag, Theodor Fontane, Arno Holz, Gottfried Benn, and Franz Kafka, Erica Weitzman shows how German realism’s conflicted representations of the material world lead to an idea of the obscene as an excess of sensual appearance beyond human meaning: the obverse of the anthropocentric worldview that German realism both propagates and pushes to its crisis. At the Limit of the Obscene thus brings to light the troubled and troubling ontology underlying German realism, at the same time demonstrating how its works continue to shape our ideas about representability, alterity, and the relationship of human beings to the non-human well into the present day.


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