front cover of Comedies
Robert Walser
Seagull Books, 2018
This book brings English-language readers works by Walser in a rare form: dramolette.

Few writers have ever experienced such a steady rise in their reputation and public profile as Swiss writer Robert Walser (1878–1956) has seen in recent years. As more of his previously little-known work has been translated into English, readers have discovered a unique writer whose off-kilter sensibility and innovations in form are perfectly suited to our fragmented, distracted, bewildering era.

The short plays presented here, inspired by the German theater Walser enjoyed in his youth, while never meant to be performed, present scenes, characters, and situations that comment on the brutality of fairy tales, the impossibilities of love, the dark fate of the Christ child (and Walser himself), and more. At the same time, like all of Walser’s work they are shot through with a humor that is wholly genuine despite its shades of darkness. Gathering all of Walser’s plays, as well as his later, fragmentary dramatic writings, Comedies will be celebrated by the many devoted fans of this lately rediscovered master.

front cover of Irony's Antics
Irony's Antics
Walser, Kafka, Roth, and the German Comic Tradition
Erica Weitzman
Northwestern University Press, 2014
Irony’s Antics marks a major intervention into the underexplored role of the comic and its relationship to irony in German letters.
Combining theoretical breadth with close textual analysis, Erica Weitzman shows how irony, a key term for the German romantics, reemerged in the early twentieth century from a postromantic relegation to the nonsensical and the nihilistic in a way that both rethought romantic irony and dramatically extended its reach.
Through readings of works by Robert Walser, Franz Kafka, and Joseph Roth against the rich history of comic theory (particularly Hegel and Freud), Weitzman traces the development of a specifically comic irony in modern German-language literature and philosophy, a play with the irony that is itself the condition for all play. She thus provides a crucial reevaluation of German literary history and offers new insights into the significance of irony and the comic from the Enlightenment to the present day.

front cover of Narratives Unsettled
Narratives Unsettled
Digression in Robert Walser, Thomas Bernhard, and Adalbert Stifter
Samuel Frederick
Northwestern University Press, 2012
In Narratives Unsettled, Samuel Frederick proposes a new conception of narrativity that can accommodate unwieldy forms of digression. By way of close readings of three German-language writers from different historical periods, Frederick demonstrates that digression, far from being a non- or anti-narrative interruption, contributes to what makes these writers' works fundamentally narrative. In the process, the author counters several foundational assumptions of classical narratology, including the conviction—rooted in Aristotle—that narrative without plot is logically impossible, and that anything deviating from narrative's teleological imperative is either destructive or insignificant.

Frederick's readings of the narrative experiments, utopian moments, and obsessions with the trivial in works by Walser, Bernhard, and Stifter point to new ways of approaching the ostensibly antinarrative as a productive element of narrativity. As a work that explores the often neglected crossroads of German studies and postclassical narratology, Narratives Unsettled will be of great interest to scholars in both of these fields, as well as to those working on literature and theory in general.

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The Poems
Robert Walser
Seagull Books, 2022
The first complete publication of Robert Walser’s poems translated into English.

Admired by the likes of Kafka, Musil, and Walter Benjamin and acclaimed “unforgettable, heart-rending” by J. M. Coetzee, Swiss writer Robert Walser (1878–1956) remains one of the most influential authors of modern literature. Walser left school at fourteen and led a wandering and precarious existence while producing poems, stories, essays, and novels. In 1933, he abandoned writing and entered a sanatorium, where he remained for the rest of his life. “I am not here to write,” Walser said, “but to be mad.”
This first collection of Walser’s poems in English translation allows English-speaking readers to experience the author as he saw himself at the beginning and the end of his literary career––as a poet. The book also includes notes on dates of composition, draft versions of the printed poems, and brief biographical information on characters and locations that appear in the poems and may not be known to readers. Few writers have ever experienced such a steady rise in their reputation and public profile as Walser has seen in recent years, and this collection of his poems will help readers discover a unique writer whose off-kilter sensibility and innovations in form are perfectly suited to our fragmented, distracted, bewildering era.

front cover of Robert Walser
Robert Walser
A Companion
Edited by Samuel Frederick and Valerie Heffernan
Northwestern University Press, 2018

The Swiss writer Robert Walser (1878-1956) is now recognized as one of the most important European authors of the modernist period, having garnered high praise from such prominent voices as Susan Sontag, W. G. Sebald, and J. M. Coetzee. Robert Walser: A Companion is the first comprehensive guide to Walser’s work in English. The twelve essays in this collection examine Walser’s literary output, historical milieu, and idiosyncratic writing process, addressing aspects of his biography; discussing the various genres in which he wrote (the novel, short prose, drama, lyric poetry, and letters); and analyzing his best-known novels and short stories alongside lesser-known but no less fascinating poems, plays, and prose pieces.

An essential addition to the scholarship about this eccentric, prolific, and influential writer’s work, Robert Walser: A Companion will be of interest both to established scholars and to those coming to Walser for the first time.


front cover of They Have All Been Healed
They Have All Been Healed
Reading Robert Walser
Jan Plug
Northwestern University Press, 2016
In perhaps the most provocative reading to date of the Swiss German modernist Robert Walser, Walter Benjamin asserted that Walser's figures "have all been healed." They Have All Been Healed takes up and extends Benjamin's assessment by following the figure of healing throughout major works by Walser, from his minidrama Snow White and his acknowledged masterpieces The Walk and Jakob von Gunten to his enigmatic last novel, The Robber. At the same time, Jan Plug reads Walser alongside his most compelling readers, tracing how not only Benjamin but also Giorgio Agamben, W. G. Sebald, and the Brothers Quay complicate, clarify, and enact that same process of healing in their own work. Working out the theological implications of Walser's work and of the tradition to which he gives rise, Plug at once recasts one of the major authors of the twentieth century and articulates a new conception of healing and salvation.

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