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Belletristik / Essays, Feuilleton, Literaturkritik, Interviews
This monumental study seeks the roots of great literary works and the processes by which they arose. It first illuminates the process from idea and inspiration through intention, formulation, revision (and sometimes frustration) to publication and reception. The textual studies that follow range from single poems to epic and dramatic works, from the genesis of new genres to that of a whole career. T. J. Reed sets the scene by going back to Homer's epics and the Bible, refreshing familiar scholarly material with new insights. Two early modern chapters then treat Montaigne, the founder of a new self-confidence, and Shakespeare, the beginner shaped by and shaping history. In the book's second half Reed concentrates on his specialty, modern German literature: Goethe, Büchner, Thomas Mann, Kafka, Brecht, Celan, and Christa Wolf. A sense of the origins of literary meaning in each case is a firm foundation for understanding, staying close to the quick of human communication. Against the depersonalized, skeptical, theory-laden readings of literature that have been dominant in recent decades, this study harks back to what we still call the humanities. T. J. REED is Taylor Professor of German Emeritus at Oxford University.