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The Case of LiteratureForensic Narratives from Goethe to Kafka$
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Arne Höcker

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781501749353

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: January 2021

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9781501749353.001.0001

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The Case of Werther and the Institution of Literature

The Case of Werther and the Institution of Literature

Chapter:
(p.27) 1 The Case of Werther and the Institution of Literature
Source:
The Case of Literature
Author(s):

Arne Höcker

Publisher:
Cornell University Press
DOI:10.7591/cornell/9781501749353.003.0002

This chapter discusses Johann Wolfgang Goethe's first novel, The Sufferings of Young Werther (1774). This novel not only created a new kind of hero with whom a whole generation of young readers could identify but also set up a narrative framework that made the history of Werther available to psychological interpretation. Knowing oneself means to have succeeded in establishing a relation to oneself, and this complicated and difficult endeavor is not possible without a medium. Since Goethe's famous epistolary novel, this medium, in a completely new and emphatically modern sense, has carried the name literature. In Western literary history, The Sufferings of Young Werther is known as the novel with which a new form of individuality finds literary expression. The form of the epistolary novel serves as a vehicle, translating the discourse of the self into a seemingly communicative structure and successfully turning the incomprehensible individual monad into an apparently readable subject for a contemporary audience.

Keywords:   Johann Wolfgang Goethe, The Sufferings of Young Werther, young readers, narrative framework, epistolary novel, literature, Western literary history, individuality, literary expression, epistolary novel

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