Literary Conclusions: The Poetics of Ending in Lessing, Goethe, and Kleist
by Oliver Simons
Endings are not just singular moments in time, but the outcomes of a process. And whatever a book's conclusion, its form has a history. Literary Conclusions presents a new theory of textual endings in eighteenth-century literature and thought. Analyzing essential works by Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, and Heinrich von Kleist, Oliver Simons shows how the emergence of new kinds of literary endings around 1800 is inextricably linked to the history of philosophical and scientific concepts.
Simons examines the interrelations of Lessing's literary endings with modes of logical conclusion; he highlights how Goethe's narrative closures are forestalled by an uncontrollable vital force that was discussed in the sciences of the time, and he reveals that Kleist conceived of literary genres themselves as forms of reasoning. Kleist's endings, Simons demonstrates, mark the beginning of modernism. Through close readings of these authors and supplemental analyses of works by Walter Benjamin, Friedrich Hölderlin, and Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, his study crafts an elegant theory of conclusions that revises established histories of literary genres and forms.
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About the Author
Oliver Simons is the Director of Graduate German Studies and a Professor of Germanic Languages at Columbia University. He is the author of Raumgeschichten: Topographien der Moderne in Philosophie, Wissenschaft und Literatur and Literaturtheorien zur Einführung and the coeditor of The Oxford Handbook of Carl Schmitt. His teaching and research interests focus on literature and science, post-colonial studies, the "end" around 1800, and literary theories.
About the Speakers
Joseph Albernaz is an Assistant Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University and specializes in the literature, especially poetry, of the Romantic period, with a particular interest in the legacies of Romanticism across a number of theoretical and critical domains. His current book project, entitled All Things Common: Romanticism and the Measure of Community, traces new formations of community, ecology, and the everyday in Romantic literature and its later inheritors.
Stefan Andriopoulos is a Professor of German at Columbia University and Co-Director of the Center for Comparative Media. His areas of teaching and research focus on German and European literature, media history, and interrelations of literature and science from 1750 to the present. In his latest book project, he explores how the emergence of new media coincides with an accelerated circulation of rumors, a concern that pertains to our present day but also to nineteenth-century print media.
Claudia Breger is the Villard Professor of German and Comparative Literature at Columbia University and the Department Chair. Her research focuses on twentieth- and twenty-first-century culture, with emphases on film and theater; literary, media, and cultural theory; and the intersections of gender, sexuality, and race.
Fatima Naqvi is a Professor in the Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures at Yale University. Her research interests include the intersection of architecture and literature/film; ecological films; Austrian authors and filmmakers of the 20th and 21st centuries; affect studies; and landscape in the post-1945 period.