This is one of the most exciting and original as well as solidly researched new books on German literature. It illustrates what the interdisciplinary combination of literary, historical, and political studies can come up with. Todd Kontje is familiar with multiculturalism, postcolonialism, world literature, globalization, and digital humanities. Even if one does not agree with one or another analogy or comparison, the reading is always enlightening, provocative, and inspiring. Kontje’s major point is that German literature from the late eleventh century to beyond unification under Bismarck should be understood not primarily as a national literature but as poetic documents of an empire without a strong political central power. In that regard Germany differed from other empires past and present. Unlike their counterparts in France and England, German writers and intellectuals developed visions of a Staatenbund (a confederacy of independent principalities) and a...

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