German Literature on the Middle East

Discourses and Practices, 1000-1989

Subjects: German Studies, History, German History, Literary Studies, European Literature
Paperback : 9780472035571, 336 pages, 1 table, 1 illustration, 1 B&W photograph, 6 x 9, July 2013
Hardcover : 9780472117512, 336 pages, 1 table, 1 illustration, 1 B&W photograph, 6 x 9, February 2011
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An investigation of Germany and the Middle East through literary sources, in the context of social, economic, and political practices

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Copyright © 2011, University of Michigan. All rights reserved.


German Literature on the Middle East explores the dynamic between German-speaking and Middle Eastern states and empires from the time of the Crusades to the end of the Cold War. This insightful study illuminates the complex relationships among literary and other writings on the one hand, and economic, social, and political processes and material dimensions on the other. Focusing on German-language literary and nonfiction writings about the Middle East (including historical documents, religious literature, travel writing, essays, and scholarship), Nina Berman evaluates the multiple layers of meaning contained in these works by emphasizing the importance of culture contact; a wide web of political, economic, and social practices; and material dimensions as indispensible factors for the interpretive process.

This analysis of literary and related writing reveals that German views about the Middle East evolved over the centuries and that various forms of action toward the Middle East differed substantially as well. Ideas about religion, culture, race, humanism, nation, and modernity, which emerged successively but remain operative to this day, have fashioned Germany's changed attitudes toward the Middle East. Exploring the interplay between textual discourses and social, political, and economic practices and materiality, German Literature on the Middle East offers insights that challenge accepted approaches to the study of literature, particularly approaches that insist on the centrality of the linguistic construction of the world. In addition, Berman presents evidence that the German encounter with the Middle East is at once distinct and yet at the same time characterized by patterns shared with other European countries. By addressing the individual nature of the German encounter in the larger European context, this study fills a considerable gap in current scholarship.

The interdisciplinary approach of German Literature on the Middle East will be of interest to the humanities in general, and specifically to scholars of German studies, comparative literature, Middle Eastern studies, and history.

Nina Berman is Professor of Comparative Studies at The Ohio State University.

Jacket image: Map of Europe by Giovanni Magini, from his “Geography.” Venice, [1598]. From the University of Michigan Map Library. 

Political Map of the World, April 2008.  From the University of Texas Perry-Castañeda Library, Map Collection.

Nina Berman is Professor of Comparative Studies at The Ohio State University.

"This wide-ranging study successfully brings together not only vast geographic regions but a multidisciplinary and multifaceted analysis of literary works embedded within their social, political, and economic context—a remarkable challenge."
—Douglas McGetchin, The German Quarterly

- Douglas McGetchin

". . . truly a timely and welcome treatise . . . . A seminal resource."
—C. L. Dolmetsch, Choice

- C. L. Dolmetsch

Winner: American Library Association (ALA) Choice Outstanding Academic Title

- ALA Choice Outstanding Academic Title

"The great strength of this book is the scope of the historical survey, in terms of the period covered, the variety of source material (travel reports, high-brow literature, scholarship, polemics, art works, etc.), and the aspects which indeed comprise, as the author explains, literary, political, economic, and social developments." --Anna Akasoy, Journal of Islamic Studies

- Anna Akasoy

"The title alone is ambitious, but the true scope of German Literature on the Middle East is yet greater: to situate a thousand years of literature, Nina Berman argues, requires the political, economic, social and material backgrounds of each era, area and empire of both the German-speaking and Middle Eastern peoples in question, as well as their complex, shifting relations. Her study marshals extraordinary amounts of diverse information to deploy a narrative of enduring and evolving tropes of the Middle East, presenting genres from grisly newspaper reports to travelogues, opera to ethnographies, showing continuities and discontinuities of the attitudes of elites and masses alike."
Times Literary Supplement

- Lydia Wilson