Rethinks German literature by challenging the notion that national literature is the narrative of a spiritually united people

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Imperial Fictions explores ways in which writers from late antiquity to the present have imagined communities before and beyond the nation-state. It takes as its point of departure challenges to the discrete nation-state posed by globalization, migration, and European integration today, but then circles back to the beginnings of European history after the fall of the Roman Empire. Unlike nationalist literary historians of the nineteenth century, who sought the tribal roots of an allegedly homogeneous people, this study finds a distant mirror of analogous processes today in the fluid mixtures and movements of peoples. Imperial Fictions argues that it is time to stop thinking about today’s multicultural present as a deviation from a culturally monolithic past. We should rather consider the various permutations of “German” identities that have been negotiated within local and imperial contexts from the early Middle Ages to the present.

Todd Kontje is Distinguished Professor of German and Comparative Literature at the University of California, San Diego.

"Imperial Fictions presents a rich and fascinating range of case studies of German literature from antiquity to the contemporary to explore how German cultural identity has never been determined by a monolithic concept of the nation-state but instead has grappled with varying historical contexts of empire. ... This is a fascinating and rich study not only relevant to Germanisten but scholars working on Weltliteratur, nationalism, and patriotism."
-- The German Quarterly