German Faculty Books

The Life of Imagination: Revealing and Making the World

Imagination allows us to step out of the ordinary but also to transform it through our sense of wonder and play, artistic inspiration and innovation, or the eureka moment of a scientific breakthrough. In this book, Jennifer Anna Gosetti-Ferencei offers a groundbreaking new understanding of its place in everyday experience as well as the heights of creative achievement.

The Life of Imagination delivers a new conception of imagination that places it at the heart of our engagement with the world―thinking, acting, feeling, making, and being. Gosetti-Ferencei reveals imagination’s roots in embodied human cognition and its role in shaping our cognitive ecology. She demonstrates how imagination arises from our material engagements with the world and at the same time endows us with the sense of an inner life, how it both allows us to escape from reality and aids us in better understanding it. Drawing from philosophy, cognitive science, evolutionary anthropology, developmental psychology, literary theory, and aesthetics, Gosetti-Ferencei engages a spectacular range of examples from ordinary thought processes and actions to artistic, scientific, and literary feats to argue that, like consciousness itself, imagination resists reductive explanation. The Life of Imagination offers a vital account of transformative thinking that shows how imagination will be essential in cultivating a future conducive to human flourishing and to that of the life around us.

Tropes of Transport: Hegel and Emotion

Intervening in the multidisciplinary debate on emotion, Tropes of Transport offers a fresh analysis of Hegel’s work that becomes an important resource for Pahl’s cutting-edge theory of emotionality. If it is usually assumed that the sincerity of emotions and the force of affects depend on their immediacy, Pahl explores to what extent mediation—and therefore a certain degree of manipulation but also of sympathy—is constitutive of emotionality. Hegel serves as a particularly helpful interlocutor not only because he offers a sophisticated analysis of mediation, but also because, rather than locating emotion in the heart, he introduces impersonal tropes of transport, such as trembling, release, and shattering.

Exotic Spaces in German Modernism

Jennifer Anna Gosetti-Ferencei demonstrates that the exotic, as reflected in major works of German literature and in the philosophy and art that inspires it, provokes central questions about the modern self and the spaces it inhabits. Exotic spaces in the writings of such authors as Thomas Mann, Franz Kafka, Stefan Zweig, Robert Musil, Hugo von Hofmannsthal, Gottfried Benn, and Bertold Brecht, along with the thought of Nietzsche, Freud, Levi-Strauss, and Simmel and the art of German Expressionism, are shown to present alternatives to the landscape and experience of modernity. In an examination of the concept of the exotic and of spatial experience in their cultural, subjective, and philosophical contingencies, Gosetti-Ferencei shows that exotic spaces may contest and reconfigure the relationship between the familiar and the foreign, the self and the other. Exotic spaces may serve not only to affirm the subject in a symbolic conquering of territory, as emphasized in post-colonial interpretations, or project the fantasy of escapism to a lost paradise, as utopian readings suggest, but condition moral, aesthetic, or imaginative transformation. Such transformation, while risking disaster or dissolution of the self as well as endangerment of the other, may promote new possibilities of perceiving or being, and reconfigure the boundaries of a familiar world. As exotic spaces are conceived as mystical, liberating, erotic, infectious, frightening or mysterious, several possibilities for transformation emerge in their exposure: re-enchantment through epiphany; the collapse of the rational self; liberation of the imagination from the confines of the familiar world; and aesthetic transformation, revealing the paradoxically ‘primitive’ nature of modern experience. In strikingly original readings of canonical authors and compelling rediscoveries of forgotten ones, this study establishes that exotic experience can evidence the fragility of the European or Germanic self as depicted in modernist literature, revealing the usually unconsidered boundaries of the subject’s own familiar world.

The Ecstatic Quotidian: Phenomenological Sightings in Modern Art and Literature

Fascination with quotidian experience in modern art, literature, and philosophy promotes ecstatic forms of reflection on the very structure of the everyday world. Gosetti-Ferencei examines the ways in which modern art and literature enable a study of how we experience quotidian life. She shows that modernism, while exhibiting many strands of development, can be understood by investigating how its attentions to perception and expectation, to the common quality of things, or to childhood play gives way to experiences of ecstasis—the stepping outside of the ordinary familiarity of the world.

While phenomenology grounds this study (through Husserl, Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty, and Bachelard), what makes this book more than a treatise on phenomenological aesthetics is the way in which modernity itself is examined in its relation to the quotidian. Through the works of artists and writers such as Benjamin, Cézanne, Frost, Klee, Newman, Pollock, Ponge, Proust, Rilke, Robbe-Grillet, Rothko, Sartre, and Twombly, the world of quotidian life can be seen to harbor a latent ecstasis. The breakdown of the quotidian through and after modernism then becomes an urgent question for understanding art and literature in its capacity to further human experience, and it points to the limits of phenomenological explications of the everyday.

Heidegger, Hölderlin, and the Subject of Poetic Language

Heidegger’s interpretations of the poetry of Hölderlin are central to Heidegger’s later philosophy and have determined the mainstream reception of Hölderlin’s poetry. Gosetti-Ferencei argues that Heidegger has overlooked central elements in Hölderlin’s poetics, such as a Kantian understanding of aesthetic subjectivity and a commitment to Enlightenment ideals. These elements, she argues, resist the more politically distressing aspects of Heidegger’s interpretations, including Heidegger’s nationalist valorization of the German language and sense of nationhood, or Heimat.

In the context of Hölderlin’s poetics of alienation, exile, and wandering, Gosetti-Ferencei draws a different model of poetic subjectivity, which engages Heidegger’s later philosophy of Gelassenheit, calmness, or letting be. In so doing, she is able to pose a phenomenologically sensitive theory of poetic language and a “new poetics of Dasein,” or being there.

The Discourse of Nature in the Poetry of Paul Celan: The Unnatural World

Paul Celan has long been regarded as the most important European poet after 1945 but also the most difficult owing to the numerous references in his work to his personal history and to a cultural heritage spanning many disciplines, centuries, and languages. In this insightful study, Rochelle Tobias goes a long way to dispelling the obscurity that has surrounded the poet and his work. She shows that the enigmatic images in his poetry have a common source. They are drawn from the disciplines of geology, astrology, and physiology or what could be called the sciences of the earth, the heavens, and the human being. Celan’s poetry borrows from each of these disciplines to create a poetic universe—a universe that attests to what is no longer and projects what is not yet.

This is the unnatural world of Celan’s poetry. It is a world in which time itself takes physical form or is made plastic. Through a series of close readings and philosophical explorations, Tobias reflects on the experience of time encoded and embodied in Celan’s work. She demonstrates that the physical world in his poetry ultimately serves as a showcase for time, which is the most elusive aspect of human experience because it is based nowhere but in the mind. Tobias’s probing interpretations present a new model for understanding Celan’s work from the early elegiac poems to the later cryptic texts.

An interdisciplinary project, the study combines readings of Celan’s poetry with discussions of ancient and modern science, mystical cosmology, and twentieth-century literature and thought. Tobias’s original approach to Celan illuminates his complex verse and contributes significantly to the theory of metaphor as it applies to modern verse.

After the Palace Burns

“After the Palace Burns” is the stunning debut of Jennifer Anna Gosetti-Ferencei and is the winner of the 2002 Paris Review Prize in Poetry. Each line in this extraordinary collection of poems feels like the deliberate utterance of a strong, educated, and creative mind. Each image and word is carefully chosen for context, clarity, and deep surprise. Jennifer Anna Gosetti-Ferencei was born in Saint Louis, Missouri, and has studied in Athens, Ohio; Philadelphia; Berlin; and New York City.