THE PROJECT OF tracing the legacy, influence, and value of German culture across national, linguistic, and historical contexts might imply that scholars need to look away from the traditional exemplars of German culture. That might involve, one might think, shifting our contemporary research and teaching priorities away from German writing and cinema, now the traditional stuff of German studies, attending instead to a wider range of cultural products that may have been forgotten, marginalized, overlooked, or are simply not contained within obviously Germanophone contexts, and examining these through an appropriately expanded set of methodologies. This volume seeks to map and promote this process of expansion, and the chapters as a whole testify to how far such developments have already come within different iterations of German studies around the globe. However, this collection does not shy away from returning to the traditional core of our discipline. Key to our project is a process of viewing canonical texts afresh and reviewing how we read them—opening out interrogations of how contemporary and historical Germanophone culture speaks to models of the “world” as a complex shifting entity that is cultural, political, economic, and the object of scientific inquiry.
One fascinating and invaluable characteristic of much pre-twentieth-century German literary and philosophical production, particularly from the period around 1800, is the fact that it not only wrestled with questions of Germany's identity as a nation but also explored, often quite explicitly, such notions as “world culture,” “world consciousness,” or “world belonging.” The first part of this volume seeks to continue a process of refocusing the products of German culture, taken from that period and indeed the epoch, to show how they can be used to explore matters of transnational and worldly concern. It begins with a cluster of chapters that revisit a sequence of what might be termed “older” canonical writers. John Noyes offers one of several contributions in the volume that draw on Goethe. Noyes seeks to “sketch the dimensions of Welt as Goethe explored it” in Faust, in the writings on Weltliteratur (world literature), and in the methodological considerations of his Farbenlehre (Theory of Colors, 1810).