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Title: Declinations: German Decadence and the Fall of Rome
Authors: Makhlouf, Peter
Advisors: Heller-Roazen, Daniel
Contributors: Comparative Literature Department
Keywords: afterlife of antiquity
Roman reception
translatio imperii
Subjects: Comparative literature
German literature
Classical literature
Issue Date: 2023
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: Declinations: German Decadence and the Fall of Rome studies fictions of Roman imperial continuity and downfall in a range of fin-de-siècle poets (e.g. Stefan George and his Circle, Theodor Däubler) and early twentieth century intellectuals (e.g. Rudolf Borchardt, Alfred Schuler, Aby Warburg), whose work is read both with and against leading representatives of classical studies (e.g. Eduard Meyer, Eduard Norden, Wilamowitz and Alois Riegl). The dissertation studies the affective, erotic investments in Roman reception as part of an ongoing process of German national subject-formation both within the post-1871 development of Germany as an imperial power as well as the perceived interregnum of the Weimar Republic. Roman reception of this period is predicated on a late nineteenth century shift toward nonclassical, "late" antiquities, which I read as a a commentary on the increasingly polycentric, syncretistic worldview generated by European empire—and its discontents. Each chapter forms a case study in the various media through which the purported afterlife of Roman imperium was translated into the German present. The preface introduces terminology key for the ancient reception of this period, including "influence," "translatio," "afterlife," and "decadence." Chapter I studies the relation between the erotics of reception and the interest in the late Roman empire in both Wilhelmine culture and poetic works of the George-Circle. Chapter II studies the interest of German literary decadence and its French predecessors in the late antique genre of the hymn, with special attention paid to the subgenre of the hymn to Rome. Chapter III studies the construction of the opposition "Orient oder Rom" in the Weimar Republic and its manner of encoding contemporary political struggles through ancient referents. Chapter IV studies Weimar intellectuals' concerted interest in wax masks, which arose in light of the perceived loss of the figure of the "great man" under the new democratic polity. Chapter V studies Ernst Robert Curtius's work on the Latin Middle Ages and its attendant conception of Romanitas as a crisis-formation that emerged in response to the vicissitudes of German empire in the twentieth century.
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Comparative Literature

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