German Literature: A Very Short Introduction, Paperback Book

German Literature: A Very Short Introduction Paperback

Part of the Very Short Introductions series

3 out of 5 (1 rating)


German writers, from Luther and Goethe to Heine, Brecht, and Gunter Grass, have had a profound influence on the modern world.

This Very Short Introduction presents an engrossing tour of the course of German literature from the late Middle Ages to the present, focussing especially on the last 250 years.

Emphasizing the economic and religious context of many masterpieces of German literature, it highlights how they can be interpreted as responses to social and political changes within an often violent and tragic history.

The result is a new and clear perspective which illuminates the power of German literature and the German intellectual tradition, and its impact on the wider cultural world.

ABOUT THE SERIES: The Very Short Introductions series from Oxford University Press contains hundreds of titles in almost every subject area.

These pocket-sized books are the perfect way to get ahead in a new subject quickly.

Our expert authors combine facts, analysis, perspective, new ideas, and enthusiasm to make interesting and challenging topics highly readable.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 184 pages, 15 black-and-white halftones
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Literary studies: general
  • ISBN: 9780199206599

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This introduction to German Literature is less than satisfying for two reasons: first, it defines German Literature as that produced within the present-day boundaries of Germany. For an English speaker looking for an elementary intro to German-language writing, this politically-motivated truncation is absurd. The book can only be read as an essay on North German national self-consciousness, not as a survey of the German literary world.Secondly, after selecting his subset of North German writers (carefully avoiding Kafka and all Austrian and Swiss authors by means of his up-to-date map), the author introduces their work and significance almost exclusively in the categories of social studies. German literature is apparently important because of what it tells us about the social status and economic goals of its producers and consumers.Why does Oxford repeatedly choose such skewed viewpoints for what they market as basic essays for beginners in various topics? Too many of the Short Introductions go off on political or critical tangents, at least in the area of literature. Taken on its own terms, the book is instructive, clear, and interesting. But with little knowledge of German literature, I am skeptical that I have gotten a full and accurate picture.