(Haunted) Cosmopolitan Places: World Literature, the Modern Ghost Story, and the Structure of Debt

Maurits PJ (2019)

Publication Language: English

Publication Type: Journal article, Original article

Publication year: 2019


Book Volume: 30

Pages Range: 57 - 72

Journal Issue: 3

URI: https://angl.winter-verlag.de/article/angl/2019/3/7

DOI: 10.33675/ANGL/2019/3/7

Open Access Link: https://angl.winter-verlag.de/article/angl/2019/3/7


Goethe's modern concept of world literature and Scott's modern ghost story, both the first  of  their  kind,  emerged  only  months  apart,  in  January  and  October  of  1827, respectively.1 A connection between the concept and the literary form, or between the two  authors,  seems  cursory  at  first  glance.  Certainly,  Goethe  and  Scott  were contemporaries: they died 13 days apart in 1832, were described by Thomas Carlyle as the "two kings of poetry," and were continuously familiar with each other's work (qtd. in Scott 1891, 379, n 1). Yet Scott never mentioned world literature in his journal or letters and even seemingly opposed the ideal of world literature in practice. As he wrote in his journal, he made it "a rule seldom to read, and never to answer, foreign letters from literary folks" – with the exception of letters from Goethe, "a wonderful fellow, the Ariosto at once, and almost the Voltaire of Germany" (Scott 1891, 234). Goethe admired Scott for his essays on the supernatural as well as for his novels, and said that Scott was "a great genius; he has not his equal, [his] art [is] wholly [...] new, with laws of its own" and "so high that it is hard to give a public opinion about it" (Goethe 1901, 358; 360). But there appears to be no evidence that Goethe read Scott's ghost stories, much less that they had been of influence on his world literature. As Eppers has argued, the  Goethe-Scott  relationship  remained  an  "encounter  from  afar"  (2006,  166,  my translation). As I aim to show in this essay, however, there is a connection between Goethe's modern world literature and Scott's modern ghost story. This connection, I argue, is historical rather than personal, by which I mean to say that both Goethe and Scott draw on the same raw material in the form of what I call the cosmopolitan space – it becomes a space of anticipation in the former and one of monstrosity in the latter. I propose the cosmopolitan space as an instance of an 'ideologeme,' a concept first used prominently by Bakhtin and Medvedev (1981) and later developed by Kristeva as a way to analyze ideology intertextually, at "the different structural levels of the text" (1980, 36). Jameson, building on those accounts, specified ideologemes as the "smallest intelligible"  (1983,  61)  units  or  building  blocks  of  ideology  –  the  "ultimate  raw material"  (73)  of  cultural  products.  For  him,  they  are  "amphibious  formation[s]," because  they  can  manifest  themselves  conceptually  and  as  a  "protonarrative"  or "collective class fantasy" (73). The cosmopolitan space, then, is an (ideological) unit of meaning, which can be expressed on various textual levels and in various media – in our case, Goethe's concept of modern world literature and Scott's literary form of the modern ghost story.

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Maurits, P.J. (2019). (Haunted) Cosmopolitan Places: World Literature, the Modern Ghost Story, and the Structure of Debt. Anglistik, 30(3), 57 - 72. https://dx.doi.org/10.33675/ANGL/2019/3/7


Maurits, Peter J.. "(Haunted) Cosmopolitan Places: World Literature, the Modern Ghost Story, and the Structure of Debt." Anglistik 30.3 (2019): 57 - 72.

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