Das Wetterleuchten der Weltliteratur. Eine Debatte um 1900.

B. Venkat Mani, Pamela M. Potter and Peter Goßens


Georg Brandes’s essay „Weltlitteratur,“ which appeared in the Litterarische Echo in 1899, marks the beginning of a debate lasting until World War I about the relationship of world literature and Heimatdichtung. The debate culminated in the conflicts of its two most prominent representatives, the Jewish literary scholar Richard M. Meyer and the nationalist literary historian Adolf Bartels. The two had their first encounter in 1900 over their respective histories of German literature, as Bartels launched a relentless antisemitic campaign against Meyer’s work. When they both published their histories of world literature in 1913, the debate was revived. Bartels rejected any form of cosmopolitan world literature discourse put forth by Meyer. For Bartels, instead, the question of the “Wesen des Volkstums” was the true essence of literary studies. With this work, he stands, on the one hand, in the tradition of antisemitic thinking reminiscent of Ernst Moritz Arndt and, on the other hand, appears as an early cultivator of the kind of nationalist racial and cultural policy that would culminate in the crimes of National Socialism. (PG; in German)