Goethe's concept of Weltliteratur ('world literature') made its first appearance in his periodical "Über Kunst und Altertum" and displays three dimensions: historical diagnosis, moral injunction, a classicistic poetics of modernism. This book attempts to do justice to the wide-ranging implications of the concept by exploring two different avenues in the history of ideas. The first part examines 18th century theoretical debates on cultural difference and the formation of a global society (Montesquieu, Rousseau, Adam Smith, Kant, Herder, Humboldt). The second traces the evolution of Goethe's program for a 'world literature' from the age of the French Revolution to the last decade of his life.
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