Ghost of a nation : totalitarian spirit and the literary mind of WWII Germany and Japan / by Lee Michael Roberts.
Examining German and Japanese literature and literary criticism, this dissertation argues that the notion of national identity prior to the Second World War in both countries shared features of the discourse on German Geist, which gave their ultra nationalistic campaigns a similarly skewed logic. Setting the scene, the first chapter discusses the German and Japanese search in the early twentieth century for national identities based on their respective cultural traditions and the resulting rejection of foreign creeds. The second chapter, then, recalls the discovery of a German linguistic past and notions of national identity in the Grimms' fairy tales and their work on Germanic mythology. Geist was becoming a conceptual metaphor for a German community without a political identity. While such ancient forms of German as Old High German only knew Geist as a creature outside of the human body, by the nineteenth century it had become something akin to the human "mind," "spirit," or "life force." Without such a turn in usage, German students who burned books of so-called un-German Geist in 1933 would never have been able to make sense of their own deed.Chapter three analyzes E.T.A. Hoffmann's usage of Geist as a thing similar to the Seele (soul), relating these usages to religion and early ideas on Seelenkunde (psychology), as well as to Sigmund Freud's theories in the early twentieth century. Chapter four examines the writings of Hermann Hesse, which placed him oddly between the Nazis and the exiles, and his considerations on the role of German Geist in the creation of a "German" personality with connections to both the European West and the Asian East. Finally, chapter five treats Japanese borrowings from European literature, especially from the German tradition, and Japan's attempt to distinguish itself from both Asia and Europe. In the effort, writers such as Inazô Nitobe sought to describe for a Western audience Japan's essence, or soul. Similarly, authors such as Mori Ôgai and Junichiro Tanizaki left their own take on the new Japanese personality and its connection to a German tradition, making Japanese spirit a concept much like German Geist.
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