The Ethics of Form – Anne Weber and Thomas Stangl discuss ‘On Good and Bad Literature’:

Ann Weber and Thomas Stangl discuss “On Good and Bad Literature”

By Rebecca Hounhouse

Book review / references

In October 2014, Paris-based German writer Anne Weber sent her first email to her Vienna colleague Thomas Stangl about ethics in literature. However, inquiries and references to what has been said before indicate that this is not a start. Only the two interviewers and literary critic Kurt Neumann, who initiated the correspondence, know what was said first. Two years later, the mail exchange was first published by the Vienna Private Numbers Publishing House under the title Simple question: what is good literature. Eight complex correspondence Transfer. In December 2019, before the first lockdown that forced the two into isolation, Anne Weber and Thomas Stangl resumed their conversation and discussed the question of what was happening.[w]When People Become Personalities.” This volume collects highly respected and loving emails from correspondence and puts them together under the auspicious title About good and bad literature together.

When Ann Weber and Thomas Stangl put “good” literature in relation to “evil” rather than “bad,” in choosing a title, they take the first step toward defining their understanding of “good”: good literature for them both is not primarily a matter of taste. The first, but linked to certain ethical standards. So what is morally good literature?

Nietzsche already knew that what is considered moral is subject to historical change, and literary history also seems to define the constant interaction between good and evil:

Perhaps the history of literature has played in the same way that beauty has always been the subject of ridicule, and morality wrong; Over what was a defect after a recent struggle, but thanks and despite the struggle of the avant-garde, anarchists and aliens of all kinds, could build something new, a new law.

According to Thomas Stangl in “09. January 2015”. Applied morality and therefore what is considered good must be separated from any substance, and according to Ann Weber, content less than officially is determined. “The search for an appropriate (i.e., morally justified) approach to characters, places, and events leads to a form.” The trick is to maintain tension through the structure of the text, because the moral good would otherwise turn sentimental and menacing kitsch. Good literature, as the first emails may be summed up, is erotic literature that simultaneously frees itself from tradition and taboo and is no good. is being or do good Wants.

The second part of the book, which deals with the transformation of people into literary characters, reveals that the two cannot completely separate morality from content. Thomas Stangl asks:

What if the ‘subject’ of the text is a human? a person who already lives or has lived; Perhaps someone from your family history, perhaps a well-known or lesser known historical figure? What kind of relationship does one enter into with this person in literary writing? What form can be accepted or justified to make it a thing – or can it be avoided?

The interlocutor worries not only about who is allowed to sympathize with whom (is it morally justified, for example, for a German writer to sympathize with a Jewish victim?), but also whether people have the right to “quietly leave”. Of course, there is no right not to become the subject of literature, and they certainly distance themselves from the “police-like tone” that is often used in these political and identity debates. However: the principle of freedom of art must not be applied without restrictions. The limits of what can be said and represented begin as characters are misused for ideological purposes. In all of her books, according to Anne Weber, it was important for her to emphasize that “what the reader is dealing with here is not the living person or the one who lived and his real life, but exclusively [ihre] His point of view and his life […]break the illusion. This means making the reader aware of the boundary between fact and fiction and making sure that the real person does not match the literary.

This book teaches that literature is not something that can be resolved in the dichotomy of good and evil. Thus the interlocutors – like literature in the process of history – wander back and forth between the two poles and find neither the beginning nor the end. The reader searches in vain for obligatory answers. But this, as Thomas Stangl writes, is the central challenge: “Living with an unfounded without ending up simply being arbitrary and nothing.” Even if the special form of the book makes it difficult to access the content, this is how the reading is very insightful – or one might also say – Quality expertise.

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