In this book, author John Lyon makes a dual claim. First, he contends that the writing of the German poetic realists reflects a nineteenth-century transition in the way people viewed the physical world—from conceiving of place as uniting human experience and identity with physical locale to thinking of space as empty and quantifiable. Second, he rejects the critical tendency to view German poetic realism as retreating from or disregarding this modern development. Late realist writings, Lyon claims, view the advent of a “spatially” organized world clear-sightedly and, often, dispassionately. In fact, he believes that poetic realism was primed to apprehend and represent this shift, since “both realism as an artistic and theoretical movement and place as a concept are characterized by the competing pulls of materialism and idealism” (17). Using readings of novels by Wilhelm Raabe, Theodor Fontane, and Gottfried Keller, he offers a convincing case for such arguments. The...

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