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date: 05 April 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter argues that propaganda and the politics of literature more generally can be understood as a problem of reading and misreading. Tracking the history of Nazi readings of Friedrich Schiller's aesthetic theory, in particular those of Joseph Goebbels, which Paul de Man evokes in an essay on "Kant and Schiller," alongside critical debates about literature's relation to engagement and democracy (Sartre, Adorno, Derrida), the chapter concludes that propaganda is a matter of reading and misreading. More than this, it goes on to show that key theoretical accounts of literature and politics, whether programmatic or antiprogrammatic, eventuate in a claim about literature that, like propaganda, has the structure of a misreading.

Keywords: Paul de Man, Joseph Goebbels, Friedrich Schiller, misreading, politics and aesthetics, Jean-Paul Sartre, Theodor Adorno, Jacques Derrida, nazi aesthetic theory, committed literature

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