Although Lessing’s explorations of literature in contrast to the other arts have been an object of considerable scholarly focus, Lessing is rarely mentioned in the many studies of world literature. Lessing’s absence contrasts with Goethe’s, who is well-known as being one of the earliest (often credited as being the earliest) theorists of world literature. While he did not explore the term, Lessing examined the roles of various literary traditions in a broader European context, drew inspiration from a wide range of literary sources, and had (and has) a significant influence on various traditions and disciplines. This panel seeks to examine how engaging Lessing’s broad thinking about literature adds to conversations on world literature, which have so often used Goethe as their point of departure, as well as how studies of world literature can shed new light on Lessing’s work.
We welcome talks that address ideas about Lessing and world literature, including but not limited to how Lessing’s ideas of literary traditions (French, Spanish, English, Italian, German) express themselves in both his essays and individual works of fiction, how his ideas of literature contrast with Goethe’s, and the presence of Lessing’s works in world
literature. Talks may focus on a wide range of topics: for instance, how Lessing’s dramatic theory have shaped international views on drama, how and why Lessing drew on Boccaccio or other individual authors, the presence of Nathan der Weise in world literature, the significance of individual productions of his plays, or a thorough consideration of Hannah Arendt’s Lessing essay.