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Constituting a Self through an Indian Other. A Study of Select Works by Stefan Zweig and Hermann Hesse


This study explains how “India” can sometimes be used in German-language literature in non-Orientalist terms. As I closely analyze Stefan Zweig's Die Augen des ewigen Bruders: Eine Legende, his essay “Die indische Gefahr für England,” and Hermann Hesse's Siddhartha all within a postcolonial theoretical framework, I argue that these texts that either take place in India or contend with Indian themes are less about India than about coming to terms with self-identity. With Zweig's work, I demonstrate how India is used as a means toward self-reflection and self-critique. Accordingly, I turn to Zweig's fraught relationship to the Austro-Hungarian Empire as well as interest in internationalism to verify, through historical and biographical analysis, how these texts that are ostensibly about an Other are inexorably a means of constituting a Self. Since with Zweig's texts I establish that “Indienliteratur” can be read in postcolonial terms, I move in a different direction with my reading of Hesse's “German-Indian” story by not taking recourse to locating its cultural identity. I borrow analytical developments I make previously on the relationship between individual and community/national identity in order to engage with identity on a philosophical scale. I examine how Siddhartha, a text that condemns every kind of teaching, paradoxically helped teach individualistic identity formation in the era of U.S. Counterculture.

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