Starting with the surprising role the soul assumed in the West German music essay from the early 1980s, this article interrogates a peculiar, misunderstood middle passage in dominant historiographies of German pop literature—the new wave music essay—that transformed itself at the dawn of the 1990s—shortly before the literary phenomenon labeled Popliteratur emerged—by embracing then emergent Anglo-American Cultural Studies. The importance of new wave music for the essay’s regard for soul were lost on both pop literature and its attendant literary histories. The “studies model” has, at least in this one instance, smoothed over historical ruptures with unfortunate repercussions for our understanding of the precarious writerly mediation of life and music shortly before the value of poetics for life vanished altogether.
Richard Langston is the Zachary Smith Distinguished Term Associate Professor of German Literature at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is the author of Visions of Violence (Evanston, 2008), the lead translator of Alexander Kluge and Oskar Negt’s History and Obstinacy (New York, 2014), and principle editor of the 2015 issue of the Alexander-KlugeJahrbuch. His forthcoming book on Alexander Kluge and Oskar Negt is entitled Dark Matter: Alexander Kluge and Oskar Negt in Defiance of Catastrophic Modernity.