The present contribution explores the topic of literary interpretation from a transcultural perspective. We employ two dramas by Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (Die Juden
and Nathan der Weise
) and one by Johann Wolfgang Goethe (Iphigenie auf Tauris
) as models for the investigation of intercultural and transcultural readings of literary texts. We first consider the epistemologies of Johann Martin Chladenius and Johann Gottfried Herder in order to distinguish between intercultural and transcultural studies. As a field of inquiry, transcultural literary studies does not employ one particular approach or advocate one specific method since it seeks to create new knowledge by opening up literary texts. For the first time, the article differentiates clearly between intercultural and transcultural studies and offers a clearer definition of transcultural spheres or spaces than has been advanced before. The critique of Karl-Josef Kuschel’s reading of Lessing’s Nathan der Weise
opens up the literary-dramatic text to new possibilities. The field does not focus on what cultures do with human beings but with what different human beings do with culture. In sum, the transcultural dimensions of literary texts foster transcultural mentalities. They also have the potential to identify shared experiences and to develop common understandings while respecting the authenticity of difference.
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