Since the appearance of the first edition of this book in Germany in 1979 it has established itself as a classic work used by students and anyone interested in German literature. German literature is treated in this book not as a self-contained development according to purely aesthetic laws, but as a phenomenon firmly rooted in the social and political world from which it arises. The power and effectiveness of literary works are assessed according to their relation to the human conditions of the time: do they represent 'reality' or conflict with it? Do they reinforce or disturb complacency? Do they concern themselves with the upper levels of society or with marginal figures? Social forces and their interrelation with the artistic avant-garde are the organising theme of this history, which traces the literary history of Germany from its first beginnings in the Middle Ages to the present day. Readable and stimulating, its achievement is to make the literature of the past as immediate and engaging as the works of the present. This latest edition has been updated to cover the consequences of the reunification of Germany in 1990.