'Denn sie lebt nur, wenn sie singt!' The idealisation of art and femininity in E.T.A. Hoffmann's Künstlernovellen
Röder, Birgit (2002) 'Denn sie lebt nur, wenn sie singt!' The idealisation of art and femininity in E.T.A. Hoffmann's Künstlernovellen. In: Conference of University Teachers of German in Great Britain and Ireland, St John's College, Oxford, 9-11 Apr 2001. Published in: Words, texts, images : selected papers from the Conference of University Teachers of German, University of Oxford, April 2001, Vol.4 pp. 41-53.Full text not available from this repository.
The Romantic artist and the nature of his (never-ending) quest for the Romantic Ideal are central themes in almost all of Hoffmann's Künstlernovellen. By exploiting their creative potential, Hoffmann's artist-figures attempt to produce ever more perfect embodiments of the Ideal in a variety of artistic forms. However, it is in the nature of the Ideal that it cannot be realised in the temporal world of everyday reality, but exists only within the limits of a transcendent, metaphysical world. As a result it cannot assume a permanent, lasting form, but can be glimpsed, at best, only briefly, as - to quote Hegel - a 'Scheinen der Idee'. On the one hand, Hoffmann demonstrates how the transitory nature of the Ideal may inspire the artist (insofar as he is encouraged to scale the heights of his artistic creativity again and again); on the other hand, however, Hoffmann draws attention to the catastrophic consequences that may ensue whenever the artist becomes frustrated by the impossibility of ever bringing his quest to a successful, lasting conclusion and, as a result, falls into the trap of setting up a pseudo-Ideal in place of the true Ideal - an obvious (though understandable) lapse into a state of mauvaise foi.
In Romantic philosophy, love has a similar role to art insofar as it, too, offers the individual a means of coming into contact with the Ideal. Like art, love - at least in its ideal form - is a sphere of human activity pursued purely for its own sake. Most of the artist figures in Hoffmann's novellas are male and, as a result, it is hardly coincidental that the female characters are presented as the object of the artist's adoration/desire. But as Hoffmann demonstrates, whenever the (male) artist (either wittingly or unwittingly) comes to regard woman as something more than 'just' the source of his artistic inspiration, and mistakes her for the very incarnation of the Romantic Ideal itself, the consequences are usually catastrophic for all involved.
Although the problems that derive from a misguided idealisation of art and femininity are explored in almost all of E.T.A. Hoffmann's Künstlernovellen, my paper will focus primarily on three novellas: Das Sanctus, Die Jesuiterkirche in G. and Der Sandmann. Nonetheless, I also hope to be able to allude to some of the more important examples in some of his other works. The paper will be in English.
|Item Type:||Conference Item (Paper)|
|Subjects:||P Language and Literature > PT Germanic literature|
|Divisions:||Faculty of Arts > School of Modern Languages and Cultures > German Studies|
|Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH):||Hoffmann, E. T. A. (Ernst Theodor Amadeus), 1776-1822 -- Criticism and interpretation.|
|Journal or Publication Title:||Words, texts, images : selected papers from the Conference of University Teachers of German, University of Oxford, April 2001|
|Page Range:||pp. 41-53|
|Access rights to Published version:||Restricted or Subscription Access|
|Conference Paper Type:||Paper|
|Title of Event:||Conference of University Teachers of German in Great Britain and Ireland|
|Type of Event:||Conference|
|Location of Event:||St John's College, Oxford|
|Date(s) of Event:||9-11 Apr 2001|
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