The Germanic Mosaic: Cultural and Linguistic Diversity in Society

By Carol Aisha Blackshire-Belay | Go to book overview

where he feels, for the moment, that he truly does belong.

Each group within the autobiography has a strong sense of status quo and its own identity, and it is unusual for an animal to cross species boundaries. Ponto and Murr are exceptions, however. They mediate between various societies and realize some benefits; this is particularly true in Ponto's case, because of his street wisdom. Murr, however, lacks the practical sense of his canine friend, and therefore the feline must pay a price in being excluded and snubbed. Like other Romantic artist types (such as Werther and Kreisler), his extreme subjectivity makes many social interactions embarrassing and painful.

As a sociological phenomenon, the cat Murr demonstrates the impenetrability of the boundaries which societies establish, as he experiences clannishness and chauvinism both from inside and outside of these boundaries. Hoffmann's novel amusingly depicts important characteristics of human social structure from the standpoint of the pets which we keep. But the Romantic author also shows the pets in their own right, as they form competitive groups in close contact with one another and struggling for survival. While the parallels to and the satires upon human society are plentiful and obvious, Hoffmann convinces the reader that the animals truly are dogs and cats, who build social units with their own definitions of "them" and "us." 5


NOTES
1
A brief, critical and selective bibliography of secondary literature on Kater Murr can be found in Brigitte Feldges and Ulrich Stadler, E. T. A. Hoffmann: Epoche-Werk-Wirkung, Beck'sche Elementarbücher: Arbeitsbücher zur Literaturgeschichte ( Munich: Beck, 1986), 218-220.
2
This tradition was firmly established at the beginning of this century by Hans von Müller in his edition of E. T. A. Hoffmann, Das Kreislerbuch: Texte. Compositionen und Bilder zusammengestellt von Hans von Müller ( Leipzig: Insel, 1903), and was consistently maintained for years by the most important Hoffmann critics (see, for example, Walter Harich, E. T. A. Hoffmann: Das Leben eines Kunstlers, 4th ed. Berlin: Erich Reiß, n.d. [ 1922], 2: 270-286; Ernst von Schenck , E. T. A. Hoffmann: Ein Kampf um das Bild des Menschen ( Berlin: Verlag die Runde, 1939), 531-582; and Herbert Singer, "E. T. A. Hoffmann: Kater Murr", Der deutsche Roman: Vom Barock bis zum Gegenwart: Struktur und Geschichte, ed. Benno von Wiese ( Düsseldorf: Bagel, 1963), 1: 301-328).
3
Christa Maria Beardsley, E. T. A. Hoffmanns Tierfiguren im Kontext der Romantik. Die Poetisch-ästhetische und die gesellschaftliche Funktion der Tiere bei Hoffmann und in der Romantik, Abhandlungen zur Kunst, Literatur und Literaturwissenschaft 358 ( Bonn: Bouvier, 1985).

-8-

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