The Doppelganger: Double Visions in German Literature

The Doppelganger: Double Visions in German Literature

The Doppelganger: Double Visions in German Literature

The Doppelganger: Double Visions in German Literature

Synopsis

Ever since its literary coinage in Jean Paul's novel, Siebenk"a (1796), the concept of Doppelg"anger has had significant influence upon representations of the self in German literature. This study charts the development of the double from its origins in the Romantic period, through its more marginal, but nonetheless significant, manifestations in the post-Romantic culture, to its revival at the fin-de-si`ecle and transfer to the silent screen.

Excerpt

This book undertakes what might be called a case-history of subjectivity in German writing in and around the nineteenth century. It analyses the dismantling of the idea of the transcendental subject by assembling a series of individual literary case-studies into a case-book of subjectivity in crisis. The Doppelgänger acts here as a particularly strenuous test case for the reliability of subjective identity in the literature of the period. It represents the subject as more or less pathologically divided between reality and fantasy in cases of what Hoffmann diagnoses as 'chronischer Dualismus' ('chronic dualism' (H 5 311)). As such the figure can be seen to gauge the shifting relations between realist and fantastic tendencies in writing spanning the ages of Classicism, Romanticism, Realism, Naturalism, and Modernism. As an enduring revenant, the Doppelgänger returns to haunt subjectivity in more or less compelling forms throughout the period in question.

This introductory chapter has two purposes: on the one hand, to give an overview of the manifestations of the Doppelgänger, as defined for the purposes of the study, in literary practice; on the other, to set up a survey of theoretical positions on the double, which will both stand as objects of analysis in their own right and provide a methodological framework for my arguments. While the study is largely focused on literary cases, these are invariably informed by, and may profitably be read by means of, theoretical texts. In the case of the Doppelgänger, theory and creative writing are engaged in a complex and highly ambivalent exchange of reciprocal readings and representations. Theory and practice will recurrently converge here.

This introduction cannot hope to supply a comprehensive account of philosophical and psychological theories of dualism . . .

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