Academic journal article German Quarterly

Discursive Interaction. Literary Realism and Academic Historiography in Nineteenth-Century Germany

Academic journal article German Quarterly

Discursive Interaction. Literary Realism and Academic Historiography in Nineteenth-Century Germany

Article excerpt

Maurer, Kathrin. Discursive Interaction. Literary Realism and Academic Historiography in Nineteenth-Century Germany. Heidelberg: Synchron, 2006.178 pp. euro29.80 paperback.

In Discursive Interaction, Kathrin Maurer explores how the emerging academic disciplines of history and archaeology in 19th-century Germany shared with the literary realist prose of the same era common rhetorical strategies in their representations of German history. The book considers the scholarly histories of Leopold von Ranke and Gustav Droysen, as well as the archaeological writings of Heinrich Schliemann, as Realist texts themselves, and subjects them to a rhetorical analysis that explores their "rhetoric of realism." Maurer contends that many of the rhetorical strategies used by historians such as Ranke and Droysen-perspicuitas, inventio, and dispositio, as well as the archive effect, the citation of "sources, autobiography, eyewitness accounts, framing techniques, descriptive techniques, and a discourse of remembrance" (74)-were also employed by authors of Realist fiction such as Adalbert Stifter, Wilhelm Raabe, Joseph Victor von Scheffel, and Gustav Freytag. This discursive interaction across disciplinary lines opens up for Maurer the possibility of interrogating the literary nature of historical imagination.

The success of Maurer's book lies in several of her close readings of historical and literary texts. Her rhetorical analysis of Ranke's histories, in particular, is convincing in its parsing of his de-rhetoricization strategies in the quest of "plausibility and comprehensibility in the historical narrative" (37). She contrasts Ranke's histoire ("sammeln, finden, durchdringen"), which aims to show the past as it really has been, with historical discours, a historiography in which the historian inserts himself into the narrative and openly mediates the historical information for his readers. The self-annihilation of rhetoric is, for Ranke, extremely useful for convincing the reader of the truthfulness of his historical narrative.

Maurer's analysis of Raabe's Stopfkuchen and Stifter's Granit, works that thematize the "problems of representing history and record interpretations of history that have fallen through the academic web of historiography, " are the most solidly original contributions of her book, as well as the most integrated with contemporary scholarship (57). Beginning with the assertion that " [t]he mechanics of collecting-observing, selecting, naming, and cataloguing-constitute a poetic and rhetorical principle that [. …

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