Academic journal article German Quarterly

Krise und Experiment. Komplexe Erzahltexte im literarishen Umbruch des 19. Jahrhunderts

Academic journal article German Quarterly

Krise und Experiment. Komplexe Erzahltexte im literarishen Umbruch des 19. Jahrhunderts

Article excerpt

Frank, Gustav. Krise and Experiment. Komplexe Erzahltexte im literarischen Umbruch des 19. Jahrhunderts. Wiesbaden: Deutscher UniversitAts-Verlag, 1998. x + 590 pp. DM 128.00.

A Passau dissertation endeavors to patch a gap in the still fragmentary history of the nineteenth-century German novel by examining in great detail works from the end of the Goethe-- zeit to the onset of the programmatic realism, grouped around the paradigmatic Roman des Nebeneinander, Karl Gutzkow's monster, Die Ritter vom Geiste, as a laboratory of base structures of realism. Treated as predecessors are Karl Immermann's Die Epigonen (which, as Frank rightly points out, is not itself epigonal) and Munchhausen, along with Ernst Willkomm's post-Young German Eisen, Gold and Geist and Weisse Sclaven oder die Leiden des Volkes, and the chronically undervalued Willibald Alexis's Ruhe ist die erste Burgerpflicht ("Familienroman der Neurotiker" [291]) and Isegrimm (regarded as a trilogy in consideration of the unwritten Gro/Bbeeren 1813). Following Die Ritter vom Geiste are Wilhelm Hacklander's bestseller, Europaisches Sclavenleben, Gutzkow's own Der Zauberer von Rom, Heinrich Albert Oppermann's Hundert Jahre (brought to light by Gerhard Friesen in his study of the panoramic novel in 1972), and, as an indication of the descent of the exhausted Roman des Nebeneinander into subliterature (similar to the fate, in the view of some, of the Bildungsroman), Karl May's early serial, Der verlorene Sohn.

By and large this is a story of the reduction of the complexity and experimentalism of the Roman des Nebeneinander-realism as "work in progress," as Frank says several times-into conventionality and domestication, disciplining eros and deviance while subsuming parties and classes under family and nation: "Der Realismus [...] kreist um die Regularitaten der `vollstandigen Kernfamilie,' der 'Sozialisation' des Junglings and der 'Person' des `Manner,' der 'Nation' and der Option des `Krieges"' (359; a good example of Frank's caustic use of quotation marks). The process begins already with Gutzkow, who in Die Ritter vom Geiste recurs to religious models and traditional feminine roles while devaluing Weltschmerz and Zerrissen-- heit; the secret society dampens the revolutionary fervor of its acolytes. Alexis before him had recovered identity and integrity through nationalism. This development is further advanced in DerZauberer von Rom, where Catholicism is eradicated (all the survivors are Protestant), Jewry is excluded from the (Christian) nation, and, as Frank remarks with particular malice, "man erfolgreich `keine Parteien, nur noch Deutsche' kennen kann" (394). Hacklander posits as a social goal the complete, well-formed family in admiration of the feudal structures of the American antebellum South. Oppermann, working with a new biology of genetic inheritance, also implies the exclusion of Jews and imagines an agrarian enclave of German virtue in the American Southwest, shielded from chaotic American politics, urbanization, industrialization, and "unterburgerlichen Schichten" (529). …

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