Academic journal article German Quarterly

"...auch nur ein Bild." Krankheit und Tod bei Theodor Fontane

Academic journal article German Quarterly

"...auch nur ein Bild." Krankheit und Tod bei Theodor Fontane

Article excerpt

Bontrup, Hiltrud. "... auch nur ein Bild." Krankheit and Tod bei Theodor Fontane. Hamburg: Argument, 2000. 206 pp. DM 34.80.

Most published doctoral dissertations are tedious and laborious in terms of presentation and sophistication. The latter applies even more to published Master's theses. Bontrup's examination of the themes of death and disease in Fontane is no exception. Using three major works by one of Prussia's most notable Realists, L'Adultera, Schach von Wuthenow, and Cecile, Bontrup proposes to shed light on the "Selbstverstandnis einer Epoche oder literarischen Str/mung and ihrem soziokulturellen Kontext"(7) by focusing on two culturally significant literary themes. Yet her study amounts to little more than a reworking of postwar Fontane scholarship with occasional references to scholarship (for the most part, German-language scholarship) on the tropes of death and disease. In other words, the book does not and cannot yield the comprehensive results promised by the author in her introductory comments. It would take a larger comparative perspective to asses the literary and cultural panorama of Fontane's era and an informed discussion of the cultural, political, and biographical factors that form the context of Fontane's writing and the sources of the material from which he constructs his plots and characters.

While Bontrup's text based analyses do yield some interesting insights beyond what has become the leitmotifs of earlier scholarship by critics such as Miller-Seidel, Pfeiffer, and Anz, they do ultimately fall short of providing new vistas, primarily because "... such nur ein Bild" lacks a coherent contemporary theoretical framework. This is most obvious in the discussions of the representation of gender and gender roles. While Bontrup does mention some of the by now traditional critical studies by Bronfen, Bovenschen, Stephan, and Weigel, the vast field of US-American feminist and gender studies, including queer theory, as well as French feminist theories remain excluded. …

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