Eusebius, Florestan and Friends: Schumann and the Doppelganger Tradition in German Literature

By Kautsky, Catherine | American Music Teacher, October-November 2011 | Go to article overview

Eusebius, Florestan and Friends: Schumann and the Doppelganger Tradition in German Literature


Kautsky, Catherine, American Music Teacher


Eusebius and Florestan were only the beginning. Robert Schumann's most famous alter-egos were joined not only by Master Raro and others in the Davidsbundler clan, but also by Walt and Vult, Jean Paul Richter's twins from Flegeljahre and E.T.A. Hoffmann's own double, Kreisler--who himself subdivides into dreamer and madman.

What did this doppelganger obsession mean to artists of the 19th century, and why was it so particularly relevant to Schumann?

Florestan and Eusebius, Schumann's doubles, must have lived with numerous friends. Despite the received wisdom of many a piano literature class, multiple personalities were not the unique manifestation of either Schumann's creative genius or his incipient madness. To the contrary, 19th-century Germany was awash with doppelgangers--they inhabited poems, novels, essays and, of course, insane asylums. And Robert Schumann searched them out in his favorite authors, finding for them a new, and particularly congenial, home in his piano cycles.

Though the ambivalent yearnings of a single personality were hardly a discovery of the romantic age, nevertheless the codification of those yearnings into discreet halves became emblematic of the age. Witness Heine's poem set by Franz Schubert, in which the speaker cries in horror against "you, doppelganger, you pale mate." The moonlit apparition he sees is his earlier incarnation; this double is always with him through his memories, and its projection merely externalizes his inner grief. Doppelgangers served many functions: they personified memory, they joined extreme personality types in one individual, they imparted an aura of the supernatural to the otherwise ordinary and they allowed a cautious flirtation with madness. In this century before Freud's theories of the unconscious revolutionized psychiatry, artists foreshadowed his discoveries in their own probing of the recesses of the human mind.

As Freud said in his 1919 essay, "The Uncanny," "probably the immortal soul was the first double." Humans of all religions have found ways to perpetuate themselves by creating a double who shares a soul, but not a finite life span. From Hindu reincarnates, to Kafka's non-religious metamorphosis, to Catholic souls in heaven and hell, human beings have seen themselves split, yet whole, through the ages. Their duplicates have served as wish-fulfillment or nightmare-fantasy, and now, of course, in our own age of cloning we are left with fears and dreams that have become only too real.

Of course, we don't need clones to see our double--we need only look to our shadow. Adelbert yon Chamisso, played on this duality in "The Strange Case of Peter Schlemihl" (1814). Here, an unfortunate man agrees to sell his shadow in return for an abundance of gold in a seemingly innocent bargain with the devil. It soon becomes clear that he has parted with an essential part of himself without which he cannot appear whole, and he finds himself banished from all company but that of one faithful servant. The shadow is his double, but without it his singleness is incomplete. So it is, perhaps, with our unconscious or our "souls."

From the world of shadows, it is not that large a leap to the world of ghosts. Here E.T.A. Hoffmann, one of Schumann's favorite authors, was in his rightful domain. In his stories, ghosts often appear as reincarnations of figures from childhood, and in their conjuring, one sees the schism between the adult and the child who remains embedded within him. Fairy tales are replete with figures reconfigured from childhood, and in Hoffmann, they appear most frequently as nursemaids turned to witches. In "The Doge and the Dogeressa," for instance, an "old crone" beggar woman with an "ugly, shriveled face" turns out to have had "a full, rosy face [and] tender, kindly eyes" in her previous existence as nursemaid to the orphaned hero, Antonio. Her current magical powers, though disguised as wicked, bring Antonio together with his beloved. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Eusebius, Florestan and Friends: Schumann and the Doppelganger Tradition in German Literature
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.