E. T. A. Hoffmann and Alcohol

E. T. A. Hoffmann and Alcohol: Biography, Reception, and Art

Victoria Dutchman-Smith
Volume: 75
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 200
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  • Book Info
    E. T. A. Hoffmann and Alcohol
    Book Description:

    Throughout critical debates on E. T. A. Hoffmann, discussions of alcohol, and in particular its influence on and significance within E. T. A. Hoffmann's creative output, have been recurrent, impassioned and frequently divisive. Portrayals of the artist as tortured alcoholic, such as one finds in Offenbach's "Contes d'Hoffmann", continue to capture the public imagination, but have fallen out of favour with critics wishing to bolster Hoffmann's status as a landmark writer. Victoria Dutchman-Smith uses the specific fate of alcohol as a topic in literature, biography and criticism as a prompt for the re-evaluation of Hoffmann's changing identities over the past two centuries: as artist, critic, Romantic, pre-emptive modernist, canonised great and, not least, as drinker. The role of alcohol in Hoffmann's life and works cannot be separated from wider cultural and critical narratives, and Dutchman-Smith's enthusiastic exploration of these sheds dramatic new light on the use and abuse of categorisation, not just in past and present responses to Hoffmann's works, but in the very structures of literary debate.

    eISBN: 978-1-78188-071-5
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-viii)
    V. D.-S.
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. 1-8)

    As a topic for twenty-first-century critical analysis, the role of alcohol in E.T.A. Hoffmann’s life and works has the dubious honour of being neither fresh nor fashionable. It is not just the case that recent criticism, resistant to reading lives through works and to allowing moral judgements to override aesthetic ones, has been sceptical of the usefulness of viewing Hoffmann solely through the lens of an upturned wine glass. In the years immediately following the writer’s death, his supporters were already starting to tire of the importance attributed to alcohol in his personal and artistic legacy. Friends such as Hitzig...

    • CHAPTER 1 ‘Ein exotisches Produkt’: Alcohol and the Hoffmann Figure
      (pp. 10-36)

      ‘Bonjour mes amis!... une place! une pipe et un verre!’² Thus does the notorious M. Hoffmann announce his arrival in the tavern where his wine-barrel muse awaits him. Jules Barbier and Michel Carré’s play Les Contes d’Hoffmann, first performed in Paris in 1851, but more commonly known as the 1881 opera for which Offenbach wrote the score, provides the best-known example of what one might call the ‘Hoffmann figure’. Unlucky in love, drinking heavily in Luther’s tavern, telling stories to a captivated audience, Barbier and Carré’s Hoffmann is a creature of the night, passionate and gifted, yet morally depleted and...

    • CHAPTER 2 ‘Eine schauderhafte Warnungstafel’: The Drinking Writer as Exemplar
      (pp. 37-63)

      Walter Scott wrote his article ‘On the Supernatural in Fictitious Composition’ in 1827, and it has been casting a shadow over Hoffmann criticism ever since.² If one is searching for one person to hold responsible for negative portrayals of Hoffmann and his writing throughout the nineteenth century, Scott seems an obvious choice. The long-lasting effects of one caustic review have become legendary, and hence self-perpetuating, in Hoffmann scholarship.³ The scott article attracts the attention of Hoffmann scholars because it is provocative, but also highly revealing of the era in which Hoffmann lived and died, and of its apparently stifling literary...

    • CHAPTER 3 ‘Wenn so die blaue Flamme emporzückt...’: Alcohol, Artistry, and Inspiration
      (pp. 64-86)

      The question of whether or not alcohol inspired Hoffmann creatively has long been a major focus for critics in their assessments of the relationship between the writer’s drinking and his status as an artist. In view of the way in which issues surrounding alcohol and intoxication were exploited to portray Hoffmann and his work negatively throughout the nineteenth century, one would expect many modern critics to be loath to suggest that Hoffmann’s imagination was fuelled by wine and punch. At the same time, mainly thanks to French works such as Les Contes d’Hoffmann, Les Paradis artificiels, and Gaston Bachelard’s 1949...

    • CHAPTER 4 ‘Schadenfrohe Taschenspieler [...] die Unfug mit dir trieben’: Alcohol and Storytelling
      (pp. 88-124)

      When examining beliefs about Hoffmann and alcohol, what one discovers are not always truths but interlinking, ever-developing stories. Often worth more than monolithic assertions of authenticity and redemption, tales about what others thought about Hoffmann illustrate the different ways in which people manipulate art within the cultural programmes it supposedly defines. There is a value in such distortions, and even more in their apparent exposure, far beyond their source but within the mythmaking of other ages. By comparison, Hoffmann’s own works of fiction can seem pure and untainted. They are the stories they are meant to be, and, if they...

    • CHAPTER 5 ‘Aus dem Untergange das Heil’: Sickness, Status, and ‘Syrakuser’
      (pp. 125-168)

      In his Étude médico-psychologique of E.T.A. Hoffmann’s life and works, Gaston Kuenemann claims that ‘l’oeuvre d’Hoffmann [...] nous présente un tableau clinique à peu près complet des troubles psychiques relevant de l’alcoolisme’.² Kuenemann is one of several critics who have sought to find specific literary evidence for alcoholism in Hoffmann’s writing. This approach was especially popular among the medical analysts of Hoffmann’s life and works of the early twentieth century.³ Such a practice goes beyond making allusions to the ‘style peculiar to themselves’ of ‘the great writers who have been under the dominion of alcohol’, and extends to a focus...

    (pp. 169-172)

    In a 1972 article by Klaus Günzel, E.T.A. Hoffmann is described as ‘getrieben, gedemütigt, verhöhnt und manchmal fast zertreten von der Zeit, in der er lebte’, while remaining ‘in vieler Hinsicht auch wieder ein Kind dieser Zeit, behaftet mit ihren Irrtümern, Fehlern und Kompromissen’.¹ Other late-twentieth- and early-twenty-first-century critics may disagree with such a description, instead depicting Hoffmann as the ‘Vorläufer einer kommenden Zeit’, rejected by his own age precisely because he did not belong.² It is interesting to note, however, that while critics may differ on issues such as whether Hoffmann was a Romantic or a modern writer, in...

    (pp. 173-180)
    (pp. 181-182)
  11. INDEX
    (pp. 183-186)