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The Wanderer in Nineteenth-Century German Literature

The Wanderer in Nineteenth-Century German Literature: Intellectual History and Cultural Criticism

Andrew Cusack
Volume: 22
Copyright Date: 2008
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 272
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  • Book Info
    The Wanderer in Nineteenth-Century German Literature
    Book Description:

    The wanderer is an indispensable part of the German cultural imaginary. The nineteenth-century prominence of the motif owes much to the self-conception of the intellectual pioneers of the day as wanderers. The motif is also a key to interpretation of the social and cultural phenomena of a turbulent century that began with the emancipatory claims of the Enlightenment and ended in untrammeled industrialism. Writers from Goethe to Büchner, Fontane to Holtei were keenly aware of the motif's interpretive value, attempting to grasp with it not only such developments as mass migration and disappearing institutions but also unprecedented opportunities for artistic and scientific innovation. This book re-interprets canonical works such as Goethe's 'Wilhelm Meister'novels, Heine's 'Harzreise', and Büchner's 'Lenz', examines underresearched works by Fontane and Raabe, and charts new territory with readings of works by Gotthelf and Holtei -- a selection of texts that reveals the vast scope and changing function of the wanderer motif. Andrew Cusack pays scrupulous attention to the historical specificity of each work and to its relationship to contemporary aesthetic and philosophical currents, revealing the wanderer motif to be a significant vehicle of cultural memory that sustained the ideas of the Enlightenment and of Romanticism. Andrew Cusack is a Lecturer in the Department of Germanic Studies at Trinity College Dublin.

    eISBN: 978-1-57113-808-8
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)

    The aims of the following study are threefold: to identify a range of works of nineteenth-century German literature in which the wanderer motif is a significant element of composition, to enquire into the semantic function of the motif in those works, and to demonstrate how the motif creates links between literary and non-literary discourses. The focus will be on prose genres, and especially on the novel, since this can act as a highly effective integrator of elements from literary and non-literary discourses, lending it an unrivalled capacity to interpret the discursive totality of its own era.¹ Of course, it should...

  5. 1: The Wanderer as the Subject of Education “Steile Gegenden” and “Umwege”: Goethe’s Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre (1795–96)
    (pp. 13-59)

    In 1984 Hans-Jürgen Schings proposed reading Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre using the category of “Heilung” or “Genesung,” offering this as an alternative to what he called the “erstarrte[s] Modell Bildung.”¹ Indeed, the energies of Germanists in the post-1945 period were for a long time consumed in an inconclusive debate as to whether Goethe’s novel should really be called a Bildungsroman. The Lehrjahre has been regarded as the archetype of that genre since the term was first applied to it by the academic Karl Morgenstern.² It was to be expected that dissenting voices would make themselves heard just when the German tradition...

  6. 2: The Wanderer in the Romantic Imagination The Artist Unbound: Tieck’s Franz Sternbalds Wanderungen (1798)
    (pp. 60-100)

    In Franz Sternbalds Wanderungen we encounter a narrative of wandering that resembles Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre in its adoption of the paradigm of the Gesellenreise. In Franz Sternbald, Tieck imagines a pupil of Albrecht Dürer who sets out from Nuremberg “um in der Fremde seine Kenntnis zu erweitern und nach einer mühseligen Wanderschaft dann als ein vollendeter Meister zurückzukehren.”¹ The protagonist is therefore a traveling artisan, whose journey, it appears, will be determined by the requirements of his guild. The keywords “Wanderschaft” (which still had the dominant sense of the regulated artisan’s journey) and “Meister” (which specifically denotes the status aspired...

  7. 3: The Wanderer in Political Discourse The Wanderer as Weltbürger: Heine’s Harzreise (1826)
    (pp. 101-167)

    When the Reisebilder: Erster Theil first appeared in the imprint of Hoffmann and Campe in May 1826, Heine’s literary contemporaries were not slow to recognize that the publication — comprising two novella-length prose texts: the Harzreise and the first part of the Nordsee, together with several poems, including the Heimkehr cycle — marked a decisive break with traditional literary models. Many reacted with confusion and distaste, and even those who greeted the new work with favorable notices confessed to some puzzlement. Karl Immermann was one of these. In his review in the May 1827 issue of the Jahrbücher für wissenschaftliche Kritik, an...

  8. 4: Wandering at the Margins: Journeymen and Vagabonds
    (pp. 168-221)

    It is a paradox of German nineteenth-century literature that the largescale movements of people, which made that century so distinct from any that had gone before, find so little literary resonance. These movements fell into two categories: internal migration and emigration, each of which had what are termed their “push” and “pull” factors. On the “push” side the most important forces were, of course, population growth and concomitant pauperization (pre-1848). The prospect of improved material conditions, whether in the slowly emerging industrial centers of the German-speaking countries or overseas, especially in America, accounted for most of the “pull” factors; although...

  9. Conclusion
    (pp. 222-232)

    In the introduction I justified assigning texts to different thematic categories on the grounds that casting the discursive net as widely as possible would help to grasp the full functional range of the wanderer motif. However, given the capacity of narrative to integrate the various discourses of its era, one should acknowledge that each text might well have been discussed from a different point of view. For example, in Heine’s Harzreise political and anthropological discourses are intertwined, with the motif functioning as a point of contact between them. Thus, the protagonist’s wandering in the Harzreise foregrounds the appetitive and sensual...

  10. Works Cited
    (pp. 233-250)
  11. Index
    (pp. 251-258)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 259-259)