E.T.A. Hoffmann's 'romanticism' : assimilation and adaptation
The intention of this thesis is to help clarify the confusion existing in literary criticism about the degree of E.T.A. Hoffmann's 'Romanticism'. Chapter I deals with the problem of arriving at a satisfactory definition of what actually constitutes a Romantic work. While not claiming to provide an all-encom¬ passing definition, it works from the assumption that there are a number of elements common to the majority of works classed as Romantic: the conception of the imagination as a radically creative force, symbolic expression as a means of circumventing the problem of the inadequacy of language to portray poetic insight and the complexity of the uni¬ verse, a belief in a fall from an original state of harmony and innocence and, finally, the importance of particular literary antecedents of whom it was thought that they exemplified elements of 'das Moderne' in art. It is con¬ tended that in terras of such a definition, Hoffmann must be regarded as a Romantic. Chapter T then goes on to discuss secondary literature which has concerned itself with the problem of E.T.A. Hoffmann's 'Romanticism'. Chapter II shows that Hoffmann's interest in psy¬ chology and the so-called 'Nachtseiten' does not constitute a shift away from Romanticism but that, rather, this interest should be regarded as a logical development of his 'Romanticism'. Chapters III, IV, V7and VI deal with Hoffmann's oeuvre from the Fantasie-uund Nachtstiicke to Pes Vetters Eckfenster. They show that in,terms of the definition of Romanticism outlined in Chapter I, Hoffmann remained a Romantic throughout his life. The conclusion provides not only a summation of the thesis but also points to the future by suggesting that Hoffmann's development of Romantic aesthetics through the practice of writing made a significant contribution to the development of the novel. Further, that his works in many respects pre-empt the existential and aesthetic problems discussed by the Modern and Post-Modern movements.