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E. T. A. HoffmanTransgressive Romanticism$
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Christopher R. Clason

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781786941213

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: May 2019

DOI: 10.3828/liverpool/9781786941213.001.0001

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“A poor, imprisoned animal.” Persons, Property, and the Unnatural Nature of the Law in E.T.A. Hoffmann’s “Das Majorat”

“A poor, imprisoned animal.” Persons, Property, and the Unnatural Nature of the Law in E.T.A. Hoffmann’s “Das Majorat”

Chapter:
(p.19) Chapter One “A poor, imprisoned animal.” Persons, Property, and the Unnatural Nature of the Law in E.T.A. Hoffmann’s “Das Majorat”
Source:
E. T. A. Hoffman
Author(s):

Alexander Schlutz

Publisher:
Liverpool University Press
DOI:10.3828/liverpool/9781786941213.003.0002

The first essay examines the complex relationship between the law and crime in Hoffmann’s “Das Majorat,” from the first volume of the Night Pieces (1816). The “Majorat” – the legal document that fixes control of inheritance of land through primogeniture– leads to intrigue, murder, and the demise of the East Prussian aristocratic family presented in Hoffmann’s tale. Schlutz explains how the attempt to control others through legal means is itself unnatural and transgressive: it releases a kind of supernatural force of evil associated with the ancestral lands. Thus, the legal institution of the “Majorat,” intended to circumvent the troubles that often mark legal cases of inheritance, actually causes them, and, as the narrative of the family lawyer and his nephew report, the devastation is complete – all members of the family die, and the castle itself crumbles into ruins.

Keywords:   law, inheritance, Majorat, entail, family conflict, ecology, animals, crime

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