Violating the Laws of Hospitality in E.T.A. Hoffmann’s “Das Fräulein von Scuderi”
This chapter shows how the novella represents transgression against the law and custom on more levels than perhaps any other work by Hoffmann, as it penetrates the psychology of the criminal mind, reveals the inner workings of the judicial system, illustrates how the police conducts investigations, and considers crime as a sociological phenomenon. It especially addresses issues around semantic and psychological aspects of “Gift” – a term whose primary meaning in German is “poison,” and how, in the novella’s social environment, the bestowing of a gift contains a latent violence, which becomes intensified and is unleashed in a slew of transgressive acts on the Paris of Louis XIV. Erickson points out, however, that there are numerous other transgressions that occur in the tale, which typify the society Hoffmann describes: the “gift” of expensive jewelry is customarily used in negotiation for sex, while violence is so widespread that it has usurped the customs of ordinary hospitality.
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