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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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Transgressive Play and Uncanny Toys in E.T.A. Hoffmann’s “Das fremde Kind”

Transgressive Play and Uncanny Toys in E.T.A. Hoffmann’s “Das fremde Kind”

(p.135) Chapter Seven Transgressive Play and Uncanny Toys in E.T.A. Hoffmann’s “Das fremde Kind”
E. T. A. Hoffman

Christina Weiler

Liverpool University Press

The seventh essay examines “play” and how Hoffmann presents it in “The Strange Child,” labeling it “transgressive,” with both positive and negative manifestations. Hoffmann’s take endorses its positive expression, which creates a ludic space. It allows for creative transgressions of societal limitations, provoking the child to use imagination to transform the natural world around her or him, establishing connections to it, and filling it with wonder. The agent introducing them to such play is a fairy child from the forest, who inspires them to find dolls in the grass and soldiers among the twigs, rather than passively accepting sterile, mechanical toys from automaton-like relatives from “the city”; the more “natural” play produces a more imaginative child that understands what one may or may not do, and thus provides a constructive kind of transgression. “Artificiality” and “automation” function as impediments to such productive play. There are, however, more extreme, unmediated versions of such play that place the child into danger of losing itself in fantasy, and the tale warns against such transgressive excesses, the experience of which threatens the children with unmediated terror.

Keywords:   play, The Strange Child, ludic space, artificial, natural, toys

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