The Aesthetic between Public and Private
This chapter considers one of Hoffmann’s most complex tales via Hannah Arendt’s theoretical distinctions between the public and the private spheres. The work combines various forms, including the fairy-tale, the capriccio, and the novella, creating a multi-layered textual complex that shifts repeatedly in narrative perspective, all the while it is complicated by Hoffmann’s relentlessly ironic tone. Remarkably, the author manages, through the fairy-tale form, the transgression of the public sphere upon the private and the private upon the public, while also keeping the two levels separate, allowing different degrees of participation by different audiences within the tale. The reader finds her- or himself at the end of the story confronting a mirror of mirroring, play without purpose. Thus, Princess Brambilla evinces at least two varieties of transgression: not only do public and private spheres intrude upon one another, but the capriccio’s reiteration of pointless mirroring and purposeless play ironically violates the very idea of art generating meaning, without which there may indeed be created a variety of semantic networks without resolution.
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