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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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Hoffmann’s “Two Worlds” and the Problem of Life-Writing

Hoffmann’s “Two Worlds” and the Problem of Life-Writing

(p.191) Chapter Ten Hoffmann’s “Two Worlds” and the Problem of Life-Writing
E. T. A. Hoffman

Julian Knox

Liverpool University Press

The tenth chapter approaches Kater Murr as a response to Goethe’s paradigmatic Wilhelm Meister, as well as to the Romantics’ various novels of education, which for the most part reproduce the journey to self-realization as one that is essentially aesthetic. This essay asserts that Kater Murr resists aspects of the Bildungsroman which Goethe and other contemporaries championed, especially the progress of the individual toward an inner sense of harmony together with the external, successful integration into the “world,” often as an artist. The critical literature on Hoffmann has been focused on presenting his vision as an essentially ideological and structural tension between sublime, artistic transcendence and the stark demands of the bourgeois world. But this is an oversimplification – Hoffmann, whose view on the Romantic artist transgresses prevailing contemporary ideology, shows multiple sides of the argument and, through his transgressive play with the structure and his ironic treatment of the generic form, represents the utter impossibility of an artist to embrace either exclusively. Hoffmann’s intricate, complex text reveals that “no single narrative is or can be what it seems when it comes to the intricacies and contradictions of human life.”

Keywords:   novel, autobiography, Kater Murr, Wilhelm Meister, Bildungsroman, irony

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