Web Links. Today, E. Hoffmann is one of the most famous figures of early 19th-century German literature.
He is a salient and, at the same time, not uncontroversially Romantic author. He had many talents, of which his creative writing was neither the first to come to fruition, nor was it, once Hoffmann began turning his attention to literary works, the most important to him. Hoffmann composed church music, piano sonatas, operettas and operas as well as painted, and he was skilled at caricature.
At university, he studied law and subsequently went into practice. Before starting his literary endeavour only in his thirties, Hoffmann was a celebrated music critic alongside his day job. At least in , the reputation for a leading position in the music world meant more to Hoffmann than securing authorial fame.
He conceived a fictional alter ego, the composer Johannes Kreisler who appears in multiple texts. In the end, it explicitly followed the style of the baroque printmaker Jacques Callot. More often, though, references and influences from music and painting are conflated in Hoffmann in a dizzying way.
This is partially right: Hoffmann helped his friend establish a lending library in Bamberg, and for a while was a frequent borrower of its books. The pleasure we gain from reading Hoffmann is not only due to the fact that he is funny and thrilling, but also stems from his interwoven references to both material culture and more intellectual sources.
Characteristically for Hoffmann, the tension between the supernatural and the natural is never quite resolved. Hoffmann is a second-generation Romantic. He began his literary career as an admirer of Jean Paul Richter , and read Novalis avidly. His writing was influenced by, and at times satirically re-casts, Ludwig Tieck.
Doppelganger, The: Double Visions in German Literature (Electronic book text)
In part for this reason, categorizing Hoffmann under Romanticism can be also problematic: the author was well-connected with, and worked within the movement, but he at times depicts it from an ironic point of view. He does so both for comic effect, and as part of serious criticism.
Ironic self-reflexivity is, of course, a characteristic trait of Romanticism generally. But in his later works, Hoffmann adopts a particularly strong critical and parodistic stance toward Romantic poetics. In their ideas as well as in their form, some of his later stories like Des Vetters Eckfenster transgress — or regress from — the Romantic, paving the way towards Realism. In his diatribe Die Romantische Schule ; The Romantic School , Heinrich Heine wrote that while Achim von Arnim commanded the legions of spectres that he conjured up, Hoffmann was afraid of his own ghosts.
And though Hoffmann was to be internationally admired by authors such as Poe, Baudelaire, Dostojewskij and Arno Schmidt, it was not until the last third of the 20th century that literary criticism began to appreciate this author and his peculiar literary thought, a poetics which combines the fantastic and the realistic, the uncanny and the humorous, entertainment and high art.
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