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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Objektivitat in Witiko : eine Untersuchung der Asthetik und Ethik im Vergleich zu speilhanges Problematische Naturen und Flauberts Salammbo Hempel, Rainer Lutz


The purpose of this dissertation is to show the aesthetic and ethical objectivity of Stifter's Witiko in comparison to Spielhagen's Problematische Naturen and Flaubert's Salammbo. Witiko was written during the time of German poetic realism and some critics suggest that it was greatly influenced by the "Biedermeier"-period. Writers of these periods are frequently dismissed as inferior by politically oriented critics, especially those aligned with the Young Germans and those from foreign countries, because authors like Stifter did not give a simple direct reproduction of contemporary reality or use their art as social and political criticism. In order to ascertain whether Stifter really withdrew into an idyllic past and whether his approach to the problems of his time was less objective than that of politically and sociologically oriented German and foreign authors, a comparison was made between Witiko, Problematische Naturen, the work of one of the later followers of the Young Germans, and Salammbo by Flaubert, who is also known for his critical and direct treatment of contemporary reality. To make the comparison valid these works, like Witiko, are concerned with certain historical periods. The method of comparison was found in the analysis of the style and language, of the means, in which the story is presented'. It has also been recognized by Franz Stanzel in his book, Typische Formen des Romans, that the level of objectivity depends on the degree of directness (Mittelbarkeit), with which a certain subject matter is presented to the reader. Stanzel's findings are especially useful here, since all three authors consider objectivity fundamentally important both in their theories and works. It was found that in their striving for objectivity all these authors employed "personal media", which give the reader the illusion that he sees the action of the story through the senses of the characters rather than through the medium of the author. Spielhagen's novel showed that although there were some interferences by the author, the technical objectivity was maintained in general. This objectivity, however, was used to conceal the subjectivity, of his attitude and ethics. These findings were substantiated by an examination of his theory. Flaubert's power of imagination and his theory that the author should remain behind his creation combined to give Salammbo great aesthetic objectivity. This too, however, was broken, when he changed from the perspective of the characters in the novel to those of modern man and an omniscient being by giving psychological and other explanations. Flaubert also imparted his own feelings into the characters of Matho and Salammbo; thus undermining his objectivity. In the choice of his subject for Salammbo Flaubert showed his ethical subjectivity, although he maintained "scientific" objectivity in the presentation of all aspects in Salammbo. In their adherence to historical facts Flaubert and Stifter are very objective. In contrast to Spielhagen and Flaubert Stifter does not reveal the thoughts and feelings of the characters in Witiko, but shows them as they manifest themselves objectively to an external observer. No interpretations are given. Only what is heard and seen is conveyed, giving Witiko the greatest possible aesthetic objectivity. In his universal law (Sanftes Gesetz) he showed his ethical objectivity. By tracing the development of Stifter's law and his striving for objectivity, by pointing out to which extent Stifter followed the traditional German theory of the novel and how he combined history and art it could be shown that many critics of Witiko failed to appreciate Stifter's consequent aesthetic and ethical objectivity.

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