The Narrator, Narrative Perspective and Narrative Form in the Short Prose Works of the German Romantics (With Particular Reference to the Works of E. T. A. Hoffmann)

Dickson, Sheila Janet (1990) The Narrator, Narrative Perspective and Narrative Form in the Short Prose Works of the German Romantics (With Particular Reference to the Works of E. T. A. Hoffmann). PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

Full text available as:
[thumbnail of 11011442.pdf] PDF
Download (42MB)


It seemed to me important to consider the figure of the narrator in Romantic prose due to the interest these writers had in the process of narration, which often means that the way in which a story is told is more important than the story itself. As a result, the narrative medium through which the events are filtered is made vital to the meaning of the text. I have approached this subject by considering how the Romantics exploited narrative perspective to reflect their feelings of disorientation in the face of a rapidly changing world, and also to induce this same unease in their contemporary reader, whom the Romantics saw as self-satisfied and self-assured. For this reason, I have begun my study with an analysis of the general world experience of the Romantics. I have considered in some detail contemporary philosophy, with particular regard to the perception of the relationship between Self and world, before turning my attention to the Romantic interest in the 'fringe sciences', which led to an increased awareness of the capactity of the individual perspective to be deceived. The main part of my thesis consists in a study of the range of narrative situations found in Romantic short prose forms. In my consideration of the first-person narrator, I have highlighted how the Romantics used this form on the one hand to reproduce the subjectivity, relativity, and fragmentary nature of individual perspective, and on the other to impart the intensity of the individual experience of reality. I have then considered how these concerns affect the way in which information is imparted by the narrator. and what consequences this has for the narrative form. With regard to the third-person form I have indicated how this narrator progressively loses his status above the fictional world, and how the information he gives does not surmount the subjective, relative and fragmentary information available to his characters. The consequences for the narrative form are then also discussed, and found to be similar to those identified with regard to first-person narrative. The limited nature of the information available in the narrative has a profound effect on the reader, who in Romantic narrative becomes the highest authority in the text, due to the loss of status of the narrator. Having considered the way in which information is imparted in the narrative, I have turned my attention to the reliability of this information. Due to the limitation of each individual perspective it is inadequate, but the reader is also made to take into account that it may be misleading, distorted. and even wrong. This is an effective means by which to disorientate the reader, and to draw him into the creative process. In my third chapter, I have discussed the phenomenon of narrative perspective with regard to the aesthetic theories of the Romantics. I have considered the theoretical writings of Friedrich Schlegel and Novalis, and the ideas expressed by the later Romantics, both in their works and in their correspondence, with regard to what they considered 'Romantic', and how they viewed the construction of a Romantic work of art.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: German literature
Date of Award: 1990
Depositing User: Enlighten Team
Unique ID: glathesis:1990-78375
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 30 Jan 2020 15:30
Last Modified: 30 Jan 2020 15:30

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year