Landscapes Of Memory In German Realist Writing

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Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
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Germanic Languages and Literature
Adalbert Stifter
German Realism
Theodor Fontane
Wilhelm Raabe
English Language and Literature
German Literature
Modern Literature
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Kontulainen, Erika

Landscape description and enactments of memory are two common features in the fictional prose works of German Realism, a literary period spanning roughly from 1850 to 1890. Although scholars have paid much attention to questions of space and time in this literary period, a systematic study on the intersection between landscape and memory has thus far been missing. My dissertation examines landscape description and memory practices in selected prose works by German realist authors Adalbert Stifter, Theodor Fontane, and Wilhelm Raabe. I argue that landscape reflects a contemporary perception of loss initiated by rapid modernization processes and a transformation of social life. Landscape in the literature of German Realism becomes the locus in which the present perception of loss may be recuperated through the mediation of memory. The various modes of memory, including repetition (Stifter), cultural and personal memory (Fontane), intertextuality, irony, and writing (Raabe), allow narrators and characters to imagine and, as in the case with Stifter, ritualize the past as a way of retrieving significance into the present and future. My project moves away from a long-standing scholarly engagement in this literary period with space as a fixed locality confined to the province, to examining the significance of rendering reality as a subjective and thus immaterial and imagined mediation of memory. My findings illustrate how German realist writing contemplates space (landscape) as a personal and cultural encounter with the external world and reflects how an interior engagement with the world shapes our identities.

Liliane Weissberg
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