Mental Processes and Narrative Possibilities in the German Novelle 1890-1940

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Although it concentrates on a particular historical period, and although it examines a variety of individual works, many of them acknowledged Novellen, this study is neither an historical survey nor a collection of interpretations. Its distinctive approach is taxonomical and comparative. Taking as its starting point the surge of interest in the human mind as the nineteenth century drew to a close, it examines the kinds of (shorter) narrative that were generated by that interest. On the other hand therefore it investigates how, by focusing on particular aspects of the mind, writers were led to adopt certain narrative patterns or structures; and on the other hand, building on the work of Dorrit Cohn, but extending her range considerably, it explores and evaluates the different modes of presentation which writers exploited as they sought to give life to the inner workings of their characters.

According to some, psychology and the Novelle are incompatible. Although the investigation concludes that there is no inherent incompatibility between psychological interest and the aims of the Novelle, it also demonstrates that psychological interest in shorter narratives does not always lead to Novellen; it explores other narrative structures that may arise when particular models of the mind form their basis.


“Of all the traditions of German prose writing, the short narrative, especially the Novelle, T. Storm’s ‘Schwester des Dramas,’ is probably the most distinctive. It is, however, a tradition which is habitually regarded as having reached its apogee in the course of the nineteenth century. Drawing on his deep and detailed knowledge of that tradition, on which he has published extensively and with distinction, David Turner shows in this finely researched and elegantly written study that there was still plenty of life in the Novelle in the first half of the twentieth century too. Choosing as his time span the half-century from 1890-1940, from roughly the birth of modernism to the outbreak of ‘total war’, he examines a range of shorter texts from the German, Swiss and Austrian traditions to show how in the distinguished hands of writers like Thomas Mann, Schnitzler, Hofmannsthal and Musil, the Novelle in its more modern guise was able to accommodate the sea-change in artistic perception stemming from revolutionary developments in psychology and psychiatry. He is able to demonstrate conclusively that Hofmannsthal’s much cited observation that the Novelle and psychology are incompatible simply does not hold water, and that the intermalised focus of so many early twentieth century Novellen easily compensates for the perceived loss of external action. Adopting an approach which is taxonomical rather historical or clinical, David Turner examines in the first part of his study how models of the mind relating especially to perception and memory led to narratives as formally diverse as Schnitzler’s Sterben and Zweig’s Buchmendel. In the second section, ranging widely from Hofmannsthal to Doderer, via Hauptmann and Werfel, he demonstrates the sheer variety in the modes of literary presentation reflecting the shift in focus brought about by the psychologisation of the German short narrative. Always putting the text first, but fully versed in the theoretical implications of his work, David Turner’s enlightening study is the fruit of mature and reflective scholarship and is an impressive contribution to the longstanding British scholarly engagement with the German Novelle.” – (from the Commendatory Preface) Professor Andrew Barker, University of Edinburgh

“This lucid and wide-ranging study will be of interest to anyone concerned with literature in German at the turn of the twentieth century. It opens up new perspectives on the narratalogical possibilities which developed out of an increased awareness of the workings of the mind at that period. This stimulating and thought-provoking study uses the tools of narrative theory and grammatical analysis to provide new readings of both classic and lesser known tests. Based on an impressively broad command of the literary and intellectual currents of the period, this clearly argued study focuses on an important but under researched aspect of the history of the Novelle, brining modern insights to bear on the ways in which short prose forms have been adapted to probe psychological depths. All the major Austrian writers of the age come under scrutiny together with Hauptmann, Thomas and Heinrich Mann, Heym and Sternheim in this wide-ranging but firmly focused study. David Turner has produced a taxonomy of models of the mind in German short prose, together with a classification of modes of presentation of mental and psychological processes based on a series of comparative case studies of texts which is readily transferable to other literatures. The taxonomic approach has not been implemented as a theoretical strait jacket, but as a flexible tool for exploring the interplay between constants and variables within carefully defined parameters.” – Professor Helen Chambers, Professor of German, University of St. Andrews

“Dr. Turner sets out to examine the impact of the increasing interest, manifested from the end of the nineteenth century, in psychology and in the mind on sorter narratives in German, especially on the associated with the German nineteen century literary tradition, the Novelle. His study … has as its aim the categorization of narrative strategies to depict the functioning of the mind in selected texts. Dr. Turner’s study has four principal merits. Firstly, he adheres rigorously to the evidence provided by the texts under examination … Secondly, the careful measure discussion of the texts highlights the subtlety of the reading process …Thirdly, Dr. Turner conducts his inquiry by means of pairing texts as examples of models … Fourthly, Dr. Turner’s study is firmly anchored in a thorough knowledge of the very extensive secondary literature. Coming with excellent credentials from his own previous publications record, he relates his arguments in a surefooted, principled yet undogmatic manner to previous writing both on the Novelle and on the individual authors. His work is a model of solid scholarship and meticulous, lucid argument. Dr. Turner is to be congratulated on having provided a splendidly paced and enthralling study.” – Malcolm Pender, Emeritus Professor of German Studies, University of Strathclyde

Table of Contents

Part I: Models of the Mind and their Narratives
1. The Receptacle (Arno Holz and Johannes Schlaf: Ein Tod)
2. Ripples in the Stream (Peter Altenberg: ‘Quartet-Soirée’ and Friedo Lampe: ‘Spanische Suite’)
3. The Repository (Stefan Zweig: Buchmendel and Arnold Zweig: Das Album)
4. The Sealed Capsule (Gerhart Hauptmann: Der Apostel and Georg Heym: Der Irre)
5. The Battleground (Arthur Schnitzler: Sterben and Robert Musil: Tonka)
6. Buried Treasure (Thomas Mann: Wälsungenblut and Carl Sternheim: Ulrike)
7. The Volcano (Hugo von Hofmannsthal: Reitergesschichte and Stefan Zweig: Der Amokläufer)
Part II: Modes of Presentation
8. The Interior Monologue (Arthur Schnitzler: Leutnant Gustl and Heinrich Mann: Ginevra degli Amieri)
9. The Narrated Monologue (Arthur Schnitzler: Frau Berta Garlan and Thoman Mann: Schwere Stunde)
10. Reported Thought (Hugo von Hofmannsthal: Das Märchen der 672. Nacht and Robert Walser: Der Spaziergang)
11. ‘Quasi’-narration (Georg Heym: Der Dieb and Franz Werfel: Der Tod des Kleinbürgers)
12. Mime (Thomas Mann: Gladius Dei and Carl Sternheim: Busekow)
13. Embodied Metaphors: Discrete Items (Gerhart Hauptmann: Bahnwärter Thiel and Der Ketzer von Soana)
14. Embodied Metaphors: Topographical Metaphors (Heimito von Doderer: Divertimento No II and Hermann Broch: Eine leichte Enttäuschung)
15. Embodied Metaphors: Personifications (Hermann Hesse: Klein und Wagner and Robert Musil: Die Amsel)
Select Bibliography

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