E. T. A. Hoffmann and the Serapiontic Principle

E. T. A. Hoffmann and the Serapiontic Principle

Critique and Creativity

Hilda M. Brown


Camden House



A comprehensive investigation of Hoffmann's "Serapiontic Principle" and what it implies for his oeuvre.
Critics have long sought to elucidate the multilayered texts of E. T. A. Hoffmann by applying to them a particular set of theories and ideas that Hoffmann himself subsumed under the heading of the "Serapiontic Principle." This principle, which Hoffmann expounded in his collection of tales Die Serapionsbrüder, involves a complex intersection of the artist's faculties of imagination and perception.
However, Hoffmann's mode of presenting his theory presents an unusual problem: rather than the usual form of an essay or treatise, he adopts a fictional framework, complete with a set of "characters"; this in turn sets up a number of perspectives on the theory itself. This combination of literary and theoretical elements presents a severe challenge to critics, and not surprisingly there has been little agreement about what the "principle" actually entails or its wider relevance. With the principle as prime focus, this book provides detailed analysis of a broadly based selection of Hoffmann's texts, both theoretical and literary. It offers new perspectives on his narrative invention and the range of his theoretical interests, thus redefining his place at the forefront of German Romanticism.

Hilda Meldrum Brown is Professor of German at St Hilda's College, University of Oxford.


October 2006
7 black and white illustrations
225 pages
9x6 in
Studies in German Literature Linguistics and Culture
ISBN: 9781571133489
Format: Hardback
Library eBook
Camden House
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Table of Contents

Introduction: Approaches to the Serapiontic Principle
Overture: Jacques Callot
Der Einsiedler Serapion: The Formulation of a Principle
Der Dichter und der Komponist: Text and Music
Alte und neue Kirchenmusik
Prinzessin Brambilla: Callot Revisited
Epilogue: Des Vetters Eckfenster
Frame Narrative and the Serapiontic Principle
From Visual to Verbal: Three Serapiontic Tales
The "Nachtseite der Natur" and the Serapiontic Principle
The Märchen and the Serapiontic Principle
The Serapiontic Principle: The Wider Critique


The Serapiontic (from the hermit St Serapion...) brings together ideas from Schelling, Fichte and G. H. Schubert on the relationships between senses and intellect, subject and object, reality and imagination.... (An) engaging and thorough study.... FORUM FOR MODERN LANGUAGE STUDIES

(A)n insightful and important book. In its concentration on principles of artistic creation as formulated in Hoffmann's prose texts, it succeeds admirably in showing that Hoffmann's work is both complex and coherent. GERMAN QUARTERLY

(Brown) puts forth with her monograph, which is written in an exceptionally stimulating way, a study that convincingly takes into account the explicit and implicit poetology of Hoffmann's works. E. T. A. HOFFMANN-JAHRBUCH

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