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Novel Affinities

Novel Affinities: Composing the Family in the German Novel, 1795-1830

Sarah Vandegrift Eldridge
Copyright Date: 2016
Edition: NED - New edition
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 210
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  • Book Info
    Novel Affinities
    Book Description:

    The novel, according to standard scholarly narratives, depicts an individual's path to maturity. Scholarship on the rise of the novel in Germany and in Europe more broadly, from Watt to Moretti, has essentially collapsed the genre into the individualist Bildungsroman, exemplified by a narrow canon. This study challenges and nuances these narratives, first by expanding the focus from the individual to the family, second by broadening the field of novels treated to include not only canonical works but also so-called "trivial literature," and third, by reading novels alongside contemporary biological, legal, and pedagogical texts. This perspective reveals that the novel and the family around 1800 were mutually constitutive and that the two together were instrumental in the development of conceptions of individuality, kinship, and society that are still relevant today. Sarah Vandegrift Eldridge reads novels by Goethe, Wolzogen, Engel, Karoline Fischer, August Lafontaine, and Brentano, showing that they exhibit varying degrees of "imaginative didacticism": suggestions not of what to think and feel, but that thinking and feeling in reaction to literature are central to cultural practices of self-reflection and development. The family is a crucial locus for this practice, and reading novels together with non-literary texts illuminates how they experiment productively with the infinite possibilities presented by the relationships they portray. Sarah Vandegrift Eldridge is Assistant Professor of German at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.BR>

    eISBN: 978-1-78204-707-0
    Subjects: Language & Literature
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Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface and Acknowledgments (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction: Novel Subjects, Novel Genealogies (pp. 1-26)

    Goethe’sDie Leiden des jungen Werthers(The Sufferings of Young Werther) marks a watershed moment in the German literary tradition: published in 1774, the semiautobiographical epistolary novel was an instant sensation, inspiring both rhapsodic praise and intense criticism from its earliest readers.¹ Its success signaled that the genre had definitively arrived in Germany as a form with a significant readership and major social influence.² AlthoughWertheris often read as the virtuosic expression of an individual subjectivity, at key moments in the novel Goethe portrays precisely the interlocking issues of expression and narrative, love and sense of self, and affective...

  5. Part I. Models of Generation
    • [Part I. Introduction] (pp. 27-30)

      The term “generation” has had a doubled meaning since Hieronymous’s Latin translation of the Bible in the fourth century.¹ On the one hand, it denotes procreation or reproduction. On the other, “generation” describes an age or peer group. This double conception of the term has persisted to the present and exists in both English and German (asZeugungandMenschenalter, respectively).² As a consequence of this duality, “generation” as a concept plays out on both horizontal and vertical axes, marked by a distinct semantic openness. Especially at the end of the eighteenth century, as the term was entering the German...

    • 1: The Formation of the Self: Biology and Pedagogy around 1800 (pp. 31-56)

      Between the seventeenth century and the second half of the eighteenth, opinions about the manner in which life was generated, formed, and nourished underwent several shifts, both in Europe more widely and in Germany in particular. These have been well documented by historians of science, and it is not my object to reconstruct the minute specifics of each eighteenth-century scientist’s argument, far less to evaluate them in terms of their correctness relative to modern models of evolution and genetics. Rather, I trace the general outlines of the controversy and highlight particular aspects—both in the content of the arguments and...

    • 2: Cultivated Resemblance: Imitation and Education in the Novel (pp. 57-92)

      In the remainder of part 1, I want to discuss some of these permutations in more detail, to show not simply how literature was influenced by the scientific and pedagogical paradigm shifts going on around it but how literature explored the possibilities inherent in these shifts more minutely and deeply than the biological or theoretical texts were capable of doing. By engaging in the same discourse about dynamic development and the cultivation of new forms, literary texts, particularly the novel, also actively participate in the paradigm shifts that produced the biological move from preformation to epigenesis. In striking ways, using...

  6. Part II. Text as Testament
    • [Part II. Introduction] (pp. 93-95)

      The notion oftestationas I use it here invokes both inheritance or transmission (sometimes strictly legal, sometimes more broadly) and bearing witness (testifying, being a testament to). These semantic fields are connected by more than a related etymology from the Latin verbtestariand the noun formtestamentum.¹ They both involve modes or channels of connection, a speaker or testator and a listener or heir. Legal testament connects the testator and the heir via the passing along of property or objects, and the acceptance of these objects may entail certain conditions or obligations. Testament as bearing witness implies a...

    • 3: Direct Testation: Legal Inheritance, Plot Inheritance, Origin Stories (pp. 96-118)

      Codified legal writing must necessarily work with generalities, whereas novels portray specific characters in specific situations, and it is true that none of the novels treated here makes explicit reference to legal code. Nevertheless, it is clear that jurists and novelists alike, in their respective fields, were concerned with how property could be fairly (systematically) and sensibly (rationally) transmitted between generations—and with what role the state had to play in guaranteeing this transmission. TheALRthus presents evidence of the attempts in this era to explore and define what constitutes the family; we see this in particular in cases...

    • 4: Indirect Testation: Documents, Written Culture, and the Writing of Life (pp. 119-145)

      The explicit and extended narrative of a life, either written or oral, presented by a parental figure is not the only way of embodying a life in a text—of creating biography.¹ We can conceive of a “written life” not only as a single long-form narrative told or written by a person, but also as the summation of texts and documents that accrue to that person and the representation of his or her life story. The texts themselves bear witness to the events of a protagonist’s life, and they also circulate in ways that follow the structures of transmission that...

  7. Conclusion: Novel Instability (pp. 146-158)

    The paradigm shifts in family life, inheritance law, pedagogical theory, and biological understanding, together with the exploration in the novel of associated values and concepts that took place at the turn of the nineteenth century, were neither immediate nor inevitable. I have drawn attention to the instability and need for exploration of these concepts throughout this book, pointing out that the novel—both its canonical and lesser-known exemplars—reworks what a family is, does, and means in varied and complex ways. Goethe’sDie Wahlverwandtschaften(Elective Affinities, 1809) is an especially thorough, even relentless, testament to this instability. In the novel...

  8. Notes (pp. 159-180)
  9. Bibliography (pp. 181-190)
  10. Index (pp. 191-202)
  11. Back Matter (pp. 203-203)