UNTER DEM DECKMANTEL VON ICH UND ER: STEFAN ZWEIG IM VERGLEICH ZU HENRY ADAMS. Autobiographie als Geschichtsschreibung oder Geschichtsschreibung als Autobiographie?
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Stefan Zweig had an extraordinary gift for mirroring the complexity of humankind and the human mind, and was undoubtedly one of the most translated authors in the 1930s, but he is still considered a “poor cousin” in the academic world. Indeed, both his life and his work have been consistently viewed through the events of history, something neither caused nor endorsed by him, with the result that his worldview and the general perception of that view often have been misunderstood. In the 1950s and 1960s, scholars focused on the author’s use of genres and language, as well as his political views during the Second World War, rather than on the analysis of his literary texts. Although recent research points to the importance of Zweig’s humanistic worldview, which insists on viewing all human action equally, the poor image of the author caused by his earlier reception still prevails. This thesis focusses on Zweig’s autobiographical work Die Welt von Gestern: Erinnerungen eines Europäers (1942) as an adaptation of both culture and history. This dissertation demonstrates, how through the subject perception of the “I,” “life writing” becomes “history writing,” dismantling a cultural and political world. Not only does this “I” hold multiple functions, but each function illuminates a different fragment of an event in search of a “truth.” Zweig’s autobiography incorporates elements from other genres, which enables us to see him in part as a postmodern author. To illustrate the game-like use of Zweig’s subjective worldview, Philippe Lejeune’s “autobiographical pact,” Mieke Bal’s concept of focalization, and Walter Benjamin’s essay “Der Erzähler” will form the framework for a linguistic, narratological, and philosophical analysis. In order to show that autobiographical writing resides in the tradition of alternative history, rather than in the simple enumeration of facts, Henry Adams’ The Education of Henry Adams (1918) has been woven into the analysis of Zweig’s text, as an example of an autobiography from a historian’s point of view, who, although motivated by different circumstances, exposes a similar philosophy of history to Zweig’s. Besides Zweig’s autobiography this dissertation will also include other works of the author, such as Triumph und Tragik des Erasmus von Rotterdam (1934), Maria Stuart (1935) und “Schachnovelle“ (1942) as part of the analysis in order to show the reflexion of history and life in the author’s biographical work as well.