The Evolving Role of Music in Theodor Storm's Novellas

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Ferguson, Marie-Therese
German Literature , Music in Literature , Novella , Realism
The texts of Theodor Storm (1817-88) engage with the role of the artist and works of art in society during the latter half of the nineteenth century. While the role of painting and writing has already been analyzed in this regard, the function of music in Storm’s work has not been hitherto researched to any great degree. Musicians, however, feature prominently among the artists he portrays. They encounter various artistic and personal difficulties that this dissertation analyzes both through close readings and from a literary-historical perspective. The analysis focuses on three novellas entitled Ein stiller Musikant (1875), Zur “Wald- und Wasserfreude” (1879), and Es waren zwei Königskinder (1884), which illustrate the changing role of music in the lives of the protagonists. In order to show the development of economic and social changes that took place after the 1848 Revolution and during the Gründerzeit, the texts are analyzed in chronological order. This thematic study argues that the reflection on music can be interpreted as a specialized reflection on the topic of the artist in general, which, in itself, is a prominent theme in Romanticism. Taking into account how Romantic notions of life and art lost their appeal both during and as a result of the forces of industrialization, the study shows how music, first presented as a nurturing and comforting force in the Biedermeier era, becomes progressively less important, and, in the end, loses its appeal as artistic salvation. The novellas use music as a literary technique in order to comment on education, both musical and academic, with particular emphasis on girls’ education. In addition to transcending gender and social barriers, as well as establishing a continuity of sorts between the past and the present, music also serve as a psychological tool to suggest or express feelings or a state of mind. In the same vein, physical features and instruments are used in the characterization of the protagonists, while also reflecting ethnic stereotypes common to both literature and greater society at the time.
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