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The perception of reality in Theodor Fontane: romantic, realistic and classical traditions

Author Affiliations

  • 1Dept. of Modern European & Other Foreign Languages, Faculty of Arts, Himachal Pradesh University, Summer Hill, Shimla-171005, India
  • 2Department of German Studies, Faculty of Arts, Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi-221005, India

Res. J. Language and Literature Sci., Volume 9, Issue (2), Pages 21-25, May,19 (2022)


Theodor Fontane is being discussed widely in the contemporary literary discourse as a European writer. Both, the broader European literary influences on his writings as well as the presence of a wide-ranging European landscape in his works stand testimony to the European spirit of his works. Alongside, a renewed interest in the motifs of his writings has led to the exploration of the idea of ‘real’ in his thoughts. Theodor Fontane was hardly interested in any ‘hierarchy of art’ and he was averse to participate in a realism versus idealism debate. Literary creation connoted a testimony of the intimate subjective involvement with the objective reality for him. In this regard, like Goethe, the sentiments and meditative stance of the author appealed closely to him. He held the German romantic poet E. T. A. Hoffmann in high esteem and designated him as a “man of genius”. When Fontane pleaded for the ‘aesthetic enterprise’ of the author, he was arguing for securing a ‘residual freedom of individual’ in his writings. The dream-like narration of reality also distinguishes Fontane’s writing and in this context, his proximity to the German philosopher Schopenhauer has been highlighted too. It is equally noteworthy that the German classical tradition lived on in Fontane. In the form of a novel entitled Frau Jenny Treibel, he was able to produce a ‘Bildungsroman’, a classical sub-genre. As distinct critique of the social situations, this work laid bare the hypocrisy of the bourgeoisie class of the society.


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