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Hermann Hesses Roßhalde, Klingsors letzter Sommer und Steppenwolf im Kontext von Kunstkritik, Künstlerkrise und Intermedialität
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Languages, Department of Modern Languages, German.
2011 (German)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

With an estimated 100 million copies of his works sold, Hermann Hesse (1877-1962) is still one of the most popular German authors worldwide. Taking Hesse’s position in the aesthetic debates from 1900-1927 as a starting point, this study examines the influence of art criticism, artistic crisis, and intermediality in Hesse’s novels Roßhalde (1914), Klingsor’s last summer (1919) and The Steppenwolf (1927). A major chapter deals with Hesse as an art critic from 1910 to 1930, providing a framework for the further analysis of his novels. Important for Hesse’s aesthetic development is the art historian Wilhelm Worringer, who criticizes the Western art canon and underlines the importance of the artistic will. From Worringer, Hesse learns to interpret “exotic”, non-mimetic works of art.

Of major philosophical importance for the artistic crisis depicted in Hesses’s works is the idea of the principle of individuation (principium individuationis) which Hesse derives from Arthur Schopenhauer and Friedrich Nietzsche. The polarity between burgher and artist in Hesse’s works is a result of the principium indviduationis: In contrast with the self-sufficient bourgeois, the artist suffers from the torments of individuation.

The publication of The Steppenwolf (1927) with its complex narrative structure is a milestone in Hesse’s aesthetic development as a writer. The novel can indeed be read as one of the most prototypical ones of the 1920s, dealing with topics such as the Americanization of European culture, the growing media competition through cinema, gramophone, and radio, as well as a critique of the cultural decline of Europe. The German philosopher Oswald Spengler’s The Decline of the West (1918-22) is of importance for the genesis of this novel.

Hesse’s skeptical approach towards the technical reproduction of works of art is established through a number of essays as well as in the media reflections in The Steppenwolf. Despite Hesse’s criticism of the new media in the novel, however, the Magic Theater with its cinematic short stories, jump cuts, and zooming techniques is clearly influenced by the silent film of the 1920s. My main thesis is that Hesse – despite the harsh criticism of radio, film and gramophone – uses the techniques of the new media in his novel to criticize the impact of the new media on the contemporary culture of Weimar Germany.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis , 2011. , 320 p.
Studia Germanistica Upsaliensia, ISSN 0585-5160 ; 56
Keyword [en]
Hermann Hesse, art criticism, artistic crisis, principle of individuation, intermediality, artistic skill vs. artistic will, pictorial turn, ekphrasis, new media.
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-150762ISBN: 978-91-554-8055-4OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-150762DiVA: diva2:408679
Public defence
2011-05-23, 16-0043, Thunbergsvägen 3 L, Uppsala, 10:15 (German)
Available from: 2011-04-29 Created: 2011-04-05 Last updated: 2015-01-30Bibliographically approved

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