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Zur Positionierung von Chamissos Unikat-Erzählung ‚Peter Schlemihl’s wundersame Geschichte‘ in der goethezeitlichen Novellistik und Genieliteratur

Volker Hoffmann

Pages 93 - 98

By selling his shadow to the Devil, Adalbert von Chamisso’s Peter Schlemihl constitutes an iconic example of genius literature in the Age of Goethe. The unique narrative ‘Peter Schlemihls wundersame Geschichte’ of 1813 exemplifies the anthropological modernity of the Romantic novella providing alternatives to the standard lifestyle: the ‘Bachelor Machine’ instead of familial reproduction, extreme exertion and excentrical behaviour instead of temperance and happy mediocrity, microbiotics instead of macrobiotics (Hufeland). As distinguished from the contemporary pact-with-the-Devil-narrative, Chamisso lets the satanic pact end up in a genuine compromise. Peter Schlemihl does not fade away into nothingness, with the Devil’s help he rather achieves a tremendous scientific lifework. The selfdestructive and anti-familial curse, however, clings to either diabolic genius creations.


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