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E.T.A. Hoffmann (1776 -1822)

Lifespan: 1776 - 1822

Related: bourgeois (critique of) - dark culture - fantastique - fantastic literature - fantasy - fiction - grotesque - imagination - macabre - Romanticism - uncanny - 1800s literature - German literature

Titles: The Devil's Elixir (1815/16) - The Sandman (1817)

Legacy: Hoffmann is one of the best-known representatives of German Romanticism, and a pioneer of the fantasy genre, with a taste for the macabre combined with realism that influenced such authors as Franz Kafka, Edgar Allan Poe, Charles Dickens, and Nikolai Gogol. Hoffmann's work illuminates the darker side of the human spirit found behind the hypocritical harmony of bourgeois life. [Apr 2006]

Sir Walter Scott, in his extended discussion of Hoffmann and literary supernaturalism, concludes that Hoffmann needs medical attention more than he needs literary criticism, and no less a student of dysfunctional minds (which I guess is just about everyone's) than Sigmund Freud made Hoffman's "The Sandman" the center of his essay on "The Uncanny." Hoffmann, although strongly influenced by Gothic literature, is probably best regarded as a fantasist rather than a "Gothic" or "horror" writer, although Freud's term is perhaps the most apt. --http://www.litgothic.com/Authors/hoffmann.html [Jul 2005]

"It is the most romantic of all the arts - one might almost say, the only genuinely romantic art - for its own sole subject is the infinite." (Hoffmann about music)


Ernst Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann (January 24, 1776 - June 25, 1822), was a German romantic and fantasy author and composer. He changed his third name from Wilhelm to Amadeus in 1813 in homage to the composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791). Jacques Offenbach's masterwork, the opera Tales of Hoffmann, takes some cues from The Devil's Elixir and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's ballet Nutcracker is based on a story by Hoffmann.

Hoffmann's stories were tremendously influential in the 19th century, and he is one of the key authors of the Romantic movement. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E.T.A._Hoffmann [Mar 2005]

Les Contes d'Hoffman E.T.A. Hoffmann

The Tales of Hoffman (in French: Les Contes d'Hoffman) is a French opera by Jacques Offenbach. The libretto was written by J. Barbier and M. Carré. It was first performed in Paris in 1881, after the composer's death. Guiraud completed the scoring and supplied the recitatives which in most productions have replaced the original spoken dialogue.

The hero of the plot is based on German romantic writer E.T.A. Hoffmann, and the succession of amorous adventures is drawn from his works.

The Tales of Hoffman is part of the standard operatic repertoire, but it is only occasionally performed. There are a several recordings of it. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Tales_of_Hoffman [Nov 2004]

The Golden Flower Pot (1814) - E. T. A. Hoffmann

In search of le fantastique

The Golden Pot and Other Tales (1800s) - E. T. A. Hoffmann
[FR] [DE] [UK]

Opening paragraph

On Ascension Day, about three o'clock in the afternoon in Dresden, a young man dashed through the Schwarzthor, or Black Gate, and ran right into a basket of apples and cookies which an old and very ugly woman had set out for sale. The crash was prodigious; what wasn't squashed or broken was scattered, and hordes of street urchins delightedly divided the booty which this quick gentleman had provided for them. At the fearful shrieking which the old hag began, her fellow vendors, leaving their cake and brandy tables, surrounded the young man, and with plebian violence scolded and stormed at him. For shame and vexation he uttered no word, but merely held out his small and by no means particularly well-filled purse, which the old woman eagerly seized and stuck into her pocket.

Closing paragraph

Then Archivarius Lindhorst patted me gently on the shoulder, and said: "Softly, softly, my honoured friend! Do not lament so! Were you not even now in Atlantis; and have you not at least a pretty little copyhold farm there, as the poetical possession of your inward sense? And is the blessedness of Anselmus anything else but a living in poesy? Can anything else but poesy reveal itself as the sacred harmony of all beings, as the deepest secret of nature?"

The fantastique was introduced in France by Jean-Jacques Ampère with his 1829 translation of ETA Hoffmann's 1814 collection of tales titled Fantasy Pieces in the Manner of Callot, which features the novella, The Golden Pot. [Aug 2006]

Jean-Jacques Ampère, le fantastique and E. T. A. Hoffmann

In search of the French origins of le fantastique

Jazz Age Catholicism: Mystic Modernism in Postwar Paris, 1919-1933 (2005) - Stephen Schloesser [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

The fantastique, introduced in France by Jean-Jacques Ampere with his 1829 translation of ETA Hoffmann's Fantasy Pieces in the Manner of Callot (1814). --page 36

Jean-Jacques Ampère (August 12, 1800-March 27, 1864) was a French philologist and man of letters. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean-Jacques_Amp%C3%A8re [Jun 2006]

(Pierre-Georges Castex, Le Conte fantastique en France de Nodier à Maupassant, Corti, 1951)
The conte fantastique is defined in France as a genre in itself from about 1830, influenced by E. T. A. Hoffmann. What was the role of the young literary critics at the French journal Globe (Jean-Jacques Ampère, Duvergier de Hauranne, Sainte Beuve) in putting this literary phenomenon on the map?

Difference between le fantastique and the traditional marvelous: le fantastique is characterized by a brutal intrusion of mystery in the framework of real life; it is generally linked to morbid states of consciousness which, in phenomena such as the nightmare or delirium, projects images of angst and terror."

Pierre-Georges Castex sketches here the history of a genre which has known in the 19th century an almost constant success and which was illustrated in numerous works, from Nodier to Maupassant. -- translated from the French http://www.jose-corti.fr/titreslesessais/conte-fantastique-france.html [Jun 2006]

See also: 1800s literature - French literature - German literature - fantastic literature - 1830s - Jacques Callot - E. T. A. Hoffmann

Tales of E. T. A. Hoffmann (1817) - E. T. A. Hoffmann

Tales of E. T. A. Hoffmann (1817) - E. T. A. Hoffmann [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Ranging from macabre fantasies to fairy tales and tales of crime, these stories from the author of The Nutcracker create a rich fictional world. Hoffman paints a complex vision of humanity, where people struggle to establish identities in a hostile, absurd world.

E.T.A. Hoffmann's 1817 short story "The Sandman" features Olympia, a doll-like mechanical woman. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robot#History [Jul 2005]

see also: 1810s - robot - uncanny

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