Humor and parody in E. T. A. Hoffman's novel Die Lebens-Ansichten des Katers Murr
Curzon, Pamela R.
Master of Arts
E. T. A. Hoffmann's novel Lie Lebens-Ansichten des Katers Murr consists of two stories. One represents the biography of Johannes Kreisler, a serious and genuinely Inspired musician, whose sometimes quixotic behavior puts him at odds with society. The other is the autobiography of the tomcat Murr,who thinks of himself as a genius and artist, but is only a philistine. Since the cat used Kreisler's biography as blotting paper, which, as the editor claims, mistakenly remained in the manuscript, the two parts are seemingly juxtaposed at random in the form of fragments. Despite this curious connection Kater Murr unfolds as a comical novel. The comedy comprises both humorous and parodlstlc elements. Humor exists in five degrees of complexity. The simplest level involves using a word incorrectly. From here the comic element grows to include quotes, metaphors, and idioms. On the third level E. T. A. Hoffmann explores a character's ideas, and then, on the fourth, he uses the situation in which the novel figures find themselves. And finally, the syntactical habits of a character, language, becomes the fifth level of humor. Some of the different levels of hmor Interrelate. Hoffmann also uses several different types of parody. One is the parody of tone, where a character imitates the language nuances of other contemporary authors. Another, more complex level, comprises the parody of romantic novel themes and characters. And thirdly, the whole structure of the novel becomes the all-encompassing parody in Kater Murr. In some cases humor and parody overlap. The purpose of this thesis is to show how E. T. A. Hoffmann employs humor and parody. In three chapters I have discussed a) the way in which humor and parody progress in the course of the novel, b) how they contrast and c) how they complement each other. The final chapter then depicts how these elements of humor and parody transcend the fragmentation and unite both parts of Kater Murr into a cohesive whole.