THEODOR FONTANES "EFFI BRIEST" UND FRIEDRICH SPIELHAGENS "ZUM ZEITVERTREIB": ZWEI DICHTUNGEN ZU EINER WIRKLICHKEIT. (GERMAN TEXT)
Doctor of Philosophy
Fontane and Spielhagen wrote their novels almost simultaneously based on the same incident from Berlin society-life of the 1880s. The dissertation has two main thrusts: (1) An examination of the changes which Fontane made in his adaptation of the story shows clearly how conservative his treatment of the material was. He avoided the more progressive, controversial aspects of the case and made of a happening, which was entirely symptomatic of the development of the role of women in marriage and society on the threshold of the 20th century (and of the reactionary element, which sought to arrest this development) a fable, which is firmly anchored in the aristocratic life of 19th century Germany. These findings stand in clear contrast to those of Fontane studies of the last 30 years in general (and of feminist-oriented studies in particular), which have tended to exaggerate the importance of the social-critical aspect of his works at the expense of a more balanced view of progressive and conservative elements. (2) An examination of the technique of both authors, particularly in light of Spielhagens literary theories, shows that Spielhagen, who had sought to achieve a realistic representation of life through the use of a formula of "epic objectivity", failed in this endeavour, in spite of the great technical virtuosity of his work. Fontane, on the other hand, who did not commit himself wholeheartedly to this theory, was able to attain a high degree of realism by offering a wide perspective of subjective points of view (with none of which the narrator was identified), which in turn allow the reader to form his own "objectified" picture of reality.