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The novelist and Bismarck with special reference to Fontane, Freytag and Ppielhagen

Goldsmith, W. M. J. (1976) The novelist and Bismarck with special reference to Fontane, Freytag and Ppielhagen. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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The thesis is an examination of the impact of the personality and policies of Bismarck on three contemporary novelists Pontane, Preytag and Spielhagen and the presentation of Bismarck in their novels. Of the three writers Spielhagen, a radical democrat, was the most sustained critic of Bismarck. Spielhagen believed passionately in individual liberty and held that this would only be fully realised for all members of society in a democratic republic. The political and social order that Bismarck sought to perpetuate was the antithesis of his ideal. Spielhagen's opposition to Bismarck was, thus, fundamental and highly political. He also objected to the demise of humanism and the consolidation of authoritarian attitudes that resulted from Bismarck's despotic regime. In his novels Spielhagen's political commitment is reflected in the considerable space that is given over to the discussion of Bismarck's political aims, methods and influence. Within the detailed panorama of German society that he paints Spielhagen is concerned to gauge the destructive influence of Bismarck on humanist values. Preytag, a moderate constitutional liberal, was also a life-long opponent and critic of Bismarck. He was in the van-guard of the liberal struggle to remove Bismarck and bring down the monarchical system of government in Prussia in the 1860's and he bitterly resented Bismarck's ruthless defence of monarchical and aristocratic power. None of Bismarck's later achievements, not even the unification of Germany, quite reconciled Preytag to the illiberal Bismarck system and he continued to hope that Bismarck and his autocratic regime would in time give way to a truly liberal system of government. There is no discussion of Bismarck in Preytag's novels: on the defensive after 1866 he resorted to the historical novel in order to propagate values and ideals which he saw threatened by Bismarck's influence. Pontane confessed to being an admirer of Bismarck as statesman, orator, humorist and personality. Bismarck's despotism was, in Pontane's view, fully justified by his achievements for Germany. Only later in life - after Bismarck had resigned – did Pontane's dislike of Bismarck's petty autocratic style and growing megalomania escalate into outright rejection of Bismarck, Prom the more radical democratic view-point he assumed in the latter years of his life he judged Bismarck to be a petty autocrat. Even his achievements were devoid of moral significance for the progress of mankind. Pontane's concern with a detailed evocation of the political and intellectual atmosphere that prevailed in the Berlin upper class of his day resulted in a number of memorable portraits of conservative and liberal opponents of Bismarck, but only in the figure of Innstetten in 'Effi Briest' did he begin to explore the implications of Bismarck's despotic regime for human values in German society.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Date:1976
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:18 Sep 2013 15:35

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