Alienation, uncertainty, and the waters of change : the Water-sprite in early nineteenth-century Germany
Kern, Jane Eleanor
May 9, 2018
Enormous political change, and by extension social change, occurred in the area now known as Germany during the early nineteenth-century. Cities and towns -- and the people who lived in them -- went from belonging to Holy Roman Empire, to being part of Napoleon’s Empire, and then becoming part of an entirely new German Confederation. This thesis project explores the tumultuous political and social history of the German states from 1789 through until 1824, as well as the literary history of German Romanticism, through an examination of three literary productions featuring the figure of the Germanic Water-sprite and demonstrates how this character and her use reflected the historical turmoil of the authors' lives. It examines the development of the European Water-sprite mythos from Homer through to the Grimms and considers the role of Märchen (fairytales) and Kunstmärchen (literary quasi-fairytales) in the production of the three case studies -- Clemens Brenatno’s "Zu Bacharach am Rheine," Heinrich Heine’s "Ich weiß nicht, was soll es bedeuten," and Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué’s Undine -- and analyzes their use of themes such as alienation, hybridity, liminality, mythology, and German unity.
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