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Private lives and collective destinies : class, nation and the folk in the works of Gustav Freytag (1816-1895)

This thesis examines the works of Gustav Freytag against the changing socio-political backdrop of the Vormarz, Nachmarz and Griinderzeit. It analyses the concepts of class, nation and folk in his writings, and provides an account of their shifting literary representation between 1840 and 1890. For the first time in recent criticism, it analyses all of Freytag's published work - his poetry, dramas, novels, theatrical theory, journalism, and historical and biographical studies. The thesis reveals a coherent anti-aristocratic position III Freytag's fiction, expressed through a thematic preoccupation with inter-class relationships. It argues that Freytag's love stories encode in the domestic a political polemic which presents German society as undergoing a process of radical bourgeoisification. It traces how Freytag's class concerns are increasingly nationalised after the revolutions of 1848, and explores how his Nachmarz writing constructs a concept of German national identity based on a sense of common German values. It argues that Freytag's later preoccupation with German history allowed him to synthesise his twin concerns of class and nation into a pseudo-philosophical concept termed the Volkskraft - a myth of German folk identity which is shown to be central to Freytag's final historical and literary works. It is a central contention of this project that Freytag's texts not only reflect issues of class, nation and the folk, but that these concepts were key to the coherent political agenda he wished to disseminate through his writing. It is argued that Freytag's works present a systematic attempt to re-imagine the social and political structures of Germany, positioning the bourgeoisie at the heart of the German nation state. Ultimately, Freytag is shown to promote a significantly more radical concept of sociopolitical relations in German society than research into his work has hitherto acknowledged.
Date January 2009
CreatorsSchofield, Benedict Keble
PublisherUniversity of Sheffield
Source SetsEthos UK
Detected LanguageEnglish
TypeElectronic Thesis or Dissertation

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