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Reinterpreting the Literary Fairytale of Wilhelm Hauff: An Emendation of His Life and Works

  • Author / Creator
    Thorough, Rupert
  • The aim of this dissertation is to analyse and revise contemporary critical discourse on the fairytales of Wilhelm Hauff. Its purpose is threefold: to offer an accurate assessment of the author’s work and his contribution to the literary fairytale; to restore the structural æsthetic on which interpretation of authorial intent depends; and to remove the visible imprint of the translator by reassessing Hauff’s subversive “attack on the mechanisms of stereotyping” (Thum, “Misreading” 19). Historical context is restored to the discussion. The importance of the court censor and the need for subterfuge is stressed through a meticulous study of the original texts. Satire is situated and explained. The method of approach is tailored to the poet rather than the interpreter and strives to identify, explain and correct the discrepancies between the original German prose and the numerous renderings into English. Textual and cultural anomalies are invalidated through a detailed analysis of translation and publication. Errors in supposition and fact are exposed. This treatise seeks to restore the contextual frame to the dialectic and thereby establish Hauff as the first to acknowledge, illustrate and insist upon a theoretical precept by which the fairytale could be defined.To contextualise the tales and resituate their thematic and theoretical relevance in the broader context of the European tradition is the main objective. The narrative structure of the Hauffian fairytale is genre specific and distinct. Published successively from 1825, Hauff’s three annuals of original ‘keepsakes’ repositioned the fairytale construct through “an ironic and satirical dismantling of societal norms” (2). Exploration requires explanation. The author’s purpose was to confront preconceived notions of what a tale of wonder could be, “to provide an alternative view of reality informed by greater tolerance, enlightenment, and understanding” (13). But as satire is measured to time and audience and irony is aligned with context, the connotation has shifted. Diversion into associated works and genres forms part of a requisite clarification. This analysis redirects critical focus back to the words of the author in relation to the age in which he lived and away from the anachronistic translations that have tarnished his legacy as a poet. Reception of the Hauffian æsthetic by an English-speaking audience is problematic. The most significant issue is the lack of acceptable material on which to base a fair appraisal. At present there is limited access to a suitable translation of the fairytales. Of the renderings and adaptations spanning almost two hundred years, only the antiquated S. Mendel offering of 1886 (reprinted in 1914 and 1970) contains the narrative framework of the three almanacs. But even this ‘complete’ edition denies Hauff the “cue to his intentions” (5) ˗ the allegorical “Fairytale as Almanac” preface. To facilitate reading, a new translation has been included and should be considered supplemental to the analysis. Interpretation of revolutionary style cannot be restricted by lacunæ. Abridgement of the three narrative frameworks and their related stories leads to a formulaic depletion of the broader context, which in turn leads to an inevitable misinterpretation of the author’s intent. A solution to the problem depends on an accessible rendering of the almanacs into “a modern English version that would include not only the tales themselves, but also the stories in which they are framed” (19). Hauff must be reclaimed from the margins of constructive academic discourse. With this end in view, the analysis has been honed to affect future critical debate and, ultimately, to pave the way for a modern, unabridged translation of the almanacs in measure with the original intentions of the author.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Spring 2019
  • Type of Item
    Thesis
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
    https://doi.org/10.7939/r3-xjgh-p990
  • License
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