The reception of Heimito von Doderer as exemplified by the critics' response to Ein Mord den jeder Bericht and Die Merowinger
The primary impulse for this dissertation was the striking disparity between the initial critical reaction to Doderer's works in the 1950s and early 1960s, and the long-term evaluation of his literary stature • .In the Introduction, an outline of the theoretical foundations of the study is followed by a brief survey of the academic criticism devoted to Doderer. This survey attempts to establish whether the 'new beginning' in Doderer criticism inspired in the mid-1970s by Anton Reininger and Hans Joachim Schroder has succeeded in clearing the way for a more balanced approach to Doderer's work. The survey reveals, however, that recent Doderer criticism has seen an alarming increase of interest in Doderer the man, as opposed to Doderer the writer. Chapter One is devoted to the reception accorded to Doderer's Ein Mord den jeder begeht. The critical reaction to Doderer's novel can be directly linked to suggestions made by his publishers in their 'Verlags- . prospekt' as to how the novel ought to be read, namely as anything but a detective novel. A detailed examination of Doderer's use of motifs familiar from detective fiction indicates that the author so consistently 'breaks the rules' of classical detective story writing that Ein Mord den jeder begeht might justifiably be regarded as a forerunner of the parodies of the detective novel so common in modern literature. An examination of Doderer's novel in the context of its first publication in 1938 reveals how uncannily closely the detective element in Ein Mord den jeder begeht resembles the official Nazi line on detective fiction, and this throws up the vexed question of whether Doderer's 'anti-detective novel' was an attempt to placate the Nazi censor. However, a comparison with Friedrich DUrrenmatt's anti-detective stories shows that the ideology of the irrational which informs Doderer's novel is not necessarily fascistic in nature, as some of Doderer's critics imply. A brief 'Excursus' on Claus Hubalek's television adaptation of Ein Mord den jeder begeht is intended to illustrate the difficulties involved in transferring Doderer's work to a visual medium. The critics' reactions to Hubalek's play provide a useful up-to-date picture ofoDoderer's current literary standing. In Chapter Two, the focus is turneq on the critical response provoked by Doderer's most controversial work, Die Merowinger. The outrageous plot and 'scurrilous' style of this novel present the reviewer with an unenviable dilemma, for he is confronted with a new work by a major titerary figure which does not conform with the pattern of the author's past successes. The survey of the reception of Die Merowinger is intended to illuminate how the reviewers were so prejudiced by their familiarity with what many regard as a 'Viennese trilogy', Die strudlhofstiege, Die erleuchteten Fenster and Die D~onen, that they were unable to arrive at a reasonably open-minded evaluation of Die Merowinger. The key problem in Doderer reception is the identification of the author with the image of an amiable Viennese raconteur. An examination of the reception of Doderer's works in America reveals that the author's very conscious 'Vienneseness' presents a major obstacle for many non-Austrian readers, and accounts to a large extent for the accusations of parochialism not infrequently levelled at Doderer. Yet, paradOXically, it is undoubtedly to his realistic depictions of Vienna, allied to an apparently apolitical ideology, that Doderer's success in the 19506 must be attributed. In view of the grossly oversimplified identification of Doderer with the image of the chronicler of Vienna, and the increasing politicization of literature in the 1960s, it is perhaps understandable that Doderer has gradually become little more than a peripheral figure in German literature today. The dissertation is supplemented by a Doderer-bibliography of some 1,955 titles. Although it makes no claims to be comprehensive, ·the bibliography is nevertheless a first attempt to collate the diverse material on Doderer which can be found in the archives in Munich and Vienna.