A study of Georg Hermann's pre-First World War novels with a special reference to the presentation of the city of Berlin
The method of analysis employed in this thesis includes the comparative study of Hermann's novels with contemporary aesthetic and sociological writings as well as with works by other contemporary writers and visual artists. This approach places Hermann's pre-First World War novels in a cultural historical context and helps to re-establish Hermann as a writer whose works mirror in a representative way the developments of turn-of-the-century aesthetics and of the contemporary depiction of Berlin. For each novel in turn, I first show how Hermann adapts the formal aspects of his writing to the thematic concern at hand: experimenting with the aesthetic principles of Naturalism in the autobiographical Spielkinder (1897); with Realism in the tradition of Fontane in the Biedermeier `Doppelroman' Jettchen Geberts Geschichte (Jettchen Gebert (1906) and Henriette Jacoby (1908)); and with Impressionism in Kubinke (1910); until, in Die Nacht des Doktor Herzfeld (1912), he largely abandons the presentation of a plot-based narrative in favour of the Modernist concept of the novel as reflecting the hero's consciousness. The second strand of analysis for each novel follows the development of Hermann's representations of the emerging metropolis of Berlin from 1897 to 1912. The detailed description of physical and social reality is, over the years, increasingly complemented by the depiction of atmosphere and by analysis of the new metropolitan society. A critical attitude to the modem aspects of the city is expressed through direct social criticism in Spielkinder and, in a less pronounced form, by the nostalgic mood of the Jettchen novels. However, in the two following novels this makes way for a nonjudgemental depiction of city society, expressed in a detached, aestheticising panorama of the city (Kubinke) and in a psychological analysis of the metropolitan person's mental make-up (Die Nacht des Doktor Herzfeld).