The novels of Paul Heyse : a critical study
Paul Heyse (1830-1914) is a writer who, despite achieving considerable celebrity in his own age, has since failed to stand the 'test of time'. The aim of this thesis is to account, by means of a study of his novels, for his former importance and subsequent neglect. The last critical work to appear on Heyse's novels was Gustav Kemmerich's Paul Heyse als Romanschriftsteller (1928), which is mainly concerned with Heyse's style and with the influences shaping his technique as a novelist. My own monograph concentrates rather on the thematic structure of the novels: my description of works with which I cannot assume the reader's prior acquaintance is necessarily a detailed one. I adduce material from Heyse's correspondences and examine the reception of the novels in contemporary journals. The principal theoretical question discussed is the distinction between the Heysean Roman and Novelle. I then analyze the narrative techniques of the novels; consider the relationship of the works to the tradition of Realism; and try to account for the function of the love interest. The central chapters which investigate the novels' idea content show Heyse to be a moral subjectivist, strongly opposed to the heteronomy of Church and State; and an unashamed élitist in his opposition to literary Naturalism and his cult of 'high art'. For all their social and aesthetic criticism, the novels remain, with their emphasis on the self-fulfilment of the hero, in the tradition of the Bildungsroman. Their popularity was due to those features which had ensured Heyse's success in the Novelle. Their historical importance and present-day interest lie principally in the way in which they formed a vehicle whereby topical and controversial ideas were disseminated amongst a wide reading public.