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Title: An interdisciplinary inquiry into the question of madness in Mary Shelley and E.T.A. Hoffmann, with particular reference to 'Frankenstein or the Modern Prometheus' and 'Der Sandmann'
Author: Preuss, K.
Awarding Body: University of Wales Swansea
Current Institution: Swansea University
Date of Award: 2000
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Mary Shelley's novel Frankenstein or the Modern Prometheus was first published in 1818. A year before, Hoffmann's novella 'Der Sandmann' was published in the first of the two volumes of his Nachtstücke. The fact that both texts represent certain features shared by the Romantic movements in Germany and England, such as an ironic stance towards Romanticism itself - its Prometheanism, its indulgence in the occult - whilst at the same time offering a critique, rather than a celebration, of the Enlightenment project, already justify a comparative study. The first two chapters stress the contrastive approaches of Hoffmann and Mary Shelley in their explorations of madness. Whereas Hoffmann uses his contacts to Bamberg's renowned medical circle for his literary experiments with madness, Mary Shelley displays elements of philosophy and metaphysics in her method to determine the links between melancholy and madness. The debate over whether or not to regard insanity as an illness and whether it is related to the body or the mind is a major theme in both texts and a chief concern of their contemporaries. The rest of this thesis emphasises the similarities of mythological, cultural and linguistic contexts within which Mary Shelley and Hoffmann settle their preoccupation with madness. In the figures of Victor and Nathanael both works explore the question of perversity and aberrance by measuring human protagonists against the two figures who are in varying senses other than human (the monster and the automaton Olimpia). In such ways, both authors problematise the very concept of human nature itself. By posing this most unsettling of questions, Frankenstein and 'Der Sandmann' are able to explore the fragility and impotence of human reason which they reveal by staging its confrontation with (construction of) its own other, that is, 'the dark side of nature.'
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available