Violence, Ritual, and Community: On Sacrifice in Keller’s Romeo und Julia auf dem Dorfe and Storm’s Der Schimmelreiter

Derek Hillard


This study explores Keller‘s Romeo und Julia and Storm’s Der Schimmelreiter to show the persistence of myth in German realism. Although the ciphers for myth differ significantly in the two novellas, they have a common source—the discourse of sacrifice. In both texts, sacrifice delimits violence, generates ritual in the social sphere, and demonstrates how community is engendered. The key difference is that in Romeo und Julia the sacrificial concern is with the production of an enigmatic space that functions aesthetically, as it relates to play and childhood. In the case of Der Schimmelreiter, by contrast, the concern is with instrumentalizing the sacrificial object with the effect that it becomes society’s mythical founder and shield. The texts share motifs of entombment, crypts, specters, secrets, and uncanny spaces, motifs that are at once the repression and disclosure of myth. (DH)

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