“Rahmenschau”: Scenes of Observation in E.T.A. Hoffmann’s Des Vetters Eckfenster

Rüdiger Campe, Jocelyn Holland, Elisabeth Strowick and Andrea Krauß


If “observation” can, at least since the seventeenth century, be understood as an experimental practice of perception that produces a specific form of methodically instructed attention, then this suggests certain affinities to literary framing methods as well. From an epistemological point of view it is notable that frames, in as far as they detail something particular and allow for its observation, both “show” this particular thing and through this showing present the “instances” of such showing at the same time. Within the mode of framing, representation observes itself in the process of representing. This essay investigates such a self-observation of representation with regard to E.T.A. Hoffmann’s late narrative, Des Vetters Eckfenster (1822). This narrative brings to light—through a confrontation with rationalist framing, physiognomic hermeneutics, and modern panorama—a discontinuous constellation of orders of visuality, and it investigates their conditions. The embedded interplay of optical perception, language and writing produces a media-interference that does two things: it stages as belated construction the realism of the modern panorama, grounded in the natural sciences, and at the same time it stages seeing as writing (or grammatology). (AK)

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