The Picturesque as Art of the Average: Stifter’s Statistical Poetics of Observation

Rüdiger Campe, Jocelyn Holland, Elisabeth Strowick and David Martyn


Stifter’s poetics of the “gentle law,” the aesthetics of the picturesque, and statistical method are shown to be distinct but related manifestations of the nineteenth century’s new techniques of observing and representing the common. The discussion focuses on Stifter’s “Brigitta” and his preface to the Many-Colored Stones, theories of the picturesque by the Romantic landscape improvers William Gilpin and Uvedale Price, and the statistician Adolphe Quetelet’s application of statistical theory to the realm of literature and art. Common to all of these sources is the attempt to observe and figure the truth of a norm hidden beneath the more conspicuous surface turbulence of exceptional phenomena. (DM)

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