Theodor Fontane: Biologism and Fiction

Christian Thomas


In his novels, Fontane treats mythical and scientistic biologisms, which informed the popular imagination of Wilhelminian Germany, as fictions based in culture. The assumption of the animal nature of man gave rise to determinist and materialist views. Fontane's narrative depictions expose such biologisms as essentializing, reductionist fictions that unduly exclude cultural factors and turn a blind eye to human potentials and positive social tendencies. In refunctioning romantic myth, poeticizing science, and emphasizing sympathy/social instincts, Fontane, through narrative perspectivization, promotes counter-fictions that project a more positive image of nature and humanity, as well as a vision for science. (CT)

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