Der Kristallograph in Gottfried Kellers Sinngedicht. Christian Heusser als ein Modell für den Naturforscher Reinhart

Rainer Würgau


Recently published letters by the Swiss crystallographer and explorer Christian Heusser (1826–1909) reveal that his friend Gottfried Keller used him as a model for Reinhart, the main male character in Das Sinngedicht. The beginning of Keller’s work on the novella cycle, 1851 in Berlin, coincided with the beginning of Heusser’s post-doctoral research. A close reading of the first chapter of Das Sinngedicht provides evidence for Keller’s familiarity with Heusser’s laboratory, the general objective of his study, and the eye problems he temporarily suffered. It is argued that Keller’s portrayal of Reinhart is not, as commonly held, a scathing view of the scientific mind mitigated by humor, but rather an appreciative portrait enlivened by friendly irony. The article traces the progressive deterioration of Reinhart’s image in literary criticism since the 1960s and attributes it to the widening cultural gap between sciences and humanities. It is suggested that the merry war between Reinhart and Lucie is inspired by a concetto: Reinhart, eager to elucidate the secrets of crystal structures, tries his skill on Lucie, nicknamed Lux, who turns the tables and elucidates his character by inciting him to narrations. In the end he is found flawless, rein and hart. (RW; in German)

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