Reevaluating Eichendorff’s Romanticism: Aus dem Leben eines Taugenichts as Metafictional Parody

Brian Haman


Generations of scholars have downplayed the formal significance of humor in Eichendorff’s Taugenichts. I argue that the novella is an example of romantic parody by an author who employed comic-critical strategies and ironic inversions in multiple genres throughout his career to establish a critical distance from normative aesthetic standards and modish literary trends. I highlight the intertextual, metafictional, and self-reflexive aspects of Taugenichts and decode its parodic references by focusing on the novella’s form and content. By combining elements from contemporary theories of parody by Margaret Rose and Linda Hutcheon with those of Friedrich and August Wilhelm Schlegel, a definition of parody is offered, one that reflects recent developments while acknowledging the contributions of early German romantic theory. In addition to emphasizing its comic-critical relationship to works by Goethe, Loeben, Tieck, and Hoffmann (amongst others), Taugenichts is considered in connection with Eichendorff’s other works such as Ahnung und Gegenwart. Eichendorff’s self-reflexive parody partakes of a meta-epochal critique that marks his fiction as simultaneously representative of and at a remove from romanticism, and the modernity of his rhetorical strategies underscores the continued relevance of Taugenichts for contemporary debates surrounding the efficacy of humor in subverting official hierarchies and dominant discourses. (BH)

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