Stifter’s Granit and the Art of Seeing

Andrew B.B. Hamilton


Adalbert Stifter has long been read, especially in his later works, as a pedagogical writer. But critics have disagreed as to the precise content of the lessons he tries to convey in his fiction. This article argues that the basis of Stifter’s morality and aesthetics—the lesson his fiction is meant to convey—lies in the need to articulate meanings onto the landscape by dividing it into nameable units. In the novella “Granit,” the narrator is taught by his grandfather how to do just that: to construct a semiotic order and impose it upon the natural world, in order to be able to successfully coexist with it. The appearance of serene harmony with nature, in this text and others, is only possible after a thorough assertion of intellectual control, the techniques for which the grandfather and the text impart to the narrator and the reader.

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