Trauma and the Promise of Modernity in Gottfried Keller’s Dietegen

Yevgenya Strakovsky


This article draws attention to Dietegen, a critically understudied novella by Switzerland’s foremost 19th century novelist, Gottfried Keller, in order to re-evaluate the German realists’ engagement with modernity. Challenging a tradition of formalist interpretations, this close reading demonstrates that Dietegen is a psychologically precise and highly complex portrait of child abuse and its traumatic impact on long-term development. The novella’s portrait of trauma ultimately broadens into a parable of social progress. The repeated failure to recover from and transcend a violent past serves to question the limits of social reform, asking whether the ideals of modern society have the power to generate a sustainable future free of oppression. (YS)

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