Do the Math and Go Figure! The Socratic Schoolmaster in Theodor Storm’s Der Schimmelreiter

Raleigh Whitinger


In comments following his account of his protagonist’s life, the narrating schoolmaster in Storm’s last novella makes an arithmetic error—as yet unremarked in the critical discourse—which offers a starting point for this article’s argument that he is the source and inspiration for the irony that pervades the text. The article shows how this storyteller’s treatment of women’s discourse and of fantastic events subjects the impression of his protagonist’s heroic image to an ironic perspective that the two mediating fictive authors report—and emulate. The text’s evocations of Socrates play an important role in sustaining and marking this irony. They invite recipients to ponder but doubt Hauke’s image as a hero akin to such bygone greats. They suggest instead the schoolmaster’s kinship with that legendary pedagogue. This fosters reflections on how the novella’s anticipative “modernity” is born of its homage to the romantic roots of its “poetic realism.” (RW)

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