Arnim, Achim von
Achim von Arnim 1781-1831
(Full name Ludwig Joachim von Arnim) German novella and short story writer, poet, novelist, dramatist, essayist, editor, and critic.
An influential figure in the German Romantic movement, Arnim inspired among his contemporaries a renewed interest in their national literature and culture. His unfinished novel, Die Kronenwächter, was Germany's first historical novel, and is considered important to the development of that genre in German literature. He is also known for his collection of folktales and lyrics, Des Knaben Wunderhorn, which he compiled with Clemens Brentano, and which prompted a significant revival of interest in German folklore. He is best remembered, however, for his numerous novellas, including Isabella von Ägypten, Der tolle Invalide auf dem Fort Ratonneau, and Die Majoratsherren. In these works Arnim blended folkloric motifs with Romantic sensibility, seeking to reveal a higher historical truth and to invigorate the German national spirit.
A descendant of Prussian nobility, Arnim was born in Berlin and raised there by his maternal grandmother. He attended the university of Halle, where he pursued studies in the sciences, particularly experimental physics. While attending Halle, Arnim published several articles in scientific journals. In 1800 he entered the University of Göttingen, where he met Brentano, his later collaborator and lifelong friend. Brentano encouraged Arnim to abandon his scientific studies and concentrate his talents on writing. While travelling through western Europe and England between 1801 and 1804, Arnim published his first novel, Hollins Liebeleben. Modeled closely on Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's The Sorrows of Young Werther, the novel received little critical attention. Arnim eventually settled in Heidelberg, where he organized and became a leader of the Heidelberg Romantics. There he published Des Knaben Wunderhorn, which brought him the recognition he sought. Goethe, especially, encouraged his literary efforts, and Arnim looked to him as a mentor. Although Goethe approved of Arnim's style, he could not support the younger man's preoccupation with German medievalism, and the relationship deteriorated. Arnim's literary concerns were shared, however, by such figures as Brentano, the brothers Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm, and Joseph Görres, and together this group edited the short-lived journal Zeitschrift für Einsiedler, which encouraged the study of German folklore. It was discontinued after five months but was published in book form as Tröst-Einsamkeit, Stirred by the wars of liberation against Napoleon, the Heidelberg Romantics then concentrated on more realistic and historical depictions of Germany, composing patriotic war songs and producing nationalist propaganda. In 1809 Arnim returned to Prussia, where he developed the mature writing style characteristic of his later work, particularly his novellas. In 1811 he married Brentano's sister, Bettina, and the following year he published his best-known novella collection (commonly known as Novellensammlung 1812). Arnim returned to his family estate in Wiepersdorf, forty miles south of Berlin, in 1814, and he remained there until his death of a stroke in 1831.
Major Works of Short Fiction
The novellas Isabella von Ägypten, Der tolle Invalide auf dem Fort Ratonneau, and Die Majoratsherren are regarded as three of Arnim's finest efforts, and they were quite popular in nineteenth-century Germany. In these works, Arnim successfully blends a historical picture of Germany with elements of the fantastic and grotesque. Isabella von Ägypten pairs the historical Holy Roman Emperor Charles V with such fictional and mythic figures as the gypsy princess Isabella, a golem, and a mandrake root that becomes the dwarf Cornelius. Arnim employs these figures in an historical allegory depicting the fall of the Hapsburg dynasty. In Die Majoratsherren religious figures, such as Adam, Eve, and the Angel of Death, are featured in a critique of French decadence prior to the Revolution. Der tolle Invalide is considered by many to be his most accomplished work. In addition to skillfully combining the realistic and the fantastic in this story of a man's madness, Arnim also conveys a psychological awareness and moral insight not found in any of his other compositions.
Although Arnim is generally given a minor position in the German Romantic movement, he is recognized for his part in inspiring a renewed interest in German folklore. Despite the initial popularity of Arnim's works, critics long censured them as confusing and poorly organized conglomerations of history and myth, elevated themes and grotesque imagery, and Romantic aesthetics and political commentary. Recent commentators, however, have found unifying patterns of imagery unifying Arnim's novellas, and they have observed consistent and coherent applications of the author's aesthetic, moral, and political views in the works. Increasingly, they have come to regard Arnim's novellas as his most successful creative works. In this shorter form, critics agree, Arnim overcame his predilection for extraneous detail and his tendency toward diffuseness which mar his longer works. Vickie L. Ziegler's comments on the collection Der Wintergarten can be applied to many of Arnim's novellas: "Wintergarten was not simply a futile literary exercise from a man who read too much; it was Arnim's attempt to advance his own deeply held beliefs about the interdependent role of literature, political action, and religious belief."
Der Wintergarten: Novellen (novella collection) 1809 *Isabella von Aegypten, Kaiser Karl des Fünften erste Jugenliebe: Eine Erzälung; Melück Maria Balinville, die Hausprophetin aus Arabien: Eine Anekdote; Die drei liebreichen Schwestern und der glückliche Färber: Ein Sittengemälde; Angelika, die Genueserin, und Cornus, der Seilspringer: Eine Novelle (novella collection) 1812
Die Majoratsherren (novella) 1820
Landhausleben (miscellaneous short fiction) 1826
†Sechs Erzälungen: Nachlass von L. Achim von Arnim (novella collection) 1835
Other Major Works
Hollins Liebeleben: Roman (novel) 1802
Des Knaben Wunderhorn. 3 vols. [with Clemens Brentano] (folktales and lyrics) 1806-08
Armuth, Reichthum, Schuld und Buss der Gräfin Dolores: Eine wahre Geshichte zur lehrreichen Unterhaltung armer Fräulein aufgeschrieben (novel) 1810
Halle und Jerusalem: Studentspiel und Pilgerabenteuer (drama) 1811
Die Kronenwächter (unfinished novel) 1817
Ludwig Achim von Arnim's sämmtliche Werke. 22 vols. (collected works) 1839-57
* This collection is often referred to as Novellensammlung 1812.
†This posthumous publication...
(The entire section is 170 words.)
SOURCE: "The Several Aspects of Fire in Achim von Arnim's Der tolle Invalide" in German Quarterly, Vol. XXXVII, No. 4, November, 1964, pp. 498-505.
[In the following essay, the Washingtons trace the fire imagery in Der tolle Invalide, noting that Arnim presents both [n]atural and supernatural aspects of fire" in the novella.]
In reading Achim von Arnim's Novelle, Der tolle Invalide, one is soon aware of the frequent occurrence of the word "Feuer" and related expressions. This seems at first to be merely clever word play, but a closer inspection shows that the various aspects of fire are so intimately connected with the events and characters of the story that they reflect the basic structure of the Novelle.
Fire is an unusually complex motif because it is so rich in connotative associations. From the earliest mention in primitive mythology, man has endowed fire with both natural and supernatural significance. He has sought it for its positive creative potentialities and has, at the same time, feared its destructive powers. Fire has thus come to represent symbolically things as various as home, love, heavenly grace, and on the other hand, war, hatred, and eternal damnation.
Arnim's awareness of the basic complexity of his motif is evident in the opening scene of the narrative. Count Dürande, the elderly commander of disabled veterans at...
(The entire section is 2896 words.)
SOURCE: "The Use of the Leitmotif in Achim von Arnim's Stories," in German Quarterly, Vol. XLII, No. 3, May, 1969, pp. 343-51.
[In the essay below, Weiss argues that recurring motifs serve to unify a number of Arnim's seemingly loosely constructed stories and novellas.]
Achim von Arnim's tales have repeatedly been censured for lack of structural unity and only a few, for instance Der tolle Invalide and Frau von Saverne, have escaped such criticism. However, attempts have been made recently to reevaluate Arnim's narrative art. In his penetrating study on Die Majoratsherren Heinrich Henel has demonstrated the surprisingly coherent structure of this seemingly confused story. Basing his interpretation on several short narratives by Arnim, Wolfdietrich Rasch has tried to defend the author against his critics on the grounds that such features as the loose plot contruction and sudden transitions of his tales resemble the techniques of an improvising oral storyteller. While Rasch's approach helps us to appreciate a number of Arnim's stories, among them Angelika, die Genueserin und Cos-mus, der Seilspringer, it fails to account for the existence of an interesting unifying device in several of his tales, namely the leitmotif. To be sure, unsophisticated leitmotifs like the recurring Homeric epithet are part of the tradition of the oral epic. But Arnim's use...
(The entire section is 3450 words.)
SOURCE: "National Subjects in the Works of Achim von Arnim," in German Life and Letters, Vol. 24, No. 4, July, 1971, pp. 316-27.
[In the excerpt below, Mornin examines the use of old German stories in the pieces in Der Wintergarten and in the novella Isabella von Ägypten. The critic argues that Arnim used these materials in order to "purify and morally regenerate the Germans" through his works.]
Achim von Arnim's political activities in the years 1806-13, his publication of German folk-songs in Des Knaben Wunderhorn (1806-8), and his literary exploitation of German historical subjects and of old German traditions, legends and literature have caused him to be regarded as a typical representative of the patriotic and national trend discernible in German Romanticism in the early years of the nineteenth century. Despite this, little attention has been paid to fundamental aspects of the relationship between the national subject matter of his works and their patriotic value. Biographical studies and Arnim's published correspondence make it clear, indeed, that his employment of material derived from German history and folk-tradition and from old German literature was politically motivated, but textual investigations have thrown little light either on the psychological effect which he sought to achieve through his literary nationalism or on the purpose of his distinctive treatment of...
(The entire section is 2794 words.)
SOURCE: "Images of Birds in Arnim's Majoratsherren" in German Life and Letters, Vol. XXXIII, No. 3, April, 1980, pp. 190-98.
[In the essay below, Casey argues that Arnim's novella "exhibits a detailed and extended avian imagery which lends an intricate coherence to the story. "]
About the genesis of Ludwig Achim von Arnim's novella Die Majoratsherren we are certain only that it first appeared in the Taschenbuch zum geselligen Vergnügen auf das Jahr 1820 and was later, in 1839, included in the second volume of Wilhelm Grimm's edition of Arnim's collected works. Walther Migge, the editor of the most authoritative edition of Arnim's work, finds, somewhat vaguely formulated, stimulus for its creation in the '. . . nach 1815 einsetzende allgemeine Interesse für Magnetismus und Somnambulismus.'
The story has met with very little critical approval. Arnim's friends, Brentano, Görres and the Brothers Grimm, had expressed themselves less than enthusiastically on his earlier collection Vier Novellen (1812) and on his novel Die Kronenwächter (1817). Possibly as a consequence, '. . . äusserte sich Arnim später in Briefen nur noch wenig über seine literarischen Arbeiten', and thus we have little to go on as to his objectives in this story.
The feeling among his friends seems to have been that Arnim allowed his tales to run on at...
(The entire section is 3349 words.)
SOURCE: "Achim von Arnim and the Romantic Grotesque," in The Germanic Review, Vol. LVIII, No. 1, Winter, 1983, pp. 21-32.
[In the following excerpt, Lokke contends that Arnim's use of the grostesque in Isabella von Ägypten "represents an attack upon early nineteenth-century aesthetic expectations, rational thought and social norms through its intermingling of incongruous elements and its juxtaposition and fusion of opposites."]
A side from André Breton's assertion [in his introduction to Contes Bizarres, 1933] that Achim von Arnim's contes bizarres are the finest works of prose fiction produced by either the eighteenth or the nineteenth century, critical appreciation of Arnim's fantastic tales has been virtually nonexistent until recently. This striking fact has represented an obligatory point of departure for contemporary Arnim research and has resulted in numerous surveys and summaries of negative critical response to Arnim's work. The charges aimed at Arnim are twofold and closely related: 1) that his works are aesthetically anarchical and lacking in formal coherence 2) that they represent an insult to both the historical and the fantastic by indiscriminately and grotesquely mixing these two incompatible realms.
It is certainly true that Arnim delights in a rather playful intermingling of fact and fiction. The "once upon a time" of Goethe, Tieck, Wackenroder...
(The entire section is 9634 words.)
SOURCE: "Achim von Arnim's Der Wintergarten: Introduction," in Bending the Frame in the German Cyclical Narrative: Achim von Arnim's Der Wintergarten & E. T. A. Hoffmann's Die Serapionsbrüder, The Catholic University of America Press, 1991, pp. 9-24.
[In the following excerpt, Ziegler presents a broad overview of Der Wintergarten, discussing the work's connections to Arnim's aesthetic philosophy, to German folklore, and to the social and political events of the author's time. Ziegler also examines the relation of the frame narrative to the individual tales in the work.]
Es müsste sonderbar in ihren Winter hinein blühen, wenn ihnen so der
Sinn für das Grosse eines Volks aufgehen sollte und für sein Bedürfnis.
—"Von Volksliedern," 1805
"Things would have to flower remarkably in their winter, if for them
the sense of the greatness of a people and its needs were to open up."
—"On Folk Songs," 1805
While the works of Achim von Arnim often seem like the forlorn stepchildren of German Romantic literature, even within a mistreated family, one child may suffer more from misunderstanding and neglect than the others. The condescending dismissal that Der...
(The entire section is 5129 words.)
SOURCE: "Preconceived and Fixed Ideas: Self-Fulfilling Prophesies in Der tolle Invalide auf dem Fort Ratonneau" in Neophilologus, Vol. 78, No. 1, January, 1994, pp. 109-18.
[In the following essay, Dickson analyzes not only Francoeur's madness but the behavior of various other characters in Der tolle Invalide in terms of the psychological theories of Arnim's day.]
Achim von Arnim's generation witnessed an expansion of scientific and pseudo-scientific interest in unconscious and pathological states of mind, which came to be regarded as providing the deepest insights into the psyche. Looking inwards at the processes of the mind led concomitantly to an appreciation of the extrinsic influences brought to bear on the intrinsic perspective. Man was often perceived as under threat from these influences and as unable to control his own destiny.
This would seem to represent the general consensus of opinion expressed in Der tolle Invalide auf dem Fort Ratonneau, in particular with respect to the main protagonist. The characters offer theories to explain Francoeur's present mental state, based primarily on Rosalie's account of past events. Each of their interpretations in its own way depicts the individual at the mercy of external forces.
Rosalie herself is convinced that her husband has been afflicted by the curse put on her by her mother. Her...
(The entire section is 4544 words.)
Bonfiglio, Thomas Paul. "Electric Affinities: Arnim and Schelling's Naturphilosophie." Euphorion 81, No. 3 (1987): 217-39.
Examines Isabella von Ägypten for evidence of the "fundamental electromagnetic cosmology" that informs Arnim's work.
——. Achim von Arnim's Novellensammlung 1812: Balance and Mediation. New York: Peter Lang, 1987, 225 p.
Analysis that contends Arnim's 1812 collection of novellas "is indeed a coherent opus that diagnoses a socio-historical problem, describes its genesis, and offers a prognosis together with an ideal program for its solution." Bonfiglio finds the novellas organized and unified around a structure of polarities.
Butler, Colin. "Psychology and Faith in Arnim's Der tolle Invalide." Studies in Romanticism 17, No. 1 (Spring 1978): 149-62.
Maintains that in this novella Arnim achieved a perfect blend of religious and psychological themes and illustrated "the possibility of faith from the character of human experience."
Duncan, Bruce. "Some Correspondences between Arnim's Majoratsherren and Fichte's Concept of the Ich" Monat-schefte LXVIII, No. 1 (Spring 1976): 51-9.
Contends that Johann Gottlieb Fichte's philosophy...
(The entire section is 494 words.)