Adelbert von Chamisso Criticism - Essay

Thomas Mann (essay date 1911)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Chamisso," in Essays of Three Decades, trans. by H. T. Lowe-Porter, Alfred A. Knopf, 1948, pp. 241-58.

[In the following essay, originally published in 1911, Mann surveys Chamisso's life and writings, concentrating on his novel Peter Schlemihl, which he calls "one of the most charming youthful works in German literature."]

Among our schoolbooks was one that stood out from all the rest. On the outside it looked dry and forbidding, like any textbook. But within it gave of its contents with lovely human charm. Actually, strange as it may seem, it was an amusing book, full from cover to cover of delightful things which got our interest straightway, with no...

(The entire section is 7551 words.)

Hermann J. Weigand (essay date 1965)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Peter Schlemihl" in Surveys and Soundings in European Literature, Princeton University Press, 1966, pp 208-22.

[In the following essay, originally published in 1965, Weigand offers a thematic analysis of Peter Schlemihl, interpreting the work as a tongue-in-cheek satire on "salesmanship and business ethics."]

Peter Schlemihl, an immortal classic that charmed the reading public of Europe and America on its first appearance a century and a half ago, is the story of a man who got involved with the devil by selling him his shadow. That so great a poet as Hugo von Hofmannsthal nevertheless chose to omit it from his collection, Deutsche...

(The entire section is 6110 words.)

Paul Neumarkt (essay date 1967)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Chamisso's Peter Schlemihl," in Literature and Psychology, Vol. XVII, Nos. 2 and 3, 1967, pp. 120-27.

[In the following essay, Neumarkt interprets Peter Schlemihl as an introverted personality type with repressed extrovert tendencies.]

Chamisso's novel Peter Schlemihl has remained a literary delight ever since Chamisso conceived the idea that a man's shadow was not necessarily an epiphenomenon tied up with the existence of the human personality but rather a possession to be taken care of, tended, cherished; a possession, above all, capable of being lost. An, individual may "lose his shadow" in many parts of the world, probably quite...

(The entire section is 3913 words.)

Niklaus R. Schweizer (essay date 1973)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: A Poet Among Explorers: Chamisso in the South Seas, Herbert Lang. 1973, pp. 13-18, 27-46.

[In the following excerpt, Schweizer recounts Chamisso's experiences, recorded in poetry and prose, concerning his voyage to the South Seas.]

When the Russian brig Rurik, Captain Otto von Kotzebue, sailed out of the harbor of Copenhagen on August 17, 1815, heading for the Bearing Strait and the hopeful discovery of the fabled Northeast Passage, a civilian of unusual qualities could be seen aboard. Adelbert von Chamisso, author of the intriguing Peter Schlemihl, had joined the expedition, financed by Count Romanzoff of Reval (Tallinn) in the capacity of an...

(The entire section is 9575 words.)

Ralph Flores (essay date 1974)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "The Lost Shadow of Peter Schlemihl," in The German Quarterly, Vol. XLVII, No. 4, November, 1974, pp. 567-84.

[In the following essay, Flores examines the magical and realistic elements of Peter Schlemihl, viewing the novel as a complex study of its protagonist's alienation from society.]

Critics have recognized Chamisso's Peter Schlemihls Wundersame Geschichte to be an odd work—one for which the categories of literary history and criticism may seem to be adequate, yet one which seems to elude those categories in a somewhat disturbing way. Most critics have noted that the work, like other Romantic tales, is mixed in its modality: it combines the...

(The entire section is 7591 words.)

Martin Swales (essay date 1976)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Mundane Magic: Some Observations on Chamisso's Peter Schlemihl," in Forum for Modern Language Studies, Vol. XII, No. 3, July, 1976, pp 250-62.

[In the following essay, Swales investigates the ambiguous shadow motif of Peter Schlemihl "as the paradigm for that uncertain moral and social situation which the novel so brilliantly explores."]

By any standards, Peter Schlemihl is a most engaging story.1 On several occasions, Chamisso asserted that the work was originally written to amuse children, and its combination of verbal and situational humour leaves one in little doubt that it fulfils this purpose admirably. One wonders,...

(The entire section is 6653 words.)

Irving Massey (essay date 1976)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Singles and Doubles: Peter Schlemil" in The Gaping Pig: Literature and Metamorphosis, University of California Press, 1976, pp. 138-55.

[In the following essay, Massey begins by comparing Peter Schlemihl and Frankenstein, and continues by discussing the ways in which polarities and oppositional schemes operate in Chamisso's novel.]

Peter Schlemihl is a book that shows nemerous situational similarities to Frankenstein. Both books are tragedies of science; both involve doubles (in fact, Peter Schlemihl himself has at least two doubles—his shadow and the devil); both raise the question of what happens, or what should happen,...

(The entire section is 7293 words.)

Colin Butler (essay date 1977)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Hobson's Choice: A Note on Peter Schlemihl," in Monatshefte: Für Deutschen Unterricht, Deutsche Sprache und Literatur, Vol. LXIX, No. 1, Spring, 1977, pp 5-16.

[In the following essay, Butler summarizes some critical assessments of Peter Schlemihl, observing that despite its ambiguities the work is finally a fairy tale in which the protagonist finds contentment apart from society.]

Als ich mich ins Fremdenbuch einschrieb und im Monat Juli blätterte, fand ich auch den vielteuern Namen Adelbert von Chamisso, den Biographen des unsterblichen Schlemihl. Der Wirt erzählte mir: dieser Herr sei in einem unbeschreibbar schlechten...

(The entire section is 5874 words.)

Marko Pavlyshyn (essay date 1982)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Gold, Guilt and Scholarship: Adelbert von Chamisso's Peter Schlemihl, in The German Quarterly, Vol. LV, No. 1, January, 1982, pp. 49-63.'

[In the following essay, Pavlyshyn considers the ending of Peter Schlemihl and the implications of Schlemihl's role as a scientist who refuses to participate in society.]

Adelbert von Chamisso's Peter Schlemihls wundersame Geschichte (written in 1813, published 1814) is one of the more frequently interpreted German prose texts of the early nineteenth century. Dörte Brockhagen's Forschungsbericht lists twenty-one studies of the work for the period 1945-76 alone.1 Since then, at least three new...

(The entire section is 7057 words.)