Jeremias Gotthelf Criticism - Essay

H. M. Waidson (essay date 1949-50)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Waidson, H. M. “Jeremias Gotthelf, the Swiss Novelist.” German Life and Letters 3, no. 2 (1949-50): 92-106.

[In the following essay, Waidson provides an overview of Gotthelf's life and works.]

In the history of German-Swiss literature the name of Jeremias Gotthelf is now ranked as second only to Gottfried Keller's. For, after achieving some reputation during his lifetime, Gotthelf was forgotten in the second half of the nineteenth century, apart from occasional admirers such as Ruskin and Strindberg. Within the last twenty years or so his work has been taken up again by serious critics, and has also become known and liked in many ordinary homes. The present...

(The entire section is 5044 words.)

R. E. Keller (essay date 1956)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Keller, R. E. “Language and Style in Jeremias Gotthelf's Die Schwarze Spinne.German Life and Letters 10 (1956): 2-13.

[In the following essay, Keller provides an analysis of “The Black Spider,” focusing on Gotthelf's use of language and metaphor in the story.]

It is the use of dialect which has denied Gotthelf's work the international recognition as great epic writing which the profundity of his thought and his broad, creative understanding of human life and behaviour would undoubtedly have assured. In his native Switzerland it is his language in particular which has endeared Gotthelf to a wide public—not because his work is written in...

(The entire section is 5318 words.)

Roy Pascal (essay date 1956)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Pascal, Roy. “Jeremias Gotthelf 1797-1854.” In The German Novel: Studies, pp. 101-42, 312-15. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1956.

[In the following essay, Pascal offers a historical and biographical perspective on Gotthelf's fiction.]


If Gotthelf is to be labelled, he must be called a realistic novelist, the first in German literature. A contemporary of Balzac and Dickens, this Swiss writer strikes off from the track of the Romantics, Tieck, Novalis, Arnim, Hoffmann, in whose work the world of fantasy takes precedence over the world of social experience and reality. He also stands in opposition,...

(The entire section is 16643 words.)

J. R. Foster (essay date 1969)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Foster, J. R. “Jeremias Gotthelf.” In German Men of Letters, Volume V: Twelve Literary Essays, edited by Alex Nathan, pp. 229-46. London: Oswald Wolff, 1969.

[In the following essay, Foster examines various aspects of Gotthelf as an author, including which German writers influenced him, the themes of his fiction, and the role of Christianity in his works.]

In the first edition of J. G. Robertson's History of German Literature, published in 1902 and for many years the standard work on the subject in English, the Swiss novelist Jeremias Gotthelf was dismissed in half a dozen lines. Today it would hardly be an exaggeration to claim—echoing Goethe's...

(The entire section is 7789 words.)

Robert Godwin-Jones (essay date 1984)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Godwin-Jones, Robert. Introduction to Narrative Strategies in the Novels of Jeremias Gotthelf, pp. 1-8. New York: Peter Lang, 1984.

[In the following excerpt, Godwin-Jones examines what role Gotthelf's “implied readers” played in the writing of his novels, asserting that while he regarded the lower classes as his audience, his works were read primarily by the upper classes.]

“Gotthelf wird verehrt oder ignoriert … Die Snobs zeigen in den meisten Teilen des deutschen Sprachgebiets nicht das geringste Interesse für ihn, was sicher nicht nur auf die sprachlichen Schwierigkeiten der Lektüre zurückzuführen ist. Der Schweizer ist doch zu gesund, zu wenig...

(The entire section is 4695 words.)

Jamie Rankin (essay date 1988)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Rankin, Jamie. “Spider in a Frame: The Didactic Structure of ‘Die schwarze Spinne.’” German Quarterly 61 (summer 1988): 403-18.

[In the following essay, Rankin considers how the frame-story structure of “The Black Spider” facilitates the author's didactic aims.]


Most readers of Jeremias Gotthelf will agree (if on nothing else) that he is primarily a didactic writer: according to his admirers one of great genius, in the eyes of his detractors hopelessly provincial; but in any case didactic. He provides an almost flawless example of what Susan Suleiman has termed “authoritarian fiction”—narrative prose that has at its...

(The entire section is 7720 words.)

Jamie Rankin (essay date 1990)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Rankin, Jamie. “One Level Removed: Narrative Framing as a Didactic Device in the Rahmennovellen of Jeremias Gotthelf.” Colloquia Germanica: Internationale Zeitschrift fur Germanistik 23, nos. 3-4 (summer 1990): 253-71.

[In the following essay, Rankin analyzes three of Gotthelf's novellas in order to illustrate how the structure of these works served their author's purpose.]

Mir [lag] die ganze Welt am Herzen, wo ich helfen konnte, stund ich ein, wo ich Ungerechtigkeit sah, stellte es mir die Haare zu Berge, wo ich Dummheit sah, unter welcher andere litten, geisselte ich sie, trieb mich fast keck und übermütig …


(The entire section is 8778 words.)