Theodor Storm Analysis

Other literary forms

(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Theodor Storm made his most significant contribution to German literature in his more than fifty novellas, but he is also recognized as one of the foremost German poets of the second half of the nineteenth century. Liederbuch dreier Freunde (1843; songbook of three friends), which he published with Theodor Mommsen and Tycho Mommsen, contains more than forty of his early poems, among them the best of the love lyrics that he dedicated to Bertha von Buchan. Additional poetry accompanied the novellas in Sommer-Geschichten und Lieder. His first substantial collection, Gedichte (1852; poems), appeared in repeatedly expanded editions in 1856, 1864, and 1885. Storm’s poetry is characterized by simplicity, melodic rhythms, and beauty of form. Important themes are love, nature, and homeland.

In addition to his creative works, Storm wrote a few essays on literature, some of which appeared as introductions to editions of his own writings and anthologies of poems by earlier authors. Also of special interest for his development as a writer are the letters that he exchanged with Gottfried Keller, Theodor Fontane, Paul Heyse, and other contemporaries. The bulk of his correspondence has been collected and edited.


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

More than any other German writer of the nineteenth century, Theodor Storm shaped and perfected the novella as a finely conceived literary form. His well-developed sense of language and style, his artistic integrity, craftsmanship, and powerful grasp of the interrelationship between milieu and human nature enabled him to compose some of the best German novellas. An excellent representative of the period of poetic realism, he created stories that are meaningful on several levels. Besides penetrating deeply the domain of the individual and exploring problems that were especially relevant within a specific time and social framework, he employed the portrayal of positive values in everyday life to make timeless statements about the human condition. His novellas had a profound impact on later writers, although his very personal style features characteristics that have never been imitated successfully.

With his first successful novella, Storm received public acclaim unequaled by that of any other German storyteller in the second half of the nineteenth century. Immensee went into its tenth printing in 1865, its sixtieth printing in 1905, and its seventy-ninth printing in 1915. Aside from the continuing popularity of this work, however, Storm enjoyed only limited literary recognition until after 1870, when the works of his maturity established him permanently among Germany’s outstanding authors. After World War I, there was a new surge in the demand for his stories. Internationally, he became the most widely read of the German realists. A second significant expansion of his readership occurred after World War II, and he continued to appeal to large audiences in both of the postwar German states and in a unified Germany in the late twentieth century.


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Alt, A. Tilo. Theodor Storm. New York: Twayne, 1973. Contains biography, literary analysis, a chronology, and a bibliography of primary and secondary sources.

Artiss, David. Theodor Storm: Studies in Ambivalence—Symbol and Myth in His Narrative Fiction. Amsterdam: Benjamins, 1978. A study of Storm’s literary technique.

Burns, Barbara. Theory and Patterns of Tragedy in the Later Novellen of Theodor Storm. Stuttgart, Germany: Heinz, 1996. Storm’s position as a tragedian is analyzed.

Dysart, David L. The Role of Painting in the Works of Theodor Storm. New York: P. Lang, 1992. The visual aspect of Storm’s work is addressed.

Jackson, David A. Theodor Storm: The Life and Works of a Democratic Humanitarian. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1992. A useful bibliography.

Strehl, Wiebke. Theodor Storm’s “Immensee”: A Critical Overview. Rochester, N.Y.: Camden House, 2000. A study of Storm’s novel.