The Analyst of Manners, Money and Masks. August Lewald in the Vormärz
Butler, Veronica Helen
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
Reason for embargo
Possible publication as book in near future
Abstract Writers of the 1830s and 1840s sought to interpret their changing society in an explosion of new forms, developing an all-inclusive aesthetic that saw writing as a direct expression of individual experience, without boundary between life and page and without hierarchy of genre or subject matter. Analyses of social types and behaviour proliferated in which two current preoccupations stood out: the materialist motivation of an industrialising society with an expanding middle class, and the degree of theatricality involved in manoevring for a place in that society. Often groundbreaking, the analyses of August Lewald (1792–1871) were informed by his broad experience which included commerce and the theatre, and for which he was renowned. Contemporary reviews acknowledge the innovativeness of his writing and his sure eye for key issues of the day. In the new conditions after 1848, however, his popularity soon vanished, and he has been largely overlooked since then. My thesis aims to demonstrate that such a strong representative of the period in both his life and works calls for reinstatement as significant writer and personality. Three of Lewald’s works have been selected to support this aim. After an Introduction which tries to place Lewald within the experimental context of the Vormärz, Chapters 1–3 will offer a close reading of each work, contextualised by reference to other works, contemporary reviews, and biographical detail where it seems relevant. Sketches from Album aus Paris exemplify Lewald’s early and influential innovativeness in their humorous scrutiny of social behaviour through observation of its external manifestations, in the style of French Physiologies. Memoiren eines Banquiers exploits fictionalised life-writing as a cover behind which to confront controversial issues around money, Jewish emancipation and prejudice. Theater-Roman plays with the metaphor of society as theatre, conveying the ultimately futile illusoriness of contemporary society’s values, and foreshadowing Lewald’s own increasing rejection of his Vormärz life- and writing style after 1848. My Conclusion claims for Lewald’s life and writing individuality and originality as well as qualities that make him exemplary of his time. It proposes, as a project among other topics for further research, that a new edition of his sketches in particular, enjoyable in their own right, would be a valuable contribution to knowledge of the Vormärz period.
PhD in German