HARVARD UNIVERSITY (0084) Degree: PHD Date: 1984; pp: 317
Source: DAI-A 45/12, p. 3633, Jun 1985
Subject: LITERATURE, COMPARATIVE (0295)
Order No: AAC 8503590 ProQuest - Dissertation Abstracts
Abstract: When Heinrich Heine embarked upon a project in 1831 which he defined as "Vorstudien zu einer Geschichtsschreibung der Gegenwart", he created for himself a historiographical and literary tradition with Lessing, Herder, Schiller and Friedrich Schlegel --to name just a few-- as immediate predecessors or antagonists. All of these had either espoused a historiography of the present as the only truthful approach to reality (Lessing and Schiller) or rejected it as too close to events and therefore too partial (Herder and Schlegel). Heine's project, which resulted in a series of articles on French politics and public life (Französische Zustande, 1833), not only established a historiographical/literary series of its own, but it also entered into immediate controversy with the "official" historical discourse represented by both the Hegelians and the Historische Schule (Leopold von Ranke).
While official historiography tried to construct a national identity through a coherent narrative, based on the notion of a continuous organic evolution, Heine's texts, neither histories nor fictions in any strict sense, "deconstruct" that very narrative. As fragmented, inconsistent, subjective, oscillating "poetische Historie" (Laube), Heine's Zeitbilder challenge and undermine Ranke's epistemological and aesthetic premises; they expose the fictionalizing and myth-making elements in any reconstruction of reality and question the authority of texts whose claim to power rests on "objectivity", distance, disengagement, linear
Mariano José de Larra, on the other hand, is not confronted with a unified discourse of power but with one of impotence. Defining Spain's historical identity in terms of loss, decadence, and void, Larra presents, in his articles, mini-models for coherent philosophical and/or narrative "Histories of Spain". While Heine is able to transform the experience of fragmentation into fragmentary and fragmenting poetic form, Larra founders because of the incompatibility between his experiences and perceptions on the one hand, and his expectations and conventional literary strategies on the other. Thus, although Larra's and Heine's Zeitbilder exhibit considerable generic similarity, a re-contextualization reveals their diametrically opposed meaning.