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The literary dream in German Central Europe, 1900-1925: A selective study of the writings of Kafka, Kubin, Meyrink, Musil and Schnitzler. / Marya Vrba

Swansea University Author: Marya Vrba

Abstract

This thesis examines the literary dream in selected works by Kafka, Kubin, Meyrink, Musil and Schnitzler, with a particular focus on the redefinition of subjectivity through dreamlife. The introductory chapter contextualises these case studies in the broader field of oneirocriticism, emphasising the...

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Published: 2011
Institution: Swansea University
Degree level: Doctoral
Degree name: Ph.D
URI: https://cronfa.swan.ac.uk/Record/cronfa42396
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Abstract: This thesis examines the literary dream in selected works by Kafka, Kubin, Meyrink, Musil and Schnitzler, with a particular focus on the redefinition of subjectivity through dreamlife. The introductory chapter contextualises these case studies in the broader field of oneirocriticism, emphasising the dream's ancient role as fixtional template and its specific significance in the destabilised environment of German Central Europe during the early twentieth century. Alfred Kubin's Die andere Seite (1909), which uses the 'other side' as metaphor for both oneiric and artistic experience, reveals the inherent dualism of the literary dream and its close relationship with creativity. In Robert Musil's Die Verwirrungen des Zdglings Tdrlefi (1906), the protagonist serves as the model for a new type of self-determining subject who draws on the knowledge of dreams and irrationality. Franz Kafka's texts reveal techniques for integrating the dream into fictional worlds that are already dreamlike through the prevalence of (literalised) metaphor and free association. Gustav Meyrink, in Der Golem (1915), shares Kafka's interest in concretised metaphor, but also explores the dream's associations with occult practices, used as a defence against the threatening claims of science. Finally, Arthur Schnitzler's literary dreams offer a direct confrontation with psychoanalysis and a dismantling of nineteenth-century ideals of gender and bourgeois love. Overall, it is argued that the literary dreams by these authors hold varied responses to fragmentation of the Ich in the face of psychological 'vivisection', theories of relativity, and the collapse of old social orders. The dream, as a nightly 'psychosis', crystallised the pervasive fears of self-loss during this period; however, in its perennial role as micro-narrative, it also provided a site for re-construction of the subject. The incorporation of dreams in fictional lives served as a metonymical guide for the integration of un- and subconscious experience overall.
Keywords: German literature.;Comparative literature.;East European studies.
College: Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences