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Mahlendorf, U. (1975). E.T. A. Hoffmann's The Sandman: The Fictional Psycho-Biography of a Romantic Poet. Am. Imago, 32(3):217-239.

(1975). American Imago, 32(3):217-239

E.T. A. Hoffmann's The Sandman: The Fictional Psycho-Biography of a Romantic Poet

Ursula Mahlendorf, Ph.D.


Freud, in his discussion of Hoffmann's The Sandman (1814) in The Uncanny (1919), unlike many literary critics, does not dismiss the protagonist's fantasies and experiences as “products of a madman's imagination.” Rather, he shows that in the hero's fear of losing his eyes, we have the oedipal level of the “bad” father. Freud thus concentrates his interpretive efforts on mediating to the reader how the author transforms the protagonist's feelings, wishes, and infantile beliefs into the images and plot of a work of literature. Furthermore, he is interested in showing why the reader responds to these images

1 The following is a brief survey of what I consider major points of view in scholarship on The Sandman. Lothar Köhn in the introduction to his book gives a summary of various points of view up to 1965, cf. Vieldeutige Welt. Studien zur Struktur der Erzählungen E. T. A. Hoffmanns und zur Entwicklung seines Werkes. Max Niemeyer Verlag, Tubingen, 1966. Kohn is interested in narrative structure and presents some fine insights into Hoffmann's use of ambiguity and ambivalence in the story. Unlike German structural, philosophical/aesthetic approaches, the criticism of Anglo-American scholars has been more inclined toward a common-sense psychological interest in Hoffmann's irrationalism, cf. for example Ernst Feder Hoffmann, “Zu E.

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