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Adalbert Stifter's Late Prose


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Adalbert Stifter has always been viewed as a natural heir to the Great Classical tradition, even by those critics who detect disturbing subtexts in his fiction. But he should be viewed quite differently: however well disguised, he is in truth a closet modernist, and a major trailblazer for Kafka and the Absurd.
This is most evident in his late fiction, which has been almost universally ignored, dismissed or disparaged by his critics. His last novel Witiko in particular has been conspicuously neglected by both nineteenth- and twentieth-century critics. Ragg-Kirkby demonstrates -- largely by way of close reading -- that this is Stifter's extreme masterpiece. Beneath the surface of Biedermeier stuffiness is a vision of fracture, emptiness, meaninglessness, and mania not only more radical than that of any other 19th-century author, but arguably more radical than that of any 20th-century author, precisely because there is such a disjuncture between text and sub-text. In his final novel, Stifter simply leaves the future behind.

Helena Ragg-Kirkby is a lecturer in German at the University of Sheffield.


...offers a clear, accessible, well-written and well-illustrated restatement of the duplicity of Stifter's writing.... Thoroughly to be recommended... JOURNAL OF EUROPEAN STUDIES

Ragg-Kirkby argues with cogency and passion that this novel [Witiko], along with some other late works [...], far from being pathological deformations and unreadable, are in fact the apotheosis of Stifter's art. JOURNAL OF EUROPEAN STUDIES

There is much that is suggestive and much to admire in this intelligent study of Stifter's late work. MONATSHEFTE

This study constitutes a fascinating, insightful, and exciting augmentation of current Stifter scholarship. GERMAN STUDIES REVIEW

Ragg-Kirkby's study deserves the attention of both new and traditional critics of Stifter. GERMAN QUARTERLY

The book is strongly argued without being dogmatic, and its clear and fluent style ... ensures that it is highly readable. YEAR'S WORK IN MODERN LANGUAGE STUDIES

The observations about minimalism, rhythmic monotony, and elements of the fairy tale are insightful and significant. GERMANISTIK


First Published: 20 Jul 2000
13 Digit ISBN: 9781571130433
Pages: 147
Size: 9 x 6
Binding: Hardback
Imprint: Camden House
BIC Class: DSB

Details updated on 05 Oct 2015


  • 1  Introduction
  • 2  Rituals and Sublimations
  • 3  Masking and the Void
  • 4  Ritual in Style
  • 5  A Stylistic Dystopia
  • 6  Witiko and the Blighted Paradise
  • 7  Witiko and the Ineffable
  • 8  Conclusion