Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Germanic and Slavic Languages and Literatures
This dissertation studies the role that the case study and literature played in establishing a new, positive, valorization of the force of the imagination in German literature and culture around 1800. Based on a survey of articles from Karl Philipp Moritz’s Magazin zur Erfahrungsseelenkunde (1783-93) as well as a selection of novels such as Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre (1795), F.W.J. Schelling’s Clara (1809), and plays such as Heinrich von Kleist’s Das Käthchen von Heilbronn (1807-08) and Prinz Friedrich von Homburg (1811), my dissertation explores works that foregrounded the curative effects of the imagination. Setting these texts in dialogue with medical discourses on the imagination in the eighteenth and early nineteenth century, the dissertation brings to light ways in which literature intervened in the physiological discourse of the day to encourage using one’s imaginative power to restore health, and thus renegotiate the boundaries of medicine around 1800. I explore how a redefinition of popular literary and scientific genres facilitated curative effects of the creative imagination imagination. I argue that in contrast to the dominant medical discourses on the imagination in the eighteenth and early nineteenth century, these works encourage using one’s imaginative power to restore physical and mental health.