“‘Knock it Out of Them'”: The Matter and Meaning of Stone


Novalis' HENRY VON OFTERDINGEN (1802), Ludwig Tieck's "The Runenberg" (1804), and E.T.A. Hoffmann's "The Mines at Falun" (1819) are three linked German Romantic tales that speak of stone as object and sign. Their three protagonists Henry, Christian, and Elis, wayfarers all, study "the power of rocks"*, entreat us to "ask the stones, you will be astonished when you hear them speak," and struggle with "an unknown power...closing [ones] mouth...as though everything would turn to stone." Stone speaks the language of hardness and tells of epic petrification. In Novalis' "The Novices of Sais", stones with impenetrable centers have sympathetic powers and grow an internal crust in those who regard them; in Tieck, stones with glowing cores and alchemical force become jewels and metal that arouse those who desire them; and, though Bachelard has noted in EARTH AND REVERIES OF WILL that "metal is the reward of brutal power," in Hoffmann, Elis prospects for gold only to be consumed by the mine. Christian, too, disappears into an "abandoned mine shaft" after he receives a tablet inlaid with precious stones, a "writing" of an "incomprehensible pattern." While in Novalis the syntax of stone is still measured, in Tieck it becomes moody and buckles, only to harden and push against meaning in Hoffmann. Descending into a cavern in the mountain, all three protagonists do so, makes stone the force of the innermost, a place where human language no longer covers. * Quotes come from the adopted translations of the texts mentioned in the abstract.

Author Information
Anne-Kathrin Wielgosz, Walsh University, USA

Paper Information
Conference: LibrAsia2015
Stream: Literature - European Literature

This paper is part of the LibrAsia2015 Conference Proceedings (View)
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Posted by James Alexander Gordon