"Und wer bin ich denn?" Wordplay and Identity in Tieck's William Lovell

Brian Tucker
Brian Tucker (Princeton) "Und wer bin ich denn?" Wordplay and Identity in Tieck's William Lovell I. Introduction: Reading for Wordplay* Ludwig Tieck plays with words. Friedrich Schlegel once noted that, "Tiecks Gedichte sind d[er] Form nach Wortspiele und das ist d[ie] Grundlage d[er] romantischen 7c[Poesie].' q The present study focuses on wordplay not in Tieck's poems but in his epistolary novel William Lovell 2 (1795) . It follows Schlegel's suggestion by examining wordplay as a means of
more » ... y as a means of entry into the foundation of Romantic poetics, and it argues that the play of language in this novel insinuates and even determines identity. What do we mean by wordplay? A brief detour through Tieck's famous tale "Der blonde Eckbert" will serve to develop a concept of wordplay in Tieck's prose before turning to William Lovell. The story demonstrates succinctly how language insinuates identity: Its seemingly insignificant words simultaneously reflect the structures and patterns of the narrative they convey. "Der blonde Eckbert" revolves around questions of origin. It first relates the story of Bertha's past and then tries to sort out the various characters' relationships to this narrated past. Several critics have shown how the overlapping origins and complex repetitions are inscribed into the characters' names. The connection between the halfsiblings Eckbert and Bertha, for instance, is indicated through their half-identical names. 3 Another linguistic correspondence indicates the * I owe thanks to Fritz Breithaupt and Daniel Magilow. Their suggestions improved the manuscript in numerous places.