Jane & Theo: Affinities Stylistic and Temperamental in Jane Austen and Theodor Fontane [chapter]

2020 Literary Translation, Reception, and Transfer  
Inhabiting different historical periods, and separated by linguistic, cultural, and literary traditions, Jane Austen and Theodor Fontane seem unlikely candidates for fruitful comparative treatment. The predominance in Germany of the Bildungsroman emphasizes the inner development of the individual; it is Fontane who moves the German novel into the European mainstream by representing characters engaged in life, rather than in meditation or art. If Austen's interests lie in social customs embodied
more » ... al customs embodied in the novel of manners, Fontane later initiates a teutophone version of the genre, with the work of Thackeray at mid-century being, this article proposes, a crucial go-between. From a common attraction to the topics of courtship and marriage, of deceptive appearances, of small-scale events in realistically observed contemporary settings where women prevail over men, similar authorial attitudes are evident. Austen and Fontane exploit various forms of irony to mock excesses of sentiment and feeling, illustrated in the play of dialogue and the artifice of conversation. With literary styles exhibiting lucidity, balance, and order, each writer projects common sense, reserve, and moderation, issuing from a core outlook of restraint. This prevents their critiques from becoming polemic, and their irony from darkening into caricature, and ultimately assures Austen and Fontane of the high regard in which they are held as novelists.
doi:10.1515/9783110641998-015 fatcat:2n7prjnrnbgs7aphxrvwmedyiu