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The German Novelle


Module description

This half-module addresses a key form in German literature which has no direct equivalent elsewhere in Europe: the Novelle. This short narrative form differs sharply from the short story, because it presupposes a tightly controlled thematic and narrative structure and usually has a central ethical message. It has aptly been described as 'a brief compass'.

You will gain an understanding of the best known writers of Novellen in German such as:

  • Goethe
  • Eichendorff
  • de la Motte Fouque
  • Stifter
  • Keller
  • Thomas Mann.

You will examine the changing significance of this form in the history of German, Austrian and Swiss literature. All of the texts studied are short, but rich in content, and can be easily read ahead of the sessions and studied in depth.

As they will be studied in narrative and linguistic detail, you should read these texts in German.

Indicative module content

  • Tieck: Der Runenberg
  • Fouqué: Das Galgenmännlein
  • Arnim: Isabella von Ägypten
  • Chamisso: Peter Schlemihl
  • Stifter: Bunte Steine (Vorrede; Turmalin)
  • Keller: Romeo und Julia auf dem Dorfe
  • Storm: Aquis Submersus
  • Thomas Mann: Tristan

Recommended reading

All German primary texts are available in several German paperback editions (Reclam; dtv; Goldmann Taschenbuch etc.)

Links to online sources such as and will be provided on Moodle.

  • John Ellis: Narration in the German Novelle (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1974).
  • Roger Paulin: The Brief Compass. The Ninetenth Century German Novelle (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985).
  • J.P. Stern: Reinterpretations. Seven Studies in Nineteenth-Century German Literature (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1964).