The Serapion Brothers

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The Serapionsbrüder is a collection of stories and essays by ETA Hoffmann published from 1819 to 1821 . Hoffmann put the four volumes together to a large extent from previously published material, but added a few new narratives and a framework in which some literary friends discuss problems in art and appear as fictional authors of the narratives. The model for this circle of friends was the meeting of the Serapion Brothers , a literary circle around Hoffmann, to which Adelbert von Chamisso and Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué belonged , along with other writers . The name was originally derived from Saint Serapion , on whose commemoration day - November 14th - the Circle of Friends reunited for the first time after a long separation in 1818. But the so-called serapiontic principle , to which the members of the circle feel obliged, becomes more important than this external occasion .

The discussions

Role models in real life

Hitzig writes about the actual role models for the circle of friends who deny the framework discussions of the “Serapion Brothers” :
“The cornerstones of this association were next Hoffmann, Contessa, Koreff, an excellent doctor *) and Hitzig. A fine interlocking quatuor might not be easy to find. Koreff was the only person to whom Hoffmann listened patiently, because he often surpassed him in conversation with sparkling lively jokes and with knowledge, and was good-natured enough to let him talk as often as he wanted; Contessa, speaking little herself, listened to everything that the friends let out of wit, with the most eloquent smile of applause that played incessantly around the corners of his mouth, admitting a small but decisive word from time to time, and Hitzig, the one with Contessa that The audience was educated and all three of the other three knew each other longer and better than they knew each other, therefore understood the art of filling in gaps in the conversation, and where it got weak, stimulating it again, willingly giving up any claim to solo parts. ”
At the *) marked In place, Hitzig inserts the footnote: "Both are drawn speaking, Serapions brothers Volume 2. Contessa, as Sylvester S 4., and Koreff, as Vinzenz, p. 6."

In addition to the four participants Hoffmann, Hitzig, Contessa and Koreff, Theodor Gottlieb von Hippel , Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué , Ludwig Robert , Adelbert von Chamisso and a few only sporadic guests were named. A total of six characters appear in the framework discussions of the “Serapion Brothers”. Their identification with the historical participants of the Serapions circle is on the one hand speculative, on the other hand Hoffmann only used the real figures as a suggestion for the literary characterization.
The attributions are credible, but not to be regarded as realistic personal drawings:

On the other hand, the attributions are speculative:

The Serapiontic Principle

Programmatic for the Serapiontic principle, which “as Theodor rightly remarked, wanted to mean nothing more than that [the Serapion brothers] have agreed never to torment themselves with bad work”, is the rejection of any kind of imitation poetics and any so-called realism . It is not the outside world that is supposed to be represented by the poetry, but rather "the image that [the true artist] has risen within" is to be "carried into outer life through poetic representation". Like Serapion, who as an unworldly hermit only followed his visions, the poet should also be inspired by loneliness as the ideal sphere of his creative spirit. The more the world becomes a mere disruptive factor for him, the more autonomous, ingenious and serapiontic his work. As the fictional narrators of the collection of novels discuss the serapiontic quality of their texts, the aesthetic reflection itself becomes part of the poetry - in the spirit of romantic poetology. Confusing for ETA Hoffmann's interpreters are the visionary-fantastic projections that are so characteristic of him, with which he combines the artistic introspection with everyday reality and thereby creates a typical serapiontic mixture of fantasy and reality that is difficult for the reader to disentangle is.

Structure and first prints

Where no first edition is recorded, the corresponding pieces appeared for the first time in the Serapion Brothers . Hoffmann added some pieces to the dialogues without their own headings. Today's editors often give them the titles given in square brackets. - Where no subject is given for the conversations, there are short transitions.

For the individual stories and essays cf. the respective main articles.

The Serapion Brothers: Construction and First Prints
Title in first print First printing Title in the Serapion Brothers teller Main topic of conversation
First volume (February 1819):
First section (Cyprian, Lothar, Ottmar, Theodor) [a] [Conversation] Clubs
[1] Fragment from the Serapion Brothers. The Hermit Serapion The frank one for Germany. Time sheet for instruction and cheer (January 1819) [The Hermit Serapion] Cyprian The "Serapiontic Principle"
[b] [Conversation]
[2] A letter from Hoffmann to Baron de la Motte Fouqué Women's paperback for 1818 by de la Motte Fouqué [Council Krespel] Theodore
[c] [Conversation]
[3] The fermata Women's paperback for 1816 by de la Motte Fouqué The fermata Theodore
[d] [Conversation] Conditions for good opera texts
[4] The poet and the composer Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung (December 1813) The poet and the composer Theodore
[e] [Conversation] (Performance of a composition by Theodor)
Second section (Cyprian, Lothar, Ottmar, Theodor) [a] [Conversation] Writer's vanity; Collective work
[5] A fragment from the lives of three friends The winter garden (1818) A fragment from the lives of three friends Ottmar
[b] [Conversation]
[6] The Artus Court Urania. Paperback for ladies to the year 1817 The Artus Court Cyprian
[c] [Conversation] The "humor in women"
[7] The mines at Falun Theodore Theodor's story "The Mines of Falun"
[d] [Conversation]
[8th] Nutcracker and Mouse King Children's fairy tales. By EW Contessa […] and ETA Hoffmann. First ribbon (1816) Nutcracker and Mouse King Lothar Fairy tales for children
[e] [Conversation]
Second volume (February 1819):
Third section (Cyprian, Lothar, Ottmar, Theodor) [a] [Conversation] magnetism
[9] [Magnetism] Theodore
[b] [Conversation]
[10] The fight of the singers Urania. Paperback for 1819 The fight of the singers Cyprian
[c] [Conversation] Continuation of the previous: Interaction of the "psychic" with the "physical principle"
[11] Fragment from the Second Volume of the Serapions Brothers The Freimuthige, or Amusement Gazette for Educated, Unprejudiced Readers (April 1819) [A haunted story] Cyprian
[d] [Conversation]
[12] The automat Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung (February 1814) The automat Theodore Effect of fragments
[e] [Conversation]
[13] Doge and Dogaresse Paperback for 1819. Dedicated to love and friendship Doge and Dogaresse Ottmar
[f] [Conversation]
Fourth section (Cyprian, Lothar, Ottmar, Theodor, Sylvester, Vinzenz) [a] [Conversation] Comparison between Vinzenz and Lothar. Character observation and literary character drawing
[14] Review of Beethoven's C major Mass as well as Old and New Church Music Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung (June 1813 or August / September 1814) [Old and New Church Music] Theodor, Cyprian Church music from the Renaissance and Early Baroque vs. newer compositions; Latin and German church music texts
[b] [Conversation]
[15] Master Martin the Küfner and his journeymen Paperback book for social enjoyment from 1819 Master Martin the Küfner and his journeymen New Years Eve Sylvester's story "Master Martin the Küfner and his journeymen"
[c] [Conversation]
[16] The strange child Children's fairy tales. By EW Contessa […] and ETA Hoffmann. Second ribbon (1817) The strange child Lothar
[d] [Conversation]
Third volume (October 1820):
Fifth section (Lothar, Ottmar, Theodor, later Cyprian) [a] [Conversation] Comparison Lothar – Ottmar; Theodor's disease
[17] From the life of a well-known man. According to an old Brandenburg chronicle The Freimuthige, or Entertainment Gazette for Educated, Unprejudiced Readers (May 1819) [Message from the life of a well-known man] Lothar
[b] [Conversation] Witch trials; the devil as a literary figure
[18] The bride choice. A Berlin story in which several very improbable adventures occur Berlin pocket calendar for the leap year 1820 The bride choice. A story in which several very unlikely adventures occur Lothar
[c] [Conversation] Everyday anchoring of the fairy tale
[19 (1)] The creepy guest The narrator. An entertainment book for the educated Second Volume (1819) The Eerie Guest (Beginning) Ottmar
[d] [Conversation] Cyprian's arrival
[19 (2)] The creepy guest (end) Ottmar
[e] [Conversation] Slipping of Ottmar's story; Polemics against Kotzebue
Sixth section [20] The Miss von Scuderi. Story from the age of Louis the Fourteenth Paperback for 1820. Dedicated to love and friendship The Miss von Scuderi New Years Eve
[21] Player luck Urania. Paperback for the year 1820 Player luck Theodore
[22] The baron of B. Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung (March 1819, published anonymously) [The Baron von B.] Cyprian
Fourth volume (Easter 1821):
Seventh section (Cyprian, Lothar, Ottmar, Theodor, Sylvester, Vinzenz) [a] [Conversation] The art of conversation
[23] Signor Formica. A novella Paperback book for social enjoyment from 1820 Signor Formica Ottmar
[b] [Conversation] Comedy poetry; Zacharias Werner
[24] Apparitions Gifts of gentleness. Second ribbon (1817) Apparitions Cyprian
[c] [Conversation] (Auto) biographical background of Cyprian's story; Improvisation of an opera scene
Eighth section (Cyprian, Lothar, Ottmar, Theodor, Sylvester, Vinzenz) [a] [Conversation]
[25] The context of things Viennese magazine for art, literature, theater and fashion. (February / March 1820) The context of things New Years Eve
[b] [Conversation] Newer English literature: Scott , Byron ; vampirism
[26] [Vampirism] Cyprian
[c] [Conversation]
[27] To the editors of Freimüthigen für Deutschland The frank one for Germany. Time sheet for instruction and enlightenment (March 1819) [The Aesthetic Tea Party] Ottmar
[d] [Conversation]
[28] The royal bride . A fairy tale designed from nature Vincent
[e] [Conversation]

Radio play adaptations


  1. Julius Eduard Hitzig: From Hoffmann's life and estate. Second part Berlin 1823, p. 131
  2. Wolfgang Held tried to characterize the relationship between Hitzig and the figure of Ottmar in his epilogue to the new edition of Hitzig's Hoffmann biography . See Julius Eduard Hitzig: ETA Hoffmanns life and estate . With comments on the text and an afterword by Wolfgang Held. Insel, Frankfurt (Main) 1986, p. 478 f.
  3. ^ ETA Hoffmann, Die Serapions-Brüder , Artemis & Winkler (1973), ISBN 978-3-538-05449-3 , p. 56.
  4. ^ BR radio play Pool - Hoffmann, The Serapions Brothers

See also

Web links