Gustav Freytag's Soll und Haben und D.F. Malherbe's Hans-die-skipper : ein Vergleich

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

Gustav Freytag's Soll und Haben (1855) and D. F. Malherbe's Hans-die-Skipper (1929) can both be read as reactions to early industrial capitalism, although neither text refers directly to this phenomenon. This dissertation attempts to show that both novels display a similar, ambivalent attitude, whilst defending the "logic of the market" against proponents of the moribund semi-feudal system, they pre-empt the moral indifference of the market by positing a "new" value in absolute terms. In either case, this value is "industry", in both the economical and the moral sense of the term. This aspect of both texts is analysed in terms of the literary theory of Peter V. Zima. On closer inspection, it is found that both authors attribute the moral value of "industry" exclusively to one social group, namely the group whose interests they hope to advance. In Freytag' s case, this is the conservative, pre-industrial German bourgeoisie; in Malherbe's case, the impoverished, Afrikaans-speaking rural population of the early 20th century. However, in translating their "ideological projects" into a literary "figuration" (in the sense of Pierre Macherey), both authors encounter certain problems, which only appear in the "absences" and the "silences" of their texts. These are analyzed in terms of the literary theory of Pierre Macherey. Finally, in both texts, the moral value of "industry", and the social hierarchy established in its name, are subliminally or temporarily threatened by the "pleasure principle". This aspect is analyzed- in terms of Klaus Theweleit's findings gained from "pre-fascist" texts of the early 20th century.

Bibliography: pages 153-158.