Misreading the Body: E. T. A. Hoffmann's Klein Zaches, genannt Zinnober

Eleoma Joshua, Eleoma Bodammer (Editor), Michael Schillmeier (Editor)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

In his tale Klein Zaches, genannt Zinnober (1819) German Romantic writer E. T. A. Hoffmann demonstrates that the relationship between the body and its identity cannot be accurately detected by the person viewing the body because perspective is always coloured by powerful viewing practices that have cultural, social, and ideological origins. His narrative uses the example of the deformed body to show that especially if the body challenges the norms, it contests the readings that the viewer imposes on it. The ill-treatment of those whose bodies are placed in opposition to the counterpoint of normalcy is under scrutiny in Hoffmann’s text, and he illustrates what happens when two signifying systems, i.e. popular superstition and scientific beliefs, are operating at the same time.
In my paper I focus on Disability theory, Foucault’s concept of epistemic change, and Bakhtin’s ideas on masking the body, and explore the ways in which Hoffmann uses figures that are designated as “different” in this text to raise questions about viewing mechanisms that practice power over the individual, about “the humane gaze” and also exclusion strategies. Like Gender Studies, Postcolonialism and Queer Theory, Disability Studies is part of the broader discussion of difference and “otherness” and is largely situated within debates about the politics of identity, social processes, human rights, ethics and discrimination. As a critical resistance strategy, Disability Studies has sought to retrieve the silenced voices of disabled figures from their cultural locations. My intention is to establish disability as a condition that historically has always been at the heart of the discussion of humanity, modernity, and the issues of social and moral behaviour.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)39-56
Number of pages18
JournalEdinburgh German Yearbook
Publication statusPublished - 2010

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Disability Studies
  • German Romanticism
  • E. T. A. Hoffmann


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