E. T. A. Hoffmann  

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"Why can't I get enough of your weird fantastic pages, you cheeky master!"--Fantasy Pieces in Callot's Manner

"Thus was the inventor, or at least first distinguished artist who exhibited the fantastic or supernatural grotesque in his compositions, so nearly on the verge of actual insanity, as to be afraid of the beings his own fancy created. It is no wonder that to a mind so vividly accessible to the influence of the imagination, so little under the dominion of sober reason, such a numerous train of ideas should occur in which fancy had a large share and reason none at all. In fact, the grotesque in his compositions partly resembles the arabesque in painting, in which is introduced the most strange and complicated monsters, resembling centaurs, griffins, sphinxes, chimeras, rocs, and all other creatures of romantic imagination."--"On the Supernatural in Fictitious Composition" (1827) by Sir Walter Scott

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E. T. A. Hoffmann (1776 – 1822) was a German writer, jurist, composer, music critic, draftsman and caricaturist, perhaps best-known for his story "The Sandman".

Hoffmann's stories were very influential during the 19th century, and he is one of the major authors of the Romantic movement.

His work was extensively analyzed in Walter Scott's "On the Supernatural in Fictitious Composition" (1827).



Although Hoffmann's stories were tremendously influential in the 19th century, and he is considered one of the key authors of the Romantic movement, his works have been said to have been adapted into oblivion. The conte fantastique was introduced in France by Jean-Jacques Ampère with the latter's 1829 translation of Hoffmann's Fantasy Pieces in the Manner of Callot (1814). Whether American author Edgar Allan Poe was directly influenced by Hoffmann, remains debatable, although The Devil's Elixirs had been available in English since 1824.

Hoffmann's legacy is as one of the best-known representatives of German Romanticism, and a pioneer of the fantasy genre, with a taste for the macabre combined with realism that influenced such authors as Franz Kafka, Edgar Allan Poe, Charles Dickens, and Nikolai Gogol. Hoffmann's work illuminates the darker side of the human spirit found behind the hypocritic harmony of bourgeois life. Sir Walter Scott in the "On the Supernatural in Fictitious Composition" (1827), his extended discussion of Hoffmann and literary supernaturalism, concludes that Hoffmann needs medical attention more than he needs literary criticism, and Sigmund Freud made Hoffman's "The Sandman" the center of his essay on "The Uncanny." Hoffmann, although strongly influenced by Gothic literature, is probably best regarded as a writer of the fantastique rather than a "Gothic" or "horror" writer.


See list of works by E. T. A. Hoffmann

Hoffmann wrote novels and short stories, and he composed music, including an opera, Undine (1814). However, when reading the original text of E. T. A. Hoffmann's stories, one soon realizes that these stories were conceived and written at a very sensitive time politically. Comparable messages were expressed in earlier animal stories such as Reinicke Fuchs or Aesop's Fables. His most familiar story is Nussknacker und Mausekönig ("Nutcracker and Mouse King", 1816), which inspired Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's ballet The Nutcracker (1892). His story Der Sandmann ("The Sandman", 1816) similarly inspired Delibes's ballet Coppélia (1870).

The Nutcracker story is full of charming mimed phantasies with Marie (Clara in the ballet), Fritz and Pate Drosselmayr, the mean Mouse King and the popular Nutcracker. Many versions of have been published as children's books. Nutcracker performances have become a yearly feature in many cities around Christmas. Yet these stories, as with the majority of his literary work, point beyond themselves in philosophical terms; Hoffmann invariably moves into territory where an exploration of the nature of Selfhood, Art and value-judgements are required in order for the reader to enjoy Hoffmann's writings more fully. Stories are, in their various media, the ultimate form of self-definition and world-interpretation; it is through stories that Hoffmann expresses his aesthetic, ethical and political concerns. Moreover, the original Hoffmann stories (including the Nutcracker) often have dark themes.


  • Fantasiestücke in Callots Manier (collection of previously published stories, 1814)
  • Die Elixiere des Teufels (1815)
  • Nachtstücke (1817)
    • Der Sandmann, Das Gelübde, Ignaz Denner, Die Jesuiterkirche in G.
    • Das Majorat, Das öde Haus, Das Sanctus, Das steinerne Herz
  • Seltsame Leiden eines Theater-Direktors (1819)
  • Klein Zaches, genannt Zinnober (1819)
  • Die Serapionsbrüder (1819)
    • Der Einsiedler Serapion, Rat Krespel, Die Fermate, Der Dichter und der Komponist
    • Ein Fragment aus dem Leben dreier Freunde, Der Artushof, Die Bergwerke zu Falun, Nußknacker und Mausekönig (1816)
    • Der Kampf der Sänger, Eine Spukgeschichte, Die Automate, Doge und Dogaresse
    • Alte und neue Kirchenmusik, Meister Martin der Küfner und seine Gesellen, Das fremde Kind
    • Nachricht aus dem Leben eines bekannten Mannes, Die Brautwahl, Der unheimliche Gast
    • Das Fräulein von Scuderi, Spielerglück (1819), Der Baron von B.
    • Signor Formica, Zacharias Werner, Erscheinungen
    • Der Zusammenhang der Dinge, Vampirismus, Die ästhetische Teegesellschaft, Die Königsbraut
  • Prinzessin Brambilla (1820)
  • Lebensansichten des Katers Murr (1820)
  • Die Irrungen (1820)
  • Die Geheimnisse (1821)
  • Die Doppeltgänger (1821)
  • Meister Floh (1822)
  • Des Vetters Eckfenster (1822)


Vocal Music

  • Messa d-moll (1805)
  • Trois Canzonettes à 2 et à 3 voix (1807)
  • 6 Canzoni per 4 voci alla capella (1808)
  • Miserere b-moll (1809)
  • In des Irtisch weiße Fluten (Kotzebue), Lied (1811)
  • Recitativo ed Aria „Prendi l’acciar ti rendo“ (1812)
  • Tre Canzonette italiane (1812); 6 Duettini italiani (1812)
  • Nachtgesang, Türkische Musik, Jägerlied, Katzburschenlied für Männerchor (1819-21)

Works for stage

  • Die Maske (Libretto: E. T. A. Hoffmann), Singspiel (1799)
  • Die lustigen Musikanten (Libretto: Clemens Brentano), Singspiel (1804)
  • Bühnenmusik zu Zacharias Werners Trauerspiel „Das Kreuz an der Ostsee“ (1805)
  • Liebe und Eifersucht (Calderón and August Wilhelm Schlegel) (1807)
  • Arlequin, Ballettmusik (1808)
  • Der Trank der Unsterblichkeit (Libretto: Julius von Soden), romantische Oper (1808)
  • Wiedersehn! (Libretto: E. T. A. Hoffmann), Prolog (1809)
  • Dirna (Libretto: Julius von Soden), Melodram (1809)
  • Bühnenmusik zu Julius von Sodens Drama „Julius Sabinus“ (1810)
  • Saul, König von Israel (Libretto: Joseph von Seyfried), Melodram (1811)
  • Aurora (Libretto: Franz von Holbein) heroische Oper (1812)
  • Undine (Libretto: Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué), Zauberoper (1814)
  • Der Liebhaber nach dem Tode (beginning only)


  • Rondo für Klavier (1794/95)
  • Ouvertura. Musica per la chiesa d-moll (1801)
  • Klaviersonaten: A-Dur, f-moll, F-Dur, f-moll, cis-moll (1805-1808)
  • Große Fantasie für Klavier (1806)
  • Sinfonie Es-Dur (1806)
  • Harfenquintett c-moll (1807)
  • Grand Trio E-Dur (1809)
  • Walzer zum Karolinentag (1812)
  • Teutschlands Triumph in der Schlacht bei Leipzig, (by "Arnulph Vollweiler", 1814; lost)
  • Serapions-Walzer (1818-1821)

References to Hoffmann in other fiction

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "E. T. A. Hoffmann" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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