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STUDIEN ZUR DEUTSCHEN

LITERATUR

Band

Herausgegeben von Wilfried Barner, Richard Brinkmann


und Conrad Wiedemann

Eric Downing

Artificial Ts
The Self as Artwork in Ovid,
Kierkegaard, and Thomas Mann

Max Niemeyer Verlag Tbingen 1993

Die Deutsche Bibliothek - CIP-Einheitsaufnahme


Downing, Eric:
Artificial I's : the Self as Artwork in Ovid, Kierkegaard, and Thomas Mann / Eric
Downing. - Tbingen : Niemeyer, 1993
(Studien zur deutschen Literatur ; Bd. 127)
NE: GT
I S B N 3-484-18127-3

ISSN 0081-7236

Max Niemeyer Verlag GmbH & Co. KG, Tbingen 1993


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Contents

Introduction

Chapter i: Ovid and the Ars Amatoria


I.
The Problem
II.
The didactic imitation
III.
The elegiac imitation
IV.
Book I and the nullus pulvis principle
V.
Book II and the servitium artis
VI.
Book III and the anti-Pygmalion principle
Appendix: Amores 111,2 and Ars I, 135-162

6
15
26
39
48
57
71

Chapter 2: Kierkegaard and the Diary of the Seducer


I.
Kierkegaard and the Ars Amatoria
II.
Literary form and personal identity
III.
Johannes' life as literature
IV.
The dialectic of self-fashioning
V.
Cordelia and the anti-Pygmalion principle

75
82
91
101
112

Chapter 3 : Thomas Mann and the early Felix Krull


I.
Manolescu in the mirror
II.
Inheritance and imitation: Goethe in Felix Krull
III.
Interlude: the new and novel play between
IV.
Felix's retrospective life as literature
V.
Felix's dialectic of self-fashioning
VI.
Conscription

128
145
163
169
184
196

Chapter 4: Thomas Mann and the late Felix Krull


I.
Wiederkehr
II.
Das zitathafte Leben
Conclusion
Bibliography

208
218
236
238

Introduction

In his recent study of Nietzsche's aestheticism entitled Life as Literature, Alexander Nehamas poses the following question: How can one achieve the perfect
unity and freedom that are primarily possessed by perfect literary characters?
How does one become both a literary character who really exists and also that
character's very author?1 It is a startling question, one that engenders its own
questions sooner than answers. Why should one want to become a literary character as well as that character's author, instead of simply who one is? What happens to someone who takes up the challenge? Does he remain real, or does he
become a fiction? or if both, as a literary character who really exists suggests,
what does the fictionalization do to the reality, the self? And is it really so desirable, so harmless a project as Nehamas' confident formulation suggests? What,
rather, are its hidden costs, its secret perils? and even more, its privilege and
vaunted freedom?
These are some of the major issues which I explore in this study of three relatively minor works by three major authors: Ovid's Ars Amatoria, Kierkegaard's
Diary of the Seducer, and Thomas Mann's Felix Krull. All three feature protagonists who are at once seducers, aesthetes, and fiction-making artists, who individually undertake to live by art, poetically and im Gleichnis, and who in
doing so all undertake to fashion something of a literary artwork out of the self.
Kierkegaard and Ovid also present a variation on the project that I consider for
comparative purposes, namely the attempt to fashion a literary artwork out of
another, out of the woman who in each case is the object of the protagonist's
aesthetic and erotic designs. As we shall see, this variation shares in and in some
ways further accentuates many of the ambivalences evident in the collusion of life
and literature that the protagonist enacts in his own character.
Since all three works are themselves literary artworks, I also explore a dimension not explicitly included in Nehamas' program, namely the self-conscious
interplay between the author's own project of book-making and his character's
project of self-making. Each work is a minor masterpiece in the literary mode
that Robert Alter describes as self-conscious fiction: each calls systematic, even
1

Alexander Nehamas, Nietzsche: Life as Literature. (Cambridge M A : Harvard University Press, 1985), p. 195.

ostentatious attention to its condition and operation of literary artifice, and in


doing so initiates its own exploration into the often problematic relationship between real-seeming fiction and reality.2 The juxtaposition of these two dimensions, of the author's and the character's literary projects, proves essential to the
significance of each in each work. On the one hand, because the obtruded emphasis on the operations of the author's literary fiction in each case fuses with the
actual fictional undertaking of its protagonist, each work's deliberately and playfully exposed artifice always remains seriously engaged in issues arising out of
real life. On the other hand, because the two projects nonetheless take place in
different realms, the test is constantly set as to whether or not the operations of
literary fiction-making can be successfully transposed to the other, living sphere:
whether what works for literature and literary characters also works for real life
and human beings, or whether a tension issuing from the possible incommensurability of life and literature threatens to subvert the protagonist's conflation of the
two spheres, even as it sustains the author's own.
There is one more dimension to these three works and their respective interactions of life and literature that I explore. Since in each work the author inserts
between his book-making and his character's self-making a first person narrator,
I also consider how, at yet another level of the text, the two projects compete and
collaborate, as the author makes a self while the self makes a book - of the self.
The first section of the Ovid chapter is designed to introduce most of the formal and thematic features of the literary problem the study as a whole addresses. I
would like here simply to preface that introduction with a few general points
about both my methodology and my choice of texts. It will be noted that I engage
many issues which are of concern to both contemporary literary criticism and
theory. The formative influence especially of Robert Alter's Partial Magic, Marthe Robert's The Old and the New,1 and Alexander Nehamas' Life as Literature is
readily and directly evident, that of theorists such as Derrida, Lacan, Foucault,
and Ricoeur implicitly and indirectly so. Like Alter and Robert, I am particularly
concerned with the quixotic task that sets out to test the world and conventions
of literature against the world and claims of real life. In fact, the protagonists I
discuss could all be described as a specific variant of the Don Quixote figure,
insofar as they are all secret Don Quixotes, all secretly turning their lives into
literary events. This variant alone sufficiently distinguishes my project from
theirs, but that I place at the beginning of my study not Cervantes (as do both
Alter and Robert) but rather Ovid also contributes something new, especially
insofar as it resets the roots of self-conscious fiction in classical antiquity itself,

Cf. Robert Alter, Partial Magic: The Novel as a Self-Conscious Genre, (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1975), p. x.
Marthe Robert, The Old and the New: From Don Quixote to Kafka, tr. Carol Cosman
(Berkeley: University of California Press, 1977).

and so indirectly questions some of the basic premises about modernity which
underlie each of their approaches.
On the other hand, like Nehamas and many other modern theorists, I am
especially interested in the ways the I can be constructed and deconstructed
along the same lines as literary texts, in particular the literary texts in which these
I's themselves appear. As a result, my analyses of these three texts and their
protagonists take place in a context largely fashioned by my readings in contemporary literary theory. If my discussion nonetheless proceeds without explicitly
engaging overtly theoretical issues, the reason is that I am interested in the testing
of these contemporary concerns within specific texts, in the consequences of
these issues when they are fleshed out and enacted by the literary imagination of
different writers writing in different times and in different literary traditions. Perhaps the best justification for my methodological specificity comes in the surprisingly different and often darker conclusions at which this study arrives from
those of, for example, Nehamas' more cleanly theoretical approach. These conclusions are different not only from those of Nehamas, but also for each work
considered, providing a range of possibilities to the realization of life as literature
such as no single theoretical position could easily anticipate or accommodate. 4
The texts I have chosen to provide that range belong to widely separated historical and literary-historical contexts. Ovid's Ars is a product of the late Augustan period of Roman literature, written in elegiac couplets and drawing on the
conventions of both Latin love-elegy and didactic verse. Kierkegaard's Diary is
a product of the late or even post-Romantic period of nineteenth century Danish
and German culture, written in the form of and drawing on the conventions of
the prose novella, the diary, and the early epistolary novel. Thomas Mann's Felix
Krull is a product of both pre-World War I and, in its continuance, post-World
War II German culture, written first as a novella exploiting the conventions of the

* Besides the notably muted engagement with issues of (mostly) French theory, there is
an equally notable, and equally muted, engagement with issues of (mostly) AngloAmerican theory, namely: with the issues of improvisation that are central to Stephen Greenblatt's notions of self-fashioning, and with those of the interplay of literary
aesthetics and social ideologies that are central to Terry Eagleton's school of thought.
Each of the protagonists I discuss prominently displays the skills and strategies of
improvisation, impudently displacing and absorbing the terminology of the reigning
value systems of their times in order to subvert those same systems. Cf. Stephen Greenblatt, The Improvisation of Power, in Renaissance Self-Fashioning: Form More to
Shakespeare (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980), pp. 222-254, esp. p. 230.
And each work makes clear the connections between the operant literary values and the
contemporary social values within which the protagonist moves. See Terry Eagleton,
The Ideology of the Aesthetic (Oxford, Cambridge MA: Basil Blackwell, 1990), esp.
pp. 1-12. If I nonetheless do not overtly pursue these aspects of my protagonists' projects, and instead subordinate them to my concern with personal identity and fiction,
this is simply because my own critical interests happen to be so constituted.
3

Bildungsroman and then later expanded to a novel in something closer to the


picaresque mode. Despite these diverse origins, however, the works have significant connections which, I think, justify their grouping. This is true in the simple
sense that Kierkegaard quotes and borrows fairly consequently from Ovid's Ars;
that Mann's earliest notes to Felix Krull identify Kierkegaard's Diary as a potential model for his own project; or that Kierkegaard's text seems to have had a
formative influence on the late Krull as well. These more or less explicit connections have all been noted in the secondary literature on Kierkegaard and Mann,
respectively, but until this study no one has pursued them in any extensive way.
More importantly, the grouping of these three texts is motivated by the similarity in the literary problem each addresses and by the variety in conclusions to
that problem at which each one arrives. All explore the attempt to fashion a literary artwork out of the self, but in each case the specific historical context of both
the author and work yields different conceptions of the benevolence of fiction and
literary imitation, of the intransigence of the reality of the self, and so too of the
ultimate reconcilability of the realms of life and literature. An implicit argument
that runs throughout this study is that changing conceptions of the nature of personal identity account for a recognizable historical development in the attitudes
toward the artificial I. Put simply, we can say that in Ovid a strongly classical
sense of the natural self undermines efforts at refashioning the I by literary
strategies. In Kierkegaard, a more Romantic sense of the fragmented, disunified
self makes such literary refashioning no longer impossible. In the early Krull, a
Nietzschean sense of the self as a fictional construct casts literary fashioning into
a crucial, paradigmatic role; and in the late Krull, a mythical-textual model for the
unconscious makes literary imitation and artificial I's unavoidable operations
and conditions. It is, then, the specific illumination that the project of the artificial, literary I brings to the problem of personal identity in each work and period,
and that the range of possible, historical responses brings to the common theoretical issue of life as literature that provide the initial justification for this study.
What follows, I hope, provides more.6
Small portions of the book have already appeared, in somewhat different
form, as articles. Part of the first chapter was published as Anti-Pygmalion: The
1

Perhaps it goes without saying that the artificial I fashioned by each protagonist reflects not only the notion of personal identity operant at the time, but also the notion of
literary form. Thus in Ovid, the attempt is to construct an elegy-derived self, in Kierkegaard a Romantically poetic self, in the early Krull ein romanhaftes Leben and
in the late Krull a mythical self. Thus, it is not only a different notion of reality that is
at stake in each case, but a different notion of fiction as well, and the latter contributes
perhaps as much to the eventual success or failure of the collusion as does the former.
N o doubt some readers at this point and many more later on will wonder why I neglected to include in this study a discussion of Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita. I can only
plead that the study is long as it is, and urge the reader to keep Nabokov in mind, especially while reading the chapters on the Diary and the late Felix Krull.

Praeceptor in Ars Amatoria, Book 3 in Helios 17,2 (1990), and part of the second
as Ovid's Danish Disciple: Kierkegaard as Reader of the Ars Amatoria in Pacific Coast Philology 23,1-2 (1988). I am grateful to the editors and publishers of
these journals for their permission to reprint this material in revised and expanded form. I would also like to thank the publishers of the Loeb Classical Library
for their permission to use the translations from Ovid: The Art of Love and
Other Poems, translated by J. H. Mozley and revised by G. P. Goold, Cambridge
Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1979; and from Ovid: Heroides and Amores,
translated by Grant Showerman and revised by G. P. Goold, Cambridge Mass.:
Harvard University Press, 1977.
Special thanks are due to Blake Lee Spahr, William S. Anderson, and especially Richard Brinkmann, whose encouragement and guidance were invaluable
throughout this project. I also wish to thank the many friends and colleagues who
read parts or all of the manuscript along the way and offered useful advice and
criticism: George Avery, Elisabeth Bronfen, Dorrit Cohn, Nancy Daukas, Chris
Downing, Margret Guillemin, Robert Holub, Judith Ryan, Charles Segal, Richard Tarrant, Maria Tatar, and Ken Weisinger. Finally, I wish to thank my father,
George V. Downing, for his endless help with my computer.

Chapter : Ovid and the Ars Amatoria

I.

The Problem

A. S. Hollis has called the Ars Amatoria in every sense the most artificial of
Ovid's creations.1 The description is primarily pointed at the glittering surface of the poem, at its aggressively advertised condition and operation of artifice: at its elaborate labyrinth of ironies and verbal wit; at its parodie juxtaposition of the conventions of didactic verse and love-elegy, whose highly stylized
subject-matter assured that the poem had only a tenuous and intermittent connexion with real life; and at its invention of a narrative persona whose own parody comprises one of the chief delights of the poem. 2 All such ostentatious, even
systematic flaunting of the fiction as an authorial construct, set up against a background not of reality but rather of literary convention and tradition, has contributed to a characterization of the Ars as frivolous, self-indulgent, and merely
clever: as a comic tour de force concerned only with cunningly devised verbal
designs and deeply uninterested in the serious business of real life.3
But the Ars is artificial in another, equally essential sense. It takes as its
subject the pursuit of what we can call artificial love, and therein engages its
would-be practitioner in a labyrinth of ironies, an exploitation of literary convention and an adoption of performing personae in every way analogous to its own,
poetic enterprise. For this reason - that the obtruded emphasis on the verbal edifice, the borrowed trappings of literary tradition, etc., fuse so essentially with the
actual fictional predicaments and undertakings of the poem's protagonists, with
the way they construe and construct their worlds - the poem's deliberately exposed artifice, far from isolating or eliminating it from any serious engagement
with issues arising out of real life, can be seen as the necessary precondition and
reflexive expression of its consequent exploration into the very real and serious,
problematic relationship between real-seeming artifice and reality, between literature and life.
1

A. S. Hollis, Ars Amatoria and Remedia Amoris, in Ovid, ed. J. W. Binns, (London,

1973). P 3
' Ibid, p. 85.
3
Even by its admirers such as Hollis or R . Durling (see below, note 13).

A central aspect of that exploration into the often precarious interaction between fiction and reality is its concern with the student's attempt - or rather, the
praeceptor's attempt through the student, and a significantly different attempt for
the male and female student - to fashion something of an elegy-derived, literary
artwork out of him- (or her-) self, to regulate his life by the rules and ratio of ars,
to construct an artificial I. It is this aspect of the poem's exploration on which I
intend to focus in the following discussion of the interplay between the poet's and
his would-be lover's respective enterprises.
si-

The functional identity between the activity of the poet and lover is nothing new
to the tradition of Roman elegy, and is of course central to Ovid's immediate predecessor in the genre, Propertius. What is new to Ovid, radically new, is the conception of the kind of art practiced, the aesthetic elements correlative to the erotic
condition, and thus, too, the fundamental significance and even soundness of the
conflation of the two spheres. For Propertius, one begins with the girl - Cynthia
prima are the first words to his oeuvre - because one begins with love.4 Love
comes as an overwhelming, often violent force, an involuntary obsession which
carries the poet by storm; he has little choice as to whom he falls in love with, and
little freedom of manoeuvre once he has succumbed.' Once under the sway of
his uncontrollable, controlling passion, he finds himself cut off from traditionally
more honorable activities in either the political or military spheres, and likewise
from traditionally more honorable modes of poetry such as political panegyric or
heroic epic, and confined instead to the infinitely less serious and respectable private sphere, to love and elegy. The same puella, or domina, dictates his exclusive
activity in both spheres, his person in both roles. It is the inescapable dependency
of the poet's output on the lover's passion that the identity underscores. Nor, of
course, is the identity and dependency only expressed or experienced in such negative, limiting terms. Rather, the passion the beloved inspires, even the beloved
herself, becomes the absolutely sufficient source for the poet's inspiration; it
guarantees both the sincerity and, in the most meaningful sense of the term, originality of his art. Non haec Calliope, non haec mihi cantai Apollo, Propertius
claims, ingenium nobis ipsa puella facit (It is not Calliope nor Apollo who
sings to me these songs,/ It is the girl herself who makes my talent). Cynthia
herself provides the poetic impulse, the imaginative drive equally at work in the
artist and the lover/
4

References to Propertius follow the text of E. A. Butler, Sexti Properti, Carmina


(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1960). The translations are my own.
' Hollis (Binns), p. 94. See also A. W. Allen, Elegy and the Classical Attitude toward
Love: Propertius 1,1. Yale Classical Studies 11 (1950) 255-77.
6
Propertius II,1, }i. Cf. Tibullus II,5,inf.; Heroides XV, 206. References to Tibullus follow the text of J. P. Postgate, Tibulli Aliorumque Carminum Libri Tres (Oxford:

Like Propertius, Ovid in the Ars begins with a disclaimer, saying that neither
Apollo nor any one of the Muses has taught him his task. But unlike Propertius,
no passion or beloved is put forth as the new motivation for his art. Rather, drawing on the language of didactic verse, Ovid substitutes something he calls usus:7
non ego, Phoebe, datas a te mihi mentiar artes,
nec nos aeriae voce monemur avis,
nec mihi sunt visae Clio Cliusque sorores
servanti pecudes vallibus, Ascra, tuis:
usus opus movet hoc: vati parete perito;
vera canam: coeptis, mater Amoris, ades. (1,25-30)
I will not falsely claim that my art is your gift, Phoebus, nor am I prompted by the
voice of a bird of the air, neither did Clio and Clio's sisters appear to me while I kept
flocks in your vale, Ascra: usus inspires this work: give ear to an experienced bard; true
will be my song: favour my enterprise, mother of Love!
Exactly how usus is to be understood, and so exactly what is to be taken as the
foundation of the praeceptor's art, is a rather slippery subject. The most common
translation is personal experience, and in some sense this is surely right; but
then personal experience must first be qualified by contrast with its Propertian
precedent. Usus as personal experience is not deeply felt, all-controlling passion
which inspires and shapes one's poetic output. In fact, the substitution of usus for
such a passion is indicative of the magister's entire enterprise, which specifically
designs to eliminate passion and personal experience from the field, or fields,
of action. We can even say that, insofar as passion and personal impulse do inspire
his art, his art fails. Thus in some sense, Ovid reverses - or rather, his praeceptor strives to reverse - the Propertian identity of personal experience and
poetry, and so too the traditional link between lover and poet.
Rather, usus stresses an aspect of experience far more impersonal, even scientific: experience as practice. Vergil uses the word to explain why Jove made uneasy the way of husbandry, ut varias usus meditando extunderet artis (so that
practice, by taking thought, might [gradually] hammer out diverse arts). Lucretius likewise uses it to explain the development of man's diverse arts, -carmina
picturas, et daedala signa polire,/ usus et impigrae simul experientia

mentis/paul-

Oxford University Press, 1915); those to the Heroides that of Grant Showerman, Ovid.
Heroides and Amores, ed. and rev. by G. P. Goold (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1977). For a detailed discussion of the topos of poetic inspiration among
classical poets, see Steele Commager, The Odes of Horace: A Critical Study, (Bloomington and London: Indiana University Press, 1967), pp. 2-16.
Except where otherwise noted, references to the Ars Amatoria, Remedia Amoris, and
Amores follow the text of E. J. Kenney, P. Ovidi Nasonis, Amores, Medicamina faciei
feminineae, Ars amatoria, Remedia amoris (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1961).
Translations, with occasional emendations, are taken from J. H. Mozley, The Art of
Love and Other Poems, ed. and rev. by G. P. Goold (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1979) and from Grant Showerman, Heroides and Amores.

atim docuit pedetemptim


progredientis
(poetry and pictures, artfully wrought
polished statues, all these as men progressed gradually step by step were taught by
practice and the experiments of an active mind). And later on in the Ars, Ovid
uses it to explain the advantage of older women, adde, quod est Ulis
operumprudentia maiorj solus et artifices qui facit, usus adest (Add this, that they have
greater acquaintance with their business, and they have practice, which alone
makes artists, on their side).8 In each case, usus is closely linked with protracted
efforts, technical mastery, and rational, intellectual deliberation and calculation.'
For Ovid, then, the basis for his praeceptor's art becomes practice, not passion,
technical accomplishment rather than inspired condition.
The notions of technical control and intellectual acuity are also central to
Propertius' poetry, indeed to the entire elegiac tradition. From Callimachus on,
exacting attention to polished detail and a sovereign control over the literary domain were trademarks of the elegists, and they played a large, albeit conventionalized role in the Stilkampf with the writers of voluminous, popular epics. In
Propertius and the others, however, these notions are pointedly not part of the
shared identity of poet and lover. In fact, such control and sovereign deliberation
are precisely what the lover lacks.10 Ovid not only places a renewed and more
pronounced emphasis on the technical foundation of art. He also makes this the
primary basis for the correlation of lover and poet. Love itself becomes a practice,
not a passion, a craft instead of a condition.
This of course radically reformulates the traditional association of the two
spheres, and not least in its revision of the order of genesis. We see this in the
poem's infamous first couplet:
si quis in hoc artem populo non novit amandi,
hoc legat et lecto carmine doctus amet.
If anyone among this people knows not the art of loving, let him read my poem, and
having read it be skilled in love.

Besides the sudden freedom from the traditional social isolation of the helplessly
impassioned elegist, we note also how the couplet begins with the song and only
8

Gorgies, 1,133; Lucretius V,i4j2f.; Ars, 11,675!. References to Virgil follow the text of
R. A. B. Mynors, P. Vergili Maronis, Opera (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1969);
those to Lucretius that of C. Bailey, Lucreti, De Rerum Natura, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1922). Translations, with occasional emendations, are taken from
H. R. Fairclough, Virgil. Eclogues, Georgics, Aeneid 1-6 (Cambridge, M A : Harvard
University Press, 1935) and W. H. D. Rouse and M. F. Smith, Lucretius. De Rerum Natura, (Cambridge, M A : Harvard University Press, 1982), respectively.
' For technical mastery, cf. varias artes, daedala polire, artifices, for rational calculation,
cf. meditando, experientia mentis, prudentia.
10
The most programmatic statement of this is Catullus' famous epigram, odi et amo.
quaere id faciam, fortasse requiris?! nescio, sed fieri sentio et excrucior. See also
A. W. Allen, Elegy and the Classical Attitude toward Love.
9

arrives at the lover, the exact reverse of the Propertian universe, where the love
makes the poem. The audacity of the claim is decisive, its promise programmatic.
The would-be lover has but to incorporate this book into his person, to substitute
its system for his own version of Propertian passion, in order for the entire
enterprise to be realized. The book becoming a self, the self becoming a book:
this is the correlation of life and literature which Ovid's radical revision proposes
- the artificial I, the I as artwork.
There is another critical distinction between the kinds of art practiced by
Propertius and Ovid's praeceptor. When Propertius invokes and then disclaims
the figures of Apollo and the Muse, he does so to underscore the signal originality
of his verse. For all his obvious indebtedness to his literary predecessors, Propertius' poetry still purports to travel an intacta via (untrodden path). The
unparallelled uniqueness of his work closely corresponds to the unparallelled
uniqueness of his passion." But when Ovid invokes and then disclaims the same
figures, he does so to underscore not the originality, but rather the imitativeness

of

his verse. For all the indisputable newness of Ovid's Ars, it is still essentially
founded on the principle of imitation. In fact, making imitation - or perhaps better, intertextual imitation - a primary creative strategy to the poem is one of its
major and most far-reaching innovations.12
In his invocation and disclaimer of Apollo and the Muses, for example, Ovid
not only purposefully imitates Propertius, but also, in both positive and negative
form, Callimachus and Hesiod and, less directly, Homer and Vergil as well. That
is, he invokes, if only apparently to disclaim, a whole pantheon of prior texts, of
other literary invocations and disclaimers. And this aggressive advertisement of
the conventional artificiality to the invocation introduces a host of considerations
essentially alien to Propertius and these other precedents.15 For them, the invocation was in some sense the guarantee for both the originality and reliability of
their opera, for both the directness and sincerity of their utterances. Ovid's imitation undercuts the claims of originality, or rather partially undercuts them, but
the effects are no less decisive for being partial. On the one hand, the imitation
affects a certain parodie, deliberately devised distance from the pose of its
sources, a ludic mobility and autonomy from its claim and profession. O n the
11
Ia

13

10

Propertius ,, i8. See also Commager, The Odes of Horace, p. iif.


For an introduction to the role of intertextual imitation in Ovid's poetics, see I. M . Le
M. D u Quesnay, The Amores* in Ovid, pp. 1 9 - 2 9 . He says, for example, The most
complex aspect of Ovid's art in the Amores is his imitation of earlier writers. This does
not, of course, mean that he slavishly copied his predecessors because he lacked imagination and originality. O n the contrary his is a creative imitation: out of the raw materials of the genre, its language, metaphors and themes Ovid created something quite
new.(i9).
See R. Durling, Ovid as Praeceptor Amoris, CJ, 53 (1958), reprinted in revised form
in idem, The Figure of the Poet in Renaissance Epic, (Cambridge M A : Harvard University Press, 1965), pp. z6i.

other, it still allows itself to draw upon the authority, the evocative power
implanted in the imitated material - for this, too, is part of the mobility afforded
by imitation. In any case, the imitation renders the issues of reliability and
sincerity fundamentally obsolete. One can hardly even place the speaker, poised
as he is between the voices of the prior texts, the re-citer of the prior texts, and the
speaker of the new.
Like usus, the concept of art as based on imitation also becomes directly translated into the erotic sphere, the >live< sphere. Mimesis, the point of departure for
all literary creation, thus becomes part of the subject-matter of the poem itself.
The would-be lover's art is also to be essentially founded on the principle of imitation; first and foremost of the book itself and its praeceptor's prescriptions,
but also through the book of all the conventions of elegiac and didactic deportment which the magister himself imitates. And he can thereby promise himself a
similar range of mobility, a similar distance from the affections of his literary
models, and a similar access to their authoritative, evocative powers.
We can see this shared principle of imitation already at work in the praeceptor's first instructions to his student, immediately following his invocation
and then, continuing the didactic imitation, his brief summary of proposed topics:
dum licet et loris passim potes ire solutis,
elige cui dicas >tu mihi sola places.< (4if.)
While yet you are at liberty and can go at large with loosened rein, choose to whom
you will say, You alone please me.
Tu mihi sola places is of course the conventional claim of the elegiac poet/lover.
In fact, the same half-line occurs in Propertius 11,7,19, and then again in the pseudo-Tibullan 111,19,3. When Propertius and pseudo-Tibullus invoke the expression, they intend to convey the involuntary exclusivity of their attraction, the
unshakable enslavement to a single, consuming, and sincere passion. Ovid's
praeceptor, however, presents the same line not as an original declaration, but as a
decidedly literary citation. That is, as with the invocation of the sources of inspiration, he deliberately invokes the prior text(s) and thus conveys the mannered
artificiality of the claim. The very act of citation subverts at once the sense of
exclusivity and of emotional compulsion; the line is freely and intellectually selected, and effortlessly transferred to another context. Moreover, by presenting
the line as a citation, the magister again affects a certain parodie distance from its
pose, an autonomy from its profession, even as he avails himself of its original,
indelible power.
This time, however, the lover is invited to participate with the poet in the act
of imitation and citation. That is, he is invited to cite this literary line himself as
his first, representative venture into the praeceptor's ars. And in his imitation, his
citation, he too is offered an all-important immunity to the affections of his
II

model. H e too approaches the half-line with cool, intellectual calculation, as


expedient literary artefact; he too, in its invocation, retains the freedom to select
its object (elige); he too maintains mobility and a secret, insincere distance, even
as he avails himself of the line's authentic persuasive power. Of course, the first
line of the couplet, especially dum licet, subversively anticipates another aspect
of imitation, the superseding, infectious effect of the imitated material on the imitator himself. 14 For the moment, however, the lover is innocently invited to imitate the poet in his imitation, and thereby share in his self-conscious creation of
fictional artifice.
Ovid establishes, then, something of a functional identity between the respective activities of the poet and the would-be lover, primarily secured by the shared
reliance on usus - sustained efforts, rational calculations, and technical craft and imitation - artificial stuff, hidden detachment, ludic mobility. The functional
identity, moreover, is not merely tacitly suggested, thematically latent but unexplored. Rather, several major imagery systems maintained throughout the poem
emphatically insist on the correlation, and draw it to the center of thematic concern. The two most prominent of these are the images of chariot-riding and seafaring. Both are used simultaneously to depict the course of the poem, of the
instruction, and of the student's - i.e., the reader's - love affair. As befits their
didactic derivation, both stress the common ground in usus, the common commitment to toil and control, and extension through time. 1 ' Another field of
shared semantics, this time deriving from the elegiac tradition, revolves around
the terms iocus (jest) and Indus (play). The poetry itself is playful, sportive
and intensely unserious; moreover tricky, deceitful and, overall, an act; and the
love affair is invited to shape itself in the same image. That is, the terms stress the
common ground in unreal imitation, the common commitment to play and
detachment.
So far the parallels, and the evidence that Ovid intends his reader to focus
quite carefully on the common conditions and operations of artifice of the poet
and student-lover. But one cannot stop here without missing Ovid's main point,
what he also intends us to focus on quite carefully: that art so conceived does
not survive its transposition into the erotic, living sphere. What might well make
for delightful poetry makes for a disastrous affair when translated into life: the
kind of playful games one engages in with words and readers in a fictional world
take on entirely new associations and consequences when played with real human
lives in a real human world. This is not to say, as for instance Durling does, that
we are therefore not expected or allowed to make the transposition from an ima14

Cf. I,6i 5 ff.; RA 4 9 7 f f .


' ' Although ultimately derived from Greek lyric, Ovid's use of these two imagery systems seems clearly to be based on Vergil's in the Georgics where, as in the Ars, the images are used as a pair. See Geo. II,4iff. and 54iff., also I, I94ff. and jiif.; also IV, iif.;
I 303. 373. 43 6

12

ginary world of poetic fiction to a real world of genuine life, simply because if
we mistake... this pretended world for the real world, we lose the effect of the wit
[and] the cynical manipulation of others can no longer be treated so lightly ;' 6
that we must somehow leave the lover in the poet's sphere, because otherwise the
comedy breaks down. Rather, this is the point, that when in this fashion literature
becomes life, the comedy does break down and the violation begins. As the magister himself insists, there is nothing quite so violent as people at play in their
everyday lives (III, 37off.). In order to perceive this point, we must allow the
transposition and admit reality; in order for the play of the competing ontologies of fiction and reality to maintain the vigorous to-and-fro energy it requires,
we must allow the latter its sufficient vitality. We must, that is, ourselves maintain
that curious, stereoscopic optic which perceives both the comic fictional pretence
and the disconcerting human violence.17 This is part of Ovid's radical revision of
the Propertian equation of poet and lover, that part that propels him further into
taking not literature frivolously, but life seriously. The two spheres are incongruous, incommensurable; in the final analysis, life does not yield to the conventions and practices of literature.
The recognition of the deliberately self-defeating nature of the poem's preceptorial project, of its translation of the codes of art into those of erotic conquest, is
not a new one. In one form or another, it has informed the perspective of most
modern critics. However, different commentators have stressed different reasons
for the failure, each of which emphasizes a slightly different aspect of the poem and a
slightly differentflawthat the failureflaunts.Some note the apriori superfluousness
of the poem. For example, if all one needs do to strike up an amorous relationship
with a woman is ask (1,711), what need for the praeceptor's involved stratagems ? and
if in the beginning men and women managed without any magister and without
any ars (II,479f.), why should anything be any different at present?18 Others locate
the project's weak point in the recalcitrant, uncontrollable character of the very
stuff the praeceptor and pupil attempt to legislate, whether that be the furor in
women, the vis (force) or ingenium in men, the chaotic powers of passion itself, or
the prior, undeniable numen of nature as a whole. Amor was not meant to be
enclosed in a rational framework: and so nature asserts its disruptive forces, subverts the system, and thereby restores its more legitimate rule, which admits chaos,
the irrational, the limited, the human.1'
Durling, pp. 35, 30.
N o one has put this point quite so eloquently and succinctly as W. S. Anderson in the
introduction to his edition of Ovid's Metamorphoses, Books 6-10 (Norman, Okla: University of Oklahoma Press, 1972): What might seem trivial or playful on the surface
may barely conceal frightening perspectives into the irrationality of men and the cruelty of the universe (13).
18
C f . Durling, p. 29. C f . also 11,703-708.
' ' This has, I think, proved the most fruitful approach, and certainly the one that has
17

!3

Still others point to contradictions in the system that sabotage it from within,
without any need for an external disruption. For example, at one point men are
told to brown their bodies by exercising in the Campus Martius (1,513). Some 200
lines later they are advised to appear pale and piteously thin (I,733ff.). Similarly,
at one moment men are advised to conceal their outside affairs, even if manifest,
while at the next they are urged to disclose them, even if successfully concealed and even if we grant the magister's claim that different circumstances necessitate
different tactics, the ideal of a practice that can be completely taught and governed
simply by rigid rules and prescriptions, without personal imaginative input and
intuition, seems to show its seams. 20
Finally, and in some sense combining much of the preceding: some place the
blame for the failure squarely on the metaphorical shoulders of the praeceptor, on
the failures in his personality which defeat the project from the outset: on his
thinly disguised hatred and fear of women, which exposes the motivation for this
art of love to be without love, to be in fact revenge and eventually the naked,
ever escalating plays for power of an early Valmont and Merteuil; 21 and on his
own ungovernable imaginative sympathy and barbaric jealousy, which seem continually to cause the praeceptor to fail at his own program. 22 Whether we regard
these failures as unique pathological perversions of the individual persona or as
merely exaggerated examples of everyday human, and healthy, tendencies, we
cannot help but hesitate when even its own teacher cannot succeed at his system,
and moreover suspect that the same flaws that invite his failure might well inform
his system, too. 2 '
For all the variety these different perspectives present, all share a few fundamental features. First, all emphasize the failure of the ars in its failure, in its not
working, whether the reason for that inadequacy be the poem's superfluousness,
its inconsistency, the unbridled backlash of nature and human passion, or the seriously, comically flawed personality of the praeceptor himself. Second, especially the latter, more engaged perspectives emphasize the violence inseparable from
the chaotic forces of nature and human passion, a violence which eruptively

20
21
22
23

14

exerted the most widespread influence. Among its major proponents are
W. R. Johnson, The Problem of the Counter-classical Sensibility and Its Critics,
CSCA 3 (1970) 123-51; J. M. Fyler, Omnia Vincit Amor: Incongruity and the Limitations of Structure in Ovid's Elegiac Poetry, CJ 66 (1971) 196-203 (reprinted in Chaucer and Ovid. [New Haven: Yale University Press, 1979], pp 1-22); E. W. Leach,
Ekphrasis and the Theme of Artistic Failure in Ovid's Metamorphoses, Ramus 3
(1974) 102-42; and F. Verducci, The Contest of Rational Libertinism and Imaginative
License in Ovid's Ars Amatoria, Pacific Coast Philology 15,2 (1980) 29-39. My debt to
all their work is considerable.
see Durling, p. 4off.; Verducci, 33.
Cf. Emile Rupert, cited by Durling, p. 28 (see n. 13, p. 243).
See Fyler, Chaucer and Ovid, p. 21; also Verducci, 37ff.
See Fyler, Chaucer and Ovid, p. 16.

exerts itself, whether from within the praeceptor himself or from other sources,
against the fundamentally fragile control and order which he, the magister,
attempts to impose, and which for better or for worse violates the student and
exposes him to a world wherein safety in love (tuta venus) is an impossible, and
demonstrably mistaken, ideal. But while these are surely true insights, and demand prominent display in any discussion of the Ars, they nonetheless by and
large overlook another basic dimension to the project's failure, another basic
source for the violence set loose against the pupil in the poem. The failure of the
ars can also be seen, can perhaps most disconcertingly be seen, in its success, in its
adequately achieved substitution of conscious work and artifice for involuntary
spontaneity and interiority - in its actual achievement of its boast, quod nunc ratio est, impetus ante fuit (What before was impulse now is system). The automatization and literalization of the would-be lover also exert their own brand of
violence, dehumanizing violence, on his person. Nature, passion and vis by no
means hold an exclusive monopoly over violation; ars and cultus, usus and mimesis prove equally potent sources as well. And it is this aspect of the project which I
would like to emphasize, the violence in its success, in its conception of the self as
an artwork, in its creation of an artificial I.

II.

The didactic imitation

Let us begin by looking at the poem's use of the didactic tradition. It is here that
the idea and terminology for systematic control are most at home, and here that
the opportunities for literary imitation most apparent, and so here, too, that we
can most clearly begin to identify the effects that both breed. Again, we need to
remember to distinguish between and to compare the poet's and the pupil's involvement with the conventions of the tradition; for again, the interplay between
the different orders is very much at issue.
The adoption of the didactic mode has several immediate consequences for the
poem. For the poet, it at once provides a project, a plan, and in a curious fashion,
a personality as well. The project, the poet's opus or labor, is encyclopedic and
programmatic by nature. He identifies and circumscribes a field of activity or
body of knowledge, collects and considers all relevant data and explores their
every aspect, and organizes the whole into a coherent, versified schema. As
A. S. Hollis says, the challenge is both poetic and scientific. It involves both technical craft in molding the recalcitrant, often literarily preformed material into formal order, and extensive erudition and intellectual facility in encompassing the
entire range of the engaged activity.24 In its way, then, it automatically imposes an
undertaking on the poet roughly, or functionally, equivalent to that which the
14

A. S. Hollis, in Ovid (Binns), p. 89^


!5

poet himself will impose on his audience of readers, who are likewise exhorted to
systematize their activity and to attain mastery over their chosen realm in all its
conceivable aspects.
At the same time that the adoption of the didactic mode proposes to the poet a
project, it also offers him a procedure: for the imitation of its literary conventions
provides him with a practical, and sufficiently strict, code of conduct, a technically simple method of invention which nonetheless serves as a supply complex
method of expression. The poet has but to imitate an ideal and procedure fixed by
tradition and literary convention; his activity and direction will be guided and
conducted by the model of prior texts. A t its simplest, he is given a language, a
style filled with certain formulaic phrases and set rhetorical strategies.2 Somewhat more complexly, the genre suggests certain structuring principles: a division
of the subject-matter into several stages, initially marshalled in a summary of proposed procedures; 26 regrouping points which signal the transition between
stages,27 retardation devices to open up the staged structure somewhat, 28 and perhaps most importantly, the mythical exempta and digressions with which the poet
punctuates his didactic structure and explores his abstract themes in imagistic and
narrative forms. 29 There are also some vaguely general guidelines for points to
cover: for example, where to begin, the kinds of requisite skills, the physical and
sartorial requirements, the considerations of changing conditions, and so forth.' 0
And as we will discuss in a moment, there is also a rich fund of imagery to imitate
by analogy, which also helps to organize the several divisions of (the poet's) topic
within a comprehensive structural design. 31 For now, we need only note that
insofar as the prior texts provide a practical model for the guidance of the poet's
project, they too are roughly, functionally equivalent to the poet's own text in its
role as practical guide for his followers' project.
The tradition also, as I said, provides the poet with a narrative persona, the
seasoned and sagacious vates (sacred bard) who, slightly pessimistic and yet still
suitably benevolent, instructs his ignorant charges in useful skills to their own
and society's advantage. Ovid can adopt this persona, simulate its mannerisms,
ape its tone - and by comically dissociating it from its ideological support, turn it
M

E.g., formulae such as adde quod, principio, praeterea, hactenus, and strategies such as
the prescriptive voice (e.g., quaere, nun age, disce, adspicio, iubebo) or the rhetorical
question/category (e.g. quid tibi femneos coetus venatibus aptos/ enumerem ?, 1,253^;
cf. Ge0.II,i03ff., n8ff.).
*6 I,3$ff.: principio, proximus, tertius.
17
,z6}i{., cf. Geo. II,iff.; ll,9t., 3 36ff., 4 2 5 ff., etc.
28
E.g., 1,2690. and Hollis' note, ad loc., in Ovid: Ars Amatoria Book I, ed. A. S. Hollis
(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977).
19
Hollis, in Ovid (Binns), p. 91. See alsoE. W. Leach, Gergie Imagery in the Ars Amatoria, TAPA 95 (1964) 15off.
30
These points are brought up ad loc. by Hollis in his commentary to Book I.
31
Leach, Gergie Imagery in the Ars Amatoria, i48f.
16

against itself. Ovid parodies his adopted didactic, vatic persona in two ways. First,
he exposes the artificiality of its literary conventions and so robs them of their
solemn, sentimental authority.'2 And second, he hybridizes it with features of its
elegiacally debased counterpart, the lena (bawd) or, alternatively, Priapus figure; of his own literary persona from the Amores; and even of his own public
persona as published poet. We will inevitably have to return to this issue of hybridization and self-impersonation later, when we discuss the pupil's analogous
adoption of an elegiac lover's persona and embarkment on a similar course of selfimpersonation. For now, let us simply note that i) Ovid borrows not only a project and plan from the didactic tradition, but also a vatic persona, which in its way
also provides a code of conduct, and that 2) in adopting such a persona, he is again
roughly, functionally parallelled by his pupil, who is similarly offered a didactically-derived persona, or ratherpersonae, to assimilate and imitate: the farmer and
hunter.
Ovid's major innovation, of course, was to apply the conventions, imagery
and traditional authority of didactic verse to the (meter and) materia of erotic elegy. The mere juxtaposition of the two genres created numerous modes for mutual
parody. One of these is that it allowed Ovid to approach his frivolous subject
with an air of studious gravity.33 Hesiod and then Vergil had used the genre to
impart solemn instructions to honest farmers; others had used it to dictate precepts for hunting, fishing, and fowling. To the conventional Roman way of thinking, Ovid's application of this genre to erotic endeavors would be altogether startling, not only insofar as love seems so totally unsuited to rational systematization, but also and far more goadingly insofar as it is made to appear as a worthy
and strenuous occupation, like farming or hunting.34 Ovid's comic imitation
achieves this effect by metaphorically transferring the Vergilian and Hesiodic
concepts of labor and cultus, and the georgic imagery of breaking cattle and horses,
tending fields, and so on, to the private, urban, and modern erotic realm. This
furthers his parody in two distinct ways, each of which commits a kind of civilly
violent assault on conventional Roman sensibilities and traditional didactic solemnity. First, the metaphorical shift displaces the georgic language and activity
from a real world to a merely figurative one; that is, it reduces them to and
treats them as mere literary conventions and so deprives them of the dignity of
their actuality and original context. (The real world for which they now become a figure is a further and slightly different indignity.) Second, as mentioned,
the shift nonetheless still suggests that the two actual activities of farming (etc.)
and loving are analogous and analogously serious undertakings - and by extension, that Vergil's and Ovid's literary enterprises are likewise comparable and

31
33
34

see Fyler, p. 14.


Leach, iji.
Hollis, Ars Amatoria: Book I, p. xvii.

17

comparably significant. His use of the venatic or military imagery has the same
parodie effect. Where the traditional poems move along on a real and engaged
level, Ovid's moves along on an unreal and metaphorically disengaged level; and
yet at the same time he can impudently maintain the appearance that they are
nonetheless similarly noble activities, for both poet and lover.
As subversive as these parodie ploys are, they are still themselves open to a
further subversion, to a suspension of the parody, and likewise in two distinct
fashions. First, I think there is an important sense in which Ovid does seriously
and legitimately assume that his undertaking is every bit as worthy and grave
as those of his predecessors; that the (parodie) presentation of the labor and cultus
of love and the private self brings him as close to what is important to the human
condition - even the Roman condition - as, for example, Vergil comes in his
(solemn) presentation of the labor and cultus of farming and the public self (cf. RA
39jf.). 3S The validity of his claim, however, does not rest on a naive affirmation of
his project, on an unreflective embrace of the virtue of love and art entwined.
This becomes clear when we examine the second way in which his subversive
parody of his didactic predecessors subverts itself.
This happens whenever the metaphorical imagery systems he derives from the
real worlds of those predecessors exceed their merely innocuous figurative status and cease to function as simple literary metaphors, and begin instead to exert
their own evocative powers over the material of the new context. When they do,
the very real dissimilarities between the now figurative and now real spheres necessitate a radically different reaction to the poet's equation of the two spheres,
because they also occasion radically different effects.
This can most easily be grasped in relation to the poem's venatic imagery, which
casts men as hunters and women as wild prey. The more amorous activity is parodically invited to shape itself in this respectable image, the less amorous and the
more violent it becomes. The very serious and almost inexorable effects of regarding
women as hunted animals are mythically exemplified by Cephalus and Procris at
the end of Book III, but are no less evident, and far less sympathetically presented,
throughout the body of the poem itself. For example, with a dry didactic flourish
(quaeris an), the praeceptor takes up the question as to whether one should seduce literally violate (violare) - one's mistress's handmaid in the course of the pursuit.
His advice is, either make no venture or be successful, and he illustrates his precept with examples drawn from fowling, hunting and fishing:
35

18

This is a claim tacitly assumed by most proponents of Ovid's counter-classical sensibility (see above), and given perhaps its most emboldened expression by Charles Segal in
his article, Ovid's Orpheus and Augustan Ideology, TAPA 103 (1972) 473-494, and
its most extended expression by Molly Myerowitz,Ovid's Games of Love (Detroit:
Wayne State University Press, 1985). Both, however, argue that Ovid's claim to gravity
rests upon an affirmation of his fusion of art and love: it is the legitimacy of this view,
and not of Ovid's seriousness, which I undertake to challenge.

non avis utiliter viscatis effugit alis,


non bene de Iaxis cassibus exit aper,
saucius arrepto piscis teneatur ab hamo:
perprime temptatam nec nisi victor abi.

(I,39iff.)

The bird cannot make good its escape when once its wings are limed; the boar issues
not easily from the entangling nets. Let the fish be held that is wounded from seizing
the hook; once you assail her, press the attack, nor depart unless victorious.

This is, we should note, the same triple analogy with which the praeceptor had
launched the metaphorical correlation of loving and hunting, fowling, and fishing
(I,4jff.); the repetition seems designed to underscore the logical consequences of the
correlation, or imitation, when it begins to become real. By equating the woman
with a bird, a boar or a fish, the would-be lover is provoked into committing an act of
uncompromised assault, which is not like trapping birds but is in every way like
violently hurting another real human being. The imitation is no longer playfully
parodie, but seriously psychotic: literary pretence gives way to human violence.
What Ovid makes us see, I think, is that the violence done to conventional literary
sensibilities by the parodist in equating hunting with loving is one thing, but the
violence done to real people - both women and men - by equating loving with
hunting is another and far more serious thing. In this respect at least, the imitative
relationship to the venatic text is radically, irresolvably different for poet and
lover.
It is, however, the didactic georgic imagery which most pervasively undergoes
this slippage from the merely metaphorical into something far more real, and
insofar as it carries with it the key concepts of labor and cultus, it is also the most
important to our study. In her groundbreaking article on Gergie Imagery in
the Ars Amatoria, Eleanor Leach establishes some of the central features of this
metaphorical shift, and we would do well to examine briefly some of her emphases. Taking the Pasiphae digression in Book I (289-326) as her point of departure,
Leach explores the poem's constant metaphorical equation between the nature
and conduct of women and that of animals. Women, she says, are creatures of
untamed nature. They are the raw material of love. Like Pasiphae herself, and
like all the female members of the various species listed in the Lucretian-like cosmogony of Book II (477-88; cf. I,279f.), women are constantly depicted as by
nature endowed with savage sexual desires, with a furiosa libido (1,281). Their
wild natures remain unruly and threatening at all times, and so, for example, a
man must always beware of provoking their jealousy, when they will show themselves more violent than the hunted boar, the lioness protecting her cubs or the
snake trodden by an unwary foot (II,378ff.).36
36

The metaphorical correlation of women with fields and elements of the plant world,
especially prevalent in Book II, although it downplays active violence and stresses
instead passive complaisance, still maintains the association with untamed and often
recalcitrant raw nature.

19

With this state of affairs as his acting assumption, a man must attempt,
through dedicated labor and a proven modus operandi, to attain to some sort of
mastery over their animal nature, to cultivate them, even as refractory oxen are
accustomed to the plow and horses taught to endure the rein (I,47if.). As Leach
says, It is the bounden duty of the amator to govern the appetites of nature [in
women] and to mold formless material into civilized form. It is in this respect
that the lover comes most, and most seriously, to resemble Vergil's honest farmer,
in his labor at cultus, at improving and governing female nature by means of the
techne expounded by the praeceptor. It is in this respect, too, that he comes most
to resemble the artist, in undertaking to refashion the raw materia of female nature by the application of the appropriate techne. Leach states this with characteristic succinctness: Just as the artisan or farmer imposes his skills upon the
objects of his trade, so does the lover impose his craft upon the race of women
whose natures must be forced into conformity with an orderly system of love.
This imposition, she adds, is the essence of cultus.
Thus, Leach concludes, the georgic imagery in the poem exceeds its merely
figurative function in two distinct fashions, one in respect to women, one to men,
both equally important but opposite in their implications. First, there is the
well-organized pattern of anti-feminist humor throughout the Ars, Book III
not excluded (in fact, especially Book III), which debases and dehumanizes women by regarding them as violent animals, stubborn earth, and so on. Second, there
is the equally comic, but still serious glorification of cultus as the climax of
Roman ingenuity, transferred however from its natural agrarian world to Ovid's
own social, urban context. In the one case, the conflation of the two worlds is
jarring and demeaning, and much to the disadvantage of Ovid's modern reality.
In the other, the conflation is far more harmonious, even elevating, and very
much to the advantage of the new sphere.
Leach's analysis does much to underscore the complex interplay at work in
Ovid's imitation of Vergil's didactic poem, especially in its foregrounding of the
ungovernable natural order that looms out from behind the extended georgic
imagery system, and in its identification of two of the poem's major dynamic
forces, or orders, as natura and cultus. She does, however, leave some tricks untaken: mostly minor points which merely extend her argument in directions not
fully essential for the support of her topic, but absolutely so for the generation of
ours; but some too which partially deconstruct her schema and point toward different conclusions concerning both her topic and ours.
Let us begin with three minor distinctions. First, Leach makes explicit how
both the georgic and venatic imagery dehumanize women by regarding them as
wild and violent creatures or, at best, as passive and complaisant fields. However,
she merely leaves implicit the effects of regarding them as materia. The perspective is, as Leach rightly points out, endemic to the Ars. One is first instructed to
labor to find quod amare velis (what you wish to love, 1,35; cf. 9if.). Then maio

teriam longo qui quaeris amori (whoever seeks material for a long love) is urged
to learn the gathering grounds of girls, even as hunters learn the boar's haunts,
fowlers the birds', and fishermen the fish's (I,45ff.). Such a regard also dehumanizes, but in a significantly different fashion; and while perhaps a part of the georgic
strain to the didactic tradition, it resonates with other strains as well. Rather than
regarding women as autonomous animals, one regards them as inanimate objects,
far more inanimate than even earth: as stuff, as fundamentally neutral matter
needed for one to practice his ars. In the Ars Poetica, Horace uses the word to
describe the subject-matter for would-be writers: sumite materiam vestris, qui
scribitis, aequam/ viribus (you who write, take up material proportionate to
your strengths).37 In Book II of the Ars, Daedalus uses the word to describe the
fit occasion for the practice of his artistic talent: materiam, qua sis ingeniosus, babes ([now] you have material for which you are suited, 11,34). And in the Amores, Ovid uses the word to describe his would-be girlfriend as felicitous subjectmatter for his love poetry: te mihi materiam felicem in carmina praebe (give
yourself to me as happy material for song, 1,3; cf. 1,1,19). Much of the same
orientation, and especially the comically callous attitude of the Amores, survives
in the use of the word in the Ars as well: woman as inchoate artwork and little
more. The dehumanizing effects are similar to those of the animalizing imagery,
but the optic is quite different, in the one case bestializing and in the other literalizing; that is, in the one case deriving from the natura and in the other from the
cultus perspective of the poem's georgic imagery. While in many ways the two
characterizations clearly reinforce one another and contribute to a common attitude, it is also true that some potential tension lies latent between the two, not of
central concern to Leach's purposes but certainly to ours. Insofar as it does affect
her argument it does so by stressing some of the first negative repercussions of the
cultus at work in the poem; for cultus, too, all by itself and without natura, begins
with a gesture of somewhat violent, and certainly violating, depersonalization.
The second distinction affects her argument more directly and more seriously
qualifies her rather generous attitude toward men and cultus in the poem. In
men's attempts to attain mastery over women so as to govern them, Leach stresses
the part of persevering labor, which will insure its own reward. In two of her
own examples, however, it seems clear that the determining, reward-bringing factor is not so much work as it is simple force, not labor but vis. She cites 11,179 t o
show that the stubborn branch will bend under discreet force (vires). And she
quotes 1,673, wherein the praeceptor assures, vim licet appelles: grata est vis ista
puellis (You may use force: force is pleasing to girls). To these two we can add
all three of the major mythical exempla involving male protagonists in Book I 17

Horace, Ars Poetica, j8f. AU references to Horace follow the text of E. C. Wickham,
Q. Horati Flacci, Opera, rev. by H. W. Garrod (Oxford: Oxford University Press,

1912). Translations are ray own.

21

the rape of the Sabines, of Ariadne, and of Deidamia - in each of which women
are mastered by only the most thinly disguised acts of violence. Of course, the
presence of force is most conspicuous in Book I, especially in the somewhat wishful, idealized imaginings of the exempla and then again when things grow increasingly desperate at the end.'8 For the most part no such directness is either viable
or desirable, and vis must find more subtle, sublimated avenues for effective
expression - cultus.
Nonetheless, the presence of exclusively male vis in the poem has a number of
crucial consequences for Leach's schema. First, it identifies two mutually informing approaches to men's cultivation of women, vis and labor, which are admittedly often difficult to keep separate and yet still need to be distinguished. Second, the presence of vis in men means that women by no means have an exclusive
hold over the natural violence loose in the poem, and this of course upsets the
smooth opposition between men and women and between cultus and natura
which structures Leach's analysis. Because third, identifying vis immediately
exposes some of the violence at work not in female nature, but in and through
male cultus itself. The constant references to breaking horses and cattle,
working the soil, and so on, quite apart from the constant contamination with
the venatic and military-campaign imagery, convey a strong sense of carefully
orchestrated and systematized violence: no less well-organized than the depiction
of women as savage animals; and no less savage for being systematized.3' Ovid
does not, I would say, intend a glorification of cultus, much less of his own doctrine of cultus in the poem. Rather, I think, he intends an exploration of its own
brand of violence.
The third distinction is more difficult to draw because broader in its ramifications. It concerns the violence done by labor to its male agent as opposed to its
female object, and it is based upon the prior recognition of and respect for the
quite different character to the activities of loving and farming, hunting, and so
forth. No matter how morally questionable a principle of love the magister seems
to propound, he still proposes a love based on an aesthetic principle of pleasure.
Freed at once from the seriousness and harshness of consuming passion and of
socially committed service, the pupil is exhorted to enjoy a certain lightness, freedom, playfulness and ease. The praeceptor frequently stresses this: for example,
that one needn't spread sails nor wear out a long road in the search for a girl
(1,51 f.), nor carry nets upon the neck nor expose the breast to arrows: artis erunt
58

Two strategically timed, admitted outbursts of uncontrol on the praeceptor's part in


Book II (iff.; J47ff.) are the only significant subsequent examples, but see also 11,691,

723> 741

"

22

In fact, as the example of Romulus' orchestration of the carefully controlled and engineered rape of the Sabines perhaps best makes clear, there is something almost more
disconcerting in systematized violence than in simple, natural passion, which is at least
honest.

cautae mollia lussa meae (soft will be the biddings of my cautious art, 11,196).
But the concept of labor is fundamentally at odds with such promises, as the
praeceptor himself acknowledges (difficilis nostraposcitur arte labor [stern toil is
demanded by my art], 11,538), and as a well-known couplet testifies:
nox et hiems longaeque viae saevique dolores
mollibus his castris et labor omnis inest. (II,23jf.)
Night and storm, long journeys and savage griefs: every kind of toil belongs to this soft
service.
While motivated neither by a lover's passion nor a soldier's or farmer's respectably grave mission, the pupil's pursuit of pleasure via labor betrays him into
an imitation of their sufferings which essentially negates his ends, without
approaching theirs. Ceaseless industry commits its own kinds of violence on its
practitioner, which might seem fine for the farmer but comically out of place
for the pleasure seeking amator. In this respect, too, then, the conflation of the
two spheres, while comically effective, does not at all result in a simple affirmation or glorification of cultus when transferred into the erotic sphere. Again,
Ovid's own doctrine proves self-subversive.
These three minor distinctions help us to recognize some of the major ambivalences toward the respective roles of men and cultus in the poem's georgic
schema, even within the terms of Leach's emphases. However, there is another
dimension to the didactic model and georgic imagery which Leach largely ignores, and which throws these ambivalences into even greater relief. This is the
effort, by men, to achieve a cultus not of women, but of themselves; to refashion
the raw materia of their own essentially irrational and sometimes savage sexual
nature by the application, or imposition, of the techne expounded by the praeceptor. That is, they are asked to assume the role of artisan or farmer over and
against themselves, to make themselves the objects of their trade - to make themselves artificial I's. In this schema, male vis, or eroticism, becomes the relevant
raw, recalcitrant, and violent natura that men are then asked to regard as neutral,
malleable subject-matter for aesthetic ends. Similarly, the schematizing violence
of cultus becomes directed against the men themselves, even as they undertake its
equally violating ceaseless industry. All three modes of violence are gathered
within the space of a single self, and the results are every bit as ambivalent as those
in the broader, externalized field of Leach's focus.
The transference to the self of the forces of natura and the efforts at cultus is
absolutely essential to the poem, 40 and it has important ramifications for both the
artistic and georgic parallels. The former can perhaps most clearly be seen in
lines such as the injunction near the outset of Book II:

40

For natura, cf. 11,503, 693; cultus, III,108, 681.


23

iam molire animum, qui duret, et adstrue formae:


solus ad extremos permanet ille rogos,
nec levis ingenuas pectus coluisse per artes
cura sit et linguas edidicisse duas.
(11,119-122)
N o w strive to construct a soul that will abide, and add it to your beauty; only that
endures to the ultimate pyre. Nor let it be a slight care to cultivate your mind through
liberal arts, and to learn well the two languages.

Although here a pessimistic sense of the inadequacy of the merely natural


empowers the precept (as opposed, as in Book I, to its ungovernableness), it is still
evident that the primary object of cultivation (coluisse) and labor (molire) is the
pectus of the pupil himself - which is, moreover, envisioned as approaching the
acme of artistic realization, unassailable endurance through time. He is the one to
be fashioned and formed by ingenuas artes; his is the body upon which the
ingenti dotes (gifts of genius) are applied (II,112). The task in a sense is that of
Daedalus, sunt mihi naturae iura novanda meae (new laws must be devised for
my nature), but the body, or nature, to which the artes and dotes are assigned is,
as it were, that of Icarus, the student-follower. And it is in respect to the Icarus
that the multiply dangerous consequences of natural, irrational desires and the
glorified inventa of the praeceptor's ars become most conjoined and conspicuous,
and that the ingenious artificer's confident creation of artificial I's proves most
disastrous.
Whereas Daedalus and Icarus at the beginning of Book II provide perhaps the
most explicit illustration of the unnatural and eventually untenable artefaction of
the self inherent to the praeceptor's didactic-aesthetic enterprise, it is another pair
at the beginning of Book I that provides the best example of the inherent violence
to the process and its place within the poem's natural imagery: Chiron and
Achilles. Ovid has just introduced his programmatic proposition, arte regendus
amor (love must be ruled by art), by a comparison with the technical requirements for the far more impersonal governance of ships and chariots: as Tiphys
was the magister of ships and Automedon of chariots, so Ovid becomes the artifex Amori. By a characteristically Ovidian turn, the abstract amor is momentarily
metamorphosed into the deity Amor - savage, but nonetheless a boy of tender
and tractable age - and this in turn prepares for the example of Chiron and Achilles:
Phillyrides puerum cithara perfecit Achillem
atque nimos placida contudit arte feros.
qui totiens socios, totiens exterruit hostes,
creditur annosum pertimuisse senem;
quas Hector sensurus erat, poscente magistro
verberibus iussas praebuit ille manus.
Aeacidae Chiron, ego sum praeceptor Amoris;
saevus uterque puer, natus uterque dea.
sed tarnen et tauri cervix oneratur aratro,

24

frenaque magnanimi dente teruntur equi:


et mihi cedet Amor, quamvis mea vulneret arcu
pectora, iactatas excutiatque faces. (11-22)
The son of Philyra made the boy Achilles accomplished on the lyre, and by his peaceful
art subdued those savage passions. He who terrified his friends so often and so often
his foes, cowered, we are told, before an aged man. Those hands that Hector was to
feel, he held out to the lash obediently, when his master bade. Chiron taught Aeacides, I
am Love's teacher: a fierce lad each, and each born of a goddess. Yet even the bull's neck
is burdened by the plough, and the high-mettled steed champs the bridle with his teeth;
and to me Love shall yield, though he wound my breast with his bow, and whirl aloft
his brandished torch.

As Peter Green notes, The images of Chiron moulding Achilles and of bulls or
horses broken in for domestic use stress the fact that Ovid is presenting himself,
Chiron-like, as a purveyor of cultus, of civilized instruction. 41 Strictly speaking,
Chiron's subject, Achilles, functions here as an analogue for Amor, that is, a representation of love which is externalized and not specifically situated in or as the
would-be lover himself. However, both the continued, prominent use of Achilles
throughout Books I and II as an analogue not to Amor but to the student-lover,4*
and basic points of correlation in the depicted teacher/student relationship with
that of Ovid's praeceptor and pupil,43 suggest that Achilles does something of
double service here, representing also the male student-lover, with feros nimos,
rather than Achilles himself, the point of comparison with amor.*4 And in this
respect, we should note that the first real, programmatic references to the georgic
world - the breaking of bulls and horses - occurs in a context which focuses not
on a savage female nature but on a savage male one. Herein the labor, herein the
toil to the praeceptor's efforts at cultus.
As a programmatic illustration of the poem's working assumptions and active
intentions, the pair of Chiron and Achilles embody some of its most important
attitudes toward both human nature and cultus. In the person of Achilles, we have
a depiction of unschooled passion as savage, irrational and uncontrollable, ready
at almost any moment to erupt in an indiscriminate display of force which sweeps
all considerations of decorum and measure aside - easily a match, when crossed,
for the unleashed furor of a woman scorned. In fact, the pointed allusions to
Achilles' post-Chironic, destructive wrath, following the loss first of Brisis and
then of Patrokles, comically - and yet still deeply disturbingly - anticipate the
ultimate failure of the praeceptor's own attempt to constrain and control human
passion and, in its place, the resurgence of the chaotic forces of nature's own
order: those primal impulses which reassert themselves in Achilles' Book I count-

41
41
43
44

Peter Green, Ovid: The Erotic Poems (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1982), p. 338.
Esp. at climactic moments at the end of each Book: 1,681-704; II,711-716.
Including the senes/puer distinction; cf. Daedalus/Icarus, 11,30.
Cf. ferus, 9; also mea pectora, 2if.

25

erparts, Bacchus and the cohorts of Romulus; in his Book II reformulation, Icarus; and even in the praeceptor himself, whose barbarus amor at times transgresses the restrictive precepts of his own civilizing system. His audacious expectation, et mihi cedet Amor (and Love shall yield to me), seems already at the
outset poised to revert to the Vergilian position it aimed to subvert, et nos cedamus Amori (and let us yield to Love) yet stripped of any illusion that such an
Amor would be a gentle victor.
What we need to note, however, is that Achilles as the embodiment of (male)
natura is by no means the only source for potential violence in this program. Chiron as the purveyor of cultus proves an equally potent source as well. Hollis
points out the paradox to placida contudit arte and calls it an effective word
order, since by itself the verb would imply a violent subjection, contundo meaning >to break, grind, crush or pound.<4S And yet the example itself suggests that
Ovid intended the juxtaposition to emphasize exactly the opposite: to emphasize
the covertly cruel coercion to the purportedly placida ars of Chiron's, and Ovid's
praeceptor's, cultus. The malicious brutality implicit to contudit is maintained in
pertimuisse (cowered) of the following couplet, and concretized in the slashing
blows of the next. On the other hand, the initially contrastive placida drops out
and Ovid instead develops the tension between the competing modes of violence
to Achilles' impetuous nature and Chiron's systematic instruction - which for the
moment at least proves the dominant mode. It is just this moment that the poem
expands upon and explores, with a naive or willful bracketing of its eventual abdication; and it is just this mode of violence that we are thus keyed to expect beneath the cover of the placida ars.

III.

The elegiac imitation

What exactly is this system, this ars, by which the praeceptor so confidently
expects to control the irrational and often violent natura in the breasts of men,
and which, while posing as placida, promises to prove as dangerous and disastrous as those primary impulses themselves? What precisely is its strategy, what
its resources; wherein lie its advantages, its hidden dangers? And finally, how
does it translate its ars poetica - conceived in the image of, that is, in imitation of
the didactic model - into an ars amatoria, conceived in the image of, in imitation
of an elegiac model?
To approach an answer to these questions we have to turn to a consideration
of Ovid's exploitation and imitation of the conventions of the other actively and
extensively engaged literary tradition in the poem, namely elegy itself. It is here
that the materia - both literary and real - to be systematized originates; and
4!

26

Hollis, Ars Amatoria, Book I, ad loc.

here again, the principle of imitation plays a crucial role in both Ovid's poetic art
and his pupil's, or praeceptor's, erotic art- although again, to radically different
effects.
Fortunately, but hardly accidentally, it is just these functional parallels and the
ensuing issues of transposition which present themselves in the first passage in
which Ovid gives his student an extended example of his ars at work, namely: in
his account of how to approach a woman at the races in the Circus Maximus
(1,135-162). The entire passage is a deliberate imitation and reworking of his own
earlier elegy, Amores 111,2. As such, it is an illustration of the self-repetition
which is so noteworthy a feature of the whole of his work, 46 of the iterado whose
intensive and extensive employment has earned Ovid the appellation sui imitator.*7 Such self-adaptation is a particularly prominent, and important, part of the
poetics behind the Ars, this particular passage is especially interesting insofar as
the theme and material of the elegy are original to Ovid and do not themselves
point backward towards any advertised literary source, and so more clearly constitutes a case of 7/-imitation. This is especially important insofar as the the student-lover is also essentially engaged in a process of self-imitation here, engaged
not as a lover so much as sui imitator. Thus, an understanding of the poet's selfimitation can help us understand the aims and purposes of the student's self-imitation, insofar as they are functionally parallel.
(A complete text of both passages is included at the end of this chapter.)
The passage we have in the Ars has not, we should note, fared well in the eyes
of those critics who compare it with Amores 111,2. Elizabeth Thomas, who has
written what remains the most detailed and in many ways sensitive analysis of the
pair, speaks of 111,2 as one of the most spirited and attractive poems in the Amores, full of wit and flippancy, an atmosphere of emotion, and charged with
the protagonist's personal interest and participation. 48 She especially praises its
sense of life, its spontaneity and natural flow, all of which derive from and
reinforce the personal quality to the elegy. B y contrast, she characterizes the
excerpt from the Ars as less direct, less vivid, and basically a set of rules to be
observed with tact and politeness; as merely a logical series of events presented in the impersonal spirit and with the didactic detachment of the Ars.
She also quotes with approval A . G. Lee's censorious appraisal, that the Ars is
the Amores reduced to theory with the addition of mythological illustrations and
digressions. Similarly, A. S. Hollis speaks of an unmistakable loss of charm
and bite to the passage in the Ars, which he calls a great disappointment, a
46

47
48

E. Thomas, Ovid at the Races. Amores 111,2; Ars Amatoria 1,135-164. In Hommages
a M. Renard, e d j Bibauw (Brussells, 1969), pp. 710-24.
See A. Lneburg De Ovidio sui imitatore Diss. Regiomont. Jena 1888.
See previous note. See also . Jager, Crambe repetita? in Ovids Ars amatoria und
Remedia amoris: Untersuchungen zum Aufbau, ed. E. Zinn, Der Altsprachliche Unterricht 13,2 (Stuttgart, 1970).

27

pallid reworking of the brilliant and delightful Am[ores\ 111,2 [which] dissipates
nearly all the w i t : . . . all that remains is a catalogue of the small services which one
can perform. Happily, he concludes, few episodes are transferred from the
Am\ores\ in so mechanical and lifeless a manner.49
As often happens with Ovid's work, it seems that the Ars is here condemned
for its conscious accomplishment. These critics grasp the effect of the transference
without understanding its intent, and so censure the imitation by applying inappropriate evaluative criteria. Their criteria derive from the original elegy, or
perhaps more accurately: from an assumption that the same attitudes toward love
and poetry inform both texts, both model and copy; that both therefore aim toward similar ends, and only the degree of success distinguishes them; that the Ars
really is the Amores reduced to theory. But this is hardly the case. Rather, as
befits their status as copies, both the poetry and lover in the Ars excerpt are concerned with the issues of the copy, with the conditions and operations of the imitation they both are. And underlying this concern is a new, quite different attitude toward love, and so too quite different depiction of the lover. Quite simply,
the character in the elegy is a lover, exuberantly animated by the natural spontaneity of his original emotion, and so personally and directly engaged in his erotic
adventure. But the student-lover of the Ars is not a lover, is not supposed to be a
lover: insofar as the praeceptor fears and suspects the natural spontaneity of emotion, his plan entails the somehow violent subjection of all such originality and
amor in his pupil's experience. Rather, the student is to be an imitation of a lover,
a counterfeit copy, and not at all personally and directly engaged in his erotic
adventure. To achieve this distance and subjection, the praeceptor proposes a
process of intentionally mechanical imitation of elegiac, literary convention, in
this case of 111,2. And of course, this lifeless, loveless mechanization of the student's imitation finds its necessary, reflexive expression in the poet's imitation. In
fact, a careful analysis of Ovid's self-imitation reveals just how systematically
and successfully he goes about translating the erotic elegiac behavior of 111,2 in as
mechanical and lifeless a manner as possible. Herein the system, herein the
strategy: imitation, simulation, citation.
The first line of the Ars excerpt is a conscious imitation and variation of the
first line of the elegy:
nec te nobilium fugiat certamen equorum
(Do not let the contest of noble steeds escape you)
vs. non ego nobilium sedeo studiosus equorum
(I do not sit here because devoted to noble steeds).

Both the repetition and the variation in the Ars passage are significant. The similarity in shape to the line, and especially the repetition of nobilium equorum in the

' Hollis A A /, pp 58-62.

28

same metrical positions, immediately and aggressively alert the reader to the evocation of the prior text, to the fact that we are moving within a world not of real
and original experience, but rather of preformed, literary convention. The recognition holds true, and is essential, not only for Ovid's real reader, but also, I
think, for his student reader. His student is expected to know the Amores,
more importantly, he is expected to be well versed in the literary conventions of
elegiac poetry per se. Ovid underscores this in the couplet immediately following
the first in the Ars, a couplet notably not found in the elegy:
nil opus est digitis, per quos arcana loquaris,
nec tibi per nutus accipienda nota est.
There is no need of fingers for secret speech, nor need y o u receive a sign by means of
nods.

Ovid here trots out some of the elegiac lover's stock strategic ploys, which the
student is assumed to know and to be eager to imitate, to accept as a code of conduct.' 1 By evoking them, Ovid reinforces the student's sense that he is moving
here within a realm of recognizable literary conventions (a familiar secret language, as it were), a realm (or language) which the opening evocation of 111,2 already announced. That is, the second couplet reinforces the status of the first line
as a repetition, a copy, a citation from the canon, even as it advances such citation
as a strategy. The absence of such a couplet in the Amores is equally decisive: there
the behavior, or episode, is meant to be original and not modelled after established
literary conventions.
The variation in the line is equally telling. Of course, the most obvious and
fundamental change is that of person.' 2 This is particularly striking insofar as it
occurs in the first position of the first line, nec te for non ego. Most mundanely,
this merely signals the pronominal transposition from the elegiac to the didactic
mode. But the detachment of the speaker and consequent elimination of the
I - or rather, the split between the (praeceptor's) detached, rational intentions
and the (student's) translated, performative actions - which is so inseparable from
the new poetic form is also inseparable from the new erotic project. In fact, it is
just this coincidence that keeps the two projects parallel. The student, too, aims at
a similar detachment and suppression of the I, at a similar split between his
intending and presented self; and he does so by presenting the I of the original
elegy at the remove of another, second person.
This can be sensed in Ovid's variation of the other key word of the elegy's first
line, studiosus. In 111,2, the protagonist declares that he is not nobilium studiosus
equorum (a devotee of noble steeds), an assertion that he qualifies, or explains,

> C f . III,343f.; RA

361.

''

E.g., Tibullus I , 2 , 2 i f . ;

51

Thomas, 7 1 4 .

Amores

1,4,

.; Tristia 1 1 , 4 5 1 - 5 4 .

29

in the pentameter: cui tarnen ipsa faves, vincat ut ille, precox (but the one you
favor I pray may win). As this line and the following two couplets make clear, he
may not be zealously attached to high-bred horses, but he certainly is to his
would-be mistress. This is the witty contrast worked out especially in lines 5 and
6 but thematically motivating the whole poem, and it more than justifies the
emphatic placement of studiosus in the first line. It is in a sense the signature of the
protagonist's personality. In the Ars, on the other hand, studiosus is moved farther
down to a less programmatic position, and even there it occurs in a slightly different form:
cuius equi venint facito studiose requires,
nec mora, quisqus erit cui favet, fave.
(i4jf.)
Make sure you ask, devoted one, whose horses are running, and quick! whomever she
favours you favour too.

As Hollis quite correctly notes, the vocative here conveys a subjunctive, or contraryto-fact conditional, tone: as if you were genuinely interested, actually devoted but are not. That is, it describes not the intending student himself, but his imitative
performance. Of course to some extent, the imitated Studium applies to the feigned
interest in horses, an insincere and intentionally somewhat transparent imitation
that the student shares with the elegy's protagonist. However, this time the imitated
Studium seems to apply to a feigned devotion to the domina as well, to a more general
feigned, and fully hidden, basis for overall behavior - to a studiosus decidedly not
feigned by the elegy's protagonist. In the Amores, the lover imitates or cites the
behavior of the hippophile; in the Ars, the student imitates or cites this behavior of
the lover himself. In the process, the studiosus of the lover, his personal authenticity,
becomes just as artificial and ludically unreal as the originally assumed studiosus of
the derby-devotee. By a simple strategy of re-presentation, the reality behind the
pretence is changed almost beyond recognition: what was genuinely original is
deliberately reduced to secondhand, literalized, and dehumanized convention. Significantly, the strategy is the same as the poet's : as he imitates or represents his poem,
so does the student his lover.
The basic change in strategy which the change in studiosus suggests soon
emerges as the organizing principle to Ovid's reworking of the entire elegy.
Almost every exclusion, every repositioning, every addition can be traced back to
the attempt to replace personal originality with literary convention, natura with
materia - by no means an easy task. Exclusion is easily the most conspicuous
facet of Ovid's reworking: an original 84 lines become an economical 27, over two
thirds less. Omissions are every bit as important as repetitions, and in some ways
more important, insofar as they constitute what the imitation would render obsolete, overcome, or absent. And just about every omission follows from the first,
the exclusion of the second couplet, in which the protagonist explains why, if
uninterested in horses, he has come:
jo

ut loquerer tecum, veni, tecumque sederem,


ne tibi non notus, quem facis, esset amor.
I came to talk with you, and to sit with you, so that y o u might not miss knowing the
love y o u stir.

As we will have occasion to emphasize again, the reason for the protagonist's
presence, indeed for his whole pattern of zealous behavior, is precisely this amor.
The word itself occurs three more times in the course of the elegy, each time again
in the emphatic final position of the couplet (40; 46; jo); amari, a variation,
occurs at line-end of j7. This is hardly noteworthy in a love elegy, even in as comically angled a one as 111,2. What is noteworthy is its studied exclusion from the
Ars passage. The word, in any form or variant, simply does not occur, and its suppression is so systematic as to be all-decisive. The poet's omission is also, essentially also, to be the lover's. What the imitation attempts to exclude from the student's activity is the original impetus, the lover's authenticity - his amor.
This is made clear in two other instances of editorial litura, the exclusion of
the somewhat whimsical witticism in the lover's waving about his program and of
the lengthy description of the aurea pompa (golden procession). In the first
case, two couplets in the elegy are reduced to a single line in the Ars: profuit et
tenui ventos movisse tabella (It has helped too to stir the air with a light tablet,
161). In the elegy, the gesture is closely connected with the conceit that the troublesome heat comes from the protagonist's own amor, his own animus:
V i s tamen interea faciles arcessere ventos,
quos faciet nostra mota tabella manu?
an magis his meus est animi, non aeris, aestus,
captaque femineus pectora torret amor?

(39.)

Would y o u like, while w e wait, to bid soft breezes blow? I'll take the tablet in m y hand
and start them. O r is it rather the heat of m y heart and not of the air, and does love for a
w o m a n burn m y ravished breast?

The image, standard fare for the elegiac lover, was broached earlier, in a couplet
also excluded from the Ars, in connection with the adroitly-gained glimpse at the
lady's legs:
his ego non visis arsi; quid fiet ab ipsis?
in flammam flammas, in mare funds aquas.

(33f.)

I burned before, when I had not seen them: what shall become of me n o w that I have?
Y o u add flames to flame, and waters to the sea.

In each instance, although the gesture is retained, the conceit is conspicuously


absent from the Ars. There is to be no burning in the pupil's breast, no driving
erotic desire, no flame consuming and uncontrolled. All that Ovid and the student borrow from the protagonist are his program and his conjured airs; the imitation attenuates the original to a tenuis tabella and no more.
In the case of the aurea pompa, 16 lines in the elegy are reduced to 2 in the Ars,
the longest, continuous passage suppressed in the imitation (43-58; cf. ,^.).
i

In the Amores, the account includes numerous patron deities who, in the form of
ivory statues, are carried past the stands of spectators. Each group then applauds
its patron - soldiers Mars, hunters Phoebe, artifices Minerva, and farmers Ceres all of whom the protagonist spurns. Then at the end he applauds tibi, blanda Venus, puerisque potentibus arcu (you, alluring Venus, and your child potent with
the bow) and invokes her aid in his seduction. In the Ars all the deities go unmentioned except Venus, whom the student is instructed to clap favente manu.
at cum pompa frequens caelestibus ibit eburnis,
tu Veneri dominae plaude favente manu. (i47.)
But when the long procession of ivory statues of the gods passes by, applaud lady Venus
with favouring hand.

This need not, however, be considered merely a matter of severe compression.


Rather, the poet's silence is also necessary insofar as the particular group to
which the student belongs needs to be concealed as well. He is after all, unlike the
elegy's lead, secretly engaged as soldier, hunter, artifex, and farmer (cf. Am 4953). What he is secretly not engaged as, however, is lover: this is in a sense the
reason for all the other roles, to protect him from pueri potentes arcu. Thus his
applauding Venus is radically different from the protagonist's in the elegy. The
latter invokes her aid and includes her in his plans, whereas the former merely
shows her the samt favor that in the preceding couplet he showed the lady's choice
of driver, and with the same fundamental unconcern." He is no more, or less, an
actual supporter of the one than of the other. Venus per se is uninvoked and
excluded from his plans. The student is to put his trust not in her powers of domination, but in his own powers of imitation.
If the exclusion of Venus, amor and ardor from the Ars shows what the poet
and praeceptor seem to be doing, the exclusion of the relationship, in the elegy,
between the protagonist and favored driver - thematically the most central aspect
of the episode - shows why. In the Amores, not only are the role and fate of the
favored driver closely connected with those of the lover. The protagonist's personal, imaginative identification with the role of the racer is also closely connected with his personal identification with and participation in his own role of lover.
Both arise out of the same imaginative license; both expose the protagonist to
similar risks. He immediately feels drawn to the figure of the racer, by virtue of
the favor he enjoys in the eyes of his would-be mistress:
o cuicumque faves, felix agitator equorum!
ergo illi curae contigit esse tuae?
hoc mihi contingat (7-9)
O happy driver, whoever he be, that wins your favor! Ah, so 'twas he had the fortune to
enlist your concern? Be that fortune mine [!]
" favet/fave,

32

146; favente manu, 148.

Like the figure of the elegiac lover, the rider's success or failure, his happiness and
misery are seen as wholly dependent on the woman's favor (cf. 18, vincamus dominae quisque favore suae [let us each win through the favor of our lady]).
Conversely, like the figure of the rider, the lover's self seems gambled, at risk,
exposed to the dangers of his uncertain enterprise. The two figures are thus thematically linked. Against this background, at the moment when the racer enjoys
the desired favor, the protagonist's initial, apostrophic envy flows into an imaginative fantasy in which he actually becomes the rider and then, in turn and as the
rider, the dumbstruck elegiac lover, who loses hold of the reins at sight of the girl.
That is, his amor, a distinctly imaginative passion, fosters a close, sympathetic
identification with his desired acquired role. This is the source of the personal
interest and participation that the critics so admire.
But another side to this personal participation emerges near the end when, due to
insufficient skill, the rider appears to have lost both his race and the lady's grace : quid
fads, infelix ? perdis bona votapuellae (What are you doing, unhappy one ? You will
lose the girl's good wishes). Due to his close, imaginative identification with the
role of the racer, the protagonist has also exposed himself, set himself at risk. The
result is that, when the rider appears infelix, the protagonist is ineluctably drawn into
the all-defining elegiac lament, me miserum! B y allowing himself the imaginative
license inseparable from his passion, the protagonist unwittingly betrays himself
into an identification with and personal participation in a role not fully in his own
control, and this constantly threatens personal miseria. This is not only true of the
role of the racer, but also and more importantly of his own role as elegiac lover:
miseria is the chanced condition of its personal engagement.
There is, then, a studied exclusion of this figure of the racer in the Ars, as well
as of the protagonist's personal interest and participation in his fortunes: on the
one hand because such a figure no longer functions as a correlate to this would-be
lover's via;54 and on the other because such personal, imaginative identification
with assumable roles is just what the elimination of amor and mediation of mechanical imitation are designed to guard against and prevent. The aim is twofold.
First, imitation instead of identification should fend off the defining me miserum!
by separating the self from the role at risk and dependent upon favor. Second, it
should undo the traditional loss of power and control over his own fortunes by
strengthening his skills to hold on to the reins the lover so willingly drops.
The imposition of the principle of imitation is not only designed to regulate
the imaginative participation which seems inseparable from amor and so potentially self-violating. It is also designed to govern the natural spontaneity and irra-

There is of course a sustained use of the figure of a chariot-rider throughout the Ars as a
functional parallel to both the poet's and student-lover's activity, but unlike the figure
in , the one in the Ars is a representative of technical control and skill. That he
nonetheless so often seems out of control is another matter. See below.
33

tionality which also adhere to genuine emotion and likewise threaten the lover's
self-control. This is perhaps more evident in the poet's rearranging rather than
excluding of original elements; for example, in his reworked imitation of the passage in the elegy where the protagonist abruptly turns his attention away from his
imaginative identification with the racer and addresses the just jostled domina.
quid frustra refugis? cogit nos linea iungi;
haec in lege loci commoda Circus habet,
tu tarnen, a dextra quicumque es, parce puellae:
contactu lateris laeditur illa tui;
tu quoque, qui spectas post nos, tua contrahe crura,
si pudor est, rigido nec preme terga genu. (19-24)
Why draw back from me? It will do no good: the line compels us to sit close. This
advantage the circus gives, with its rule of space - yet you there on the right, whoever
you are, have a care; your pressing against the girl's side annoys. You, too, who are
looking on from behind, draw up your legs, if you care for decency, and press not her
back with your hard knee!

The spontaneous interjection, quid frustra refugis ?, arises here disjointedly and
naturally, in reaction to an action. In fact, such disjointedness and naturalness
are characteristic of the whole monologue and, consequently, of the protagonist's
personality as well. This is grammatically secured by the number of disjunctive
tamens and seds which dis/connect the abruptly swerving actions of the protagonist: his commands to his neighbors (tamen, 21), lifting of the lady's trailing cloak
(sed, 25), fanning her with his program (tamen, 37), brushing off offending dust or
looking out for the welfare of her little feet (sed, 63)." This grammatical looseness
and lack of careful coordination is expressive of what Laclos' Valmont calls that
disorder which alone can portray feeling:' 6 the lover's natural spontaneity involuntarily articulates the genuineness of his desire by betraying its control over his
actions.
The Amores passage also expresses the protagonist's uncontrolled irrationality.
In the second two couplets (21-24), he demands that the surrounding others desist from doing precisely what he is doing and precisely what, in the preceding
couplet (i9f.), he claimed was in any case an unavoidable in/convenience of the
place, namely, crowding close in on one another. His amorous impulsiveness
leads him to, and blinds him to, unwittingly comical and contradictory actions.
Equally importantly, it infuses him with an unwarranted, exaggerated sense of
control and influence over his engaged reality. This is modestly the case here,
insofar as he thinks he can successfully control the behavior of the other spectators. It is more outrageously so later on, when he imagines that the statue Venus
nods to him in answer to his prayer, that the racer's horses know his and his lady's
"
!<

34

Cf. also line (tamen) and 73 (sed).


Choderlos de Laclos, Les Liaisons Dangereuses, tr. P. W. K. Stone (Harmondsworth:
Penguin, 1961), p. 150.

desires, or that the entire crowd enforces a rerun of the race in response to his
personal request. In effect, the protagonist shows himself most out of control
when he feels most in control, when he is in fact most under the control of his
overriding passion.
In imitating these lines in the Ars, Ovid manages to retain almost all the relevant points and actions, but to divest them of all the attendant spontaneity and
irrationality which threatened uncontrol and admitted emotion. As Thomas
notes, he does this by transforming the natural flow into a logical sequence of
events, by imposing a rational system upon its raw and unruly natura. And as the
poem thereby assumes a more rigidly mechanical, formally secure cast, so does,
or should, the student lover's conduct.57 For example, the phrase commoda Circus
habet is conspicuously repeated from the elegy. But rather than appearing merely
as an incidental, spontaneous response to an unforeseen event, it is moved to a
programmatic position at the end of the first couplet, as a logical rationale for why
one should visit the Circus in the first place: multa capaxpopuli commoda Circus
habet (the spacious Circus holds many opportunities, 136). The commoda are
then explained by the close seating quarters, reversing the order of points from
the elegy, so that the reasoning precedes the incident. An entire couplet is then
devoted to an expansion of two half-lines from the elegy, which again emphasize
the rule-bound mechanics of any seemingly natural, spontaneous occurrence:
proximus a domina nullo prohibente sedeto;
iunge mum lateri qua potes usque latus,
et bene, quod cogit, si nolis, linea iungi,
quod tibi tangenda est lege puella loci.
(139-142)
Sit next to the lady, none will prevent you; sit side by side as close as you can. And it is
good that the line compels closeness, like it or not, and that by the rule of space the girl
must be touched by you.

The lover's spontaneous interjection and impromptu response are replaced by the
praeceptor's didactic imperatives and calculated foresight. Similarly, all the disjunctive seds and tamens drop out (not only here, but throughout the imitation)
and in their stead come quod clauses of cause or reason, if/then conditions and
coordinating conjunctions such as et, nec and -que. The logical language strongly
supports the logical sequence. Both enforce the newly won, or rather, desired
sense of imposed order which is designed to check and discipline the spontaneous
outbreak of disordering emotion; to replace an original natural order with a derived, and chastised, artificial order.
Most importantly, the imitation in the Ars alleviates the irrationality to the
original sequence, that irrationality which the three couplets in the elegy so
expressly underscored. The poet accomplishes this with two ploys. First, he drops
,7

A s Laclos' Merteuil says, one arranges one's words, and that is sufficiently damning,
i.e., a sign of insincere imitation (Laclos, p. 79).

35

completely the obviously contradictory parallel to the protagonist's own situation in his command to the man at the woman's right (2 if.). Second, he removes
the attention paid to the man behind her to near the end of the passage (ijzf.),
where it no longer comically clashes with the protagonist's own crowding (i^f.;
I39.). By thus limiting the unreason to the actions by imposing upon them the
organizing discipline of his technical craft, the poet also intends, primarly
intends, radically to resituate the would-be lover's basis for power. That is, he
hopes to replace the elegy's unwarranted sense of control based on irrational passion with a new (and equally unwarranted) sense of control based on rational
design.
So far we have focused on the formal operations of imitation by which the Ars
passage eliminates the reality of amor - and with it, imaginative license, natural
spontaneity, and emboldened irrationality - and substitutes instead a mechanical
series of small services. What we need now to note is that this is not only the formal
revision to the imitation, but its thematic addition as well. Ovid emphasizes this in
his expansion of two relatively insignificant couplets from the elegy, the episode
with the dust and with the lady's feet. These are the only two incidents from the elegy
actually elaborated in the Ars, a fact which lends them added importance.
In the elegy, the protagonist abruptly interrupts his fanning of the woman with
his tabella and exclaims,
dum loquor, alba levi sparsa est tibi pulvere vests:
sordide de niveo corpore pulvis abi. (4if.)
While I am talking, a sprinkling of light dust has got on your white dress. Sordid dust,
away from this snowy body!

The event is apparently spontaneous, accidental, and unforeseen - if anything


more, then the unwitting result of his wild waving about of the program - and
besides extending and all but ending the random, exuberant attentions of the protagonist, the event is of no real consequence or importance. The procession
approaches, and the poem takes a new turn. In the Ars, however, not only is the
event anticipated, it is also invested with special significance, both by its new position at the head of the list of attentions, and by its added twist:
utque fit, in gremium pulvis si forte puellae
deciderit, digitis excutiendus erit:
etsi nullus erit pulvis, tamen excute nullum:
quaelibet officio causa sit apta tuo. (149-152)
And if perchance, as will happen, a speck of dust falls on the lady's lap, flick it off with
your fingers: even if none falls, then flick off - none: let any pretext be suited to your
services.

The new image of nullus pulvis is more than a witty, or even logical, variation of a
theme already at hand in the elegy. Rather, it introduces something truly and radically new. It defines a strategy of behavior with no corresponding background,
36

an impish play with conventional gestures without a supporting grounding in


reality - a condition essentially alien to the elegy but absolutely central to the Ars.
In fact, that non-speck of dust and its covering conventional gesture promise to
prove an extremely suggestive focal point for understanding the praeceptor's art
of imitation.
We should note first, however, that in the process of becoming a playful imitation by the removal of the original cause for the action, the action itself begins
subtly to change its character. Rather than the spontaneous, natural expression of
an exuberant emotion, it becomes an officium: a function, service, obligation.
The word, which does not occur in the elegy, is immediately invoked again in the
Ars to describe the similarly altered action of lifting the lady's mantle: in the original an emotionally prompted action decidedly not an end in itself but only a
prompting to further fantasy, emotion, and zeal, in the imitation it becomes an
obligatory convention which achieves its more modest ends in its own execution
(protinus officii pretium, 155). Original actions become imitative offices, attentions conventions; and so, too, the original's studiosus becomes the imitation's
sedulus (154), an adjective with no place in the elegy and closely connected with
officium in the Ars. The shift in emphasis is slight but significant. Eagerness is
replaced with industriousness, devotedness with diligence; that is, the emphasis,
and allegiance, shift subtly from the object of attention to the action of attention.
In an ironic and still essential fashion, by becoming play the activity also becomes
work: both result from the same absencing of the original serious - but spontaneous - impulse or causa.
The second expanded passage from the elegy suggests some of the potential
consequences to this shift in character of the activities, following the initial elimination of emotive motivation, into a series of small, obligatory services. In the A mores,
the concern for the lady's dangling legs is a decidedly isolated and circumscribed
incident, placed between the end of the parade and the beginning of the race:
sed pendent tibi crura: potes, si forte iuvabit,
cancellis primos inseruisse pedes,
ff.)
But your feet are dangling. If you like, you can stick your toes in the grating.

There is something of a comic deflation in the juxtaposition of this with the


immediately preceding lofty prayer to Venus and oath of eternal love to the lady,
and something, too, of a clever free association of the image of her feet in the grate
and the immediately following one of the horses in the starting-gate. In the Ars,
Ovid drops this function and associates the incident with an entirely new theme.
To begin, he omits the mere offer of an available grate and substitutes the personal
placement of a footstool. He also removes this to an emphatic position at the end
of the excerpt, coupled with the ardorless tenuis tabella. Finally, he expands the
emerging motif into a series of activities by adding the arrangement of a cushion,
an image easily associated with the similarly added scamna (footstool):
37

parva levis capiunt nimos: fuit utile multis


pulvinum facili composuisse manu;
profuit et tenui ventos movisse tabella
et cava sub tenerum scamna dedisse pedem.

(159-162)

Frivolous minds are won by trifles: many have found useful the deft arranging of a
cushion. It has helped too to stir the air with a light tablet, and to set a stool beneath a
dainty foot.

The expansion of the single incident into a sustained series, itself at the end of a
similar series of officia, hints, I think, at a potentially perilous enslavement of the
student to the conventions or officia of his own deceit. The series is certainly far
more slavish than anything in the elegy, and Ovid seems especially to underscore
the subtle shift toward servile subjection in his introduction of the scamna. We
can see this more clearly in light of a passage from Book II, where Ovid returns to
the figure:
nec dubita tereti scamnum producere lecto,
et tenero soleam deme vel adde pedi.
nec tibi turpe puta (quamvis sit turpe, placebit)
ingenua speculum sustinuisse manu. (211-216)
D o not hesitate to place the footstool for her trim couch, and take off the slipper from
her dainty foot, or put it on . . . N o r think it base (although it is base, it will give pleasure) to hold a mirror in your freeborn hand.

As the poet makes clear at the end of this passage, all these action are done pro
servo, in the slave's stead (11,228); and again, whereas such a condition is essentially alien to the elegy, it is emphatically etched into the concluding activity in the
Ars excerpt. In its way, the student's lot suggests the traditional servitium amoris
of the elegiac lover, except that amor is not at issue here; nor for that matter is the
obedience owed to the woman's whims, but rather to the praeceptor's plans, or
more accurately: to the literary conventions he extends. Rather, then, the described condition fairly strongly suggests an all-new servitium artis, an enslavement to the conditions and operations of imitation itself: to the book and its
demands, and to the work and its demands.
One concluding comment regarding the relationship between the original elegy
and its imitation in the Ars or rather, two comments, since the imitation itself is
likewise split. First, we should note that, in the elegy, the Doppelgnger-driver wins
his race, and not by technical skill, which he lacks, but by the sheer strength or vis of
his surging horses; and similarly, that this lover also wins, and again not on the basis
of the crafty control he, too, so obviously lacks, but rather by the sheer, natural force
of his unrestrained passion. Given this initial success and its basis, the subtext seems
to function as an a priori subversion of the entire project behind the Ars, to undercut
one's confidence in its reliance upon artifice and technique, and thus to suggest its
misguided strategy and even its foreseeable failure.
38

Second, and clearly in keeping with this: the fact that, as readers, we feel more
attracted to the elegy than to the Ars excerpt, that we feel that, even as art, the
former somehow succeeds where the latter fails: this is also, I believe, an
intentional, a priori subversion of the Ars's project, another clue to our need to
distance ourselves from its designs.'8 The Ars excerpt certainly succeeds at what it
sets out to do, succeeds extraordinarily well at converting the original into an
imitation, by its imitation. However, the fact that we still feel that it fails in its
very success says something very important not about Ovid's artistry, but about
his praeceptor's strategy. The lifeless and mechanical is not supposed to be preferred to the natural and spontaneous, and if Ovid has instilled this attitude in his
reader, then he has succeeded in the Ars passage, that is, succeeded in showing the
failure of the system even in its success, in its actual achievement of its boast,
quod nunc ratio est, impetus ante fuit. "

IV.

Book I and the nullus pulvis principle

Despite its intended failure, the Ars excerpt still does introduce two new promising and provocative themes, the nullus pulvis and the servitium artis. Each in its
way roughly, or functionally, corresponds to a major feature of Ovid's mimetic
poetics: the former to the ludic mobility, hidden detachment, and playful unreality we first described in relation to the citation of tu mihi sola places, and the
latter to the closely related, consequent commitment to moving within borrowed
forms, literary conventions which provide a code of conduct and performing personae for one's own self-presentation. But despite these parallels, each of these
principles nonetheless leads to wholly unparallelled problems when transposed

58

That Ovid was peculiarly interested in the problem of bad writing, and especially
with the bad writing that can be achieved through citational imitation, is attested to by
Quintilian VI,3,96ff. : Adiuvant urbanitatem et versus commode positi, seu toti ut sunt
(quod adeo facile est, ut Ovidius ex tetrastichon Macri carmine librum in malos poetas
composuerit), quod fit gratius, si etiam ambiguitate conditur, H . E. Butler, The Institutio Oratoria of Quintilian (Cambridge M A : Harvard University Press, 1921), vol. 1.
I would like to thank Richard Tarrant for this reference.

"

Even the praeceptor voices this preference in a late moment of revelation that effectively subverts the system of officium he has so carefully designed:
odi quae praebet, quia sit praebere necesse,
siccaque de lana cogitat ipsa sua.
quae datur officio, non est mihi grata voluptas:
officum faciat nulla puella mihi.
(II,68jff.)
The comic monster here described is, of course, a female version of the artificial I the
magister himself has constructed in the form of his male student - a not untypical
example of Oedipus at the mirror.

39

from the poetic into the live, erotic sphere. Since most of these problems only
emerge in their extension, it will be useful to trace these two new themes as they
develop over the course of the first two Books. Let us begin, then, with nullus
pulvis.
That that nonspeck of dust and its covering conventional gesture, once translated into the realm of language, become the basis for the praeceptor's plan emerges a moment later at the Triumph; that they also form the basis for the poet's art
emerges even sooner in the same passage. In one of the sharp swerves in direction
so characteristic of the Ars and so antithetical to the praeceptor's program of
artful control, the poet suddenly breaks into an extended, encomiastic propempticon addressed to Gaius Caesar (176-218), which eventually empties into the following lines:
auguror en, vinces, votivaque carmina reddam
et magno nobis ore sonandus eris:
consistes aciemque meis hortabere verbis
(o desint animis ne mea verba tuis!);
tergaque Parthorum Romanaque pectora dicam
telaque, ab averso quae iacit hostis equo. (205-10)
Behold! I prophesy: victory will be yours, and I shall duly pay my votive song, and owe
thee loud utterance of praise. You will stand and with my words exhort your soldiers (o
let not my words fall short of your valour!); I shall tell of Parthian backs and Roman
breasts, and of the weapons which the foe shoots from his retreating steed.

Although some readers have been seduced into taking Ovid at his word here, as if
his flatteries were in fact sincerely, truly, and sycophantically spoken, with due
authority and meet concern, most critics now recognize how here, too, Ovid
affects a decidedly parodie distance from the pose of his pronouncements, a hidden detachment and audacious absence from their clichd claims and perforce
professions. Robert Durling, for example, notes how [t]he praises of Gaius are
sung with ostensible patriotic fervor, with all the pomp of heroic diction, invocation of the gods, and righteous indignation.o Peter Green goes further and calls
it an unforgettable testament to the hollowness of Augustan literary propaganda
[which] lays on the clichs with a parodie trowel.'1 From a slightly different
angle, A. S. Hollis stresses another source for the parody, the ludicrous disparity
between the language heralding the event and the final outcome - nothing. And
as Hollis also stresses, the event was never even intended to be much more than
nothing, which makes Ovid's unsolicited rhetorical display seem all the more
outrageous, empty, and hollow at its core.62
Without approaching the political issues themselves, we can still note that the
poetic strategy of flattery, parody, and dissimulation here closely corresponds
60

40

Durling, p. 33.
P. Green, Ovid: The Erotic Poems, pp. 343ff.
Hollis, Ars Amatoria Book I, pp. 72ff.

with the erotic strategy urged upon the student-lover, with the same impudent
but effective mimetic manipulation of language and the same absence of corresponding reality, either personal or external. We see the transposition of this
poetic approach in the advice tendered to the student just after the encomium as
to how he should comport himself vis--vis the foreseen Triumph, advice which
echoes not only the poet's ploy but the nullus pulvis ploy as well:
atque aliqua ex illis cum regum nomina quaeret,
quae loca, qui montes quaeve ferantur aquae,
omnia responde, nec tantum si qua rogabit;
et quae nescieris, ut bene nota refer.
And when some girl among them [the spectators] asks the names of the monarchs, or
what places, what mountains, what rivers are borne along, do you answer everything,
nor only if she ask; and even what you know not, tell her as if you knew well.

Similarly, regarding the paraded duces,


et erunt quae nomina dicas,
si poteris, vere, si minus, apta tarnen. (221-28)
And you will have names to give them, true ones, if you can, but if not, yet names that
are fitting.

By the same sophistic, rhetorical principles by which the poet shapes and creates
his artwork, the praeceptor's pupil is to shape and create his affair. For each, ars is
a form of playful pretence and verisimilar deceit, a playing at words without a
corresponding background. For each, simplicitas (cf. 241) and sincerity are avoided as the pitfalls of the unwary and unskilled.
The functional parallel between the poet and lover in their common commitment to a playful poetics of produced appearances is even more forcefully secured when the praeceptor finally ventures to explain how the student should
initiate an affair, once the desired woman has been chosen:
cera vadum temptet rasis infusa tabellis:
cera tuae primum conscia mentis eat;
blanditias ferat ilia tuas imitataque amantum
verba, nec exiguas, quisqus es, adde preces.

(437-40)

Let wax, spread on smoothed tablets, attempt the crossing; let wax go first as the confidant of your mind. Let it carry your flatteries and the imitated words of lovers, and,
whoever you are, add earnest entreaties.

In a crucial conflation of the two separate spheres, the student is first engaged not
as a lover, but as a writer who imitates the lover, letting his borrowed words, not
himself, re-present himself.
The substitution and subsequent imitation are not, however, simple. Since the
student steps forth as litterateur instead of lover, he must acquire certain literary
skills to aid him in his self-presentation, that is, in his literary presentation:
41

disce bonas artes, moneo, Romana iuventus,


non tantum trpidos ut tueare reos:
quam populus iudexque gravis lectusque senatus,
tam dabit eloquio vieta puella manus.
sed lateant vires, nec sis in fronte disertus;
effugiant voces verba molesta tuae.
*

sit tibi credibilis sermo consuetaque verba,


blanda tarnen, praesens ut videare loqui.

(459-68)

Learn noble arts, I counsel you, young men of Rome, not only so that you may defend
trembling clients: a woman, no less than populace, grave judge, or chosen senate, will
surrender, defeated, to eloquence. But hide your powers, nor put on a learned brow; let
your pleading avoid affected speech ... Your language should inspire trust and your
words be familiar, yet coaxing too, so that you seem to be present, speaking.
Both movements to the process are crucial to the praeceptor's plan, and both
have important correlates in the poet's own art. The student must master
those appropriated skills so as to attain to a code-controlled eloquence which
will in turn serve in the construction of his properly styled artifice. But he
must also conceal the art and skill so as to seem to offer only what is natural
and commonplace, so that he seems himself to be present. The convincing
surface of a self is maintained, but meanwhile literary work and artifice have
secretly replaced any previous factual interiority: the student himself has become a rhetorical product, an artificial I, a ntdlus pulvis

with a cover of con-

ventional gesture.
Even once he abandons the role of letter-writer, the student continues to
transpose the poetic, rhetorical strategy of playful deceit and language manipulation into his own activity:
interea, sive ilia toro resupina feretur,
lecticam dominae dissimulanter adi;
neve aliquis verbis odiosas offerat auris,
qua potes, ambiguis callidus abde notis.

(487-90)

Meanwhile, if she be borne reclining on her cushions, approach the lady's litter in dissembling fashion, and lest someone intrude hateful ears to your words, hide them, so
far as you may, in cunning ambiguities.
The strategy is the same once he finds himself at a drinking party, where his
writerly activity and concomitant elegiac imitation are even more insistent:
hie tibi multa licet sermone latentia tecto
dicere, quae dici sentiat ilia sibi,
blanditiasque leves tenui perscribere vino,
ut dominam in mensa se legat illa tuam,
atque oculos oculis spectare fatentibus ignem:
saepe tacens vocem verbaque vultus habet.

42

(569-74)

Here you may say many things lurking in covered speech, so that she may feel they are
said to her, and you may trace lightflatteriesin thin characters of wine, that on the table
she made read herself your mistress; you may gaze at her eyes with eyes that profess
your flame; often a silent face has a voice and words.

Here too the nullus pulvis principle of mimetic fiction is very much in force:
ebrietas ut vera nocet, sic ficta iuvabit:
fac titubet blaeso subdola lingua sono,
ut, quicquid facias dicasve protervius aequo,
credatur nimium causa fuisse merum. (597-600)
As real drunkenness does harm, so will fictitious bring profit; make your crafty tongue
stumble in stammering talk, so that, whatever you do or say more freely than you
should, may be put down to too much wine.

But despite both the praeceptor's repeated assurances and the added assurance of
the parallel with the poet's own pleasing practice, the student's course has become
progressively more slippery, his strategy gradually more treacherous, his self ever
more endangered. We notice, for instance, that in the course of his imitation the
student has moved in logical sequence from the imitation of Amores 111,2 to one
of Amores 1,4, that comic testament to the futility of preceptive strategy and
secret deceit.'3 The new reference is extremely revealing: the magister may well
have aimed to save the student from the me miserum! inseparable from the exposed amor of 111,2; in the process, however, he has opened him up instead to the
quite different but no less devastating miseria attached to the hidden ars of the
new sub-text.
In particular, the ominous evocation of Amores 1,4 at this point helps focus
our attention on two previously unforeseen perils to the pretextual approach. The
first is moral, the result of adopting an aesthetic code of conduct based on ideals
of play, pretence, expedience, and pleasure, and elegantly avoiding ethical inhibitions. Having committed himself to inventing fictitious dust, names and blandishments, the student is urged to concoct empty oaths (371), prayers (440) and
promises (443^), which will in turn be supported by hope, another such innocent
and effective deceit (446).64 The principles have remained the same since that initial nonspeck of dust and made-up name, and the echo of the poet's own activity
is still discernible.6' But their overtones have become far more questionable in
their extension and involvement of real people. Dissimulation (275,487), concealment (276,463), ambiguity (490) and deceit (431,446) come to be the characterizing conditions of this ars, conditions which might well, and in fact do, contribute to good, delightful poetry, but less clearly to a good and delightful affair.

' ' Cf. AA 1,569-78; 603-07.


6

* For promises, promittas facito: quid enim promittere laeditf/pollicitis dives quilibet esse
potest (443.). For hope, illa quidem fallax, sed tarnen apta, dea est (446).
65
E.gpollicitisque favens, vulgus, adeste meis, 268; also 203; 205.
43

Nonetheless, having advised the student to make false promises, the praeceptor
then in logical sequence suggests adding the gods as witnesses : rtec timide promitte:
trahunt promissa puellas;/pollicito testes quoslibet adde deos (do not be timid in
your promises: by promises women are undone; and add as witnesses to your
promises whatever gods you please, 63 if.). That such promises are still playful
because insubstantial, the magister would not have us doubt. But that they are also
becoming increasingly problematic emerges aspollicitum (promise) gives way to
penuria (perjury) in the next line. In order to avoid this pitfall, however, the
praeceptor unobtrusively uncovers another. His counsel becomes,
ludite, si sapitis, solas impune puellas:
hac minus est una fraude tuenda fides,
fallite fallentes: ex magna parte profanum
sunt genus: in laqueos, quos posuere, cadant.

(643-46)

Take my advice, delude only women, and avoid retribution: keep faith save for this one
deceitfulness. Deceive the deceivers: they are mostly an unrighteous sort; let them fall
into the snare which they have set.

This in turn provides the justification for peruria:


ergo ut periuras merito periuria fallant,
exemplo doleat femina laesa suo. (6j7.)
Therefore, that perjuries may rightly deceive the perjured, let the woman grieve, injured by her own example.

The airy world of connivance and contrivance has suddenly taken on substance
and surrounded the student: others are equally armed and aided by unaccountable art; art can, and by rights should, turn against its own practitioners. This
turn-about of the treachery is precisely the miseria anticipated in Amores 1,4, and
then realized in Amores II,5.66 When the praeceptor declares, neque enim lex
aequior ulla est,/quam necis artifices arte perire sua (there is no more equitable
law than this, that artificers of destruction should perish by their own art, 6jj),
all pretence about pretence is dropped: the student's transposition of fictional
66

Amores I,4,4jf.: multa miser timeo, quia feci multa proterve,/exemplique metu
torqueror ipse mei; Amores 11,5,12-20:
Ipse miser vidi, cum me dormire putares,
sobrius adposito crimina vestra mero,
multa supercilio vidi vibrante loquentes;
nutibus in vestris pars bona vocis erat,
non oculi tacuere tui, conscriptaque vino
mensa, nec in digitis littera nulla fuit,
sermonem agnovi, quod non videatur, agentem
verbaque pro certis iussa valere notis.
Cf. AA l,$6<)ff.; also Tibullus 1,6,10: heu heu nuncpremor arte mea. Ovid refers to this
line from Tibullus at Tristia II,449^: fallere custodes idem docuisse fatetur/seque sua
miserum nunc ait arte premi.

44

conditions and operations has enmeshed him in a world of fear, suspicion and
rebounding retribution. It is no wonder then that the poet next recommends
tears, for they are suddenly hard to repress: the original insubstantiality of mere
words heralded by that first empty name for a captive leader has developed into
the inane nomen of friendship itself, first for the student's deceit, but now for his
own deception (587; 740), leaving him by the end of Book I anxious, alienated,
and alone (753^).
The second point anticipated by Amores 1,4 concerns not the consequences of
public hypocrisy in the student's fiction making, but rather the invitation to another form of inversion, the potential turn-about of the fiction making from public deception to self-deception. In Amores 1,4, after his extensive, secret manipulation and maneuvers have gleaned him only covert, encoded glances and a solitary passing touch, the protagonist is momentarily assailed by an awareness of the
inadequacy of his artful approach: me miserum! monui, paucas quod prosit in
horas (miserable me! I have counseled what can help for only a few scant hours,
59). And in a roughly similar fashion, the student-lover has also, in the course of
all his calculated concealment and noncommitment, approached no nearer to
actually attaining the object of his desire. By design, his fictional ploy has no way
toward direct confrontation or declaration, no way to return to a reality where he
can make an honest and actual advance. We are within 100 lines of the end of
Book I and the student's deception has not gained him any more than that initially gleaned glance at the curves of her calves (ijjf.; cf. 606).
To extricate him from this trap of comic despair, the praeceptor finally proposes that the deception, the fiction, take a new direction:
quis sapiens blands non misceat oscula verbis?
illa licet non det, non data sume tarnen.
*

vim licet appelles: grata est vis ista puellis:


quod iuvat, invitae saepe dedisse volunt.

at quae cum posset cogi, non tacta recessit,


ut simulet vultu gaudia, tristis erit. (663-78)
Who that is wise would not mingle kisses with coaxing words? Though she give them
not, yet take the kisses she does not g i v e . . . You may use force: force is pleasing to girls:
they often wish to give unwillingly what they like to give . . . But she who, when she
might have been compelled, departs untouched, though her looks feign joy, will yet be
sad.

Rather than pretending to her, it seems that the student is now to pretend to himself, to embrace a fiction of desired rape, whether or not the reality corresponds.
He is to draw one last desperate advantage out of the paralyzing realization of the
proliferation of simulation, by convincing himself that the appearance she pre45

sents does not bespeak the reality she withholds. This is the justification for
the use of force, vis - and not, I'd insist, any stylized or civilized vis: to
assert otherwise is to submit to the same self-deception as the student reader.67 The praeceptor's system, we remember, his cultus, was specifically designed to control and check the irrational, violent vis in the breasts of men: it has
succeeded only in assuring the student that vis is an acceptable, effective
means to his end.68 The fiction that was to suppress vis by encouraging consciousness has instead suppressed consciousness to encourage vis; in the end,
the student's most effective deceit is self-deceit. This was already, but reversely, the case at the end of Amores 1,4: the only way to escape the miseria of
one's systemic failure is to succeed in concealing it from oneself by means of
the system, the ars, the fiction. 6 '
These are the twin hazards to which the student has exposed himself in his
extension of the praeceptor's mimetic principle, of the nullus pulvis principle, and
in his unwitting but rigorously consequential conversion into the character of
Amores 1,4. There is, however, still another pair of hazards that has also presented
itself in the course of that extension, which was essentially absent from the Amores and is integrally attached to the practice of imitation itself, the added dimension introduced by the Ars in its own imitation. In his imitation of the protagonist
of Amores 1,4, for example, the student-lover is to exploit the moment when the
party breaks up to approach the puella:
est tibi agendus amans, imitandaque vulnera verbis:
haec tibi quaeretur qualibet arte fides. (6nf.)
You must play the lover, and imitate wounds with words; her belief in that you must
win by any device.
The praeceptor assures the student that such belief is easy to obtain, since every
woman imagines herself desirable (6i}f.). But even as he removes this potential
but incidental peril, he exposes another, far more central one:
saepe tamen vere coepit simulator amare,
saepe, quod incipiens finxerat esse, fuit,
(quo magis, o, faciles imitantibus este, puellae:
fiet amor verus, qui modo falsus erat.) (615-18)

67

68

69

46

This is the position tacitly assumed by Hollis, who paraphrases the line as You may
have inhibitions about using >force<, but that kind of force need not be be unwelcome to
its victim (AA I, p. 137). Myerowitz refers to the stylized vis of amatory cultus (71).
We can see this reversal in the change in function in Achilles from the opening exemplum with Chiron to the final one with Deidamia: at the outset, Achilles submitting
fierce virility to gentle art was held up as the ideal; at the end, it is the same Achilles
casting aside the gentle arts for fierce virility who finds favor (681-708).
verum invita dato (potes hoc) similisque coactae/ ... sed quaecumque tamen noctem fortuna sequeturj eras mihi constanti voce dedisse nega, Amores 1,4,65-70.

Yet often the simulator begins to love truly, and often becomes what he had first
feigned to be. (Wherefore, women, be more compliant to imitators: the love becomes
true which but now was false.)

As already anticipated in the couplet that first initiated the student to the praeceptor's ars (namely, the imitative citation of the half-line tu mihi sola places),
the authentic, persuasive power that adheres to the imitated material, and that the
student exploits to accomplish his imitation, can have a superseding, infectious
effect on the imitator himself. The original material overwhelms the mediating
act of citation and the interceding work of imitation: distance and immunity cannot always be maintained, and the operation of extension is all the more conducive to their loss (cf. RA 497ff.). By the magic of evocation, that covering gesture
created a speck of pulvis; so too now the imitated words create the authentic
wound. The artifice shapes and creates its 17
This is the one danger of the imitation, that the imitated expression will create
a corresponding cause. The other, if one somehow manages to avoid the infection,
is that the imitated expression will prove even more oppressive without the corresponding cause. The student began by aping the literary lover's words without
committing himself to their enslaving sentiment. Now, in logical consequence, he
ends by aping his physical appearance, without however availing himself of its
ruling, and releasing, reality. The praeceptor exhorts, let every lover be pale; this
is the color suited to a lover ... and let emaciation also prove your feelings . . .
nights of vigil make thin the bodies of youths, and anxiety and the distress that a
great passion brings (729-36). He sums up the precept in the following couplet:
ut voto potiare tuo, miserablis esto,
ut qui te videat, dicere possit >amas.<

(724-38)

That you may gain your desire, be miserable, so that whoever sees you may say, You
love.

By this point, the student has certainly succeeded at fashioning something of a


literary artwork out of himself, in his imitative incorporation of the praeceptor's
book, and through it of the elegiac lover. But the strategy has gone conspicuously
awry. One has the dolor without the amor, the misery without the ecstasy: the
citation seems more debilitating than the condition that calls it forth. The student
begins and ends Book I by presenting himself as a literary citation, a citation
without a corresponding commitment to the attendant sentiment. He also begins
and ends by paralleling the poet in his imitative exploitation of the mannered

70

To some, this might not seem so upsetting a situation, and in fact might well seem the
student's only chance for a restored sense of identity and for amorous success. It does,
however, still signal the end to the praeceptor's mimetic system and thus to the identity
of pupil and poet (cf. non tua sub nostras veniat facundia leges:/fac tantum incipias,
sponte disertus eris, 6o<>{.). The moment he becomes a lover, he ceases to be an artist:
the fiction dissolves, and life ceases to be shaped by ars.

47

conventions of elegiac literature. A n d yet, in the end, the ludicrous disparity between the two imitations is only matched in its comic force by the equally ludicrous disparity between the two citations. Ars and mimesis, play and pretence, are
not, we find, in life what they are in fiction.

V.

Book II and the servitium artis

This last danger, that the consequent commitment to moving within borrowed
literary forms can prove as crippling and constraining as enslaving passion and
real, original amor, fairly neatly brings us u p to and into our other theme, the
issue of servitium

artis. The theme is touched on several times during the course

of Book I (e.g. J03.). For the most part however, and as befits its concern with the
more conventional, established, and extended elegiac relationship, its most pointed development is reserved for Book II, where the pupil is asked to adopt the
more or less established features of the elegiac lover's persona and exploit them in
the service of a prolonged self-impersonation. Such an extended exercise in
indentured imitation has obvious analogies with Ovid's own adoption of a sustained narrative persona and embarkment on a similar course of self-impersonation. Since these analogies are not only obvious but also important, let us begin
by sketching out their terms.
We mentioned earlier how the didactic tradition provides the poet with a narrative persona, the seasoned and sagacious vates who, slightly pessimistic and yet
still suitably benevolent, instructs his ignorant charges in useful skills to their
o w n and society's advantage. We also mentioned how he parodically cross-pollinates this persona with features of its elegiacally-debased counterpart, the lena
figure of Propertius IV,5 and of Ovid's own Amores 1,8, or alternatively, the Priapus figure of Tibullus 1,4. H e also, with equal impudence, adds other lexical
identities, such as the august political parts of ultor and dux (1,24; 382). By combining and exploiting the various features and related lxica of these decidedly
diverse and in some sense purposely incompatible sources, Ovid creates and manipulates a recognizably literary narrator who, although employing the first person voice, is obviously not Ovid himself but rather an artificial I that Ovid can
exploit for his o w n parodie purposes. Ovid adopts this persona for the entirety of
his enterprise, moving in mimetic obedience to the moods of his model even as he
ostentatiously flaunts its artifice. By thus maintaining its fiction, he also maintains his o w n distance, his own sovereign and separate consciousness and identity.
If this were the extent of the recognizable sources to Ovid's composite character, and the extent of its parody and purpose, affairs would still be complicated,
but at least schematic enough for secure and rational literary analysis. But as already mentioned, Ovid also informs his narrator with features of his own literary
persona f r o m the Amores and, even more confoundingly, of his o w n public per48

sona as published poet. The former is especially conspicuous in two passages


from Book II, each of which recalls an incident from the elegies and each of which
has the praeceptor admitting to a moment of uncontrol, of breaking out of his
fictional system.71 The latter comes mostly in scattered references throughout
Book III and the Remedia, but is also evident in the signatory magister Naso erat
which closes both Books II and III. The latter combines, I think, with the former
to keep it (the persona from the Amores) from slipping too easily into the same
literary camp as vates, lena, and so on, and to force new issues upon our reading and Ovid's employment of this narrator, namely: issues of self-parody and
self-impersonation, with as heavy an emphasis on the I as the other sources
place on the artificial of this creature, this cavorting hybrid, half human and
half insane art.
In this respect at least, Peter Green is surely right that the discussion of
Ovid's persona has suffered badly from over-rigid schematization, that it has
insisted too exclusively on the merely literary derivation of the praeceptor and
has ignored the efforts Ovid has made to involve himself in his character.72 It is no
accident of critical credulity that readers so often identify Ovid with his I: he
has deliberately set it up so that even the most rigorous attempt systematically to
separate the poet from his persona is bound to falter. This recognition need not,
however, lead us to follow Green in his highly speculative and dangerously naive
attempts to reconstruct an autobiographical account of the poem and its narrator.
Rather, I think we might well ask what thematic purposes the introduction of the
poet's own I serves in the poem itself. And although there are surely several,
such as that the narrator can thus be both lover and poet as well as praeceptor, at
least one other emerges in the functional parallels thereby secured with the student's situation. And in this role its function is, predictably, split.
To begin, the inclusion of Ovid's own I in his narrative persona emphasizes
how the poet, like the student, is specifically engaged in a project of literary selfimpersonation; how he is exploiting literary conventions and mannerisms for the
construction of an artifice which will represent his I, without actually being, or
not being, his I. Ovid adopts this altogether unparallelled strategy for the purposes of his fiction-making, his book-making; the student adopts this similarly
unparallelled strategy for his fiction-making, his love-making. It is essential to
both projects that the persona both seem the actual I and not be the actual I,
but rather its literary equivalent, its literarily mediated re-presentation. This
allows for an all important ambiguity, a ludic mobility, an absence in presence.
But the parallel with the student's project established by the introduction of
the poet's I also points in another direction, away from the student's proposed
practice. That is, the ability of the poet to break out of a rigid mimetic obedience
71
72

Ars 11,171-74, cf. Amores I,; Ars 11,547-54, cf. Amores 1,4.
Peter Green, Ovid: The Erotic Poems, p. 60.

49

to the moods of his model and assert his self, in however silly and self-compromising a fashion; the refusal to become bound and trapped within the self-imposed
confines of his fictional system of personic self - something like this is maintained in the poet's involvement of his seif in his character. And something like
this is precisely what seems dangerously lacking in the pupil's enterprise, the capacity safely to break free from the binding confines of his artifice. It is in part for
this reason that his project takes on the character of a servitium artis, and in part
for this reason, too, that the relationship between artifex and pupil seems so much
like that between Daedalus and Icarus. The one flies freely, the other follows obediently; the one wears wings of his own invention, the other chains whose
untimely loss portends his ruin.
The point is admittedly rather precariously put in respect to the poet. It is a bit
more possible to define and defend in respect to the praeceptor, the poet's personic
representative and the pupil's other comparative counterpart. He, too, finds it
impossible to be bound and trapped within the self-imposed confines of his fictional system of self-representation. He, too, enjoys a freedom in self-assertion pointedly denied to his faithful follower. This is especially evident in the only two
extended passages in the first two Books (both in Book II) in which the praeceptor
explicitly reveals something about himself, that is, in which he explicitly asserts
the I of the Amores (II,i pff.; J47ff.). Both come at key points in the unfolding of
his system, at its origin and at its acme, at each of which he is urging on the student a
fiction of self-effacement. A t each point, the praeceptor breaks into a powerfully
interruptive I-statement that professes an inability or unwillingness to abide within
the fiction and maintain the prescribed mask. A t each point, irrational impulse (in
the form of ira and barharus amor, respectively) compromises the praeceptor's calculated front - wherefore he then admonishes the student to avoid his self-acknowledged errors, his loss of self-control, his failure.
The conjunction of events is, in many ways, the most important aspect of
these retrospective revelations: the strong assertion of self-identity in stepping
forth from his preceptorial role into the I of the elegies; the simultaneous
account of a law-breaking transgression of the proposed impersonation and systematic self-exclusion; even the unacknowledged self-knowledge that accompanies confession; and all of this ironically juxtaposed with the refusal to allow
the student any such self-assertion, system-transgression or, in the latter case,
self-awareness, and instead methodically binding him to the fiction's guiding
principles. The praeceptor certainly compromises himself in these statements,
exposing himself to the reader's ridicule and suspicion. But at the same time he
maintains himself, keeps control of himself even by losing control of himself. The
student, however, is not to share in his teacher's fortune. In succeeding at the system by maintaining the impersonation, the student never allows his I to interrupt and play a part. Thus for him, and for him alone, are reserved the full effects
of the servitium artis.

Let us consider a bit more concretely the terms and development of this servitium artis in the student's self-impersonation. His basic task is innocently set in a
half-line at 11,107: ut ameris, amabilis esto (that you may be loved, be lovable).
The common ways of securing that state - natural gifts, good looks, legal bonds,
and ready cash - are all assumed to be either inadequate or unavailable to the student, as once they were also to the praeceptor. Therefore the student requires the
devices of the latter's ars, his words:
pauperibus vates ego sum, quia pauper amavi;
cum dare non possem muera, verba dabam.

(ijf.)

I am the poet for the poor, because I was poor when I loved: since I could not give gifts,
I gave words.

The text plays neatly, and significantly, on the ambiguity in verba dare, to give
words, meaning both poetry and, idiomatically, deception. In a sense, the deception is to give poetry, to present oneself in the words of the praeceptor-poet
and thereby as a convincing imitation of the enthralled lover of elegiac convention, of everything required of the accepted amator. Thereby the student will
both be passively and apparently amabilis and yet still be actively and actually
in control, master of his own desires and of his mistress as well.73
The poet next explains how the poetic deception can be translated into action:
cede repugnanti: cedendo victor abibis;
fac modo, quas partes ilia iubebit, agas.
arguet: arguito; quicquid probat illa, probato;
quod dicet, dicas; quod negat ilia, neges.
riserit: adride; si flebit, fiere memento:
imponat leges vultibus ilia tuis. (197-203)
Yield if she resists; by yielding you will depart the victor; only play the part she bids
you play. Blame if she blames; approve whatever she approves. Affirm what she affirms
and deny what she denies. If she laughs, laugh with her; if she weeps, remember to
weep; let her impose the laws for your features.

As Hanspeter Kling observes, the way the same verb repeatedly appears in two
different forms, the one mechanically following the other, produces a perfect
impression of slavish imitation.74 Like the verses, the pupil's art seems also one
of mechanical, slavish imitation. However, there is an essential ambiguity as to the
nature of the imitation, or rather, as to the nature of its legislation.
On the one hand, the student is seen imitatively to obey the laws of the
puella, to allow her bidding to pre-scribe his part, her impulses to shape his responses. At some fundamental level, however, this obedience, this legislated
enslavement, is aggressively unreal, is an imitated obedience, an imitated imita75

74

Florence Verducci, The Contest of Rational Libertinism and Imaginative License in


Ovid's Ars Amatoria, 34.
In E. Zinn, Ovids Ars amatoria und Remedia amoris: Untersuchungen zum Aufbau.
51

tion. This is the source of the student's hidden and distanced freedom from his
mistress, from the laws and parts she imposes. This is the source of his power,
mastery, and artistry.
On the other hand, as both the phrases iubeo (I bid you) and artis iussa meae
(the precepts of my art) from the preceding couplet (i95f.) and the imperatives
in the passage itself so eloquently underscore, the student is also seen imitatively
to obey the laws of the praeceptor, to allow his bidding to pre-scribe his part,
his system to shape his responses. And at the same fundamental level at which the
other obedience is unreal, this obedience is real: it is the unhesitating commitment to the laws and parts of the book which promises the student his power,
mastery, and hidden freedom.75 The resultant ambiguity to this doubled obedience is worth considering. The one might well leave him master of his own desires; the other becomes the master of his desires: the one might well be an imitation of slavery; the other is certainly a slavery of imitation.
It is no accident of elegiac convention, then, that Ovid devotes the next fifty
lines to an extended description of the student's subjection to a condition of slavery, eventually even to actual slaves (209-260). The mistress seeks to impose the
established rite of servitium amoris on the student, which he secretly avoids; the
praeceptor imposes his all-new servitium artis, which the student secretly accepts
in its stead - and which proves every bit as rigorous, perilous and debasing. In the
service of his imitation of the book, the student enacts elegiac conventions
which by their nature are arduous and humiliating:76 the effects are the same,
whether done for the sake of ars or amor, and the sheer massiveness of the imitation seems comically and effectively to deprive it of any unreality it might otherwise have retained. The imitation, at least, has to be real, and that is servitium
enough.77 Moreover, besides the servile conditions of the literary conventions
themselves, there is also the ceaseless and exhausting industry of the student in
their execution, which also comically, effectively mimics the labor of the lover
(labor omnis inest) in almost every particular. Both the conditions and operations of the imitation - the book and its demands, and the work and its demands - enforce their own brand of slavery. The student might well have changed
masters and substituted a new imperium, but in these respects at least he has not
gained in any way: the praeceptor is as demanding as any puella, the ars as requiring as any amor.
If the student seems to gain almost no advantage in his imitation of the lover's
servitium, he seems actually to lose some in his imitation of the lover attonitum:
7!

76

77

52

Note how, in a paradoxical twist, the praeceptor and puella seem momentarily to collude in the imposition of coded conduct, although actually it's a matter of replacement
(he takes her part, to get both senses): him of her, and ars of amor.
Arduous, e.g. nox et hiems longaque viae saevique dolores (235^); and humiliating, e.g.,
nec tibi turpe puta (quamvis sit turpe, placebit) (215).
In this respect, too, extension changes the nature of the imitation.

sed te, cuicumque es: retinendae cura puellae,


attonitum forma fac putei esse sua.
sive erit in Tyriis, Tyrios laudabis amictus;
sive erit in Cois, Coa decere puta. (295-98)
But whoever you are who are anxious to keep your mistress, be sure she thinks you
thunderstruck by her beauty. If she be in Tyrian attire, then praise her Tyrian gown; if
she be in Coan, then imagine that Coan becomes her.

In furthering his impersonation of the enthralled elegiac lover, the student must
appear, but only appear, spellbound by her appearance/8 This will maintain the
prescribed impression of being completely under her control while still and again
remaining, by the imitation, in reality entirely in control. The key phrase is fac
putet, make her imagine, produce the appearance: to the end of this deception all
the student's ars and efforts are expended. In its extension, however, the strategy
seems again to turn on the student. Having dispensed facetious praises of her
amictus, he must then proceed to praise their concubitus:
ut fuerit torva violentior ilia Medusa,
fiet amatori lenis et aequo suo.
tantum, ne pateas verbis simulator in illis
effice nec vultu destrue dicta tuo.
si latet, ars prodest; adfert deprensa pudorem
atque adimit merito tempus in omne fidem.

(309-14)

Though she be more violent than grim Medusa, she will be [declared] mild and gentle
by her lover. Only, while you are so talking take care not to show you are feigning, nor
let your looks undo your words. Art, if hidden, avails, if detected, it brings shame, and
deservedly discredits you forever.

The irony, devastating and exquisite, is double. On the one hand, we discover that
the pretence is to extend all the way into ipsos concubitus (intercourse itself), the
very activity where one might have expected finally to find the real, sought-after
pleasure. But here, too, the work and servitium artis go on. If one takes any pleasure at all, it is not in natural copulation but in aesthetic simulation; not in sex and
its enjoyment, but in pretence and its power. On the other hand, we discover yet
another dimension to the student's enslavement to his imitation. He cannot abandon the simulation once he has begun; he has become trapped and bound to the
system of his artificial self, to his commitment to moving within borrowed literary forms. Not only must the ars be successfully and consistently hidden: so must
the self.

78

C f . Prop. ,, 5 ff.:
sive illam Cois fulgentem incedere cogis,
hac totum e Coa vesta volumen erit:
seu vidi ad frontem sparsos errare capillos,
gaudet laudatis ire superba comis.

53

The aesthetic suppression of self, even at the expense of one's natural, erotic
pleasure; the increasing sense of paralyzing impotence in the prison of the artifice; the uneasy balance between facputet (make her imagine) and puta (imagine), where the deception again veers close to self-deception, except that now
artful self-consciousness keeps one painfully aware and the self-deceit a knowing fiction. These issues undergo a renewed and slightly revised development in
the second half of Book II, beginning with the sudden and highly unexpected
epiphany of Apollo. He comes to proclaim his Delphic dictum, know thyself,
perhaps the most important doctrine of self-realization in the classical world:
est ubi diversum fama celebrata per orbem
littera, cognosci quae sibi quemque iubet.
qui sibi notus erit, solus sapienter amabit
atque opus ad vires exiget omne suas:
cui faciem natura dedit, spectetur ab illa . . .

(499-503)

There is a saying renowned in fame over all the world, which bids each be known by
himself. Only he who knows himself will love with wisdom, and perform all his task
according to his powers: let him to whom nature has granted beauty be looked at for
that...

The advice he offers has some prima facie affinities with the praeceptor's. Like the
praeceptor, Apollo adapts his sublime material to the quotidian context of erotic
conquest; he specifically repeats some precepts from Book I; 7 ' and he delimits the
application of his dictum to only the most superficial and self-flattering concerns. But despite both the pointed parody of the vatic utterances and the parallel
with the praeceptor, there are still two serious and important points where Apollo's program diverges from the praeceptor's, and where to obey one is to abandon
the other. First, Apollo urges the student to rely on his natural gifts, strengths,
and resources, in flagrant opposition to the praeceptor's presupposition and subsequent advice to the student to fashion for himself an artificial I (cf. 11,107).
Second, Apollo maintains that to know is for the good, that to love wisely is to
know oneself, whereas for the praeceptor to know or be known are not at all for
the good (311,555), and the bared self can only do one harm. The pupil need only
know, not himself, but the ars. Where the one urges self-realization, the other
urges self-derealization; where the one wants self-knowledge, the other wants
self-deception. And which keeps surer counsel soon becomes clear.
Ovid underscores the opposition between Apollo's and the praeceptor's program by having the praeceptor immediately repeat Apollo's phrase, whoever will
love wisely (511, 501), and then, rather than natura and self-knowledge, advance
his ars (512) and this response to evidence of the domina's deceits and infidelities:
dicta erit isse foras, quam tu fonasse videbis:
isse foras et te falsa videre puta. (j2if.)
7

' E.g. 11,505; cf. 1,595.

54

She will be said to be out, though perhaps you see her [inside]: imagine she has gone
out, and that you see falsely.

Similarly,
sed melius nescisse fuit: sine furta tegantur,
ne fugiat fasso victus ab ore pudor,
quo magis, o iuvenes, deprendere parcite vestras;
peccent, peccantes verba dedisse putent.

(55558)

But it is better not to know; allow [her] deceptions to be hid, lest the shame of confession fly from her dissembling face. Wherefore all the more, o youths, refrain from detecting your mistresses: let them cheat, and cheating imagine that they have deceived
[>given words<].

By this point, not only has the dictum of Apollo been reversed. So, too, has the
system of the praeceptor. Now the student himself is the subject of belief in her
false appearances; now she is the one who enjoys a secret distance and mobility,
not to be found out; now she is the one allowed to give words. The student is
asked to endure a rival patiently, the most important precept in the magister's program. It is the one precept he himself expressly fails to follow; it is also the comically cruelest precept and the one which most expressly annihilates the student
who does follow it. The student is to suppress all natural impulses toward irrational, jealous, but undeniably human self-assertion and let her go wherever and
do whatever she wills. He is to remain within the confining dictates of his artifice,
of his patient and indulgent elegiac fiction, while she indulges her natural passions
in unfettered freedom, to her delight and to his destruction. The praeceptor has
not only caused the student to give up his self; he has caused him to give up the
puella, too.
In keeping with this change and reversal in the student's situation - which, as
with the nullus pulvis principle in Book I, is nonetheless a logical development, in
extension, of the original operational premises - there has also been a change and
reversal in the nature of his imitation. He is still exhorted to present himself in
terms of the established literary conventions of elegy, in particular in convincing
imitation of the lover in a paraclausithyron.% But the imitation is no longer an
expression of hidden power but rather an admission of open impotence; the servitium is maintained even after its imperium is lost. Moreover, the student is still
expected to keep his self-conscious distance over and against his represented self,
and facputet, to make her imagine or believe in a false appearance, is still his strategy (putent, 558). But now he is to produce the impression that he is deceived, and
yet still keep a self-conscious distance from his deception. He imitates deception,
in a situation where the self-consciousness to the imitation is no longer to his
advantage. He only pretends not to know what hurts, but really does know - and
80

II,j27f.: postibus et durae supplex blandire puellae/ et capiti demptas in fore pone rosas;
cf. 52 3 f.

55

so really hurts. The student begins by hiding reality from her and ends up wishing
he could hide it from himself; self-consciousness begins as his hidden weapon
and ends up his hidden wound, his chafing chain.
The aporia occasioned by the self-consciousness attached to the student's servitium artis reaches its logical extreme in the last passage in Book II in which the
student is advised to imitate the elegiac lover. The issue at hand is the conventional non/consideration of the puella's physical defects:
parcite praecipue vitia exprobrare puellis,
utile quae multis dissimulasse fuit. (4if.)
Particularly forbear to reproach a woman with her faults, faults which many have found
it useful to feign otherwise.

The examples of Hermes and Hector which follow recall the clich that lovers are
blinded to, sometimes even attracted by, the blemishes of their beloveds. 8 ' The
student, however, suffers no such blissful deception, no such enabling enthrallment: he suffers instead an exaggerated self-consciousness which keeps such defects seeming exaggeratedly repulsive. (Ironically, it is the student who is now
hindered by the excessive involvement in reality, the lover who enjoys the easy
detachment in unreality.) The student must therefore work to achieve with art
what the amator achieves without effort. He must somehow consciously achieve
his own deception if he is ever to achieve his pleasure; he needs the spellbound
blindness he has imitated but avoided all along. The technique is again borrowed
from literature, and is again a giving words. But this time the words are given
only to himself:
nominibus mollire licet mala: >fusca< vocetur,
nigrior Illyrica cui pice sanguis erit;
*

die >habilem<, quaecumque brevis, quae turgida, >plenam<;


et lateat vitium proximitate boni. (657-62)
With names you can soften shortcomings: let her be called swarthy, whose blood is
blacker than Illyrian pitch . . . call her trim who is tiny, and full-bodied if fat; let its
nearness to a virtue conceal the fault.

To save himself from natural revulsion, the student is to throw flattering poetic
words at his own senses, to cite and imitate his way to elegiac unconsciousness.
N o longer is his ars even limited to deceiving her that he is deceived and blind.
N o w it is limited to deceiving himself.
Moreover, as the praeceptor himself admits, the assumed screen of poetic
clichs is not powerful enough to achieve even this end: the self-consciousness
inseparable from the exercise of the ars keeps the repulsive reality revoltingly vivid
81

56

E.g., Lucretius, De rerum natura IV,ii6off. and Horace, Sermonum I,3,38f.

(648, 6j5). Rather, only time itself can eventually dull and delude the student's
senses sufficiently that the faults cease to seem a hindrance (647^, 653^).82 But
first, in order to avail himself of its deadening potential, the student must of
course persist in practicing his self-deceiving imitation. That is, he must continue
to commit himself to the servitium artis in full recognition of the inadequacy of
the ars and trusting solely in the efficacy of the extended servitium. The only
hope is that in time usus will make him artist enough, inured enough, to love with
pleasure (cf. 675ff.); that if he endure the course, he will become durus in old age,
and so as fit as the praeceptor himself for love.8' And yet I, at least, have no hope
that such usus will eliminate the scars of the servitium and the embitterment of
the imitation for the student any more than it seems to have for his teacher.
Rather, I suspect, the newly fashioned artifex and amator will only prove a new
monster, all the more fearful for its new confusion of art and love, for its callousness become consciousness, and for its pain become pleasure.

VI.

Book III and the anti-Pygmalion impulse

In Books I and II of the Ars, the praeceptor undertakes to fashion something of


an elegy-derived, literary artwork out of his male student; in Book III, he turns
his attention to fashioning a literary artwork out of the female student. The shift
is more than one of gender alone. Rather, the artificial I that the praeceptor
intends to shape out of women is in certain ways significantly different from that
which he requires of men. The male student is engaged in a process of self-automatization and self-impersonation from within: he is to suppress, regulate, even
eliminate his natural, original self and amor and to govern and/or replace them
with a system of interceding literary citation and re-presentation. As such, the
imitation is based on twin notions of kenosis and kinesis: on the internal incorporation of the book and its demands, and on the ongoing assumption of the work
and its demands.
One critic described the imitative processes devised for men in Books I and II
as lifeless and mechanical: another has described those devised for women in
Book III as mechanical and shallow.84 In the case of the first critique, the
intended censure proves descriptively apt, and the same holds true in the case of
the second one as well. As in the first two Books, the mechanization of the self

82

83

84

Note how the same time feared at the outset has become the student's only ally (cf.
II,ii 3 ff.).
Ovid makes the point about older women, but the application to his praeceptor is clear
(II,6 75 f.).
Leach cites H. Frankel, Ovid: A Poet Between Two Worlds. (Berkeley: University of
California Press, 1944) p. 66, to this effect in Gergie Imagery in the Ars Amatoria.
57

and of erotic activity seems very much at issue in B o o k III; and the slight shift in
emphasis between lifeless and shallow captures some of the relevant shift in
application of that mechanization. Men mechanize (and replace) their inner lives;
w o m e n mechanize (and replace) their superficial, surface appearance. M e n remain outwardly the same, but are radically changed within; w o m e n remain internally the same, but are completely changed on the face of it (cf. jo/f.). 8 ' A n d as
we shall see, the new process of artefaction entails neither kenosis nor kinesis, but,
rather, encasement and stasis.86
This new exercise in artefaction takes t w o distinct forms in B o o k III, each
roughly corresponding to half the B o o k , and each equally, but differently,
mechanical and shallow. The second half is primarily devoted to fulfilling the
praeceptor's initial proposition, that w o m e n should enter the lists as equals with
men (ite in bella pares, 3); that in order for the game to be a game and retain its
requisite agonistic character, both sides have to be equally informed of its conventions, regulated by its rules, and adept at its techniques. Thus, in keeping with its
literary form of palinode (47ff.), the second half of B o o k III is in many ways a
point for point counterpoint to specific precepts in Books I and II. For example,
the male walks under the Pompeian shade (1,67), so should the woman (111,387);
the man learns to write letters of counterfeited words and to await reply (I,437ff.),
the w o m e n learns to read his letters and to reply in return ( I I I , 4 6 ^ . ) ; the man
attends banquets and avoids treacherous dim wits and dim lights (I,229ff.), the
woman attends the same banquets and exploits the same double dimness
(III,749ff.).
The process is deliberately mechanical, a system of inverted citations of his
o w n text ostensibly designed to realign the altered bases of power. But the process
is also deliberately shallow in a way that ironically undoes the effect of the mechanical symmetry, at least insofar as it purports parity. N o true equality is
intended, despite the praeceptor's alleged gender betrayal: women are merely
shaped to the literary parts needed by men to play at and succeed at their literary
game, a game not less exciting for its inevitable success. 87 In this respect, the
praeceptor only wants to construct w o m e n more acceptable and accessible to his
men: his basic attitudes toward women have not changed in the least.
Before he finally addresses his initial proposition, however, the praeceptor
first undertakes to educate w o m e n to cultus, to the tending of their bodies, to

8
86

87

58

Verducci, The Contest of Rational Libertinism, 36.


Ovid provides an early model for the imitative strategems advised for women in the
Pasiphae exemplum in Book 1,289-326. In order to appeal to the Cretan bull, Pasiphae
conceals herself in the artifical casement of a cunningly crafted vacca acema. As we
will see, the praeceptor urges a similar dissimulating encasement on women throughout Book III. For the Pasiphae exemplum as a paradigm for the praeceptor's attitudes
toward women, see Leach, Gergie Imagery, 142-144.
Verducci, p. 36.

their clothes, make-up, manners, and so forth. This represents a quite different
and, for our purposes, far more interesting artefaction of the self - although
equally mechanical and shallow, and still equally, or apparently, for men. But in
order to understand just what the praeceptor is up to in this part of the Book, it
will be useful to consider briefly another of Ovid's notorious artist-lovers, Pygmalion, as Ovid presents him in Book X of his Metamorphoses (243-297). In some
important repects, the two figures and their respective projects run parallel,
except that the praeceptor is, as it were, an anti-Pygmalion: the one would convert a statue into a woman through love, the other a woman into a statue through
art.
The story of Pygmalion follows directly after an abbreviated account of the
obscene Propoetides, women who lived out their lives in shameless unchastity and
unchecked sexuality until, finally, as their shame vanished and the blood of their
faces hardened, they were turned with but small change to hard stones (24if.).88
Pygmalion sees these women and takes them as paradigms of female nature:
disgusted with the vices which nature had in such full measure given the female
character, he completely withdraws from any direct dealings with them into a
separate, secure world of ideal art. Art gives him refuge from reality,8' and within
its world, by means of his special skills, he creates an ivory woman such as nature
could never produce (248^): perfect in appearance and empty of all ungovernable, offensive female nature - that is, chaste and without any independent, reallife identity.
At the same time that his artifact clearly evinces the superiority of ars over
natura, however, it also presents a convincing imitation of real life:' 0
virginis est verae facies, quam vivere credas
et, si non obstet reverentia, velie moveri:
ars adeo latet arte sua.
(251-53)
The face is that of a real maiden, whom you would think living and desirous of being
moved, if modesty did not prevent. So does his art conceal his art.

88

All references to the Metamorphoses follow the text of W. S. Anderson, Ovid's Metamorphoses, Books 6-10, except those to Book X I , which follow that of R . Ehwald,
P. Ovidius Naso, Metamorphosen (Zrich: Weidemann, 1966). The translation is by
F. J. Miller, Ovid: Metamorphoses (Cambridge, M A : Harvard University Press, 1976),
vol. 2.
8
' Cf. E. W. Leach, Ekphrasis and the Theme of Artistic Failure in Ovid's Metamorphoses, Ramus 3 (1974) 124. This brief description, as well as the entire reading of Pygmalion that I exploit contrastively in this section, is greatly influenced by Leach's discussion and by that of W. S. Anderson in his commentary on the episode. See also
Charles Segal, Ovid's Orpheus and Augustan Ideology, TAPA, 103 (1972), 473-494,
and D. F. Bauer, The Function of Pygmalion in the Metamorphoses of Ovid TAPA 93
(1962) 1 - 2 1 .
Cf. Leach, Ekphrasis, p. 124.
59

So effectively does his art conceal his art that its status as artifact begins to dissolve,
and Pygmalion's love of his work as lifeless statue (operis amorem, 249) gradually
shifts to a love for his work as lifelike body (simulati corporis ignes, 253).91 In a
keynote confusion, its artificial appearance awakens his repressed natural passions.
He begins first to desire, even to imagine, that the pretended body is perhaps real
and that it would move and respond to his kisses, words, and embraces (254- 5 8). He
then undertakes to woo it in the manner typical of an elegiac lover: he first gives it
flatteries and then small gifts pleasing to girls, and dresses it in clothes and rings,
necklaces and earrings. Touched by this authentic, albeit elegiac, amor, and yet (or
and so) unable to remain content with the lifeless artifact that has somehow made
him more human, Pygmalion finally appeals to Venus to deliver him from this stasis
and confusion of art and life. He asks her for a real, living wife, not the eburnea virgo
(ivory maiden), but rather (or still) similis eburnae (similar to the ivory maiden,
27jf.). What happens next is well known: with only the implied complicity of
Venus, his human love transforms the lifeless imitation into a real woman of flesh
and blood - still perfect, still chaste, and inwardly empty, but no longer merely art,
no longer vainly and perversely loved. In the end, the artist gives way to the lover,
who is now eager to return to a real world with his beloved, accepting both the
values and the vices of existence.'2
The praeceptor seems quite clearly to share Pygmalion's initial prejudices
about women. In the opening lines, he has aliquis rhetorically inquire, quid
virus in unguis/ adicis et rabidae tradis ovile lupae? (Why do you add gall
to serpents, and betray the sheepfold to the mad she-wolf?, .), and despite
his protestations, the attitude toward women is still basically his own,
unchanged from that of the first two Books. He regards them as inherently
savage and violent (239ff.; }73ff.), unpleasant and offensive (229; joiff.) and,
equally damaging, as by nature unattractive and physically flawed (iojf.;
25 iff.). But the praeceptor does not then withdraw completely from the real
world into a separate world of art and there create an unnatural and perfect
ivory artifact of a woman. Instead, he attempts something even more radical:
to combine the two worlds and to turn real women themselves into living
statues, into animate artifacts. His denaturing art, and not humanizing love,
motivates the relevant metamorphosis.
The transformation is gradual and inexorable. The praeceptor commences
with self-cultivation, the tending of the body (ordior a cultu, 101). Because natural
attractiveness is assumed not to be the lot of most women, he devises the dictum
cura dabit faciem (loj): work will shape their features into an acceptable
form; cultus will prepare them for equally, if otherwise, cultured men. The
praeceptor illustrates the kind of care and cultus he would impose on women with
"

91

60

Ibid.
Anderson, p. 495.

the preliminary precept, non sint sine lege captili (133): the arrangement of the hair
should be carefully regulated by rule. He is not concerned with advocating any
particular arrangement: as he emphasizes both here and throughout Book III, the
particulars depend on the particular woman, which she must discover for herself.
In this respect, his precepts offer no advice (i35.; i88f.; 77if.). This lack of concern merely underscores his true interest, in the notions of arrangement and regulation themselves, in the proposition that, in every case, the calculated, artificial
effect must replace the spontaneous, natural given. The proposition even extends
to the case of seemingly uncared-for hair. Here, too, accident must be eliminated
and replaced by ars cast< similis (art similar to accident, 155): not real life, but a
convincing imitation.
The proposition that the contrived artifice should substitute for the natural,
the original, finds its logical, escalated outcome at the end of the catalogue of
hairstyles. The magister enthuses, 0 quantum indulget vestro natura decori,/ quarum sunt multis damna pianda modis (Ah, how kind is nature to your beauty [or
decor], you whose defects may be made good in so many ways!, i$9.). It immediately becomes clear, however, that nature per se has little to do with the repairs
he has in mind:
femina canitiem Germanis inficit herbis,
et melior vero quaeritur arte color,
femina procedit densissima crinibus emptis
proque suis alios efficit aere suos. (163-66)
A woman stains her whitening locks with German juices, and by art seeks a hue better
than the real; a woman walks beneath a burden of purchased tresses, and money buys
new locks for old.

Art improves upon the real by a process of counterfeit substitution: an artificial


color proves better than the true; a wig can effectively replace the original locks,
with which the series began, through a simple extension of the praeceptor's initial
proposition. In the first, tone-setting step of woman's cultus, then, an original
part has been removed and a lifeless imitation installed in its place. The artefaction has begun, and improvement is partly achieved.
The praeceptor next addresses the issue of clothing (quid de veste loquarf,
169). As with the earlier case of jewelry, he specifically rejects expensive items,
such as flounces and wool died with Tyrian purple (169^). His motivation in part
is, again, to avoid the expense that is anathema to elegiac convention; but it is also
in part to avoid too direct and real an association with nature, an association
subversive to his efforts at artefaction. Instead, he advocates counterfeit colors,
colors which counterfeit nature: a color that imitates water, another the air
(i77., I73.); a color similar to gold, another that counterfeits saffron (i75f.;
I79.). Again, nature is invoked only insofar as it provides the derived, artificial
substitutes (i8jf.); again, the countless particulars are left to the individual
women (187^); and again, the only constant concern is that an original, natural
61

appearance be replaced by an unnatural, artificial imitation. If Pygmalion dressed


his statue in an attempt to assimilate his lifeless imitation more to a realm of real
women, to make a love object, the praeceptor dresses his student in an attempt to
assimilate natural woman more to an artificial realm of counterfeit appearances,
to make an art object.
The only specific advice the praeceptor extends as to which tints a woman should
select is dusky shades, if her skin be snow-white (i89f.). This seeming juncture
between surfaces of two different and contrasting orders, the one lifeless imitation
and the other living nature, proves to be just that - seeming. For the whiteness of the
skin is also to be counterfeit, its colors as artificial as those of the clothes, and the
face's skin-surface as much a simulated, concealing encasement as the elsewhere
encasing robe (cf. crocus for the robe in 179; for the eye makeup in 204):
scitis et inducta candorem quaerere creta;
sanguine quae vero non rubet, arte rubet;
arte supercilii confinia nuda repletis
parvaque sinceras velat aluta genas. (199-203)
You know, too, how to gain a bright hue by applying powder: art gives complexion if
real blood gives it not. By art you fill up the bare confines of the eyebrow, and a tiny
patch veils cheeks without a blemish.
Again, art improves upon the human by a process of counterfeit substitution. The
natural surface and color of the skin are replaced by a convincing, covering artificial imitation; the art adds dabs of lifeless filler to transform natural, individualizing irregularities into ideally proportioned and regulated, de-individualized
perfection. Again, we can say that if Pygmalion worked the skin to become more
real and alive, the praeceptor works it to become more ideal and ivory; if the one
seeks to bring life to the surface, the other seeks to keep it behind the surface.
We should perhaps stress how the cumulative effect of the advice so far keeps
the ostensible concern with merely quotidian cosmetics suitably superficial: for
by now, just about every visible aspect of the woman - her hair, her clothes, her
face and skin - has been assimilated into the realm of unnatural imitation. Properly encased, she is more and more the perfect artificial woman, such as nature
could never produce."
91

62

We might just briefly note that, in this context of fashioning artificial physical features,
the female student is explicitly encouraged to fashion herself into a book, to turn
herself via imitative incorporation into a literary artwork. The book in question, however, is not yet elegy, but Ovid's own Medicamina Faciei Femineae:
est mihi, quo dixi vestrae medicamina formae,
parvus, sed cura grande, libellus, opus:
hinc quoque praesidium laesae petitote figurae;
non est pro vestris ars mea rebus iners. (205-8)
Ovid's mention of his libellus is important in two respects. First it secures the parallel
with the male student in his imitation of the book, in that it reminds us that women,

The only thinly disguised anti-woman (and by extension, anti-human) impulse behind the praeceptor's make-over betrays itself in his version, or rather
inversion, of the Pygmalion principle, ars est celare artem (art conceals art). For
the one, hidden art allowed the subject/statue to seem real and human and its status as artifact to dissolve. For the other, it permits the subject/student to seem
ideal and art, and her status as woman to dissolve - for nothing disgusts the
praeceptor more than un-encased woman.' 4 The praeceptor intones this time and
again in his explication of the principle. He begins by merely mentioning it: ars
faciera dissimulata iuvat (your looks are aided by dissembled art, 210). But then
he expands upon this need to conceal the processes behind the finished product:
ista dabunt formam, sed erunt deformia visu,
multaque, dum fiunt, turpia, facta placent. (2i7f.)
Such things will give beauty, but they are loathsome to look on: many things, ugly in
the doing, please when done.
And he returns to the point with ever-increasing vehemence:
multa viros nescire decet; pars maxima rerum
offendat, si non interiora tegas. (229^)
There is much that it befits men not to know; most of your doings would offend, did
you not hide them within.
There is, at least at the beginning, a slight ambiguity as to what exactly the praeceptor wants hidden. He first focuses on oozing, dripping faex, pungent oils
extracted from a sheep's unwashed fleece, and the mashed marrow of hind
(21 iff.), as if the ingredients and processes that bring about the transformation
were the particular objects of his disgust. It soon becomes clear, however, that it is
the natural woman herself who especially repulses, and these other things only
insofar as they reek of the same nature. For example, in illustrating by analogy
why women should conceal their make-over, he says, qttas geritis vestis, sordida
lana fuit (the gown you wear was once filthy wool, 222): she herself is the raw,
unrefined, and sordid stuff. This is further emphasized near the end of the passage, when he offers another reason for women to keep the process private: so
that men do not see the domina tearing at her maid's cheeks with her nails or
stabbing her arms with a needle - as, the praeceptor assumes, undisguised women
are wont to do. He ends the passage with the horrific vision of seeing a woman
without her (already advised) wig: only through the assumed, covering artifice is

too, are simultaneously engaged in self-fashioning and book-becoming (cf. opus for the
book at III,2o6, for the woman at 228). But second, it also highlights the very different
kind of book available to her and the very different kind of imitation imposed, each of
which entails a far less forceful parallel with poetry and poetic activity. With one notable exception (see below), sculpture and painting are their analogous arts, and even
there the emphasis is far more on the self as artwork than as working artist.
Cf. P. Green, Ovid: The Erotic Poems, p. 388.

63

the woman at all bearable. A r t does not, in other words, so much hide itself as it
hides her.
If one side of this process of artistic concealment uncovers what women are to
suppress, the other side reveals what they are to become, and the praeceptor's own
examples fully justify our continued evocation of Pygmalion. Statues are repeatedly advanced as the models which woman should aspire to become:
quae nunc nomen habent operosi signa Myronis
pondus iners quondam duraque massa fuit. (219t)
The statues of industrious Myron that now are famous were once a hard [or cruel]
mass and lifeless [or uncultivated, unarmed] weight.
A n d again, in connection with the exclusion of witnesses:"
aurea quae splendent ornato signa theatro
inspice, contemnes: brattea ligna tegit;
sed eque ad illa licet populo, nisi facta, venire
nec nisi summotis forma paranda viris. (231-34)
Look closely at the images that shine all golden in the decorated theater, and you will
think them worthless: foil covers up wood; but neither may the people come nigh
them, till complete, nor save when men are absent should beauty be contrived.
Just as a lifeless, hard and heavy mass becomes a statue by the special skills and
industry of a Myron, so should a (similarly dura and iners) woman become by the
special skills and industry of the praeceptor; just as a thin surface of applied artifice can transform base wood into an attractive statue, so should a thin surface of
applied artifice transform base woman into an attractive - statue.' 6 Woman is to
make herself, too, into such a signum, and not reveal the rude opus (128); as the
praeceptor explains, better to be seen after the last touch has been applied
(226), and not because then she will appear fully natural, convincingly and deceptively lifelike, but rather because she will be fully artificial, convincingly
and deceptively art-like.' 7 This is anti-Pygmalion with a vengeance: the more

"
96

97

64

I follow Green (ibid) and G . P. Goold (The Art of Love and Other Poems) in adopting
Burmann's emendation (splendent) in 231, rather than Kenney's reading o pendent.
Cf. also cumfieret, lapis asper erat; nunc, nobile signum,/ nuda Venus madidas exprimit
imbre comas, 223; cf. also 40if.
Myerowitz, Ovid's Games of Love, notes how in Ovid's Ars Amatoria, the woman is
herself an opus to which only the aesthetic categories of rude or a summa manu apply
(141) and, similarly, how women are commonly urged to turn themselves into works
of art (135). As she does throughout her study, however, Myerowitz here fails to recognize the extremely problematical consequences of the transposition of aesthetic conditions and operations from the aesthetic to the living, erotic sphere. Because she assumes
that art and love are kindred manifestations of the game of culture (148), she has no
difficulty with the reduction of women to artworks. Her questionable assumptions of
basic benevolence and easy exchange betray her into some questionable readings. For
example, in relation to the Pygmalion principle under discussion, ars est celare
artem, she writes in the context of her own discussion of Book III, If art is to succeed,

ideal the artifact, the less real the woman; the more the one is lovingly held up as
beautiful, the more the other is hatefully put down as repulsive.
By this point in the poem, all visible surfaces of the female student have been
assimilated to the realm of figurai artifice. But if she is fully to attain to the statuelike ideal just announced, she needs also to be brought to a standstill, to a corresponding state of arrest. This is the transformative task the praeceptor next
undertakes. He begins by shifting attention from the faults of the face to those of
the whole body (rara tarnen menda fades caret: occule mendasj quaque potes,
vitium corporis abde tui [yet rare is the face that lacks a blemish: hide your
blemishes, and so far as you can conceal any fault of the body], 26if.), which also
entails a new mode of concealment:
si brevis es, sedeas, ne stans videare sedere,
inque tuo iaceas quantulacumque toro
(hic quoque, ne possit fieri mensura cubantis,
inietta lateant fac tibi veste pedes.) (263-66)
Sit if you are short, lest standing you seem to be sitting, and recline, small as you are, on
your couch (here, too, lest your measure be taken as you lie, let your feet be hidden by a
robe thrown across them).

The comic touch, especially in the verbal wit of the first line, deserves to be noted
and enjoyed; but at the same time it should not completely conceal the effect of
the advice. The woman is to assume a single, stationary position and maintain it
in perpetuum. she is denied the liberty to move freely and variously, and asked
instead to hide, even to renounce the fact that she has feet.
This is, admittedly, a strong reading of these lines. It is, however, strongly
supported by a second couplet in the same catalogue, which again focuses on feet
and makes the connection between concealment and a sustained state of arrest, or
impediment:
pes malus in nivea semper celetur aluta,
arida nec vinclis crura resolve suis. (27if.)
Let the ill-formed [or bad] foot be ever hidden in a snow-white sandal; never release
lean ankles from their bonds.

Keeping the bad foot forever a secret, constrained in chains not to be released:
the very language the praeceptor chooses to impart his instructions strongly suggests that the concealment involves a form of enslavement,'8 but of a particular

'8

that is, to present a convincing and unified effect, the hand of the artist must not be in
evidence. >Art is perfect only when it looks like nature,< remarks an ancient critic
([Longinus], Sub. 22. 1). The >natural look< presents, of course, the greatest challenge to
the artist (139). But as we have just seen, the natural look is not at all what the praeceptor is aiming for in Book III, and not to see this is precisely to miss the violence
being done to real, natural women.
We might also note Ovid's use of other words suggesting disciplined restraint in the
same passage; for example, virga at 269 and fascia at 274. As we have seen, the prae-

65

kind in keeping with his overall project - an enslavement of immobility, a depriving women of their natural desire to move. Again, the comparison with Pygmalion is instructive. There, the statue seemed to want to move, but a sense of shame
seemed to prevent her; her desire to move, and Pygmalion's desire that she move,
were both crucial indications of the desire that she be human. Here, the praeceptor seems to want a sense of shame to prevent women from wanting to move,
to desire that they stay still and thereby retain - or rather, fully gain - their status
as statue-like.
The ideal of immobility is pursued not only in respect to feet. Because her
hands are also naturally repulsive, a woman should also radically curtail her desire
to move them (exiguo signet gestu, 275); because her breath is bad and her teeth
revolting, she should refrain from opening or moving her mouth in either speech
or laughter (277-80). Movement is too revealing, too given over to the natural and
human, too disturbing of the desired fixed image. For the same reason, women
are told later on to check or restrain (compescere) their moods or conduct (mores),
because they, too, threaten to disturb the placid fixity of features the praeceptor
desires (jojff.). All natural animation distorts the ideal image," and so women
must learn as far as possible to arrest themselves, impede themselves, hold themselves still.
But once the praeceptor has his natural woman properly arrested and satisfactorily enstatued, like Pygmalion, he is not content that the product remain
inanimate. Unlike Pygmalion, however, he still does not want it to become alive
and real. Rather, he wants still more art, animate art - automata. And so he pushes his project of counterfeit substitution into the inner reaches of his creation:
having eliminated or stopped its natural motions, gestures, speech, and responses,
he now proceeds to replace these inner parts piece by piece.
He begins at the mouth, and at first his precept seems still to belong to the
process of statuesque arrest:
sint modici rictus parvaeque utrimque lacunae,
et summos dentes ima libella tegant. (283^)
Let the mouth be but moderately opened, let the dimples on either side be small, and let
the bottom lip conceal the top of the teeth.
But out of this unnaturally frozen orifice, some sound of laughter is to be emitted, Memnonically: not of course the woman's own laugh, a perversely natural
laugh which might distort the carefully composed and de-animated features of
ceptor's plans also entail a form of enslavement for his male students, a sustained imitation of the servitium amoris that becomes a servitium artis. However, the differences in
the forms of enslavement are significant: men are condemned to incessant industry
(kinesis), women to passive immobility (stasis).
" Cf. vos quoque si media speculum spectetis in ira,/ cognoscat faciem vix satis ulla suam,
5 7f66

the face (287ff.), but rather one that sounds leve nescio quid femineumque

(deli-

cate and somehow feminine, 286), that is, a counterfeit imitation, an improved
substitute. What holds true of laughter holds true of tears: here, too, ars

pntrt,

replacing the unbecoming natural with programmed decorum (29if.). 100


The most ambitious aspect of the praeceptor's animating automatization of
his female artifact is the provision of artificial speech. Here, too, the principle of
improved counterfeit substitution is applied. The praeceptor does not want to
hear a woman's own words, and so he appropriates and replaces them with an
unnatural, enhanced equivalent. Women are to learn to sing, to recite the literarily
preformed words and art of others:
et modo marmoreis rfrant audita theatris
et modo Niliacis carmina lusa modis;
nec plectrum dextra, citharam tenuisse sinistra
nesciat arbitrio femina docta meo.
(317-20)
Let them repeat now things heard in the marble theaters, now songs played in the
Egyptian mode; nor should a woman learned as I would have her not know how to
hold the quill in her right hand and the lyre in her left.
The verbal emphasis on holding a pose and repeating a song keeps the image
strangely stationary and unnaturally mechanical;101 nor is it enough that she robotically repeat just any song. Rather, the praeceptor has a specific list for his student to recite: the poems of Callimachus, Philetas, Anacreon, and Sappho; of
Menander, Propertius, Gallus, and Tibullus; and, as a somewhat naughty inclusion, of Varr and Vergil as well (329-338). H e immediately adds his own poems
to the catalogue:
fortisan et nostrum nomen miscebitur istis
nec mea Lethaeis scripta dabuntur aquis
atque aliquis dicet nostri lege culta magistri
carmina, quis partes instruit ille duas,
deve tribus libris, titulo quos signt A M O R U M ,
elige, quod docili molliter ore legas. (329-44)
Perhaps too my name will be joined to theirs, nor will my writings be given to Lethe's
waters; and someone will say, Read the cultured poems of our teacher, wherein he
instructs the rival parties, or from the three books marked by the title of Amores choose
out what you may softly read with docile voice.
B y this point, the once natural and human woman has completely become the
praeceptor's artwork. Shaped into his ideal figurai artifact, she repeats in mechan100
101

For the aesthetics of >decorum< in classical poetics, see Myerowitz, pp. u y t .


The added frame of marble theater indirectly reinforces the paradoxical notion of
statuary recitation. For a similar depiction of the musician as merely maintained posture, see the artificis status of Apollo in Met XI,i5ff., which Bauer, The Function
of Pygmalion, somewhat overinterprets to mean that when posed with his ivory lyre,
Apollo seems to be the work of a sculptor (7).

67

ical recitation (mostly) elegiac poems, and chief among them his own; that is, he
appropriates her speech and substitutes his own text instead. The comparison
with Pygmalion is again revealing. In substituting his text for the woman's own
presence, the praeceptor, in effect, has fundamentally reversed Pygmalion's metamorphic process. Having first transformed an independent, real-life woman of
flesh and blood into a lifelike/artlike body, his attraction for the corpus simulatum
has now gradually given way to a love of his own work, operis amor. The object to
be loved becomes his book; his book becomes the beloved object.101
The artefaction of the woman is, at this point, by and large complete, and the
praeceptor is ready to let his creation go and enter into the games she is to play
with men (353-80); to learn to move (299ff.; cf. 349ff.), to come out of hiding
(397.) and to take her place in the mechanical dance of citational symmetry with
the men of Books I and II, such as promenading through the Pompeian shade,
and so forth. I mentioned this coordinating convergence earlier; I am not now so
much interested in its patterned steps as in its somewhat unexpected partners - in
who is approaching whom, and why.
Again, a glance at Pygmalion can help fix our sights. Some critics have recently begun to question whether Pygmalion's transformation of the ivory statue into
a living woman does truly represent a perfect fusion of love and art.10' Eleanor
Leach, for example, notes how, insofar as the ivory woman has no identity separate from that of her creator, his attraction is no more than a narcissistic love for
a self-reflecting image: that, at some fundamental level, the story continues to be
about the perverse, confused love of an artist for his own work, in a realm
wholly isolated from reality and so essentially irrelevant to the complexities of
love in the real world.104
To some extent this is no doubt true of Pygmalion and his statue; it is all the
more true of the praeceptor and his student, and any lingering reservations we
have regarding the one's erotic designs apply doubly to the other's artistic ones.
Running just under the surface of this mechanical dance of man and woman that
101

The comparison with the males of Books I and II is also interesting. Like the men, the
women are also to become, to incorporate, the praeceptor's book by a process of imitative citation; to become ideal and learned lovers by reading the Ars, to transpose art
into erotic activity. But the discrepancy between the kinds of citation and transposition
advanced for men and women is nonetheless extreme, although each in its way still
proves equally mechanizing, literalizing, and self-violating.
IO
' Cf. Segal, Ovid's Orpheus and Augustan Ideology.
104
Leach, Ekphrasis, p. 125. Bauer, The Function of Pygmalion, also has an interesting observation regarding the examples of women who are turned into statues in the
Metamorphoses that he catalogues in his article. He says, no circumstances can be
shown to occasion its [turning to stone topos] play nearly as often as the antipathy and
passivity toward the miracle of love.(9). The remark has an active application to the
Ars, i.e. the praeceptor's efforts at making signa betray his antipathy toward the miracle of love.
68

dominates the Book's second half is another movement, the wooing by the artist
of his own artwork - as if the entire preparatory process were not designed for
either men or women, much less for real love in a real world, but rather only to
secure for the artist a suitable artifact to cherish and exploit for his own aesthetic
ends. We sense this other movement almost immediately in the praeceptor's calling the woman into the dance, the game, the open. He urges her to come out of
hiding: quod latet, ignotum est; ignoti nulla cupido:/ fructus abest, fades cum
bona teste caret (what is hidden is unknown; what is unknown none desires;
nothing is gained when a comely face has none to see it, 397) And he illustrates
this need for a witness with this example:
si Venerem Cous nusquam posuisset Apelles,
mersa sub aequoreis ilia lateret aquis. (40if.; cf. 223f.)
If Coan Apelles had never painted Venus, she would still be lying hid in the sea's
depths.

This is not a woman looking for a lover, but materia looking for its artist; and
although here he is promoting her advantage, it is clear that the imagined benefit
is mutual, that each needs the other to realize the desired end - not an everlasting
flame in love (42), but an everlasting fame in art. As the praeceptor asks in the very
next couplet, quid petitur sacris, nisi tantum fama, poetis?/ hoc votum nostri summa laboris habet (what is sought by the sacred poets save fame alone? All our
labor has this as its desire, 403^): the poet's aim is his own fame, and for this he
needs a well-wrought artwork to represent him. And as he says just a few lines
later, quis nosset HomerumJ Ilias aeternum si latuisset opus f (who would know
of Homer if the Iliad, an ever-enduring work, had lain hid?, 4I2.). He does not
want a woman, but an enduring work of art; she has not so much been readied for
her erotic needs as for his literary needs, as an opus for his opus.
But as mentioned, he also assures her that the arrangement is mutually beneficial, that just as he needs her to represent him, she needs him to represent her.
Ovid devised a similar argument early on in the Amores, when he was soliciting a
suitable woman to write elegies about:
te mihi materiem felicem in carmina praebe:
provenient causa carmina digna sua.
*

nos quoque per totum pariter cantabimur orbem,


iunctaque semper erunt nomina nostra tuis. (1,3,19-26)
Give yourself to me as felicitous subject-matter for my songs, and songs will be produced worthy of their cause . . . We, too, shall in like manner be sung throughout the
world, and my name will be ever joined with yours.

Now the praeceptor offers the same terms; not human love but immortal song and in his eyes at least, this makes him, as poet, the most suitable lover, his poems
the suitable gift:
69

carmina qui facimus, mittamus carmina tantum:


his chorus ante alios aptus amare sumus.
nos facimus placitae late praeconia formae:
nomen habet Nemesis, Cynthia nomen habet,
Vesper et Eoae novere Lycorida terrae,
et multi, quae sit nostra Corinna, rogant. (533-38)
Let us who make poems send poems only; we poets are a band more fitted than others
for love. 'Tis we who proclaim the loved one's beauty far and wide; renowned is Nemesis, Cynthia is renowned; evening and Eastern lands know of Lycoris, and many
inquire who my Corinna may be.

She is not, it seems, offered love in life so much as life in literature, love literature;
and now it seems that it was in preparation for such a literary life that he has
shaped her forma placito, all along, with little regard for the demands and complexities of love in the real world. In his eyes, her hope should be that he will
fashion a literary artwork out of her, that she will end as an im-mortal, artificial
I. But if we cannot help but question the fusion of love and art in Pygmalion's
transformation of the artwork into a woman, how much more must we question
it in this transformation of woman into artwork - unless, of course, we forget
about her, about life, about the human. And that is something Ovid, for all his
art, will never let us do.

70

Chapter I:

Appendix

Amores 111,2
>Non ego nobium sedeo studiosus equorum;
cui tarnen ipsa faves, vincat ut ille, precor.
ut loquerer tecum, veni, tecumque sederem,
ne tibi non notus, quem facis, esset amor,
tu cursus spectas, ego te: spectemus uterque
quod iuvat atque oculos pascat uterque suos.
o, cuicumque faves, felix agitator equorum!
ergo illi curae contigit esse tuae?
hoc mihi contingat, sacro de carcere missis
insistam forti mente vehendus equis
et modo lora dabo, modo verbere terga notabo,
nunc stringanti metas interiore rota;
si mihi currenti fueris conspecta, morabor,
deque meis manibus lora remissa fluent,
a, quam paene Pelops Pisaea concidit hasta,
dum spectat vultus, Hippodamia, tuos!
nempe favore suae vicit tamen ille puellae:
vincamus dominae quisque favore suae,
quid frustra refugis? cogit nos linea iungi;
haec in lege loci commoda Circus habet,
tu tamen, a dextra quicumque es, parce puellae:
contactu lateris laeditur illa tui;
tu quoque, qui spectas post nos, tua contrahe crura,
si pudor est, rigido nec preme terga genu,
sed nimium demissa iacent tibi pallia terra:
collige, vel digitis en ego tollo meis.
invida vestis eras, quae tam bona crura tegebas;
quoque magis spectes - invida vestis eras,
talia Milanion Atalantes crura fugacis
optavit manibus sustinuisse suis;
talia pinguntur succinctae crura Dianae,
cum sequitur fortes fortior ipsa feras,
his ego non visis arsi; quid fiet ab ipsis?
in flammam flammas, in mare fundis aquas,
suspicor ex istis et cetera posse piacere,
quae bene sub tenui condita veste latent,
vis tamen interea faciles arcessere ventos,
quos faciet nostra mota tabella manu?
an magis hic meus est animi, non aeris, aestus,
captaque femineus pectora torret amor?
dum loquor, alba levi sparsa est tibi pulvere vestis:
sordide de niveo corpore pulvis abi.
sed iam pompa venit: Unguis animisque favete;
tempus adest plausus: aurea pompa venit.
prima loco fertur passis Victoria pinnis:
hue ades et meus hic fac, dea, vincat amor.

71

plaudite Neptuno, nimium qui creditis undis:


nil mihi cum pelago; me mea terra capit.
plaude tuo Marti, miles: nos odimus arma;
pax iuvat et media pace repertus amor,
auguribus Phoebus, Phoebe venantibus adsit;
artifices in te verte, Minerva, manus.
ruricolae Cereri teneroque adsurgite Baccho;
Pollucem pgiles, Castora placet eques.
nos tibi, blanda Venus, puerisque potentibus arcu
plaudimus: inceptis adnue, diva, meis
daque novae mentem dominae, patiatur amari;
adnuit et motu signa secunda ddit,
quod dea promisit, promittas ipsa rogamus:
pace loquar Veneris, tu dea maior eris.
per tibi tot iuro testes pompamque deorum
te dominam nobis tempus in omne peti,
sed pendent tibi crura: potes, si forte iuvabit,
cancellis primos inseruisse pedes,
maxima iam vacuo praetor spectacula Circo
quadriiugos aequo carcere misit equos.
cui studeas, video; vincet, cuicumque favebis:
quid cupias, ipsi scire videntur equi,
me miserum, metam spatioso circuit orbe;
quid facis? admoto proxumus axe subit,
quid facis, infelix? perdis bona vota puellae;
tende, precor, valida lora sinistra manu,
favimus ignavo, sed enim revocate, Quirites,
et date iactatis undique signa togis.
en revocant; at, ne turbet toga mota capillos,
in nostras abdas te licet usque sinus,
iamque patent iterum reserato carcere postes,
evolat admissis discolor agmen equis,
nunc saltem supera spatioque insurge patenti:
sint mea, sint dominae fac rata vota meae.
sunt dominae rata vota meae, mea vota supersunt;
ille tenet palmam, palma petenda mea est.<
risit et argutis quiddam promisit ocellis:
>hoc satis hie; alio cetera redde loco.<
I sit not here because fond of high-bred horses; yet, the one you favour I pray may
win. To talk with you I came, and to sit with you, so that you might not miss knowing
the love you stir. You gaze on the races, I on you; let us both gaze on what delights,
both feast our own eyes.
O, happy driver, whoe'er he be, that wins your favour! Ah, so 'twas he had the fortune to enlist your concern? Be that fortune mine, and when my coursers dash from the
starting-chamber, with fearless heart I will tread the car and urge them on, now giving
the rein, now striping their backs with the lash, now grazing the turning-post with
inner wheel. Have I caught sight of you as I career, I will stop, and the reins, let go from
my hands, will drop. Yea, how near Pelops came to falling by Pisean spear while looking on thy face, Hippodamia! Yet he won, of course through the favour of his lady.
May we owe our victories, all of us, to the favour of our loves!

72

Why draw back from me? - 'twill do no good; the line compels us to sit close. This
advantage the circus gives, with its rule of space - yet you there on the right, whoever
you are, have a care; your pressing against my lady's side annoys. You, too, who are
looking on from behind, draw up your legs, if you care for decency, and press not her
back with your hard knee!
But your cloak is let fall too far, and is trailing on the ground. Gather it up - or
look, with my own fingers I'll get it up. Envious wrap you were, to cover such pretty
limbs! And the more one looks - ah, envious wrap you were! Such were the limbs of
fleet Atalanta that Milanion burned to hold up with his hands. Such in pictures are the
limbs of upgirt Diana pursuing the bold wild beasts, herself more bold than they. I
burned before, when I had not seen; what will become of me now that I have? You add
flames to flame, and waters to the sea. I suspect from them that all else, too, that lies
well hidden under your delicate gown, might please.
Would you like, while we wait, to bid soft breezes blow? I'll take the fan in my hand
and start them. O r is it rather the heat of my heart and not of the air, and does love for a
woman burn my ravished breast? While I am talking, a sprinkling of light dust has got
on your white dress. Vile dust, away from this snowy body!
But now the procession is coming - keep silence all, and attend! The time for
applause is here - the golden procession is coming. First in the train is Victory, borne
with wings outspread - come hither, goddess, and help my love to win! Applaud Neptune, ye who trust o'ermuch the wave! Naught will I with the sea; I choose that the land
keep me. Applaud thy Mars, O soldier! Arms I detest; peace is my delight, and love
that is found in the midst of peace. And Phoebus - let him be gracious to augurs, and
Phoebe gracious to huntsmen! Minerva, turn in applause to thee the craftman's hands!
Ye country dwellers, rise to Ceres and tender Bacchus! Let the boxer court Pollux, the
horseman Castor! We, winsome Venus, we applaud thee, and thy children potent with
the bow; smile, O goddess, upon my undertakings, and put the right mind in my
heart's new mistress! Let her endure to be loved!
She nodded, and by the movement gave favouring sign. What the goddess has promised, yourself promise, I ask; with Venus' permission let me say it, you will be the greater goddess. I swear to you by all these witnesses and by the train of the gods, I am
asking you to be for all time to come my queen!
But your feet are dangling. If you like, you can stick your toes in the grating. The
circus is clear now for the greatest part of the shows, and the praetor has started the
four-horse cars from the equal barrier. I see the one you are eager for. He will win if he
has your favour, whoever he be. What you desire the very horses seem to know! Ah,
miserable me, he has circled the post in a wide curve! What are you doing? The next
hugs close with his axle, and gains on you. What are you doing, wretch? You will lose
my love the prayer of her heart. Pull, I entreat, the left rein with all your might! We are
favoring a good-for-naught - but call them back, Quirites, and toss your togas in signal
from every side! See, they call them back! - but for fear a waving toga spoil your hair,
come, you may hide your head in the folds of my cloak.
And now the starting chambers are unbarred again, and the gates are open wide; the
many-coloured rout comes flying forth with reins let loose to their steeds. This time, at
least, get past them, and bend to your work on the open space! See that you fulfil my
vows, and my lady-love's!
Fulfilled are my lady-love's vows, but my vows remain. Yon charioteer has received
his palm; my palm is yet to be won.
She smiled, and with speaking eyes promised - I know not what.
That is enough in this place, in some other render the rest!

73

Ars Amatoria, Book 1,135-162.


nec te nobilium fugiat certamen equorum:
multa capax populi commoda Circus habet,
nil opus est digitis per quos arcana loquaris,
nec tibi per nutus accipienda nota est;
proximus a domina nullo prohbeme sedeto;
iunge tuum lateri qua potes usque latus,
et bene, quod cogit, si nolis, linea iungi,
quod tibi tangenda est lege puella loci,
hic tibi quaeratur socii sermonis origo,
et moveant primos publica verba sonos:
cuius equi veniant facito studiose requiras,
nec mora, quisqus erit cui favet illa, fave,
at cum pompa frequens caelestibus ibit eburnis,
tu Veneri dominae plaude favente manu;
utque fit, in gremium pulvis si forte puellae
deciderit, digitis excutiendus erit;
etsi nullus erit pulvis, tamen excute nullum:
quaelibet officio causa sit apta tuo;
pallia si terra nimium demissa iacebunt,
collige et inmunda sedulus effer humo:
protinus, officii pretium, patiente puella
contingent oculis crura videnda tuis.
respice praeterea, post vos quicumque sedebit,
ne premat opposito mollia terga genu,
parva levis capiunt nimos: fuit utile multis
pulvinum facili composuisse manu;
profuit et tenui ventos movisse tabella
et cava sub tenerum scamna dedisse pedem.
Nor let the contest of noble steeds escape you; the spacious Circus holds many opportunies. N o need is there of fingers for secret speech, nor need you receive a signal by
means of nods. Sit next to your lady, none will prevent you; sit side by side as close as
you can; and it is good that the rows compel closeness, like it or not, and that by the
conditions of space your girl must be touched. Here seek an opening for friendly talk,
and begin with words that all may hear. Mind you are zealous in asking whose horses
are entering, and quick! whomever she favors be sure to favor too. But when the long
procession of ivory statues of the gods passes by applaud Queen Venus with favoring
hand. And if perchance, as will happen, a speck of dust falls on your lady's lap, flick it
off with your fingers; even if none fall, then flick off - none; let any pretext serve to
show your attentiveness. If her cloak hangs low and trails upon the ground, gather it up
and lift it carefully from the defiling earth; straightway, a reward for your service, with
the girl's permission your eyes will catch a glimpse of her ankles. Then again look
round to see that whoever is sitting behind you is not pressing his knee against her tender back. Frivolous minds are won by trifles; many have found useful the deft arranging of a cushion. It has helped too to stir the air with a light fan, or to set a stool beneath a dainty foot.

74

Chapter 2: Kierkegaard and the Diary of the Seducer

I.

Kierkegaard and the Ars Amatoria

Diary of the Seducer is the largely autonomous novella placed at the end of the
collection of aesthetic essays which comprise the first volume of Kierkegaard's
pseudonymously penned Either/Or. In it, Johannes, the protagonist/narrator,
undertakes a twofold task. On the one hand, he engages in an attempt to realize
the task of living poetically, or, as he also puts it, to live his life aesthetically,
mythically, im Gleichnis.1 On the other hand, and in a slightly different mode,
he attempts to realize the woman in the tale, Cordelia, aesthetically as well: to
fashion something of a poetic artwork out of her, to transform her, too, into a
myth, a Gleichnis. Both projects present a self-conscious confusion and collusion of literature and life, a sustained effort to form an artificial, and distinctly
literary, I out of a human self; and in both cases, Johannes' poetic activity duplicates and to some extent implicates those conditions and operations of literary
artifice of both Kierkegaard's authorial and Johannes' own narratorial activity. It
is, then, this twofold project to construct literary artworks out of himself and
Cordelia on which I intend to focus, and especially in its interaction with the
broader processes of literary production and imitation.
To begin, we should note that the work itself strives in a sense to live poetically, mythically, in literary imitation, thus both doubling and abetting its protagonist's project. Most obviously, both implicit points of correlation with earlier
essays in the volume, especially The Immediate Erotic and Shadowgraphs,
and explicit indications by the collection's fictitious editor, Victor Eremita, cast
1

Quotations are taken from Soren Kierkegaard, Either/Or: Volume I, tr. by David
F. Swenson and Lillian Marvin Swenson, rev. by Howard A. Johnson (Princeton:
Princeton University Press, 1959.1 have also referred to the new translation by Howard
Hong and Edna Hong, Soren Kierkeggard, Either/Or: Part /, (Princeton: Princeton
University Press, 1987). When the English translations have proved unclear, I have referred to the German translation by Emmanuel Hirsch, Soren Kierkegaard: Gesammelte Werke. Erste Abteilung, Entweder/Oder. Erster Teil. (Dsseldorf: Eugen Diederichs
Verlag, 1964). When none seemed sufficiently clear, I have consulted Professors Johannesson and Larsen of the Scandinavian Department, University of California, Berkeley,
from whose help, time and discussion I have benefitted tremendously.

75

the novel in the image of Mozart's Don Giovanni

and Goethe's Faust (Part I).

Eremita in his preface describes Johannes as the analogue to Don Juan, mythically realized in the realm of language rather than music, and thus a reflective as
opposed to an immediate seducer. And ., the fictitious author of the aesthetic
essays, deliberates at some length as to how Donjun might best be literarily realized as a reflective seducer, and in this context considers Faust, who reproduces
Don Juan, but in an intensive as opposed to an extensive manner, where the interest is not in how many, the number, but in how, the method - and Eremita
explicitly identifies Johannes as a realization of this mythopoetic idea.2 In this respect, then, we can say that the novella deliberately sets out to realize itself
mythically, to shape itself in imitation of these prior myth-texts; and, moreover, that it deliberately lays bare that intention, calling emphatic attention to its
literary trappings, its fictional ambitions.
While many of the most important features of Johannes and his story
self-consciously and dialectically derive from these two mythical, eponymous
ancestors, his literary life is nonetheless not drawn from them alone.3 Rather,
Johannes is also clearly constructed in imitation of the great seducers and
self-impersonators of (mostly German) Romanticism: of Tieck's first novel,
William
2

Lovelle

Jean Paul's Titan, Hoffmann's Elixiere

des Teufels,'' Schle-

For more on Faust as a reproduction of Don Juan, and the implicit manner in which
Johannes is conceived as an imitative reproduction of both, see the essay
Shadowgraphs, p. 203ff.
' Kierkegaard originally named his protagonist Eduard and only later changed it to Johannes, assigning the name Eduard to Cordelia's other suitor instead. See Hirsch's
note, p. 501. The name Eduard points to another textual model and literary Vorbild
for the Diary, namely Goethe's Die Wahlverwandtschaften (for which reason I
choose to retain the German spelling). Johannes' anti-Pygmalion artefaction of Cordelia has certain provocative similarities with the artefaction of Ottilie in Goethe's text,
as we will discuss in the final section of this chapter. For now, we need only note that,
even with the original name, Kierkegaard wanted us to think of his protagonist against
a specifically literary background. For the intended significance of his appellation,
the Seducer, see Gesammelte Werke, Die Tagebcher, ed. by Hayo Gerdes
(Dsseldorf: Eugen Diederichs Verlag, 1962), 1,345.
4
Karlheinz Weigand, Tieck's William Lovell (Heidelberg: Carl Winter Universittsverlag, 1975) notes in a footnote, William Lovell mutet schon hier wie ein Musterbild
jenes sthetikers an, dessen Psychologie Kierkegaard so glnzend analysiert... Kierkegaard kannte den Lovell. Er besass ihn in der Ausg. der Sammtl. Werke Tiecks, Paris
1837. Vgl.: Katalog over S. K.'s Bibliothek, ved . Thulstrup, Kopenhagen 1957
(p. 58). For a more detailed discussion of Kierkegaard's imitation, see W. Rehm, note 8
below.
' We can probably attribute many of Johannes' mesmerizing qualities directly to his
imitation of Hoffmann: his famous side glance, the hypnotic control he exercises not
only over Cordelia but other women as well, and so on. For a detailed discussion of the
topos in early 19th century literature, including in Hoffmann, see Maria Tatar, Spellbound: Studies on Mesmerism and Literature (Princeton: Princeton University Press,
1978).

76

gel's Lucinde;6 and of the alleged, although largely unacknowledged, Urvater


of them all, Laclos' Les Liaisons Dangereuses.7 From this perspective, the Diary
appears as a self-consciously imitative product not of atemporal myth, but rather
of the literature of its historical moment. As Walther Rehm, one of the great
exponents of Kierkegaard's romanticism, claims, Only against the background
of morality and >virtue< in the sense of the i8th century, only in the sentimental
fervor of the Enlightenment is the questionable figure of the erotic player and his
elegant, donjuanesque sensuality imaginable.8 In this respect, we might say that
Kierkegaard imitates the literary figure to re-engage the moral question; and that
in doing so, he again calls emphatic attention to his character's literary models.
But Kierkegaard was of course not only a romantic: he was also a classicist.
And while it is no doubt true that he conceived his tale in the literary line of his
roughly Romantic contemporaries, and that the figure of the seducer occupied a
central place in their thought, it is still nonetheless true that this figure had his
place in classical literature as well, and that Kierkegaard quite consciously conceived the Diary in poetic imitation of classical models, too. Rehm himself
elaborates the correlations between Johannes and Socrates, especially the Socrates
of Kierkegaard's dissertation on The Concept of Irony.' But to my knowledge
no one has yet elaborated the imitative relationship between the Diary and its
most important classical model, Ovid's Ars Amatoria.
6

Kierkegaard's imitation of Lucinde perhaps displays itself as forcibly in the loosely


essayistic format of the Either as a whole as it does in determining certain features of
the Diary in particular. For Kierkegaard's own discussion of Schlegel's work, see his
dissertation, The Concept of Irony, tr. by Lee M. Capel (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1965), p. 302ff.
7
The relationship of the Diary to Laclos' text is spelled out at some length in Walter
Rehm's study, p. 11 iff. See next note.
8
Walther Rehm, Kierkegaard und der Verfhrer, (Munich: Verlag Hermann Rinn, 1949),
p. m . Rehm's work remains the most ambitious and persuasive attempt to appreciate
the Diary as a literary work in its own right, placing it against the background of
Romanticism in general rather than simply against that of Kierkegaard's personal life or
his later career as a Christian theologian.
' See Rehm, p. I24ff. For Kierkegaard's own discussion of Socrates as seducer, see The
Concept of Irony, p. 2 I 2 .
IC
Ovid's work is not mentioned once in Rehm, nor in the entire fourteen volumes of the
Bihliotheca Kierkegaardiana, ed. Niels Thulstrup and Marie Thulstrup (Copenhagen:
C. A. Reitzels Boghandel, 1 9 7 8 - ) , including Vol. 1 4 , Kierkegaard's Classical Inspiration
(1985) and vol. 7. Kierkegaard and Human Values (1980), which contains essays on
Erotic Love by K. Nordentoft (pp. 8 7 - 9 9 ) a n d Deceit, Deception by
G. E. Arbaugh (pp. 1 0 5 - 1 0 8 ) . Similarly, Soren Kierkegaard: International Bibliography, ed. by Jens Himmelstrup (Copenhagen: Nyt Nordisk Forlag, 1962) yields no references to Ovid or the Ars Amatoria; nor does the updated bibliography by Aage Jorgensen, Soren Kierkegaard-literatur 1 9 7 1 - 1 9 8 0 . En bibliografi, Kierkegaardiana XII
(Copenhagen: C. A. Reitzels Forlag, 1982), 1 2 9 - 2 3 5 . However, the Supplement to
Either/Or, Part I included in the new edition of Hong and Hong contains additional
77

Unlike the connections with the works of his Romantic contemporaries, the
connections with Ovid's Ars are explicit and intricately woven into the fabric of
Kierkegaard's text. One might easily argue (without being too serious and
attempting to find a real resemblance) that the Ars occupies a privileged position in
the Diary, that in some sense both Kierkegaard and Johannes strive to reproduce,
translate, or incorporate Ovid's text into their quite similar activity and quite different world. We might note, for instance, that when considering the source of his
special erotic expertise, Johannes aptly explains, I know Latin and attend to my
studies - aptly, because in fact Johannes does seem to study Ovid's praeceptor's
project, to become as it were his ideal student: to copy his book into his life.
Johannes quotes Ovid directly no less than four times, and indirectly but by
name a fifth. Each quotation touches on a central aspect of his project. Most
importantly, he adopts the retrospective boast in the Remedia Amoris as his own
credo, slightly misquoting the Latin: quod, antea fuit impetus, nunc ratio est*
(what before was impulse, now is system, 344). As we will see, the aesthetic,
rational regulation of the emotional life which informed the whole of Ovid's
project forms the basis for Johannes' as well; insofar as he manages this regulation
by imitatively enacting Ovid's ratio, he also poetizes or artefacts himself by
incorporating his (Ovid's) text. Another quotation focuses on the incessant industry so central to that self-systematization in both texts: as Johannes says, I
have often felt the truth of the poet's words, mox et hiems longaeque viae saevique
dolores/mollibus his castris, et labor omnis inest< (night and storm, long journeys and savage griefs: every kind of toil belongs to this soft service, 324). As in
Ovid, the labor and its servitium are subtly shifted from the already impudently
appropriative erotic to the aesthetic sphere, to describe the exacting tasks and dedicated services not (only) of the lover in pursuit of his love, but (also) of the artist
in pursuit of his art. And again, insofar as Johannes' work is devoted to the imitative realization of Ovid's original project, his servitium artist is simultaneously
a servitium Artis.
A third quotation focuses on the similarly central role played by language as
the modus operandi, the definite technique, in each one's seduction: non formosus erat, sed erat facundus Ulixes,/ et tarnen aequoreas torsit amore deas
(Ulysses was not handsome, but he was eloquent: and yet he fired two goddesses
of the sea with love, 358). In Ovid, the praeceptor's program called for the substitution, or intercession, of literary language in the form of elegiac convention for,
or before, all original, natural emotional involvement, so that the self became, so
to speak, an enacted imitation of the elegiac lover. Johannes, too, aims to become
a literary or poetic lover (an Ovidian lover) rather than simply himself a lover,
references to Ovid, taken from Kierkegaard's notebooks and papers. See esp. pp. 562,
567, and 584.
Perhaps less surprisingly, the literature on Ovid proves equally silent on Kierkegaard.

78

and he endeavors to do so by assimilating his own personal, emotional involvement to literary models and language, not the least of which comes from the Ars
itself. Systematization or automatization of the self in its erotic impulses and
activity; (hidden) industry, work and technique of the self in love and/or in art;
and the imitative manipulation of and engagement in literary language in the art
of self-presentation and seduction: these three essential aspects of Johannes*
enterprise are all intimately bound up with his evocation and imitation of Ovid's
Ars. And hardly surprisingly, they bring with them almost all the ambivalences of
Ovid's original text.
Two other quotes, which both mention Ovid by name, occur later on, and
less programmatically, in the story. Although not in themselves overly significant
to our study, they can still be cited as evidence of Kierkegaard's and Johannes'
pervasive imitation of Ovid. In expressing his only too evident distaste for engaged couples and their prosaic chitchat, Johannes exclaims, This small talk also
furnishes assurance that their marriage will not lack the dowry Ovid speaks
about: dos est uxoria lites (the dowry of a wife is quarrels, 413). The peculiar
combination in the Ars of elegant, aristocratic, and aesthetic disdain for the crassly rustic, socially ethical (even while impudently appropriating its terms); the
pains nonetheless taken to stay respectfully within its bounds and not overtly to
violate its canons; and finally even the exposure of the lurking dangers engendered by exclusively adopting an aesthetic instead of ethical code of conduct for
one's personal affairs - the same combination reappears in the Diary, which
likewise couples its contempt for husbands with that for common seducers and
their use of money, power, influence, soporifics and so on (331), again in imitation of the Ari. Kierkegaard and/or Johannes also specifically cite Ovid as the recognized authority for the theme of love as combat: A handclasp, a touch of the
foot, belongs to the close combat, something it is well known Ovid both warmly
commends and jealously disparages (373). Insofar as Johannes consistently conceives and pursues his affair with Cordelia as a form of combat or war, he again
exposes himself as moving in imitative obedience to Ovid's model text."
For anyone as familiar with the Ars as Kierkegaard himself obviously was,
these are only the most direct citations, the most graphic indices to the formative
influence of Ovid's poem. There are also, for example, a number of more indirect
citations in the form of borrowed motifs and what we might call preceptive generalizations. Two such motifs which run throughout both texts are anxiety as
enhancing beauty (310,404, 414) and secrecy as an essential factor in both aesthetics and love (352, 383). Similarly, and even more explicitly in imitation of Ovid,

11

The influence of intermediate sources, e.g., Renaissance works themselves influenced


by Ovid, does not seem likely. For more on the direct influence of the Ars in Kierkegaard's time, see Robert C. Sprung, The Reception of Ovid's Ars Amatoria in the Age
of Goethe, Senior Thesis (Harvard College, 1984).

79

there are such incidental preceptive generalizations as one always fishes best in
troubled waters. When a young girl is emotionally disturbed, and so on (318:
both the advice and image are Ovidian); how at a party you carry on a cryptic
conversation with her which excites her pleasantly (322); or, immediately after
the facundas Ulixes (and clearly echoing Ovid's Apollo), Everyone ought to
know his own powers (358). Both Johannes* (imitative) impulse toward didactic
formulation and, more specifically, his (imitative) evocation and application of the
praeceptor's advice tend to shape not only his activity but his narration as well in
the image of the Ars, to poetize them by its imitation.
Even more tellingly, there are a number of sustained systems of imagery in the
Diary which maintain the governing presence of the Ars - or rather, of image
clusters, since the imagery itself is somewhat conventional, whereas the clusters
prove peculiarly Ovidian. Most noticeably, there is the entwined use of military
and venatic metaphors so characteristic of the Ars, with the former drawing on the
related motif of play, the latter on the related motif of Cupid and his bow, in both
cases as in the Ars. As mentioned, Johannes cites Ovid as the well-known
source for the erotic-military motif, and for the most part his own use of the
theme and imagery is recognizably imitative. He says for example that I must
first get to know her . . . before beginning my assault, and the conception of the
affair as campaign pervades the Diary; he makes repeated references to combat
with Cordelia and to arms - the idea of arming both sides, Cordelia as well as
himself, in order to occasion an ostensibly equal contest is particularly Ovidian
(379., 406). It is especially, however, the pairing of the military metaphor with
both the sporting motif (e.g., If you always know how to surprise, you always
win the game, 361; cf. 325) and the hunting motif (e.g., This is the first net in
which she must become entangled, 357)12 which most forcibly keeps Kierkegaard's ruling imagery systems tied to the Ars. (Kierkegaard does extend the miliary imagery system in a manner not anticipated in the Ars, although clearly in
keeping with it and already anticipated by Laclos, inasmuch as he extends it to
include the strategic planning to the seduction: e.g., the strategic principle, the
law governing every move in this campaign ... 341.) All these imagery systems,
then, which pervasively poetize Johannes' text and activity, drawing them into
the realm of literary figures, also Arsify them, accommodate them to the model
of the prior text.
Another imagery system reproduced, translated or copied from the Ars is
the ship imagery. As in Ovid, this imagery is uniquely devoted to the dual notion
of the elemental power of untamed passion and the accomplished, preceptorial
control of erotic affairs, in respect both to his own course and, more tellingly, to
that of his student, Cordelia. For instance, Johannes describes himself as like a
b o a t . . . swept by the storms of passion, while simultaneously high on the mast
12

80

Cf. 339, 344; also re Cupid, I tense the bow of love to wound the deeper, 345 ; cf. 439.

a lookout sits on watch, untouched by the turbulence and calmly, secretly governing the boat's racing course (320), imitating both aspects of Ovid's use of the
imagery.'3 In respect to Johannes' governance of his student's development, a
particularly Ovidian example of the ship imagery might be, Then is my duty
ended, my labor; then I take in my sail, then I sit by her side, and under her sail we
travel forward . . . I shall have enough to do in sitting by the rudder (387); or
similarly, I am always on board and can always break out the sails (422). As
with the military motif, Kierkegaard does introduce a significant innovation in
his use of the ship imagery, while nonetheless still remaining within the terms of
his model text. He picks up on Ovid's own explicit linkage between the ship imagery and the flight imagery in the exemplum of Daedalus and Icarus, which in
highly condensed form relates the course of the praeceptor's guidance of his pupil's affair, even as the ship imagery does throughout. In the Diary, the flight
imagery also becomes extended throughout the text (and similarly linked with
the ship imagery) to describe Johannes' teaching Cordelia to fly, that is, to become a successful lover.14 But as we will see, his success is not clearly the same
as that of Ovid's praeceptor and Daedalus, and this is perhaps the most far-reaching innovation on the Ars overall. For now, we need only note that just about
every sustained image by which Johannes either poetizes his activity or describes
his poetizing activity reveals the Ars as the poetry, the book by which Johannes
would live and shape his world and text.
We might also be tempted to seek out a similarity between Ovid's mythical
digressions and the scattered exempla in the Ars and Kierkegaard's, or Johannes',
use of classical myths in the Diary, especially since, like Ovid in the Ars, Johannes relates at length the tale of Ariadne (398), and since so many of his myths
come from Ovid's own later work, the Metamorphoses.15 In this case, however, the
superficial similarity obfuscates a more significant difference, a difference intimately tied up with another point of apparent similarity and actual innovation,
namely with Kiekegaard's use of the plural subject, the engagement of the varied
manifold of feminine beauty. This is not yet the place for an extended treatment
of Kiekegaard's use of myth and plurality; let us for the moment merely note the
similarity and tolerate its superficiality.
Direct citations, borrowed motifs and precepts, and imitated imagery systems
and, to a lesser extent, use of myth: these are the most important ways in which
Johannes/Kierkegaard seems to incorporate, or translate, Ovid's text into his
own writerly activity. It is also the case, however, that Johannes as character

''

C f . 3 2 1 , 383, 38 j f . ; the fact that Kierkegaard uses the motif extensively is another aspect
of his imitation.

14

's

F o r the linkage of the flight with the ship imagery, see 422.
E . g . Phaeton, Alpheus and Arethusa, Pyramus and Thisbe, Actaeon and Diana, P y g malion and his statue, Neptune and Erisychthon's daughter.

81

seems to imitate the Ars in his activity. This is true in the simple sense that, in his
way, Johannes seems studiously to follow certain stages of erotic conquest established by Ovid in the Ars. Even as Ovid's lover begins by walking beneath the
Pompeian shade to peruse the many and be caught by the one, so Johannes was
walking along the esplanade looking at the multitude when his eye was uncontrollably drawn and caught by Cordelia. Immediately after his first Ovid quote
(nox et hiems ...), he explains how I seek her . . . at the theater, at concerts,
balls and on the promenade, an updated but thoroughly recognizable imitation
of the Ars, Book I. Similarly, when Johannes introduces the next stage of his relationship with the declaration, Having been fortunate enough to start a new love
affair, I wish to see how long it can be sustained, one hears the transition into
Book II, from which, significantly, the majority of direct quotes are taken. And
finally, the greater part of the latter half of the Diary, which is devoted to educating, fashioning and arming Cordelia, forms a convincing counterpart to
Ovid's Book III.
It is on an even more basic level, however, that Johannes seems most to resemble Ovid's student, namely: insofar as he deliberately strives to live his life as literature, to realize a peculiarly literary existence in the course of his erotic pursuits.
Both aspects of Johannes' project have their origin in Ovid: his attempt to fashion
a literary artwork out of himself, to regulate his erotic activity by the rules and
ratio of ars and thereby to construct an artificial I; and his didactic, preceptorial
attempt to fashion a literary artwork out of his female counterpart, Cordelia. In
this way, the tendency of the Diary to construct itself in literary imitation of
the Ars and thereby to poetize itself is essentially reflected in its protagonist's own
project, doubling and abetting it at once; and this keeps the imitation from ever
being a matter of mere imitation, but rather intricately involved in the thematic
concerns of Kierkegaard's text.

II.

Literary form and personal identity

O f course, the literary form, or arrangement, in which Kierkegaard presents his


fiction differs significantly from that in which Ovid presents his Ars; in this respect, the work is very much a product of early 19th century, counter-classical or
Romantic aesthetics. These differences bring with them a new set of interplays
between the separate orders of poetry and reality and, in keeping with this,
new considerations for the project of constructing an artificial I.
These differences occur on both the horizontal and vertical axes of the
text; let us begin with the latter. Unlike Ovid, Kierkegaard never overtly involves
himself in his own text, never explicitly identifies himself with the authorial or
narratorial voice. Rather, he publishes the work pseudonymously, attributing its
82

appearance to an editor called Victor Eremita. (Ostensibly to assure that the work
would not be traced back to him, Kierkegaard even had a scribe copy his handwritten manuscript before passing it on to the printer.) 16 This editor, Victor
Eremita, was constructed in accord with Kierkegaard's Socratic mimic method. He was intended to be a subjectively actual personality, that is, a psychologically outfitted fictional creation or seif not to be identified with the actual
author himself, but every bit an experimental and artificial I assumed to record
and re-present the fictional requirements of his text. 17 Kierkegaard adopts this
pseudonymous persona, simulating its mannerisms, moving in mimetic obedience
to its moods and, by separating himself from its ideological and psychological
groundings - most basically, but not exclusively, by the change of name (and
script) - he nonetheless maintains its constructed fiction and his own sovereign
detachment.
This can of course be said to some extent of all pseudonymous authorship,
and to this same extent remains a rather inert and uninteresting observation.
However, in this case the imitative assumption of an artificial I engaged in fiction -making activity is both playfully exposed as a fiction and self-consciously
engaged as a problem in the text itself. That is, Kierkegaard re-presents, and so
thematizes, the operation of pseudonymous, embedded editors/authors, drawing
his own practice into the text and there(by) exposing it. More importantly, he also
translates those very conditions and operations of the fictionalized, layered, and
imitated self into the basic facts of character and plot in the work's central piece,
the Diary. The effect of this reflectively aligned vertical array of the different
orders of imitation, far more than was possible in Ovid, is like the box within a
box in a Chinese puzzle-box; with a far greater sense of fragmentation and multiplication of selves and scripts (with each self the script and fictional creation of
the preceding); and yet also with a far greater sense of potential conflation, of
self-reflexive representation of and essential interplay with each other's activity.
The observation that the activities of author and characters, and with them the
matters of fiction and self, become so intoxicatingly complicated is Eremita's
' 6 See Walter Lowrie's preface to his translation of Soren Kierkegaard. Either/Or, Volume
II (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1972), p. xvi.
17
Howard Johnson's Foreword to the Swenson translation, p. v. For a more detailed discussion of Kierkegaard's notion of an experimental character, see the Historical
Introduction by Howard Hong in Soren Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling, Repetition
(Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1983), esp. pp xxi-xxxi. Walther Rehm adopts a
slightly different emphasis in his discussion of the artificial, experimental self which
Kierkegaard adopts in writing, seeing for example Eremita (or ., or Johannes) as a
fictional realization of an actual possibility in the author himself, a single and coherent
manifestation of his multiple and not easily unified self - in this sense, too, then, an
artificial I, with as heavy an emphasis on the I as Hong places on the artificial. See
also Mark C. Taylor, Kierkegaard's Pseudonymous Authorship (Princeton: Princeton
University Press, 1975), pp. 38-78.

83

own, which he makes in introducing the matter of authorship to the Diary. By


his own account, he, Victor, had happened some five years before to become
unduly attracted to a secretary he espied in a store shop-window. Giving in to his
very sophisticated, very eloquent* desire, he bought the desk and brought it
home. Once there, he discovered quite by accident, in one of the secret drawers
and recesses he so enjoyed in his secret-ary, a collection of manuscript papers
which, by virtue of both the type of paper and style of handwriting, he was able
to separate into two groups, the papers of the aestheticist A. (the Either) and of
the ethicist B. (the Or).'8
The last of A.'s papers, Victor tells us, is a story entitled, Diary of the Seducer. This story creates new and special difficulties for Eremita, insofar as A.
does not acknowledge himself as author, but only as editor (9). Despite A.'s
claim that the Diary is not his own work but rather the actual work of another, actual person, Victor remains convinced that it is actually A.'s own work
of fiction and that its first-person protagonist is really a fictional creation of A.
himself - not, we should note, that it is A. himself, or his real experience, but
rather a pseudonymous persona he assumes in the service of his idea. As Victor
says, this is an old trick of the novelist, and I should not object to it, if it did not
make my own position so complicated, as one author seems to be enclosed in
another, like the box within box of a Chinese puzzle-box (9). 1 '
But this is of course precisely what both the trick and comment are meant
to do: to draw Victor's own practice and existence into question, to expose their
artifice and Kierkegaard's own identical practice, to make the whole issue of
authorial activity and fictional identity conspicuous and intrinsic. Kierkegaard
underscores the mirroring self-reflexivity of Eremita and A. (as second fictitious
editor/author) in a number of ways. Most pointedly, like Victor, A. as editor begins by discovering a secretary, in the secretary an unexpectedly open drawer, and
in the drawer a collection of manuscript papers, a book in broad quarto, tastefully bound (299), and so on. 20 Insofar as this is a trick of the novelist recognized by Eremita, it becomes a trick in respect to him, too: his story and characters also dissolve into novelistic artifice; even as Johannes becomes A.'s literary
fiction, so A. becomes Eremita's. And, of course, nothing prevents the trick from
continuing on to point to Victor's own existence as literary artefact and to Kier-

18

10

84

It is significant, and emphasized, that these two characters, especially ., are first presented to us as paper and handwriting. By this device, the interplay of paper-work and
identity, of self and literary product, is brought immediately to the fore.
Kierkegaard himself compounds the puzzle by having Johannes and Eremita, but not
., reappear as characters in a later work, Stages on Life's Way, trans, and ed. Howard
Hong and Edna Hong (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1988).
Again, the new character is first presented to us as paper and handwriting; the proliferation of authors/editors and fictive selves is matched by that of manuscripts and paperwork.

kegaard's own novelistic activity, even as it also points ahead to Johannes' similarly novelistic activity in the creation of his presented self.
Moreover, although neither Eremita nor A. acknowledges himself as the author
of the papers and persons he represents, each engages in similar editorial activity
which amounts to a kind of authorship and a kind of construction of the represented, poetized I's and artworks. Again, the duplication in their activity reflects on
their own status, not only as fashioning authors but also as fashioned artworks. For
instance, both undertake to make copies of the original manuscripts. In fact, as
befits his own doubled status, ., as editor of the Diary, undertakes to make a
clear and accurate copy of the rough copy of the manuscript he had previously
made. Over and again we are presented with these editors' paper copies instead of
originals, with paper products distanced from human lives; with each copy the
conscious and exacting work of one character and the re-presented self of the next.
More noticeably, each editor also undertakes both to arrange the original
manuscript in the course of his copying, and to outfit it with such literary trappings as titles and introductory epigraphs. Both activities betray the literary sensibility of the respective mediating consciousness, and both subtly but essentially
transform the originally given into artwork and its respective given self into a
poetized self. Even when not overtly asked to consider each embedded character as fictional, then, we are still asked to see each as literalized by the work of
the preceding. In this way, too, Johannes' attempt to live poetically is anticipated
and abetted by the work before his own.
Victor also invites the collapse of the entire puzzle when he ends his preface
by explaining how, in selecting a title for the two volume work, he allowed himself a liberty, a deception, in that it dawned on me that they [A. and B.] might
be looked at as the work of one man, that the collections of papers are like
novels in which certain characters represent opposing views of life (i}f). With
this observation, Eremita ironically abrogates the real existence of A. and B.
and returns them to their actual status as fictional creations, as literary characters, even as he has already done to Johannes by regarding him as A.'s fiction. And
with the reference to the work of one man, he seems also to point playfully
back to Kierkegaard himself as actual author, and so ironically to abrogate his
own real existence and to return himself to purely fictional, poetical status.
We should also note, however, that the collapsing orders of imitation can work
to the opposite effect as well, to the abrogation of the purely fictional status and
an assertion of a sense of the real. Eremita, for example, who does not believe in
the actuality of the Diary and believes its protagonist to be pure fiction, can
nonetheless still feel Johannes bodily enter his study and speak to him directly.
Conversely, Kierkegaard, the psychologically and artistically distanced author,
can still directly invest the Diary with key aspects of his own literary activity
and of his own personal life (e.g., his relationship with Regine Olsen). In the collusive interplay of reality and literature at each level of the text, then, both aspects

8$

constantly assert themselves, and we need to recognize the instances of reality's


supersession as well as those of fictional mediation.
Nonetheless: all this literary self-reflexivity and flaunting of the condition
and operation of the text as text would remain nothing but a clever Chinese puzzle, an intellectual game of collapsing perspectives, if they did not fuse so wonderfully, so essentially with the actual fictional predicament and undertakings of
the work's protagonist, with the way Johannes construes and constructs his world
and self; but because they do, they are essentially involved in very real issues of
life and identity. 21 Kierkegaard has a scribe make a copy of Victor's manuscript;
Victor makes a copy of A.'s and B.'s; A . makes a copy of Johannes', each one
creating in turn a counterfeit, poetized self. But A. describes the experience of
discovering the real Johannes as like a police officer when he enters the room
of a forger, opens his belongings, and finds in a drawer a number of loose papers,
samples of handwriting; on one there is a piece of tracing, on another a monogram, on a third a line of reversed writing (299). And later on, Johannes describes himself to Cordelia as a manuscript, a palimpsest with writing over writing which he learns to read through to discover himself (396). In a sense, they are
all both forgers of fictive signatures and at the same time manuscripts of
increasingly layered handwriting, and it is just this convoluted condition that
Johannes re-presents and embodies - life as literature.
Perhaps the most important way in which the fictional conditions and operations of the text as text fuse with the way, or reproduce the way, in which Johannes himself construes and constructs his world and self comes in the penultimate
box to the puzzle, in Johannes as author of the Diary. In this capacity he
both continues the series of authors (Kierkegaard, Eremita, and A.) and shares in
their writerly function and activity, and, with all the peculiarities he brings to
bear on his other mimetic activities, he also writes himself, re-presents, forges
himself. 22 It is in this arrangement that Johannes is most enabled to construct or
translate his original self into a poetized, or literalized, artifice. To borrow a figure Johannes uses to describe his own poetic relationship to Cordelia, It is as
if behind a man who with an unsteady hand roughly sketched an outline drawing,
there was standing another who constantly brought something bold and wellrounded out of this (414). In a similar fashion, Johannes as narrator seems to
stand behind his character, improve, complete and guide each gesture, and thereby produce a more perfect picture, a more poetized self - even as, behind him,
. , Eremita, and Kierkegaard similarly stand, guide, and poetize.
21
22

86

Cf. Robert Alter, Partial Magic, p. 183.


Cf. p. 36yf. : To keep those who listen in suspense, by means of small incidents of an
episodic character, to ascertain what they wish the outcome to be, to trick them in the
course of the narration - that is my delight; to make use of ambiguities, so that the
listeners understand one thing in the saying, and then suddenly notice that the words
could also be interpreted otherwise - that is my art.

To some extent, such an idealization is an implicit facet of all retrospective


self-representation. But Kierkegaard's, A.'s, and Johannes' own musings also
make this poetization of experience through memory an emphatic consideration. For instance, A. says in one of his aphorisms in Diapsalmata that memory
revives experience in a purely poetic manner. The life that is lived wholly in
memory is the most perfect conceivable, the satisfactions of memory are richer
than any reality, and have a security that no reality possesses (3if.). Similarly, In
a poetic memory the experience has undergone a transformation, by which it has
lost all its painful aspects (289), so that, for example, only the love that lives in
memory is happy (40).23 Moreover, such a memory is not simply a natural,
immediate process. Rather, as A . explains in The Rotation Method, poetic recollection is an acquired skill, an aesthetic technique in re-production, or better,
in Falschmnzerei. 24 That is, memory, in its copy, actively works to transform
experience into something different, something more poetical. Johannes himself puts the same point about memory's transformative process somewhat more
poetically: Memory is not only a means of preserving, but also of enhancing;
what is permeated by memory has a twofold effect. - One often finds in books,
especially in psalters, a little flower - there had been a beautiful moment which
had furnished the occasion for keeping this, and yet the memory is even more
beautiful (339). And of course Johannes, as we find him pressed between the
covers of his book, is himself such a flower: drained of original life, but thereby
enhanced, too.
A s editor, A . is particularly intent on pointing out how the character we confront in the Diary is a remembered, reconstructed, poetized character: not a
real or live figure, but a deceptively counterfeited, mediated reproduction. He
stresses that as writer, Johannes reproduces his experience more or less poetically, that his Diary is therefore neither historically exact nor simply fiction, not
indicative but subjunctive. Although the experience is recorded, naturally, after it
has happened - sometimes, perhaps, a long time after - yet it is often described
with the dramatic vividness of an action taking place before one's very eyes
(30of.). A . stops just short of saying that this dramatization of character in its
retrospective reproduction completely assimilates both the Diary and Johannes' seif to the realm of poetic fiction, perhaps intended for publication. But
his impulse in this direction is nonetheless significant. For it is clear to both A.
and the reader that, as writer, Johannes is aesthetically realizing, or derealizing,
his character, turning himself more and more into artwork: this follows closely
from the conjunction of recollecting and writing in the Diary, from the way the
present tense is always a poetic fiction, the present self always a poetic deceit. The

23

24

For similar observations by Kierkegaard outside of Either/Or, see the preface to In


Vino Veritas: A Recollection.
This is Hirsch's term, see p. 315.
87

whole Diary is constructed, as it were, along the same lines as Johannes' letters,
which, in their artistically perfected, calculated carelessness, A. recognizes as
forgeries, as the studious, laborious construction of a poetized, artificial self.25
The only thing that really prevents A. from consigning the Diary entirely to
the realm of imaginative fiction is his quite essential observation that this narrative mode of artefaction of self and experience faithfully reproduces the most
important aspect of Johannes' original mode of experience: that even as original
character he engages in a similar process of self-fictionalization, a similar confusion of poetry and reality (301). In this respect, the relationship between Johannes as poetically fashioning, detached narrator and as poetized, engaged character
is but a reflexive expression, or extension, of the relationship between his reflective and immediate selves, a fragmentation of self intrinsic to his character.
This is not yet the place to discuss in detail the dynamics of this fragmentation
within Johannes' self and how it draws to itself all the vocabulary and operations
of fiction-making. All we need now to note is 1) the replication of the same mimetic, self-making/poetry-making practices on these two levels of the text, and 2)
the sustained possibilities for collusion and collapse between the two orders of
activity thereby opened up, where Johannes' reflective self can be aided, abetted,
even appropriated by his narratorial self, and where both can collude in the creation of the presented, poetized self.
Before we proceed to this interplay and leave our discussion of the work's
purely literary dimension, we need first and also to note that the Diary is not
only a diary in its literary form. It also contains the letters from Cordelia which
precede the first diary entry, as well as Johannes' own letters strategically scattered throughout; in this respect, the Diary also draws on the epistolary form
popular to early novels (to which tradition the editorial preface also belongs), and
so mixes its generic allegiances, fragments its literary form and forgoes a sense of
easy poetic unity, coherence, and completeness. This tendency toward a multiplicity and fragmentation of literary identities is furthered by the numerous
21

It is at least partially due to Johannes' narratorial practices that A. feels moved to say
that he [Johannes as character] did not belong to reality but to another world behind it, and that the relationship between the two [worlds] is not unlike the relationship we sometimes see in the theater between the forestage scene in the regular acting
area and a scrim scene projected behind it . . . Many people who bodily appear in the
actual world do not belong in it but in that other(302). So it is with Johannes as character: even when he seems bodily present in the regular acting area of the Diary's
play, he still belongs rather to that second order, that flat order of illusion behind it - to
the printed page.
We might also note that Johannes himself calls emphatic attention to the paper order
and poetical quality of his narrative by having it in broad quarto, tastefully bound,
and by providing it with an ornamented tide, Commentarius perpetuus N0.4, a title
selected with much taste and understanding, with a true, aesthetically objective superiority over himself and over the situation (300).

88

actiones in distans, the little occasional sketches interspersed throughout the


tale and, apparently, having nothing to do with Cordelia's story (307). And in
some sense the many short, literary quotations scattered throughout the Diary
- including those from Ovid - strengthen the aphoristic, fragmentary and disunified effect of the inserted letters and sketches, even of the often staccato-paced
and self-contained diary entries themselves.26 From a slightly different angle, Johannes' own original title for the Diary, Commentarius perpetuus N0.4, also
supports the fragmentation by presenting the work as but a piece of a larger,
unpresented whole.
These are some of the ways in which the literary fragmentation of the text is
carried out not only on the vertical but also on the horizontal axis of the text.
This fragmentation also has important consequences for the project of constructing
an artificial I, and not least because it, too, involves notions not only of literary
form, but also of personal identity.27 To begin, we should note that this horizontal fragmentation occurs at every level of the text and not just in the Diary. In
fact, the subtitle to the entire work, although rarely reproduced on the title page, is
A Fragment of Life. Life as fragment, as aphorism, and not as organic, natural
unity, is built into the very structure of the work. The narrative voice of the whole
work is essentially split among several persons who write in disparate literary
styles: besides Eremita who writes prefaces and Johannes diaries, epistles and actiones, there is also A. who writes essays, aphorisms and, apparently, fiction, and B.
who writes letters which sometimes pass over into religious treatises. When the
whole is viewed as the work of one man, as Eremita invites us to do, the decisive
heterogeneity of literary forms and corresponding multiplicity and disunity of
selves emerges as the operating condition of the work itself.
More particularly, the papers of A. evince an emphatically fragmentary character. Besides the Diary, his papers consist of a collection of six essays on a
wide range of subjects and in a wide range of styles, and a collection of aphorisms
on an equally wide range of subjects. Since in each case there is no necessary connection between the various pieces, Eremita as editor is forced to acknowledge
special difficulties in regard to their arrangement, and finally simply to allow
chance to determine the order. Thus the individual parts retain their fragmentary
character and maintain the overall sense of aphoristic disunity. And as Eremita
insists, this multiplicity and partiality is intrinsic to A.'s project. As he says, A.'s
papers contain a number of attempts to formulate an aesthetic philosophy of life.
A single, coherent aesthetic view of life can hardly be carried out (13). The
employment of a fragmentary, multiple literary presentation is, as it were, dic-

16

17

For a description of the intended stylistic proficiency in fragmentary prodigality, see


the essay Ancient Tragical Motif, p. 149^
For one version of we who do not merely think and speak aphoristically but live
aphoristically, we who live aphorismenoi, see p. 218.
89

tated by the aestheticist's Lebensanschauung. Each essay is partial because


provisional, experimental: the work not only cannot succeed to coherent unity, to
some extent it also refuses such organic unity as antithetical to its vision. 28
The fragmented multiplicity, or multiple fragmentation, that we encounter at
every level of the work and at the heart of the Diary, then, closely corresponds
to a similar multiple fragmentation of the self. This bespeaks a fundamentally different concept of the self than we find in Ovid: it also entails a different attitude
toward the project of constructing an artificial I. As we have seen, Ovid is a
major proponent of a counter-classical sensibility, a subverter of stable and
static conceptions of the human self and, similarly, of generically maintained literary orders. In both these respects, Ovid might be said to anticipate Kierkegaard
and certainly to offer important points of continuity with him. But as we have
also seen, behind Ovid's ostensibly revolutionary program still lies a solidly classical understanding of the self, an understanding which reveals itself in his fundamentally Vergilian, georgic conception of the all-powerful rule of (irrational)
nature and man's emphatically fragile control over it; and in his fundamentally
Propertian, elegiac conception of the all-powerful rule of (irrational) passion in
shaping one's person and actions. For all his parodie play and subversion, Ovid
nonetheless adheres faithfully to basic tenets of human nature held by the major
representatives of his two parodied traditions. And it is precisely because he does
share their assumptions that his counter- attempt to realign the laws of nature
by the imposition of an aesthetic system is purposely designed to fail. The Ovidian self is, finally, too real to admit to successful refashioning by literary artifice:
either the self violently reasserts its own essential identity, or the artifice violently
violates the essential, spontaneous self.
In the Either and Diary, however, it is just this notion of a competing
order, or reality, of underlying and somehow unifying human nature which seems
no longer in force. The split between the reflective and immediate self which
Kierkegaard multiplies in his vertical array and which was such a perversion in
Ovid seems to be simply part of the nature of human reality. Similarly, the fragmentation of the self we encounter on each horizontal plane seems also simply to
reflect the nature of a reality largely if not completely lacking in the sense of a
governing, determining natural order. 2 ' And yet at some level, it seems, there still
remains an undeniable urge toward a fully realized self, a unified self: but since
classical natura is no longer at hand to provide that order, that seif (and, for A .
and Johannes, the order of Christianity is still out of reach), it seems poetry, fiction-making must, or more circumspectly can, fill that breach. 30 This is, I think,

28

This is most fully spelled out in The Rotation Method: it is also perhaps the major
point of literary imitation of Schlegel's Lucinde.
2
' This is basically the position W. Rehm develops in his first chapter, The Possibility.
30
The correspondences with Lacanian models are obvious enough not to need specific
90

the decisive change we find reflected in the literary forms and representations of
the self we have considered thus far: that in Kierkegaard, the refashioning of the
self by literary artifice is not an (impossible) violation of a prior real and essential
identity, but rather an eminently possible and in some sense even necessary operation by which one first forges for oneself a real, even if experimental, identity. 31
This is not to say that the project of the artificial I does not retain many of the
dark, almost demonic ambivalences so prominent in Ovid; but that beneath these
continuing, ineradicable tensions there emerges a new possibility, for both Johannes and Cordelia - that the artificial I is more of an I, a more fully realized
self.

III.

J o h a n n e s ' life as literature

Let us first consider Johannes' attempt to realize the task of living poetically
and, as far as we are able, save his aesthetic artefaction of Cordelia for a separate
discussion. (Given the dialectical method of Johannes' self-fashioning, such a
separation cannot, of course, be fully maintained.) On the penultimate page of
the Diary, as Johannes sets off for his final, climactic rendezvous with Cordelia,
he makes the following programmatic point about both himself and his created
world: Everything is symbol [or better, Gleichnis]: I am myself a myth about
myself; for is it not as myth that I hasten to this meeting? Who I am has nothing
to do with it (439). Exactly what Johannes means by myself a myth about myself, how in the developing course of the Diary he has achieved this state, this

31

elaboration. Moreover, I wish to avoid the invocation of Lacan, insofar as this could be
interpreted as referring to an empirical model of the self that is valid independent of
both the literary and the historical context. Quite to the contrary, we might note that
some of the most persuasive applications of Lacanian models are to Romantic literary
works of the early 19th century, which suggests more the grounding of his notions of
personal identity in the literature and time of Kierkegaard than the grounding of Kierkegaard's in the psychology and post-modernism of Lacan. See for example, Lacan's
own Seminar on Poe's The Purloined Letter; Reinhart Meyer-Kalkus, Werthers
Krankheit zum Tode, or Friedrich Kittler, 'Das Phantom unseres Ichs' und die Literaturepsychologie, both in Urszenen (Frankfurt a.M.: Suhrkamp, 1977), pp. 76-166.
A somewhat similar position is developed by G. E. Arbaugh in his essay Deceit, Deception, inasmuch as he, too, sees the task of fashioning an authentic self as a hard
but necessary one - that the self is not a given, but always a fashioned I. Similarly, in
the introduction to his translation of Sylviane Agacinski, Apart: Conceptions and
Deaths of Soren Kierkegaard (Tallahassee: Florida State University Press, 1988), Kevin
Newmark discusses the religious individual whose self is produced poetically by
God and quotes from Kierkegaard's The Concept of Irony about the man who allows
himself to be poetically produced (z6f.) See also Mark C. Taylor, Journeys to Selfiood:
Hegel and Kierkegaard (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1980), which also
contains a useful bibliography.
91

life im Gleichnis, and what the significance of the suggested link is between
self-mythification, or literalization, and self-annihilation, or de-individualization:' 2 this is the primary understanding that our analysis of Johannes and his
Diary seeks to arrive at.
Let us begin by bringing this citation into contact with another which serves
both to qualify and clarify its program. In the preface, A. makes specific mention
of the Diary's increasing unconcern for dates at the heading of entries, until at
last it is a marked exception when one is given, as if the story in its progress becomes qualitatively significant to such a degree that, although historically real, it
comes nearer to being idea, and for this reason the time-designations become a
matter of indifference (306). This observation reminds us that Johannes as narrator/diarist is engaged in a process of mythification of his character in every way
analogous to that of Johannes as character.33 The collusive interplay between the
two is almost impossible to control, and yet there is also a thematic relevance to
the duplication which effectively obviates the impulse toward such control. On
the one hand, the duplication recreates an essential interplay between the activities of literary creation and self-creation, an interplay inseparable from both
projects. On the other hand, it vividly recreates the equally essential remove from
the immediate, primary text-world and the mediation of language which are inseparable aspects both of Johannes' narration and of his primary character and
mode of experience. In this respect, then, our task is not to try to separate Johannes' literary enterprise from his real enterprise, but rather to allow the interplay
and to explore how his real enterprise draws on, implicates and re-produces his
literary one.
Perhaps the most emphatic manner in which Johannes' character shares in the
narrator's stance comes in the reflective remove he so consistently affects from the
immediate world, the distance he maintains even from situations in which he
himself is an active participant and that always preserves for him the narratorial
role of invisible, voyeuristic observer and recorder. This hidden vigilance and
watchful detachment, this sense of secret absence even from his own presence,
gives rise to many of the dominant figures for Johannes' person. He is described
as invisibly present, as like the unseen partner in a dance; as one whose feet are
so formed that he left no footprints; as like the clouds or the winds, and so on. It
also gives rise to some of his most characteristic activity, especially conspicuous
in the actiones in distans, namely his voyeurism. The first such actio is a good
example of this. He first watches a beautiful unknown emerge from a carriage

31

33

92

The association between mythification and literalization is explicit in the strategic


placement of a well-known work by Apuleius as the operant model for the rendezvous. See below.
In this context, Kierkegaard's use of idea and of myth are roughly interchangeable:
both mean representation. See pp. 86, 91, and esp. 258.

and then follows her into a shop and continues to observe her inconspicuously
there. At first, as she steps out of the carriage, Johannes stresses how it is impossible for you to see me ... and of course if one cannot see, one cannot be seen
(310). The immediate cause for his invisibility is darkness, but the condition is
nonetheless habitual to Johannes, and inseparable from his role as observer. It is
maintained, for example, even when he visits the Wahl household, visible to
everyone in the living room (344).
The reason for this pronounced invisibility can be gleaned from the action
inside the shop, still in the first actio, such a hidden distance and reflective remove
are part of his mode of experience. When he enters the shop, he does not observe
the beautiful unknown directly, but rather watches her reproduced, counterfeit
image in a mirror. And in true self-conscious fashion, his concern is as much with
the mirror as with her: A mirror hangs on the opposite wall; she does not reflect
on it, but the mirror reflects her. How faithfully it has caught her picture, like a
humble slave who shows his devotion by his faithfulness, a slave for whom she
indeed has significance, but who means nothing to her, who indeed dares to catch
her, but not to embrace her (311). And although Johannes immediately goes on
to exclaim, What agony, if men were made like that!, it is still clear that the
mirror is a functioning figure for his own mode of invisible voyeurism and reflective experience (cf. She pulls off a glove to show the mirror and myself a right
hand). Johannes, too, is such an invisible, impersonal, and apparently transparent recorder of reality, who always catches a counterfeit copy, a reflective
image, and not the immediate, palpable original.
However, the distance that Johannes thus imposes or maintains between himself and immediate reality, between his caught picture and the palpable original, is
not a neutral one, nor a regretted one. Rather, Johannes very much prefers the
picture to the original, even to replace the original with the picture. As he explains
in the same passage, if a man were not able to hold a picture in memory even
when he is present, then he must always wish to be at a distance from beauty, not
so near that the earthly eye cannot see how beautiful that is which he holds, and
which is lost to sight in his embrace (311). There are, as it were, two objects at
issue, and two respective modes of their enjoyment: the immediate woman one
can embrace, and the distanced picture one can see. Johannes clearly prefers the
latter, precisely because it speaks more to his sense of the beautiful and interesting, and more to his sense of pleasure, which always demands distance,
restraint, patience and slow draughts.34
As Johannes makes clear here, mere physical distance is not the only means of
preserving the picture, and is in some sense the hapless recourse of the unskilled.
Far better equipped is he who can hold the picture in memory even when he is
34

E.g., when he sees Cordelia for the second time: I kept my distance from her, and
drank in her picture (328). C f . 362.

93

present, who can see the picture before the eyes of his soul even when the original is immediately and palpably present. Memory thus becomes the reflective
mirror which holds, or captures, the picture, a memory already active and visually substituting, or interceding, even at the moment of immediate experience.
But as in Johannes' narratorial activity, such a memory is not simply neutral reproduction. Rather than giving back a natural, real or live figure, it gives back
an enhanced, mediated reproduction: a picture, an artwork, a poetized reproduction. Just as memory is a poetic technique, so is reflective observation, insofar as for Johannes observation is already a memory process of poetic metamorphosis. In this sense, his detached observation reproduces his literary activity
even more forcibly than simple shared description. Both remember, and poetize
in remembering.
To a certain extent, memory poetizes the picture for Johannes simply by
idealizing it, by removing its individualizing reality and then bringing it into
play with the ideal forms of his perceptual world. As he says regarding his
first picture of Cordelia, The image I now have of her shifts uncertainly between her actual and her ideal form (330). But such ideals never remain quite
so abstract as Johannes' philosophical terminology implies. Rather, the ideal
forms usually prove to be quite concrete artistic forms, so that the objects as
transformed copies/pictures are assimilated to often literary models, of which
they then become copies. In other words, Johannes experiences or transforms
his perceptions through the mirror of such models. 3 '
Again, the first actio provides a good illustration. Its first lines - Johannes'
first lines - are, Caution, my beautiful unknown! Caution! To step out of a carriage is not so simple a matter, to which he immediately adds, I might lend you
a novel of Tieck's in which you would read about a lady... (309). Johannes thinks
experience in terms of such texts: his initial perception of the unknown woman is
mirrored through or in the novel, and only comes to him correspondingly novelistically - as artwork (and thus not so simple a matter). The same is true of his
reproduction of her image in the mirror, which unlike the mirror's own slavishly
faithful objectivity clearly evinces the assimilation to a realm of art: Her head is
a Madonna head, pure and innocent in cast; like a Madonna she is bending forward, and so on. These are the pictures which make up Johannes' experience,
the products of his reflective observation and poetic imagination. He does not, he
says, enjoy the immediate but something quite different: life made a copy of art. 36
Just how central this picture-making process is to Johannes' mode of erotic
experience can be seen in his descriptions of his meetings with Cordelia and com-

>6

94

In this respect, Johannes is very like Scribe's Emmiline, whose novelistic mode of
experience and perception A. describes at length in his essay, The First Love.
Note the phrasing: like a Madonna. Johannes inhabits a world of multiple art-copies,
not unique, human originals.

pany at the aunt's house. For Johannes, Every erotic relation should always be
lived so that one can easily reproduce a picture of it, in all the beauty of the original scene (385). That is the way he lives the visits with Eduard, Cordelia and
the aunt: as he says several times, we united to form a picture . . . which one can
easily reproduce for oneself at will (345). It is this picture, this poetized reproduction via the immediate mediation of memory, that Johannes both experiences
and enjoys. More importantly, the picture is further transformed by Johannes'
thinking it in terms of a familiar picture (346), or rather, text, namely the textual model of Goethe's Faust (i.e., Marthe and Mephisto and Faust and Gretchen).
Although this involves a difficulty, a slight distortion of reality, it is nonetheless
- or better, for just that reason - fully indicative of the way Johannes experiences
reality primarily in the distorting mirror of literature.
The same holds true of his attraction to Cordelia. Before he actually knows
her, he knows her name, and that alone forms a basis for his attraction:
Cordelia! That is really an excellent name, and it was also the name of King
Lear's third daughter . . . She resembles her, I am certain of that (332). Johannes obviously enjoys thinking the real Cordelia reflected in her literary Vorbild, transforming her into a citation/copy of this literary figure. In fact, it remains somewhat ambiguous which attracts him more, the idealized copy or the
immediate girl (cf. 266). Moreover, Johannes does much the same with Eduard,
except that in this case Johannes' artefaction tends toward the opposite distortion, toward caricature. Johannes thinks him in terms of his prototype, Fritz
(from Scribe's comedy Le Fiancee), and so dehumanizes him to something less
than real - and although he several times mentions that Eduard should not be
a caricature, the very need for the caveat betrays the inclination. Johannes'
literalization of his perceptions, then, actually dehumanizes in two ways: it
idealizes and caricatures.
These are some of the passive, internal ways in which Johannes fashions the
human world into an art world. Far more central to our concerns, however, is
how he also poetizes the world, and himself, in active, external ways. For instance, when he says that Every erotic relation should always be lived so that one
can easily reproduce a picture of it, he immediately adds, If one does not find
[things] as one wants them, then one must make them so (385). He makes a similar point in an early actio when he slips in the aside, Write me down as a bungler
if I cannot shape the situation as I want it (318). As A. in his preface makes clear,
this productive shaping of the given reality to conform with his, Johannes',
aesthetic ideals or models, his making things, and people, into the poetical he
wants, in many ways precedes the withdrawal of the poetic in the form of poetic
reflection. It first furnishes, so to speak, suitable material for the following contemplation, for the second enjoyment. This first movement, then, entails its
own form of poetizing, its own enjoyment - and, inevitably, its own dehumanization.
95

In some respects, the two movements resemble each other, as one might
expect in the to-and-fro of their dialectical interplay. For example, this poetizing
and its enjoyment also require a certain distance, detachment and absence even
from one's own involved presence, a split from one's own immediacy. But in this
case, the distance is needed for the active production of the immediate, rather
than (merely) for its reflective reproduction. As Johannes puts it, As one becomes more experienced, he gains in a way; for though one loses the sweet unrest
of impatient longing, he gains ability in making the moment really beautiful
(317). Again, the impatient unrest characteristic of immediate, emotional, human
experience - that impatience that longs to embrace its object - is antithetical to
Johannes' sense of the really beautiful, which requires an experienced kind of
aesthetic distance and emotional detachment not just to see, but to bring into
being in the first place.
To some extent, mere distance, restraint, patience and taste are sufficient to
make the moment really beautiful. But for an uncommon seducer like Johannes, the task of making reality both beautiful and interesting is far more intricate,
demanding and exacting. In fact, it is here that he most clearly displays the skills
and the study and industry which secure the correlation of eroticist and
aesthetician so central to his erotic project. We have already seen how acquired
aesthetic skill and conscious effort are needed to produce an enhanced counterfeit
in memory. This becomes all the more true to produce such a counterfeit in
reality.
Perhaps the most conspicuous facet to this aspect of Johannes' poetic activity
is the sheer amount of work, of Ovidian labor and incessant industry he invests in
making each moment poetic, or rather, in producing a poetic counterfeit to substitute for each key moment. He reports, for example, how a meeting which has
cost me hours of waiting is thrown away like a mere bagatelle (336), only because
such an incidental, accidental effect is precisely what he has worked and waited
for; or similarly, the time Cordelia has cost me ... is considerable. Every meeting
has demanded long preparation.37 And in addition to the simple expenditure of
time and energy, the labor of his fashioning activity also demands the self-denial of dedicated service, the self-discipline and rigid abstemiousness from
every forbidden enjoyment which keeps him - not so much slavishly as perhaps
religiously - devoted to his fiction-making project, to his servitium artis. His
ceaseless industry and ascetic discipline are, of course, the flipside both to his passive poetic voyeurism and to his aesthetic of erotic enjoyment; they are also the
essential, added side to his functional identity with his narratorial activity. The
detached observer is also the active creator; the one's passive enjoyment is the
other's disciplined accomplishment.
37

96

We can point to A.'s figure of the forger by way of analogy: successful counterfeits
demand long preparation to appear original and natural.

Besides the almost intimidating amount of work and discipline which go into
making the moment really beautiful, that is, poetized, counterfeited, there is also
the ratio, or method, which Johannes brings to bear on the given moment and, in
keeping with this, the definite technique or personal style in the execution of that
ratio. Johannes makes frequent mention of the calculated, intellectual deliberations
which regulate the systematized routine of his life: he speaks of the law governing this movement, the strategic principle governing every movement in this
campaign, and so on (337,341). It is precisely this technical sense of (Ovidian) ratio
which most forcibly identifies Johannes as an (Ovidian) artist, ruled by an aesthetic
system and operating with aesthetic skills as he works or maneuvers characters into
the pictures, moments, and situations he wants (cf. 341). And it is this same ratio
which juxtaposes so starkly with Johannes' identity as lover, insofar as he pursues as
an intellectual, calculated, and technical activity what is traditionally considered an
emotional, impulsive and natural condition.'8 But then, he says, I simply do not
care to possess a girl in the mere external sense, but to enjoy her in an artistic sense.
Therefore my approach must be as artistic as possible (368).
To a certain extent, Johannes systematizes, or poetizes, moments and situations simply by bringing them into or under the category of the interesting. As he
says, The law for the interesting again controls all my actions with regard to
Cordelia, or the strategic principle ... is always to work her into an interesting
situation (361, 341). Exactly what Johannes means by the interesting is a rather
slippery subject; but just as the ideal forms by which Johannes poetizes reality
in memory never remain quite so abstract as the philosophical terminology
implies, so too the category and laws for the interesting prove to have a fairly concrete basis, and again the operant model lies in the realm of literary fiction. For
instance, when Johannes is first contemplating calling Cordelia by name (sitting
home repeating it parrot-like to himself), he says, One must always make pre-

38

In the same way as Johannes' (Ovidian) labor draws to itself certain aspects of a religious asceticism, so too does his (Ovidian) ratio imitate certain aspects of 19th century
science. So, for instance, we find him constantly making investigations, experiments, classifications, calculations, observations and conclusions (cf. I
have already seen the little foot, and since I am a natural scientist, I have learned from
Cuvier how to draw definite conclusions from such details 310). Such an impudent
appropriation of the semantic field of respectable occupations for erotic activity is of
course equally at work in Ovid (and Roman elegy in general) as well as in Felix Krull. It
is another crucial aspect of each one's life in imitation, in this case not so much of literature as life itself; it is what Stephen Greenblatt has designated improvisation in his
essay, The Improvisation of Power, in Renaissance Self-Fashioning: From More to
Shakespeare (Chicago: Chicago UP, 1980), pp. 222-254. F r the converse of this point,
namely the ways in which Kierkegaard's ironic method duplicates the ideology of the
bourgeois civil society he so apparently opposes, see Terry Eagleton, Absolute
Ironies, in The Ideology of the Aesthetic (Oxford, Cambridge MA: Basil Blackwell,
m)> PP I 73 - I 95

97

liminary studies, everything must be properly planned - as he says elsewhere,


It is the correct method, and I always have method (338, 382). But Johannes also
goes on to indicate what the operant model, or law, behind the plan and practice
is: It is no wonder that poets always describe as the most beautiful moment the
one when the lovers first call each other by name (338). Implicit to this thought is
that Johannes' plan or study to make that beautiful moment entails fashioning
it according to the codes and conventions of poets, so that his experience becomes a realization - or better, an imitation, copy - in life of what they realize in
art.
Johannes makes a somewhat similar plan when considering how to make
the moment of declaring his love to Cordelia. He says, I have held several rehearsals in order to discover . . . which would be the best approach, and then
sketches out several conceivable methods (cf. 248f.), among them the frankly
low-comic, which however he finally rejects as out of character with the mask I
have hitherto used (367). The imagery of rehearsals, masks, and low-comedy
overtly exposes how Johannes' method is primarily to fashion the lived moment
in the mirror of theater, to transform his reality into a copy of that artificial
world. And although the two contemplated moments - of the calling by name
and the declaring of love - again point to opposite effects of Johannes' artefaction
- the first idealizing in the image of poetry, the second caricaturing in that of
theater - both show how Johannes, by means of his work and its demands and his
implicit literary models and their demands, actively strives to turn his moments
into derealized copies of art, and thus to make them interesting.
More importantly, according to the same principles by which Johannes shapes
moments into artworks, he also shapes people, applying the same work, skill and
literary models to realizing them poetically and making them interesting although as one might expect, both the process and result are far more ambiguous
when involving human beings. Cordelia, of course, is the prime example of his
idealizing artefaction, as he skillfully labors to fashion or counterfeit her into the
image of the picture he secretly cherishes (384), not least by supervising her
reading and so imposing the desired literary models (myths and fairy tales)
upon her development. As he puts it, I draw everything out of her. If it was not
there to begin with, I manage to implant it by means of the inculcated texts
(407). On the other hand, Eduard is probably the best example of Johannes' caricaturing artefaction, and offers as well a good illustration of the dialectical interplay between reflection and action inherent to all Johannes' poetic activity. As
mentioned, Johannes thinks Eduard in terms of a literary character, Fritz, his
prototype. But in his role as Eduard's mentor (372), Johannes also takes active
steps to bring Eduard into this literary line, to fit the part (of Fritz) he wants him
to play. As Johannes himself puts it, Like a lady's maid or decorator, I fit him out
as well as possible (357): not finding him exactly as he wants him, he makes him
so. In an admittedly comic but still disconcerting way, Johannes' handling of
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Eduard brings out some of the demonic in such a puppeteering or artefacting


possession of a real human being, a demonic which partially informs Johannes
overall practice, his active refashioning of life in the image of artifice.3'
But even as Johannes undertakes to shape others into literarily mediated
artworks, he also undertakes to shape himself poetically: to apply his own work
and ratio and his borrowed textual models to his own self; to literarily possess or
puppeteer his own character. Interestingly but characteristically enough, Johannes
artefacts himself in the direction of both caricature and ideal, first as companion to
Eduard (i.e., the aunt), and then as companion to Cordelia herself. In the first
instance, Johannes explains how I have never before been accustomed to prepare
myself for my part in a conversation; now this becomes necessary in order to entertain the aunt (344). Johannes intends to present himself as a perfect picture of a
confirmed bachelor (347) with solidly prosaic concerns for agriculture (is not
butter a precious gift, the glorious result of nature and art!) to complement the
aunt's own agrarian interests. In order to fashion himself into this picture and to
counterfeit the requisite conversation, Johannes systematically engages in prodigious studies of agronomic literature, whose textual resources he then imitatively
exploits in the service of his self-presentation. That is, he translates himself in terms
of the book, or the book into his activity. By this means, he says, I have made
myself very acceptable to the aunt (344). He also adds, The only thing about me
she cannot stand is that I am nothing (349), but this seems the inevitable precondition to the protean ability to be whatever I want to be, to turn himself into a
convincing copy or translation of any text he incorporates.
This case of Johannes' making himself is of course intentionally trite, insofar as he intends a trite character to match Eduard's and the aunt's, too. The method, however, of presenting himself as something of a (hidden) citation of the
(hidden) interceding text, of making himself a product of his literary studies, is
nonetheless still operative at the most exalted, idealizing levels of his activity. For
example, in the midst of his seduction of Cordelia, he reports how I have in these
last days been constantly preparing myself by reading the celebrated passages in
the Phaedrus concerning love. It electrifies my whole being... (412). In a sense, a
natural emotion or factual interiority which might spontaneously electrify his
whole being is here replaced or mediated by a literary text which instead, and
only with conscious, intentional study and preparation, serves as the animating
force. Work and a book replace the simple, immediate self, as the reflective self
studies to shape a re-presented self.
A similar instance of Johannes casting himself in the image of a text rather
than in that of his own animating emotion comes at the crucial moment of his
declaring his love to Cordelia. Wishing to remain as dispassionate and solemnly
"

Cf. 346, I am invisibly present between her and Eduard, as the shaping, controlling
hand of each separately and both together.

99

stolid as possible, to prevent the intervention of any actual emotion which might
threaten his aesthetic control and disturb the carefully designed moment, Johannes decides to talk like a book. For a book, he explains, has the remarkable
quality that you may interpret it as you wish. One's conversation also acquires the
same quality, if one talks like a book (370). Again, the example is deliberately
almost comic, but its method is still operative throughout. Johannes constantly
presents himself as like a book to Cordelia, a book which substitutes for his
own immediate self. That way she is presented with a poetical figure whom she
may interpret as she wishes (her expressions were like the still unpublished but
announced commentary to my book), while he retains his all-decisive distance,
silence and reserve, his aesthetically objective superiority over himself and over
the situation (300).
And yet in another, equally important sense, this is not fully or exactly the
case; and before we proceed to pursue Johannes as myth, we need first to qualif y somewhat this relation between his split selves, between his actively fashioning, reflective self and his literarily mediated, present(ed) self. N o matter how
rigorously and systematically Johannes works to fashion a poetized, artificial self
out of himself, in particular a poetic lover out of himself, he still nonetheless remains himself, an immediate self, a real lover. Some readers might well be moved
to question this claim; indeed, Johannes himself half expects this doubting response. For instance, when describing Eduard's childish awkwardness and
embarrassment whenever he is with Cordelia, Johannes says, I have never observed this condition in myself, this fear and trembling, that is, to the degree that
it takes away my self-possession, for otherwise I know it well enough . . . Perhaps
some will say I've never been in love. Perhaps. (342). But against this perhaps
we need to balance moments such as when Johannes goes surreptitiously at night
to observe Cordelia's window and allows himself to be sheer desire: Then I
forget everything, I have no plans, no calculations, I throw reason overboard, I
expand and strengthen my chest by deep sighs, an exercise I need in order not to
suffer from the systematized routine of my life (348). These two parts of Johannes - the systematized/literalized and the immediate/natural - coexist; nor, as
this passage implies, do they only exist in alteration, as if the real self only emerges in unguarded, and uncrucial, moments, and even then only as a self-conscious
exercise in amatory conventions. Rather, I believe, both parts are always essentially involved in Johannes' erotic activity, and it is this double optic which always
makes his activity as much a matter of the self as of the artifice. As he says at one
point concerning Cordelia, She will believe me, partly because I have faith in my
art, and partly because fundamentally there is truth in what I am doing (380). We
never really ever lose sight of the fact that Cordelia or even Eduard are real people
with real emotions and lives, and it is just this reality which makes Johannes'
handling of them so ambivalently dynamic. And the same is true of Johannes
himself, and of his handling of himself.
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IV.

T h e dialectic of self-fashioning

However, since Johannes is what A. elsewhere calls an intensive seducer, we are


not so much concerned in his case with the emotion per se, with the energy of his
sensuous desire. The real interest lies in the how, the method, and it is this in his
seduction, or rather in his poetizing and mythifying, that we need now to
explore.
Although at one point Johannes boasts, I can be whatever I wish to Cordelia, the parameters of his self-fashioning are nonetheless for the most part more
systematically defined and delimited. Perhaps the most programmatic formulation of his method comes in a statement Johannes makes shortly after the engagement: I ascertain how [love] has taken shape in her, and fashion myself into likeness with it. And as I am immediately already taken up in the story of love
pulsing through her heart, even so do I then again approach her from without, in
as deceptive a likeness as possible (373). The sentences themselves are extremely
packed and involuted, the process they describe even more so. To begin, Johannes
ascertains how love has taken shape in her. The shape love has taken in her is in
part, as is natural, the silent, untouched flowering of Cordelia's own feelings. But
it is also the actively and constantly molded product of Johannes' poetizing her
and forging her inner world. As he says, his art is to poetize himself in a girl's
feelings so that it is from her that everything issues as he wishes it (363), and so
that it remains ambiguous who seduces whom in their affair (304). In this respect,
then, Cordelia appears both as real, self-contained individual and as unreal, externally fashioned artwork, and Johannes, in his ascertaining, both as passively reflecting observer of Cordelia herself and as actively critical assessor of his own
work-in-progress.
This basic ambiguity then in turn forms the basis for the double mirroring effect
of the following clause or step: and fashion myself into likeness with it. On the
one hand, Johannes seems to describe, and does describe, a process wherein he
poetically shapes himself into conformity with Cordelia's feelings, ideals, and
expectations, applying all his work, technique, and calculating discernment to
making his I into the ideal, complementary Thou of Cordelia's dream. It is in
this capacity that Johannes' claim, I am not, I have ceased to be, in order to be
yours, finds its justification, that self-annihilation so inseparable from his selffashioning (401); in this capacity that he himself falls under the category of being
for another he otherwise ascribes to woman.40 Johannes aptly describes himself in
this capacity as like an unseen partner in a dance which is danced only by one,
when it should really be danced by two (376); and similarly, Cordelia describes
him as a matchless musical instrument, always responsive to her moods (305).
40

Moreover, his status as being for another is strengthened, not weakened, by his devotion to Cordelia as object.

101

On the other hand, this process is made far more complex when we recall
that the feelings and ideals in Cordelia to which he shapes himself are themselves first shaped by Johannes (and even then in his own image: 372). That
is, he fashions himself into likeness with his own fashioned likeness, his own
artwork: he shapes himself in the image of an image he himself shapes. This
is the second movement to the process Johannes describes when he says, To
poetize oneself into a young girl is an art, to poetize oneself out of her is a
masterpiece (364). It is also the justification for the charge that Johannes is
really in love with himself (I am in love with myself, why? Because I am in
love with you 399), and that his relationship with Cordelia is only a complexly narcissistic conversation with himself (396).
The involuted dialectic which is implicit to the first sentence of our citation is
epexegetically elaborated in the second, which makes even clearer how Johannes
artefacts himself in the image of his own artefaction. He describes first how he is
immediately already taken up in the story of love pulsing through her heart, a
story and role in part authored by her heart and in part, too, authored by Johannes and implanted in her heart. He next describes how even so do I then again
approach her from without, in as deceptive a likeness as possible. Here, too, the
likeness is in part authored by her heart, in which case Johannes himself, who he
is, seems to vanish. But in part the outward approach is only to the inwardly
instilled, in which case Cordelia seems to vanish, and Johannes only to fashion
himself in terms of his already fashioned self.
This, then, is the basic dialectical structure to Johannes' self-fashioning: and
in the interstices of its back-and-forth, to-and-fro interplay Johannes constantly
interposes the literary texts which always keep his self-fashioning a self-literalizing as well. In particular, this dialectical structure accounts for the interaction of
two textualizing processes we previously discussed separately, namely his literalizing of Cordelia and of himself. Even before Johannes reveals his erotic interests
in Cordelia to her, when Eduard is still her suitor, Johannes says how Sometimes
I read aloud to Cordelia, since a very good way to get into a girl's good graces is
to lend her books. More pointedly, he says, I dictate the choice of books (360).
Later, after he has declared himself, he takes to supervising her reading directly
(407); the readings are mostly myths and fairy tales, which is in keeping with
Johannes' overall aesthetics and literary model (see 376; 427). The purpose or consequence is not only the single one already discussed, that she be fashioned into
an appropriate literary artwork. It is also, in addition to this, to implant within
her a specific literary ideal of love and of him as lover. It is to this literarily imposed image that he then fashions himself into likeness with. Conversely, when
Johannes animates and shapes himself by a literary text (e.g. the Phaedrus), this is
both a means of preparing himself - idealizing, literalizing himself - for being
taken up immediately into the story love courses through Cordelia's heart, much
as the read aloud texts are taken up; and a reflexive response, a shaping himself
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according to the inculcated literary ideal. 4 ' In this way, Johannes' fashioning himself in likeness with Cordelia's love is always simultaneously a fashioning himself in likeness with these texts, especially fairy tales and myths. Conversely, his
making himself into a literary artwork is never simply direct and interior, but is
always dialectically mirrored externally through and in Cordelia. A n d to anticipate a bit, we can note that it is thus no accident that the final, consummating text
should likewise be paired, Amor and Psyche.
The reading that Johannes does, both to himself and to Cordelia, is not his
only dialectical mode for fashioning himself in the image of Cordelia's ideal and
simultaneously assimilating himself to the realm of text. Equally important is his
conduct of the affair via letters, as if it were more natural for the heart to write
than to speak (}66i.) A s A . mentions in his preface, it is as letter-writer that J o hannes most resembles a counterfeiter in forging a paper identity for himself, and
here that we see most clearly the artificial self produced by his study and industry. A n d it is thus no coincidence that Johannes' first letter to Cordeila revolves
around the theme, I am changed. 42
The substitution of the letter-text for the immediate self, or rather the intercession of the letter between himself and Cordelia, furthers Johannes' dialectical
self-poetization in a number of crucial ways. Most fundamentally, Johannes
explains how, When I am present only in a letter, she can easily endure me, to a
certain extent she confuses me with a universal being who lives in her love,
41

42

Again, his relationship with the aunt provides a prosaic, low-comic parallel: the texts
Johannes selects to make himself are dictated by the aunt's own interests; but he also
thereby turns her into a parody of herself wherein she vanishes, almost before our
eyes, in pure agricultural economics (346)
Although Johannes' seductive system is ostensibly evenly divided between letters and
conversations (381), letter-writing is still decidedly the dominant method, and the self
constructed in the letters the ruling paradigm. Johannes says at one point, It would be
interesting, if it were possible, to record exactly the conversations between Cordelia and
myself (394), clearly betraying his preponderant inclination to assimilate these, too, to
the realm of written discourse. And while Johannes does not precisely prepare himself
for these conversations in the mechanical mode he employs for his talks with the aunt, he
nonetheless constantly shapes them, and himself in them, against the looming background of his letters, drawing the conversation out of the letters and using his conversation to lead Cordelia back to the letters (395). In both these respects, then - both in the
letters themselves and in the conversations cast in their image - letter writing is one of
Johannes' most potent means not only for poetizing himself per se, but also and more
importantly, for poetizing himself in Cordelia's feelings.
This is of course in keeping with Johannes' overall tendency to live in writing (cf. when
he contemplates for himself the admittedly impossible proposition, if a man were to
write down all his experiences, 411). The fact that Johannes experiences only come to us
written down is thus of primary and not just secondary importance. This is not only how
Cordelia experiences him, but also how he experiences himself. For a Derridean reading
of Kierkegaard's notion of the relation between writing and personal identity, see Kevin
Newmark's introduction to his translation of Sylviane Agacinski, Apart.
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wherefore, he adds, In the beginning it is best for them to have a general character (382). The confusion is intended, even encouraged. Johannes returns to and
expands upon this same point later on, when he considers how the dead letter
often has greater influence than the live word; [it leaves] a girl alone with her
ideal, which is necessary since there is an immensity in the ideal which reality
lacks . . . For this reason a letter is helpful, since through it, although invisible, one
may be spiritually present,... while the idea that the real person is the author creates a natural and easy transition back to reality (410). The absencing of the self
in letter-writing facilitates the assimilation to a general universal being, to a
larger-than-life spiritual ideal; and the added advantage (the second movement) is
that this mythical ideal returns to, in some sense replaces or competes with, the
real person in reality.
Of course, Johannes does not allow the universal being associated with his
person to arise uninfluenced out of Cordelia's love and the nature of language.
Rather, he works to fashion this being, too. Moreover, his calculation in fostering
this ideal being in his letters does not simply limit itself to lending them a
general character. Instead, that general is itself made quite specific, insofar as it
becomes the general of myths and fairy tales. That is, Johannes does not assimilate himself in his letters to a general ideal, nor simply to poetry in the abstract.
He also actively interposes established texts and presents himself as a copy or reflective ideal of these models. A few concrete examples. An early letter evokes the
fairy tale scene of a flying carriage and horses, so that the world passes away
and leaves only a world of fiction (391; cf. 415 and the fairy hillock). Later on, he
writes Cordelia about the myth of Ariadne and Theseus; the myth of Pyramus
and Thisbe; and twice he writes her of the myth of Alpheus and Arethusa.43 By
presenting his letters as readings or citations of these established texts, Johannes
manages both to instill a specific literary character to the universal being in
Cordelia, an essential confusion of love and literature, and to establish specific
literary models for her to perceive him by, and for him to shape himself to.44
One of the characteristic peculiarities of Johannes' use of myth-texts in both
his reading aloud and his letter-writing to Cordelia that we cannot afford to overlook is their rich variety, their manifold plurality. In some sense this plurality
would seem to work against the accompanying notion of fashioning a general,
universal being, even as, conversely, it seems to reinforce both the sense of literary discontinuity or fragmentation discussed above (and especially in force in the
43

44

104

It is worth emphasizing that, like the myth of Amor and Psyche at the end, the myth of
Alpheus and Arethusa retains its specifically literary character: one reads in ancient
tales, (402). Likewise the myth of Ariadne remains bound to artifice, this time in the
form of a painting (398f.).
The effect of this mythification is of course even more emphatic for us, since Johannes'
ever increasing use of mythical figures in his diary influences us in a similar, additional
way.

use of occasional, discrete letters), and the corresponding sense of personal discontinuity and fragmentation which is so essential an aspect of Johannes' self.
That is, Johannes' use of myth-texts presents us with a seeming paradox: the same
movement that disperses his self (and Cordelia) into a large number of discrete
literary texts is nonetheless also designed to achieve a unified ideal. And yet, I
believe, it is in just this seeming paradox that the most crucial function of Johannes' self-artefaction lies, that the most crucial dialectic of his method is at work.
The self is by nature fragmented, partial, provisional: the process of poetization
not only reproduces this condition, it also introduces a counter-operation which
works toward a syncretic wholeness, a unification in myth, through literature,
otherwise elusively absent in life.45
Again, this is a process we can see most clearly in respect to Johannes' mythification of Cordelia; in the dialectical movement that binds together his poetical
realization with hers, we can then reconstruct his own mythification. But first,
we need to bring the plurality of myth-texts that Johannes brings to bear on both
his own literary identity and Cordelia's into line with another aspect of his writing, his system, and his mythification, namely: with his actiones in distans, with
his constant engagement not with a single woman, but with a plurality. (This is
the other kind of practice besides straight poetization through literalization
pointed out by A. in his preface, and although A. claims the actiones have absolutely nothing to do with Cordelia's story, this is not completely the case. They
might have nothing to do with Cordelia per se, but they have everything to do
with her story, her mythification.) The two pluralities are intimately related,
and by briefly following the dynamics of the one, we will be able to understand
that of the other more clearly.
Early on, when Johannes has just acquired his first picture of Cordelia on
the occasion of their second encounter, he pauses to contrast her solitary figure
with the multitude one meets in places such as ballrooms: It is not a single beauty who captivates me, but a totality; a vision floats past me in which all these feminine natures blend into one another, and all these emotions seek something, seek
rest in one composite picture which is not seen (326; cf. 357). It is of course not
coincidental that Johannes juxtaposes this notion of one composite picture
which is not seen with the picture of Cordelia just seen. Even as her picture
becomes poetically idealized by assimilating the various mythical allusions and
becoming a composite picture of them (no longer herself, but a literary equivalent), so too does she become poetically idealized by gathering together and

This counter-operation is in part achieved by virtue of the kind of literature Johannes


employs, namely myths and fairy tales which somehow allow for a universal but still
eminently human character; but in part it is also achieved by virtue of Johannes'
technique. We might also note how both the condition and operation of self-fashioning
here again anticipate crucial features of Lacan's model.
105

blending the various feminine natures of Johannes' experience. In this respect,


too, Johannes pluralizes and deindividualizes Cordelia in mythifying her.
Johannes gives fuller expression to the programmatic assumptions at work in
this aspect of his practice near the end, when in fact the composite picture is
almost composed. He describes how the sun of feminine loveliness diffuses its
rays into an infinite manifold, refracting itself in a confusion of tongues, where
each individual has her little part of the whole wealth of femininity (423). Every
woman, including Cordelia, is in some sense only a piece, a fragment, insufficient
in herself to evoke or assume the burden of the whole, ideal myth. As Johannes
says in the same passage, Every woman has her part: the merry smile, the roguish glance, the wistful eye, the pensive head, and so forth. Of course, part of
Johannes revels in the polysemous plurality of this fractured state, both in women
and in himself (cf. 341). But part of him also actively, poetically strives toward a
unity: and when I have gazed and gazed again, considered and again considered
this multitudinous variety . . . - then I shut up my fan, and gather the fragments
into a unity, the parts into a whole . . . This one woman, the only woman in all the
world, she must belong to me, she must be mine. 46 It is just this whole that Johannes seeks to possess in Cordelia, or rather in the picture, the myth of Cordelia: it is just this unity that he works to bring to bear on her person, or rather with
her person on the mythical picture he studiously strives to compose.
We can see Johannes quite clearly engaged in this gathering process and concomitant fan-folding in his actiones, especially in the later ones, when the poetization of Cordelia via literature is also more progressed. For instance, when he
purposefully and somewhat maliciously prevents a meeting between Licentiate
Hansen and his intended, he ends by saying Now for Cordelia. I can always
make use of a mood, and the girl's beautiful yearning has really affected me
46

106

One is reminded of Bchner's Danton and Lacroix's comment, Er sucht eben die
mediceische Venus stckweise bei allen Grisetten des palais royal zusammen, er macht
Mosaik, wie er sagt (Dantons Tod I, 4). For an interesting study of this topos of mosaic-making, or of the ars combinatoria, in late eighteenth and early nineteenth century
German literature, see Joel Black, The Aesthetics of Gender: Zeuxis' Maidens and the
Hermaphroditic Ideal, New York Literary Forum 8-9 (1981), 189-209. As the comparison with Black's examples makes clear, what is unique to Johannes' art is 1) the
fan-folding itself, i.e., the urge (in a Romantic) to recreate a unity out of the various
fragments of women, 2) the preceding and dialectically facilitating sparagmos of the
model individual woman (see below), and 3) the dialectic through which the artist simultaneously constructs himself through the detour of this fragmenting, scattering,
gathering and unifying process. As regards this last point, Black demonstrates how
from Winckelmann on the mosaic composite often incorporated pieces of both men
and women, and so approached an androgynous or hermaphroditic model for its unifying ideal. By incorporating his dialectal method of self-fashioning into the scheme, Johannes not only restores an erotic dynamism to the model that keeps the two sexes
apart and interacting. He also and more importantly engages the (male) artist himself in
the conditions and operations of fragmented and artificially unified personal identity.

(379) Or similarly, when he waits hours in the rain to meet Charlotte Hahn accidently and bow to her and receive her curtsy, because her greeting creates a
mood in me, and it is this mood which I then squander on Cordelia (392). Or
again, when he spies on the lovers in Grib's forest and says, These are fruitful
moods which must be squandered on Cordelia (400). Here we see quite plainly
how Johannes blends the incidental Charlotte Hahn and these others into the
composite picture he is shaping in Cordelia, extracting from each her part - her
yearning, greeting, etc. - and adding it to the whole. And equally importantly,
we also see how in so doing, Johannes is similarly composing himself into a composite whole vis--vis Cordelia, gathering together his disparately aroused moods
and artificially concentrating them in his role as her lover.
We should also note, however, that this gathering process, this folding together of the diffuse fragments of feminine beauty into the unified picture of Cordelia, is itself accompanied - and in some sense preceded and certainly eased - by
another dialectical movement, namely the diffusion or scattering of Cordelia herself among the various incidental women. In some ways, this symbolic sparagmos
prepares these others for incorporation into her figure by first fashioning them in
her likeness, translating each into a copy, a citation of her person. In some ways,
too, it assures that the resultant composite picture, this one woman, for all its
diverse origins, nonetheless remains in her likeness. As Johannes says in a letter to
Cordelia, Behind every tree I perceive a feminine being who resembles you; if I
come nearer, then it hides behind the next tree. Will you not reveal yourself to
me? Unify yourself? . . . Everywhere feminine beings resembling you appear and
disappear. I do not see you . . . and yet I am made happy by every single resemblance to you (394). He makes the same point a few pages later, but with a more
direct connection to his literary, poetizing project: my love for you casts its
splendor over the whole of life. When I concern myself with someone else, it is
[because], since my whole soul is filled with you, life takes on another significance
for me. It becomes a myth about you (402). This pluralizing dissemination of
Cordelia derealizes and idealizes both her and the others, dissolving her concrete
reality and shaping the others as infinitely reproduced copies of her image. And
yet of course in the second movement, in the gathering together of these many
copies or resemblances, in the unify yourself, she never comes back guite as
Cordelia, but as a composed Cordelia, as a myth about Cordelia. And the same
holds true for Johannes. He also disseminates himself before her eyes in a myriad
of guises (I place myself everywhere before Cordelia, she sees me constantly);
by the same process of reconstitution, he becomes, for her, a myth about himself, a composite universal being cast in his own image.
The role that the plurality of literary model-texts play in this mythifying
process is in some sense double, although in each aspect it determines that the
general ideal is myth and the composite self literary artifice. On the one hand, just
as the plurality of women (or of pieces of women) is brought to bear on the pic107

ture of Cordelia, so is the plurality of literary texts he cites in his letters and his
diary. Themselves colored by Cordelia, themselves sometimes coloring the incidental women, they are then piece by piece blended into the composite picture.47
Like the actiones, the mythical-literary references come more and more to dominate near the end, and in some sense to crowd out Cordelia herself, to replace
Johannes' thoughts of her. Charlotte Hahn, the fisher-maiden, the servant girls in
Frederiksberg Park, and Miss Jespersen; Cordea, Ariadne, the fisher-maiden,
Eros and Venus, Pyramis and Thisbe, and Alpheus and Arethusa - all equally and
similarly mosaically are applied to the animation of Cordelia, to the artefaction
of her picture, with the one difference that the literary myths lend the represented
Cordelia a distinctly literary, mythical identity.48
On the other hand, there is also a respect in which the literary, mythical models
sometimes gain a primacy that none of the incidental women ever do, a primacy in
which the mythical model, and not Cordelia, becomes the locus of the composite
picture, and Cordelia herself but a contributor or, perhaps more accurately, a copy,
an imitation, complete but derivative. In this case, the mythification of Cordelia
acquires an even more distinctly artificial, literary cast: she is, as it were, replaced by
a consuming text. This can most plainly be seen in Johannes' musings immediately
following his description of folding the fan and his declaration, This one woman, the only woman in the world, she must belong to me, she must be mine (423).
Although both the context and formulation of the thought clearly connect it with
Cordelia, it is nonetheless mythical figures such as Eve, Vesta, Venus, and Diana that
Johannes reaches for to consider this composite woman. Similary, for himself in the
role of this woman's lover (Cordelia's lover), he chooses such figures as Bluebeard
and Don Juan, as if he were but acting as an imitative instance of their myth.
However, even more significant than these female figures - who can somehow be
mythical without being textual - Johannes also reaches for certain my cApictures,
for art objects as representations of the representation that is Cordelia. Two such
pictures dominate, both coming near the climactic end. The first is the picture of a
woman with child, a Madonna-like moment: It is a picture which one might call
the most charming that human life has to offer, it is a myth of Nature which must
therefore be seen artistically, not in actuality. There should never be additional
figures in the picture, no setting, and so on (429f.). The second comes a moment
later, when Johannes contemplates what moment should be regarded as the most
seductive. After a passing depiction of a little Zerlina, Johannes dwells on a well
known engraving. It represents a penitent, etc. (43if.). Both pictures are interesting
47

For the way the literary texts poetize the incidental women, see e.g. the fisher-maiden/
fairy princess, p. 397^
* Since unlike the incidental women this plurality is also part of Cordelia's world, the
literary myths also insure that the universal being constructed by Johannes for himself in her eyes and heart, through both his letters and dictated readings, will have an
even more decisively literary character.

108

in similar ways. On the one hand, both betray Johannes at the confinium of his
aesthetic universe, drawn to figures who clearly lead him out into a new, ethicalreligious sphere. In this respect, the wish to approach the figures as non-real, safe
pictures is clearly defensive.4' On the other hand, both betray the desire in Johannes'
seductive scheme not for a woman, even for a composite woman, but for a picture, an
artwork: and it is just this, through his reading and writing, his pluralizing and
unifying, his shaping and reflecting that he constructs out of Cordelia. Moreover, as
his discussion of the second of these pictures shows, he wishes himself not only to be
the author of that picture, but also a figure in it, to dispose himself in the background
- to himself become picture.
We see the realization of this desire for an achieved artwork, for a picture that
holds, and in some sense replaces, both their figures, in the novella's climactic moment, that moment when history is over and the myths begin (435). Everything
about the occasion is calculated to produce an artwork out of it, Cordelia, and
Johannes himself. Significantly, at this climax the operant artistic model shifts from
the pictures of his penultimate ponderings to literary texts. Thus, as the book ends,
so do they end as book. Before Cordelia arrives at the rendezvous, Johannes has
first arranged everything out there as tastefully as possible, taking especial care to
construct a peculiarly poetized setting. In keeping with the essential connection
between poetry and memory in his aesthetics, he has fashioned an enhanced counterfeit of the aunt's living room, reproducing a poetized picture of their original
meeting place: The likeness is delusive... The illusion is perfect... Everything is
the same, only richer (437). The skill and industry of Johannes' mimetic art are
everywhere invisibly present, so that Cordelia will constantly feel herself moving
in an artificial world. As Johannes says, Everywhere she will see allusions, hints, an
enchanted world (434). In this way, Johannes contrives that everything be seen
artistically, not in actuality. Even as Cordelia sees her original surroundings translated into an artificial, enhanced picture, so in it will she find herself transformed
into a poetized, idealized version of herself; will Johannes find her when he comes;
and will she find him as he approaches.
In this comparatively modest way, then, even as Johannes takes care to poetize
the setting by assimilating it to the realm of retrospective imitative artifice, so too
does he labor to poetize the figures in it, both himself and Cordelia. That is, he
works to instill a sense of idealized, substituted self by means of the similarly
idealized, substituted setting. But in the case of his own and Cordelia's figures,
49

We might compare this defensive use of textualization with his own use of book-talk
when declaring his love to Cordelia, which he needs to reassure himself that the whole
affair is only a fictitious move. Both examples also reveal how Johannes is not nearly
so fully in control of himself and Cordelia as his aesthetic demands. Note for instance
that contrary to his expectations and despite thorough preparation Cordelia does
not say yes when he proposes; see also his response to the final couple in the zephyrs'
digression (3J5).

109

the idealization and poetization are not limited to merely assimilating them to
artificially enhanced reality. Rather, their poetization also entails assimilation
to a specifically literary realm of artifice as well: their erotic union is consummated in imitation of, in consummation of, literary mythical models. As he has
throughout, Johannes introduces the operant texts in the form of both letters and
reading material. In his final letters, Johannes writes to Cordelia both about the
myth of undivided men from Aristophanes' speech in Plato's Symposium and
about the myth of Alpheus and Arethusa (438; 435). Both myths gain special significance by their reflective representation of the incipient reunion of the separated lovers; both are intended to shape Cordelia's (and our) perception of that
coming moment in their image, to fashion that moment to these literary models.
And again, Johannes' own absence from the scene is essential to their effect: the
substitution of the myths and letters for the immediate self facilitates the assimilation to the general universal being shaped in their image; the idea that Johannes
is their author creates an easy transition back to his figure (cf. 434).
More importantly, and more clearly climacticaOy, Johannes also places a book
on the table in the center of this poetized room, a German translation of the wellknown work by Apuleius: Amor and Psyche (437). Johannes has been reading the
book, and the book is left on the table specifically for Cordelia to read in turn. In a
very real way, it is not so much Cordelia herself whom Johannes desires as it is
Cordelia as the reader of, Cordelia in the image of this controlling text, even as it is
not so much Johannes himself who will approach her as it will be Johannes in the
image of this same literary model. Johannes will have Cordelia and her emotions for
him literarily mediated by this borrowed text, will have her conceive herself not in
the image of her own animating emotion, but rather in that of the book, the myth; he
will do the same, and electrify his being not with immediate desire, but with his
reading. Moreover, in her reading Cordelia will also in turn take up the specific
literary ideal of him as lover that this text dictates: he will then approach her from
without fashioned in likeness with the same text, both as she has incorporated it into
her own heart, and as he has incorporated it into his via his own reading of the text.
Just this is the involuted, dialectical movement that requires both a paired text and
paired readers for Johannes' self-literalization.
Thus they both come together as readers of the same text, as imitations of the
same text: and to complete the picture, we have but to note that this text, this
ruling paradigm, not only brings Cordelia and Johannes together in its consuming
image. It also, essentially also, brings together the previously engaged diffuse
manifold of incidental women and literary texts into a unifying and clarifying
literary identity. The various women of the actiones and Johannes' various relations
to them, and the various female figures ofJohannes' myths and fairy tales and their
male counterparts - all are somehow blended or folded into this final literary
picture of Psyche, or Cordelia as Psyche, and Eros/Johannes as her lover, to transform that picture into the composite one woman in all the world whom Johannes

110

has been pursuing throughout. This is as it were the third dimension to the artificial Cordelia who competes and colludes with the real Cordelia in this scene. On top
of the assimilation to the retrospective realm of imitative, enhanced artifice and then
to the realm of literary text, there comes this elusive, almost haunting sense of
assimilation to a unified, composite woman. Even as the text lends a specifically
mythical character to Cordelia, so too does this unified composite lend a specifically mythical character to the text. Similarly, even as the text lends a mythical
character to Johannes, so does his role as lover of this composite, mythical figure. In
the end, then, it is not so much Johannes and Cordelia whom we confront as it is this
literary text and diffuse manifold mythically embodied in their characters; and it
is this literary composition, in all its complex, self-conscious achievement of a
poetized I (and Thou), that Johannes addresses when he claims, Everything is
symbol; I am myself a myth about myself; for is it not as myth that I hasten to this
meeting? Who I am has nothing to do with it.
There is, I believe, something undeniably and intoxicatingly beautiful
about this final scene and Johannes and Cordelia in it. There is something deeply
and soberingly disturbing about it as well. On the one hand, Johannes certainly
seems to have succeeded at his attempt to realize the task of living poetically and,
in the process, to have fashioned an artificial, literary identity for both himself
and for Cordelia. In respect to himself, the self-fashioning seems to have yielded,
even if only momentarily and provisionally, a fuller, more fully realized self.
From the diffuse state of insubstantial invisibility and the wide variety of assumed
identities, he seems to construct a parastatic, unifying, and clarifying presence for
himself in his final role as Cordelia's lover (cf. 341). Admittedly, this self-poetization still retains its dark sides, especially insofar as, in living aesthetically, Johannes seems knowingly to avoid other possibilities for self-realization, such as living
either ethically or religiously and allowing these orders to shape for him a unified,
clarified sense of self. This is, however, his choice, and he seems willingly to
accept the perils with the privileges of life im Gleichnis, without damage to
some natural, original self and with considerable success at his chosen task. A.
in his preface worries a great deal about the consequences for Johannes of his
practice of living thus, but as Eremita in his preface notes, A. misses the joy that is
in the idea, too, a joy which Johannes himself never seems to do without.' 1

Cf. This one woman . . . must be mine; then to Cordelia, Now I call you >mine< in
truth; Soon, soon you are mine (435).
In his outlines to the Diary, Kierkegaard included the following note; In Victor
Eremita's foreword to the Diary of the Seducer there should be the remark: if Denmark
has a well educated aesthete (or aesthetician), so I would ask him to answer the question, whether he thinks the work issues from the hand of a happy or an unhappy individual, whether it comes about as the consequence of a happy or an unhappy love,
whether he was an uncommonly faithful or simply a faithless man (see Hirsch, p. 500).
Kierkegaard certainly wanted the text to leave the question open, to support both
III

On the other hand, the really disturbing aspects of Johannes' project come in
respect to Cordelia. He has presumed to shape for himself a literary artwork out
of another human being, to approach as literary artist what irresolvably engages
another person's real life. It is here that Johannes' studied, laborious creation of
poetized I's seems most presumptious and potentially disastrous: and it is to
this aspect of his project that we need now to turn.

V.

C o r d e l i a and the a n t i - P y g m a l i o n principle

At a late point in the Diary, when Johannes has just heard that Cordelia has
broken off their engagement and now awaits her return to him for the final consummation of their relationship, he makes the following reference to himself as
Pygmalion: Fly, bird, fly! In truth if this royal flight were a withdrawal from me,
then my pain would be infinitely deep. A s if Pygmalion's beloved were again
turned to stone, so would this be for me (433). The exact point of the comparison is somewhat obscure, and even more involuted: even as the moment of the
comparison points to a miraculous humanization of the beloved's character, the
comparison itself points to a similar but opposite i/ehumanization by forcing us
first to consider the beloved, Cordelia, as a work of inanimate art, as a statue
shaped and created by the skill and industry of the artist, Johannes/ Pygmalion.
Despite both the brevity and obscurity of the comparison, it nonetheless
seems a significant image for understanding Johannes' relationship to Cordelia. It
brings into sharp focus a largely programmatic statement Johannes makes earlier
on: What am I doing? I am creating for myself a heart in the likeness of her own.
interpretations; however, most critics have tended to support only the latter, unhappy,
faithless version of Johannes. This version is, I suspect, more based on A's preface than
on Johannes' Diary, which does not necessarily confirm A.'s judgements and does not
necessarily rule out the more happy version of the work. Agacinski is one of the few
critics to defend a more positive possibility for understanding Johannes' activity: see
Apology for a Seducer in Apart, pp. 50-54.
We should perhaps note that the intentionally biased, morally self-righteous preface is a
conventional feature of the seduction novel, as for example in Laclos' Les Liaisons Dangereuses, the generic standard for Kierkegaard's work, or more recently and famously in
Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita, which self-consciously assimilates itself to this same literary tradition, and not least through its preface. The crucial point in each case is that the
morally evaluative standards adopted by the editor in the preface prove radically, even
comically inadequate to an appreciation of the issues at stake in the text itself. In the
case of the Diary, I would include in the same category as the editor in the preface the
ethicist Judge William in the Or, and even the author, Kierkegaard, in his later, systematic pronouncements on the value and place of the aesthetic sphere. The mere fact
that these figures and their judgements come later does not invest them with sovereign
critical authority (cf. the infamous afterword, Vladimir Nabokov on a book entitled
Lolita*). Rather, as always, the work must be judged on its own terms.
112

An artist paints his beloved; that gives him pleasure; a sculptor fashions his. I do
this, too, but in a spiritual sense (384). Johannes consciously conceives of his
erotic activity as analogous to that of a painter or sculptor, as fashioning an
artwork in the image of the beloved. But the fact that he does so in a spiritual
sense, with the imitative artwork as the beloved herself, involves an essential
confusion and collusion of art and life which separates Johannes from other, ordinary artists and lovers and allies him with that one paradigmatic but peculiar one
he himself invokes - Pygmalion.
In invoking the figure of Pygmalion and in conceiving of his relationship with
Cordelia as analogous to that of Pygmalion with his statue, Johannes is not, however, absolutely unique. From the time of Winckelmann's Gedanken ber die
Nachahmung der griechischen Werke, or perhaps better, from that of Rousseau's
Pygmalion on, the figure of Pygmalion played an increasingly important role in
(mostly) German letters in the ongoing debate regarding the proper or ideal relation of art to life, and of the artist to his materia.*2 He can be found in this role in
Goethe, A. W. Schlegel, and Karl Immermann, as well as in Kierkegaard's own
contemporaries Bchner and, especially, Heine. In this respect, Johannes' use of
Pygmalion in his conception of his relationship with Cordelia clearly bespeaks a
contemporary literary concern, and casts the Diary in the image of these prior,
but still roughly contemporary, textual models."
Even more importantly, however, Johannes' conception of his relation with
Cordelia as Pygmalion-like also casts the Diary in the image of another literary
line which extends back to the same point that the myth of Pygmalion as artistlover does, namely to Ovid - but not so much to his Metamorphoses, where we
first find Pygmalion, as to Book III of his Ars Amatoria, where we first find an
extended, programmatic attempt to fashion an artwork out of the beloved. In our
chapter on the Ars, we ended with a discussion of Book III in terms of Pygmalion, and we began this chapter with a discussion of the Diary in terms of the
Ars. I believe it is not at all forced, then, to see Johannes' Pygmalion project in
terms of Ovid's Book III. In fact doing so allows us to emphasize two somewhat
peculiar aspects to Johannes' project.
The first is its essentially and relentlessly preceptorial dimension. Although in
Der Neue Pygmalion Karl Immermann had introduced a pedogogical or
Bildung motif to the Pygmalion theme, the peculiar combination of mentor,
,2

53

For a useful compendium of instances of the Pygmalion myth in late 18th and early
19th century German Literature, see Hinrich Seeba, Die Kinder des Pygmalions, in
Deutsche Vierteljahrsschrift 50 (1976), 158-202.
See now also Mathias Mayer, Midas Statt Pygmalion: Die Tdlichkeit der Kunst bei
Goethe, Schnitzler, Hofmannsthal und Georg Kaiser, Deutsche Vierteljahrsschrift 64
(1990), 278-310. What Mayer designates Midas I call anti-Pygmalion. It is worth
noting however that the conventional issue of the topos in the 19th century is death. See
below.
" 3

lover, and poet that is so central to the Diary's variation of the theme is essentially absent from it and other contemporary examples. It is, however, firmly
rooted in the Ars. We might even say that, if in regard to himself Johannes often
seems to appropriate the role of Ovid's ideal student, in regard to Cordelia he
seems to appropriate that of Ovid's praeceptor instead.
The second aspect to Johannes' Pygmalion project that the comparison with
Book III of Ovid's Ars brings out is its essentially and disturbingly

anti-Pygma-

lion dimension. For Book III, we argued that whereas Pygmalion would convert
a statue into a woman through love, Ovid's praeceptor would turn a woman into
a statue through art; that whereas the one devotes all his efforts to assimilate his
lifeless counterfeit to a realm of reality, the other devotes all his to assimilate real,
natural woman (or women) to a realm of counterfeit art. The same dimension, the
same reversal is also evident in Johannes' efforts as artist. He, too, strives to replace Cordelia with a counterfeit equivalent, to assimilate her natural, given self
to a substituted realm of art. And for this reason, it is hardly surprising that Johannes' manipulation of Cordelia seems to entail all the same violence, violation
and dehumanization that is so prominent a part of Ovid's praeceptor's project,
and so fundamentally opposed to that of Pygmalion.' 4
And yet in another respect, Johannes' project also radically differs from that
of Ovid's praeceptor, differs in its way almost as much as that of the praeceptor
differs from that of Pygmalion and in a way that at least partially justifies Johannes' reference to himself as Pygmalion. There is a very important sense in which,
by fashioning Cordelia as an artwork, Johannes is simultaneously working to
realize a more fully realized version of Cordelia herself, to assimilate her self to its
own natural, living reality. This is not to say that Johannes' project thereby loses
its basic similarity with the praeceptor's, its essential violence, violation and dehumanization of its object. Far from it. Rather, I would say that Kierkegaard
presents us with an irresolvably double vision of Johannes' enterprise, one that

114

The obvious contemporary model for both the preceptorial dimension and the accompanying anti-Pygmalion dimension of the Diary is Goethe's Die Wahlverwandtschaften (which lacks, however, the all-important coordination with the elegiac erotic
dimension). As mentioned in the first section, Johannes was originally named Eduard
after the male protagonist of Goethe's text, so the coincidences seem hardly coincidental. Immermann's Der Neue Pygmalion also betrays the influence of Goethe's work
in its use of the Bildung motif and, to a lesser extent, of the artefaction theme in
respect to its female Ottilie figure. However, in Immermann there is no real appreciation for the almost demonic, dehumanizing cruelty in the artefaction of a live human
being. Kierkegaard proves himself a far less naive reader of Goethe, far more sensitive
to the ambivalent effects of the collusive interplay of art and life in this great novel.
Two other famous examples of the anti-Pygmalion artefaction of women in early 19th
century German literature are that of Mignon on Goethe's own Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre and that of Anna in Keller's Der Grne Heinrich. Significantly, as in Die Wahlverwandtschaften (but unlike in the Diary), each results in the death of the woman.

places side by side the art and love, violation and realization, dehumanization and
humanization, in a way absolutely alien to Ovid and yet essential here. That is,
Johannes' activity truly does seem Pygmalian and anti-Pygmalian at once, and so
confirms the strange, enigmatic effect of the reference we began with.
Let us first consider the Ovidian, anti-Pygmalion aspect of Johannes* development of Cordelia, the way in which he seems primarily to fashion a depersonalized, idealized artwork out of a living woman. (Since some points to this part of
the problem have already appeared in other contexts, I will try to be brief.) Just
before his Pygmalion allusion, Johannes pauses to ask himself, Have I been constantly faithful to my pact in my relation to Cordelia? That is to say, my pact with
the aesthetic. For it is this which makes me strong, that I always have the idea on
my side . . . that the idea is set in motion, that it is in its service that I dedicate
myself (432)." Here Johannes openly and proudly confesses that his pact and
dedicated service in his relation with Cordelia is not to her per se, but to the
aesthetic, the idea: that in his equivalent to the sculptor's fashioning his beloved,
he is striving to realize a peculiarly aesthetic ideal in developing Cordelia, a
project that does not necessarily coincide either with loving her or with loving
her. As he says elsewhere, I simply do not care to possess a girl in the external
sense, but to enjoy her in an artistic sense. Therefore my approach must be as
artistic as possible (368).
Johannes' attempt to realize his aesthetic idea in Cordelia manifests itself in a
number of ways. First and most importantly, there is the way in which he seems
constantly to work to arrange her development so that it comes under his category of the interesting (341, 432), so that she is constantly made to conform to
certain established principles of perfect aesthetic conduct (375). Such an
arrangement shows itself most clearly and disconcertingly in the way every
step in her development and their affair seems anticipated and arranged by Johannes; in the way he preemptively intercedes in her unfolding and didactically
pre-scribes its direction, which is always toward the realization of his aesthetic
ideal. This accounts for the certainty with which [he] peers into her future
(330); it is a process he himself sometimes refers to as experimenting (339).'6 In
its more prosaic forms, it appears for example in the way he decides, it is best
simply to provide her with a suitor, but a disappointing one, so that her love
will make her proud, this pride makes her interesting, it penetrates her being with
a higher incarnation (341), and then in the way he actually finds her such a suitor
"
5<

C f . 380, Do I love Cordelia? Yes. Sincerely? Yes. Faithfully? Yes - in an aesthetic


sense, and this also indicates something important.
See the Historical Introduction to Howard Hong's edition of Fear and
Trembling
and Repetition (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1983), pp xxi-xxxi for a discussion of Kierkegaard's use of the verb to experiment. While extremely insightful,
Hong's analysis might still be suspected of unnecessarily attempting to exorcise all the
disconcerting connotations out of the term.

" 5

in Eduard and actively fashions their relationship so that this spiritual condition,
this interesting condition, is realized in her heart. Events which might otherwise have occurred naturally to her - or just as likely, not at all - are thus made to
occur unnaturally, artificially. And in governing such events, Johannes also works
to make her artificial and unnatural, by creating a systematized routine for her
emotional life to match his own.
Along the same lines but slightly more centrally: there is the way in which
Johannes decides what kind of mask he himself should assume for her, the steps
their relationship should take to bring her into interesting situations and toward the ideal. A particularly pointed instance of this is his decision that, for
Cordelia, a simple engagement is the best of all methods (363). As with her relationship with Eduard, this is an example of Johannes purposefully arranging a
prosaic experience for Cordelia with a prosaic, unpoetic partner (359, 347) It is
also again an example of his substituting aesthetic equivalents for natural events in
artificially fashioning her experience (cf. 368). In this case, however, for all its caricature, we can still see how in fashioning such events Johannes is also subtly
bringing them into line with certain literary models. We see this in his theatrical planning of the moment of his proposal as well as in its bookish execution. In an even more prosaic mode, we see it in the Scribe-like comedy with
Eduard/Fritz he arranges for Cordelia to experience, and, in a more poetic one, in
his planning for the moment when they will first call each other by name (357^).
In this way, events which might have occurred naturally to Cordelia are not only
made to occur artificially, but also distinctly literarily. And in orchestrating such
events, Johannes also deliberately strives to teach her to confuse poetry and reality (387), to provide her with figures in real life able to bring her to confusion
about the relation of dreams to reality, where such dreams explicitly derive
from books (340).
Johannes also, of course, strives to realize his aesthetic idea in Cordelia in a
more directly interior fashion: he not only works to construct artificial, literary
events for her to experience, he also works to construct artificial, literary modes
for her to experience with (cf. 356). He says at one early point, Her soul is not
dissipated nor relaxed by the undefined emotions of love, a thing which keeps
many young girls from ever learning to love, that is to say, to love definitely . . .
They hold in their consciousness an indefinite, nebulous image which is supposed
to be an ideal, according to which the actual is to be tested (373). It is just this
nebulous image that Johannes systematically undertakes to define in Cordelia,
to fashion into a definite literary ideal. As mentioned, he does so in part by supervising her reading and thus imposing the desired literary models upon her development (cf. 407). He also does so in part through his letters. In both these ways
Johannes labors to have Cordelia's emotions and perceptions literarily mediated
or fashioned, so that she not only comes herself to experience or test her life in
literary, mythical terms, but also comes herself to experience herself in these
116

terms, to fashion herself in likeness with these texts. That is, she learns to
approach Johannes' external poetizing of her experience with her own, but
actually his own, self-poetization.
It is in this way - the way Johannes inwardly controls Cordelia's own selfpoetization through both preemptive arrangement and interposed literary models
- that Johannes engages most consequently in his anti-Pygmalion enterprise, in
a spiritual sense. Every step, every movement that Cordelia makes to discover
herself, to become aware of her full significance (373), is first inscribed or
invented by Johannes (cf. 406), and is inscribed in such a way as not only in its
own right to become artificial, but also to conform to, to move toward the artificial picture or ideal he secretly cherishes. Such is the force of Johannes' efforts
to poetize himself into a young girl's feelings so that it is from her that everything issues as he wishes it (363). As W. Rehm notes, this inward manipulation
and artefaction of her person amounts to a kind of demonic possession, to a kind
of perverse puppeteering of her character: Like a magician he imposes his will
on the object of his egotistical love, in that he almost uncannily steals himself into
another's I and acts out of it, or makes it, like a marionette, carry out certain prescribed movements.' 7 It is just this sense of controlling and self-insinuating possession that Johannes himself describes when he says, she listens to another's
speech, and understands it as her own; she hears the voice of another as it echoes
through her; she understands this echo also, as if it were her own voice (384). O r
similarly, It is as if behind a man who with an unsteady hand roughly sketched
an outline drawing, there was standing another who constantly brought something bold and well-rounded out of this. Even she is surprised, and yet it seems to
be her own (414). Especially this latter example illustrates how Johannes,
through his possession or puppeteering of Cordelia, effectively replaces the real
Cordelia with an idealized counterfeit picture in her likeness. She struggles in
her sometimes unsteady but still own and original way to articulate herself, to
realize herself: Johannes hovers behind and guides each gesture to realize instead a
more perfect picture in the likeness of her own. It seems to be her own, but
the resultant picture of herself is nonetheless his substituted counterfeit, his
possessed, poetized I.
One of the most poignant motifs in which this possession and aesthetic automatization of Cordelia manifests itself is in the continuously raised issue of Cordelia's freedom. Over and again, Johannes insists, I am a friend of freedom, and
what does not come to me freely, I never trouble myself about (404). O r similarly, Practically, I have reached the point where I desire nothing which is not, in
the strictest sense, freely given (363). This holds particularly for Cordelia: I will
S7

Rehm, Kierkegaard und der Verfhrer, p. 157 Kierkegaard develops a similar image of
the lover/beloved as possessed marionette in In Vino Veritas, in Stages on Life's Way,
p. 40.
"7

have her only in her freedom (380); or again, she must owe me nothing; for she
must be free; love exists only in freedom; only in freedom is there enjoyment and
everlasting delight (356). Anything else he considers if not in a physical yet in a
spiritual sense, a rape . . . a thing which requires no art (337) - the act of a bungler, a seducer, something no one can call me (363). Yet even as Johannes voices
this credo, he subverts it by adding, No, when one can so arrange it that a girl's
only desire is to give herself freely,... then for the first time there is true enjoyment (337); or again, He who does not know how to compass a girl about so
that she loses sight of everything which he does not wish her to see,... so that it is
from her that everything issues as he wants it, he is and remains a bungler; I do
not begrudge him his enjoyment (363). It is not natural freedom that Johannes
will have and enjoy, but rather an arrangement or encompassment in which a
girl imitates free motion while moving in mimetic, automatized obedience to the
poetic script he provides. It is, as it were, only the artificial freedom of a puppet
unaware of its own strings, made to twitch at impulses it mistakes as its own alone
- only an artefact acting as an I.
The most concrete example of Cordelia acting in reputed freedom but
actually merely following prescriptions is, of course, the matter of breaking off
the engagement. Over and again Johannes insists, She is herself the one who
breaks it, [which will be] an indication of the daring of her spirit. This is the
main thing to me (420). But at the same time he also boasts, I shall certainly
manage it that she will be the one who breaks the engagement (363), or similarly, What I have now to do is . . . to get everything in order for the engagement to be broken (372). By managing and arranging he does not simply
mean that he himself plans to act offensively enough to alienate her affections.
This is a small, and by no means crucial, part of his plan - a thing which requires no art. Rather, he means that he will shape Cordelia's development so
that her own ideal of love can no longer abide by the prosaicism of an official
engagement; so that she develops a poetic conception of love and of herself in
love which cannot remain in such a human and social definition of love and
self; so that her soul . . . destroys an imperfect human form, in order to
hasten to something which is higher than humanity in general (422). He
implants the poetic idea; she acts in accordance with that idea: thus he breaks
the engagement; thus she does. Similarly, if less concretely: in the final scene,
Cordelia seems to herself to act completely on her own volition: She herself
will become the tempter who seduces me to go beyond the usual limitation.
So it seems to her consciousness, and for me this is the principal consideration (420). She is still, however, moving in programmed obedience to his
poetization. In fact, this same moment in which she desires to give herself to
him most freely, without any binding compulsion, is also that in which she
shows herself most bound and compelled by his art, most thoroughly his
poetic piece.
118

To the extent, then, that Johannes governs Cordelia's development so that


each natural, conscious move is proleptically replaced by its automated, aesthetic
equivalent and so directed toward realizing the poetic ideal of her he secretly
cherishes, the violation and dehumanization of her character seems no less consequently, even if differently, effected than in the case of Ovid's praeceptor's artefaction of women. Like the praeceptor's, Johannes' project seems motivated by a
basically misogynie outlook (e.g. 424^). While purporting to desire only the
proper play of freedom and equality between himself and Cordelia, he still
merely shapes her to the literary parts he needs for himself to play at and succeed
at his literary erotic game, a game not less exciting for its inevitable success.
And while purporting to love and to teach Cordelia herself to love, he seems
merely to mean to secure for himself a suitable artefact to cherish and exploit for
his own aesthetic ends, to secure an opus for his opus. The result may seem beautiful, poetic: it also seems cruelly inhuman.
And yet while the anti-Pygmalion version of Johannes' treatment of Cordelia
is fully in force, it is nonetheless not the only version, and we seriously misunderstand Johannes' efforts and intentions if we stop with this. There is also a far more
benevolent and ultimately Pygmalion dimension of his project as well: he is
working not only to artefact Cordelia for his own enjoyment, but also, essentially
also, to humanize her for her own sake. He says for example to the zephyrs, when
they come one morning to coax him out to play, that each must keep within the
bounds of seemliness, offer no affront to any pretty maiden, permit itself to take no
liberty greater than will allow her to preserve her joy in the jest... And now show me
a beautiful young woman, unfold her beauty for me in such a way that she becomes
herself more beautiful; subject her to an examination of such a kind that she derives
happiness from that examination! (351). The breezes are, of course, one image for
Johannes himself in his seductive activity (cf. 3 54), and there is a very important way
in which with Cordelia Johannes both maintains the self-limitation that prevents
any violation of her (3 72), and devotes his efforts to making her more beautiful and
more happy, that is, more herself, and more human.
In part, the non-violating coincidence of Johannes' efforts at Cordelia's poeti zation and humanization is made possible by the altered, and no longer irresolvably antagonistic, relationship between the spheres of art and nature in the composition of human identity. Quite often, Johannes takes quiet and appreciative
note of Cordelia's natural attributes, of how regally Nature has endowed this
girl (374), of all the charm, the loveliness with which nature has so abundantly
endowed her (372). When he first sees her, he is taken by her natural nobility
(329); when he comes to propose, he is almost overwhelmed by her simple charm,
as if Nature, like a tender and opulent mother, had just now let go her hand
(369). And yet even as Johannes first discovers Cordelia in such a fully natural
world, he also, and without any sense of contradiction, first discovers her in a
complete dream world (327), in a world of fantasy (336). This is, as it were,
II9

one of the natural attributes that attracts Johannes, that she is self-contained,
but that in which she is self-contained is an illusion; this illusion is the dowry
Nature has bestowed upon her, like that of a king's daughter (335).'8
The fact that nature and fantasy, nature and illusion both characterize the
original state of Cordelia means, of course, that the development of her fantasy
and illusions is very much part of her natural development; that she begins in a
dream, almost as a dream, and the unfolding or clarification of her dream world
is an intrinsic aspect of her true identity. As Johannes says early on, She lives in a
world of fantasy. If she fell into the wrong hands, it might bring out something
very unfeminine in her, precisely because she is so feminine (336). What ordinarily happens is that this world of fantasy is stunted, twisted, cheapened by being
left to ordinary society - the wrong hands - to shape and develop. The result is
that the self, too, becomes stunted, dissipated, and undefined (cf. 373, 380). Johannes takes exacting care that this not happen to Cordelia, that her fantasy
acquire sufficient strength and elasticity that everything that is in her, the whole
divinely rich nature, may come to its unfolding (380). The poetization of
Cordelia is a necessary part of becoming Cordelia: it is the clarification, the realization of her own eminently human nature.
In part, then, the non-violating coincidence in Cordelia's poetization and humanization lies in the essential inseparability of fantasy and nature in the makeup
of her I . " But it also in part lies in Johannes' method, in the way in which he
poetizes Cordelia. He mentions at one point how someone confided in me that
he chose his girl so that he might shape her according to the ideal that was ever
floating before his mind ... I should never approach a young girl otherwise than
as Nature's Venerabile, and learn first from her. Insofar as I have any formative
influence upon her, it is by repeatedly teaching her what I have learned from her
(386). For all the sense of preemptive intercession in his development of Cordelia,
Johannes is still first governed by her before governing her. As he says, If someone other than myself were guiding this development, he would probably be too
51

Cf. 369, where even as Nature ... had just now let go her hand, so too she has just
returned from the land of illusions ... where a young girl spends the night.
" For an insightful argument as to how Johannes' version of the mixture of fantasy and
nature in Cordelia's feminine identity avoids the so-called essentialist fallacy, see
John Vignaux Smyth, A Question of Eros: Irony in Sterne, Kierkegaard, and Barthes,
(Tallahessee: Florida State University Press, 1986), pp. 246-255. While I agree with
Smyth that the operant version of human/female nature in the Diary needs to be
recognized as a construct, I am more inclined to see the construct as historic than as
merely linguistic; that is, to see the construction as a reality for its time. As is the case
throughout this study, I am not so concerned with the reality to reality as I am with
the interactions of fiction and reality that the specific conceptions of reality, and fiction, operant in the work and at the time allow. Thus, whether the conditions of personal identity in the Diary are true or false is not overly important to me; what is
important to me is how Johannes' activity is to be understood within those conditions.

120

clever to allow himself to be guided (413). For this reason, every artificial step in
his poetization is also an eminently natural step in her humanization: there is an
essential truth to his observation, She moves to the inner melody of her own
soul; I am only the occasion for her movement (376).60
Similarly, for all the pronounced sense in which Johannes engages to shape
Cordelia according to the ideal, the idea, that ideal nonetheless remains peculiarly specific to Cordelia herself. It is as it were the ideal of Cordelia herself, the
shaping of Cordelia in her own likeness - wherefore again, the aesthetic idealization
of Cordelia is simultaneously the natural realization of Cordelia. As Johannes says,
Every young girl is, in relation to the labyrinth of her heart, an Ariadne; she holds
the thread by which one can find the way through it, but she has it, without knowing
how to use it (396), even as earlier, when he first saw Cordelia, he said A riddle was
she, mysteriously possessed of her own solution (326). It is this thread, this solution
to herself that Johannes works constantly to put into Cordelia's hand, not to lead her
away, but to lead her in to herself, to realize herself.
It is at least partly due to Johannes' method of repeatedly teaching her what I
have learned from her and thus bringing the ideal Cordelia out of Cordelia
herself that another version of his poetic activity constantly competes with that of
puppeteering and possession, namely: that of midwifery, of almost Socratic
maieutic attendance. When he first sees Cordelia, Johannes pauses to reflect how
A young girl does not develop in the sense that a boy does; she does not grow, she is
born. A boy begins to develop at once, and takes a long time for the process; a young
girl takes a long time in being born, and is born full-grown. Therein lies her infinite
richness; at the moment she is born she is full-grown, but this moment of birth comes
late . . . It is not only Minerva who sprang full grown from the head of Jupiter, not only
Venus who rose in all her beauty from the depths of the sea; every young girl is like this
if her womanhood has not been destroyed by what men call development. (327)

Cordelia herself has escaped what men call development, that is, development
in the wrong hands. To some extent, Johannes' method entails subjecting her to a
similar development of his own (cf. 439). But to an equal extent, his particular
mode of development entails nothing more or less than assisting her in giving
birth to herself. For instance, he says I am watching the birth of love in her
(376); or similarly, love is awakening in her soul, she is becoming initiated into
her full significance as a woman (380). Such a second Cordelia, a Cordelia derived from or born out of her own self but in a higher, hypostatized incarnation,
is conceived as a natural, even necessary part of her identity. And in assisting in
forcing the emergence of this second Cordelia, Johannes is again working to
humanize her; to bring her to fullness, to life.

60

For a quite different interpretation of this aspect of Johannes' enterprise, see Jean Baudrillard, The Ironic Strategy of the Seducer, in Seductions, tr. Brian Singer (New York:
St. Martin's Press, 1990), 98-118.

121

Part of the possibility for the benign cast to Johannes' poetization, then, depends on the nature of his materia and the intrinsic presence of poetry in its
makeup, and part on the nature of his method. But part also depends on the nature of his attitude toward women, which evinces essential differences from that
of Ovid's praeceptor.61 This is true in the general sense that he is able not only to
think coldly of woman but also warmly (e.g. 424); not only to think of her as
prey or stuff but also as charming, astonishing, and as a cause for continuous
and infinite wonder (e.g. 387). It is also true in the specific sense that he not only
thinks of Cordelia as beautiful insofar as she reflects his artwork (335), but also
insofar as she is an independent, unique woman.62 When he first sees her, he is
taken by the warmth and richness of her gaze, which suggested an infinite depth,
impossible to fathom, pure and innocent, gentle and quiet, full of mischief when
she smiled (328). Over and again he comments on her pride and daring: how
she has imagination, spirit, passion, in short, all the substantialities (338); how
her soul has passion, intensity, and without being foolish or vain, her reflections
are unusually pointed, she has a craving for the unusual (356), all of which makes
her not unlike Johannes himself. For this reason, Cordelia never comes across as
simply a passive X or victim, as possessed only by Johannes' will to do the unusual, passionate or poetic, as interesting only by his designs. Rather, her own
strength, will, proud independence and unique personality always assert themselves. They are what attract her to Johannes (359), and what make him uniquely
the man for her (348).
In fact, Johannes' whole relationship with Cordelia depends on her having power, intelligence and passion in her own right, on her being strong in herself (356).
As he says, now she has power and passion, and the struggle becomes worthwhile
to me;... the more abundant strength she has, the more interesting for me (3 80). In
this respect, Johannes' insistence upon Cordelia's freedom retains a large degree of
sincerity. He is willing to engage in, he actually desires to engage in far more of an
61

61

122

Johannes' attitude toward women also differs from the basically misogynie outlook
maintained by the majority of Kierkegaard's pseudonymous personne. Note for instance that in the banquet scene in In Vino Veritas, Johannes is the only speaker who
undertakes to speak in praise of women (Stages, pp 71-80).
The uniqueness of Cordelia, or rather Johannes' attraction to her as unique, is the major distinction between his seductive approach and that of his two eponymous ancestors, Don Juan and Faust. In the Essay on The Immediate Erotic, A. writes To Don
Juan every girl is an ordinary girl, every love affair an everyday story. Zerlina is young
and pretty, and she is a woman; this is the uncommon which she has in common with
hundreds of others; but it is not the uncommon that Don Juan desires, but the common, and this she has in common with every woman (96). In Shadowgraphs, he
makes a similar point about Faust, that Faust does not desire an unusual, interesting
partner: Goethe perfectly perceived all this, and hence we find Margaret an ordinary
little maiden, a girl one is almost tempted to call insignificant (20). Such a temptation, I believe, does not arise in respect to Cordelia, something that essentially changes
the significance of Johannes' treatment of her as well.

equal encounter than Ovid's praeceptor would ever willingly allow. And consequently, he is also willing to engage far greater risks of failing, by allowing Cordelia
greater autonomy and equality. This shows itself especially in Johannes' imitation
of the praeceptor in arming the women, and particularly in Johannes' addition of
what he calls the second war, where he declares Hitherto I have not set her free in
the ordinary sense of the word. I do it now, I set her free, for only thus will I love her
(380). He endeavors that the same power [of the erotic] develops correspondingly
in her (379); later on, this erotic becomes the weapon in her hand which she
swings against me, as she develops in herself a higher form of the erotic (406).
Just before she breaks off the engagement, Johannes confirms that Erotically she is
completely equipped for the struggle, that There is a power in her, an energy, as if
she were a valkyrie (419). While to some extent Cordelia's constantly increasing
strength in both her erotic and imaginative powers is merely that required for Johannes to play at and still succeed at his literary erotic game, it is still real enough,
Cordelia's own enough, that Johannes must fear that Cordelia will employ it in
ways that break his control and precipitate his failure. He fears this from the moment he sets her free and fosters her strength and self; he fears this at the moment of
his Pygmalion reference, when he faces the possibility that, now that his handiwork
has actually become free, self-realized, and humanized, it might no longer belong to
him, does no longer belong to him as his work; he fears this failure even at the last
moment as he sets off to enjoy his reward. Such strength, freedom and unsafe
autonomy could never be tolerated by Ovid's praeceptor, who artefacts women to
enervate them, to make them safe and predictable: but Johannes poetizes his Cordelia to empower her, to humanize her, with all the risks for himself that entails.
The way in which Johannes' poetization of Cordelia is also an empowerment
and liberation of her person also shows itself in another, slightly different point of
comparison with Ovid, namely in the flight imagery used to describe both the
unnatural artefaction of the student's self and the preceptorial guidance of his or her
progressing course. In the Ars, the flight imagery is introduced in the Daedalus/
Icarus digression at the beginning of Book II, where Daedalus first devises and fits
the artificial wings to his own and his pupil's bodies, then instructs him in how to fly
in following him, and then off they go. The flight is an infamously unmitigated
disaster for both parties, but especially for Icarus: the appended artifice cannot
change his basic nature, the forged wings fail him, and he falls heavily down. Ovid
implicitly links the tale to the broader context of the praeceptor's project, in part by
drawing on the related arms and ship imagery for the furnished wings and
accompanying excursion: the praeceptor's creation of artificial I's, his arming them
and guiding their course, proves every bit as disastrous as Daedalus'/ 3
<3

We should note that, in the Ars, the female students do not specifically share in the Daedalus/Icarus digression, although they do share in the related arms and ship imagery,
and while the creation of artificial I's proves no less disastrous in their case, one can still
hardly imagine the praeceptor even wishing to teach them flight.
I2

Johannes also uses flight imagery to describe both his more-than-human poeti zation of his pupil and his preceptorial guidance of her progressing course/ 4 Like
Daedalus, Johannes decides that his charge must learn to fly: She must not be of the
earth, but ethereal, not walking but flying, not forward and back, but everlastingly
forward (}S6).6f To a large extent, this flight is explicitly at Johannes' instigation,
by his contrivance and with him as leader: as when he says, I spread out my cape to
vanish with her into the air in a flight of thought (359); when he writes of his
waiting carriage and horses, impatient in lust of flight to carry her away in daring flight... out of this world, where they ride heavenward through the clouds
(391); or when, Like Venus riding in her chariot drawn by doves, so I harness my
thoughts like winged creatures to Cordelia to hold her aloft (405).66 Moreover, this
flight is not only indicative of Johannes' preceptorial guidance, but also of his transformation of Cordelia into something decidedly unreal, super-human, and poetic: What is necessary is to direct her, so that in her bold flight she loses sight of
. . . the mainland of reality in general, so that her s o u l . . . destroys an imperfect
human form, in order to hasten to something which is higher than humanity in
general. As regards this, however, I do not greatly fear... I am always on board, and
can always break out the sails (422; cf. 391). Especially this last example brings out
the Ovidian dimension to Johannes' flight imagery, and not only in the slightly
incongruous use of the ship imagery. Rather, both the sense of controlling direction
and the sense of Cordelia herself as exceeding the natural human realm by virtue of
Johannes' artefaction recall Ovid's Daedalus and Icarus, his praeceptor and
student.
For all the semi-Ovidian similarities, Johannes' use of the flight imagery still
points to essentially different ends. Not the least of these is that it is applied to a
woman rather than man, which already suggests a more enlightened intention toward women. But the more important is that, unlike Daedalus', Johannes' project
does not seem to fail - and this despite Cordelia's likeness to that second Icarus,
Phaeton (She likes well enough to drive the chariot of the sun across the arch of
heaven, 356), and despite her reaching dizzying heights from which one might
swoon and fall (e.g. 419, 380, 391, 387). In part, the different outcome can again be
traced back to the different beginning, to the fact that human nature - or rather,
female nature - and flight, like nature and fantasy, are not necessarily at odds with
one another; that to teach a girl to fly is to teach her to be fully a woman. This is true
<4

66

124

It would no doubt be a distorting exaggeration to attribute Kierkegaard/Johannes' use


of the motif exclusively to his use of Ovid. In part, it also clearly points to his use of
Apuleius (e.g. 328; 3 Jiff.), in part to his use of fairy tales, and in part to his use of the
related dance motif. Still, certain crucial aspects do point uniquely to Ovid's example,
e.g., that Johannes clearly links the motif with the ship-guiding imagery he certainly
borrows from Ovid (see 387^; 422).
C f . 356, where he ascertains that she must become without weight, anti-gravity.
C f . 401. The temptation to evoke Ovid's use of chariot imagery is tempting.

in the general sense that a young girl's lightness is incomprehensible and makes
sport of the laws of gravity (3 2 8), or that in her transition to the infinite, her leap is
a floating through the air. And when she has reached the other side, she stands there,
not exhausted by the exertion, but more beautiful than ever, instinct with feeling,
she wafts a kiss over to us who stand on this side (387; cf. 3jiff.). It is also true of
Cordelia in particular, who when first seen was as light as Psyche carried away by
Zephyr, even lighter for she carried herself away (3 2 8) ; whose way of life is already
so ethereal and light that reality is to a large degree lost sight of (422; cf. 401); and
who when last seen strikes Johannes with How light she was, like a dance over the
meadows (428). When Johannes sets about teaching her to fly, then, he is not
only subjecting her to an unnatural course via his own poetic contrivance - his
chariot, his cape, his winged creatures - toward his own aesthetic end. He is also
implicitly helping her to realize her own inner powers, to become a woman, to make
the transitional leap to her own other side.67
The fact that female nature allows for flight, then, accounts for part of the nonviolation and possible success in Cordelia's learning to fly. But part is also owing to
Joahnnes himself, to his efforts at preceptorial poetization. He works to make her
strong, supple, and independent, able to fly on her own and not simply bound to
him. Nowhere is this clearer than in the passage with which we began this section,
namely in Johannes' reference to Pygmalion and his statue, which is, significantly,
paired with the most fully developed instance of Cordelia in flight:
The bond burst; longing, strong, daring, divine, she flies like a bird which now for the
first time gets the right to stretch its wings. Fly, bird, fly! In truth if this royal flight
were a withdrawal from me, then my pain would be infinitely deep. A s if Pygmalion's
beloved were again turned to stone, so would this be for me. Light have I made her,
light as thought, and now this, my thought, ought not to belong to me? That would be
a cause of despair. A moment earlier it would not have mattered, a moment later, it will
not trouble me, but now - now - this now, which is an eternity to me! But she does not
fly away from me. Fly, then, bird, fly; soar proudly on your wings, glide through the
soft realms of the air, soon I will be with you . . . (433)

Nowhere is the involution in Johannes' relationship with Cordelia more apparent


and perplexing; nowhere do the two versions of his activity more clearly and confusingly compete and collude. On the one hand, the Pygmalion reference evokes
the miraculous moment of the beloved's humanization, that moment in which she
ceases to be his unnatural artifice and becomes instead a natural being with her
autonomous life independently centered in herself. This sense is strongly supported by the flight imagery. Even as Pygmalion's statue, so at this (bond-bursting) moment Cordelia in her flight ceases to be merely the self-reflective, unnatural handiwork of Johannes and becomes instead a fully natural being - a bird
- with her autonomous life in herself, with her own strength and daring inde67

It is in the context of teaching her to make that leap that Johannes makes his other
explicitly Ovidian linkage of the flight imagery with the ship imagery: jS/f.

pendently animating her movements. It is precisely this transition from mere


handiwork to natural, independent being which makes the moment so risky and
frightening: although Johannes made her and her ability to fly is his accomplishment, now that she can, now that she gets the right to stretch her wings,
she no longer belongs to him in the same safe sense. This is the basis for Johannes' possible pain and despair; it is also, I think, the basis for his virtue. He
accepts the risks of real love because he wants a real woman: the reality of the
woman is the surest sign of the reality of his love.
On the other hand, the same passage also points to diametrically opposite
conclusions. This is especially apparent in the obscure logic of the Pygmalion reference, in its essentially anti-Pygmalion impulse. For if Cordelia were to show
absolute independence and autonomy in her flight, then for Johannes it would be
as if Pygmalion's beloved were again turned to stone. The very gesture that
would prove her full humanization would, for him, negate it; the fully humanized
beloved must still remain his handiwork, or the miracle, the desired effect, is
undone. That it does, that Cordelia still remains his possessed artifact, moving in
prescribed obedience to Johannes' poetic program, is of course the basis for his
confidence that she does not fly away from me and for his willingness to let her
fly, to admire the results of his own work. Which is the truer version - the fear
or the confidence, the liberated freedom or the programmed obedience, the beloved humanized or artefacted through her poetization - we need not resolve. As
Johannes says, I accept both as my due; for I can just as well be the one thing as
the other (311). And so, I think, can Cordelia.
N o doubt some readers will object that by stopping at this point, we miss the
crucial point: that no matter how sincerely Johannes has loved Cordelia, no matter how skillful and ultimately benign his aesthetic poetization of her, everything
takes on a different significance as soon as he leaves her (363^; 375f.); that then
comes the Icarean collapse, then the full force of his inhuman betrayal of her
trust. Perhaps. For another view, we need not appeal to the story of Kierkegaard's
own broken engagement, nor to his rather involved notions of the value of
breaking off and taking the leap,68 nor even to the idea tentatively developed
in the Immediate Erotic that as soon as she is seduced, she is elevated to a
higher sphere (96; cf. 107, 333, 387). No, we can simply appeal to Cordelia her-

is

126

E.g. One breaks off, and it requires strength to do it, greater strength than to cut a
knot with the sword, because the difficulty of the knot bestows passion, but the
strength required for breaking off one must bestow upon oneself. In a certain outward
sense the result is the same, but in an artistic respect there is a heaven-wide difference
whether one leaves off (comes to an end) or breaks off by an act of freedom, whether it
is an accident or a passionate decision, whether it is all over like the ballad of the schoolmaster when there is no more of it or is brought to an end by the imperial sword-stroke
of pleasure, whether it is a triviality everybody has experienced or that mystery which
escapes the majority (Stages, p. 88f.).

self, as she appears in A.'s preface, sometime after the end of her affair. It is indeed
hard for her that he has deceived her, but such a straightforward and ethical
response is not her only one. Since Johannes has developed her aesthetically,
she sometimes has other responses, other understandings: Then memory awakens within her, she forgets the fault and the guilt, she remembers the beautiful moments, and she is stimulated to an unnatural exaltation. In such moments she not
only remembers him, she understands him with a clairvoyance which only shows
how much she has developed. Then she sees him neither as criminal nor as highminded person, she feels him only aesthetically (305). N o one, I think, will
doubt that Johannes has hurt Cordelia in his aesthetic development of her, in his
programmatic confusion of poetry and reality in shaping their affair, and her in it.
But I hope, too, that at least some will sense that he has also helped her to become
a fuller person, that his poetization has also been her humanization. 6 '

69

We migth also wish to invoke again die examples of Goethe's Ottilie and Mignon and
Keller's Anna to emphasize that the conventional issue of the anti-Pygmalion artefaction of the female figure in 19th century literature is death. See Mayer, Midas Statt
Pygmalion. Within the horizon of the topos, then, Cordelia's simultaneous poetization and human survival are particularly remarkable.

127

Chapter 3 : Thomas Mann and the early Felix

I.

Krull

Manolescu in the mirror

Thomas Mann's earliest notes to Felix Krull indicate that he considered Kierkegaard's Diary of the Seducer as a potential model for his intended work. 1 And
although it is not clear when Mann actually read the Diary, it is certainly clear
that the impulse to connect the two texts was a good one. 2 Like Johannes, Felix is
a seducer, aesthete, and fiction-making artist. Like Johannes, Felix is also engaged
as his own first-person narrator, and exercises his seductive, fiction-making powers in this role as well. Most importantly, Felix, too, is committed to fashioning
something of an artwork out of himself, to living his life as fiction, or as he puts
it, im Gleichnis. And as in the Diary, this self-fashioning activity essentially
duplicates and implicates those conditions and operations of literary fashioning
in both Mann's authorial and Felix's own narratorial activity, and so initiates a
complex, layered exploration into the problematic relationship between imitation
and reality, between literature and life.
Both aspects - Felix's commitment im Gleichnis zu leben and the interaction of the various orders of imitation - are perhaps most clearly, comically,
and disconcertingly in evidence in the conscription episode (II,v). This is the
scene in which Felix purchases a publication describing epilepsy and then
undertakes to >put on< the book before the military doctors of the Ersatzkommission, undergoing in the process the effects of what Mann so aptly
calls die sogenannten quivalenten.3 This chapter - for which con-scription is very much the operant word - will serve as the primary basis for my
1

128

Thomas Mann, Notizen [Notizbuch 9], ed. Hans Wysling. In Beihefte zum
(Heidelberg, Winter 1973), 77.

Euphorien,

See Hans Wysling, Narzissmus und illusionre Existenzform: zu den Bekenntnissen des
Hochstaplers Felix Krull, in Thomas-Mann-Studien, vol. $ (Bern, Munich: Franke,
1982), p. 483-484.
Mann's use of this word is a deliberate distortion of any medical meaning it might
otherwise have, which emphasizes that it is not intended to describe a medical condition; that Mann wanted us to see the attack as centrally concerned with the fictional
condition of equivalents* and was willing to contort his realistic framework to bring
this out. See his Notizblatt # 5 9 9 in TMS 5, 473-474.

investigation into Felix's attempt to fashion for himself ein romanhaftes Leben and an artificial I. 4
The chapter has a history of its own which encapsulates several peculiarities of
the composition of the novel as a whole as well as suggesting several themes of the
piece in particular. In significant ways, Mann's processes of literary production anticipate and incorporate essential features of Felix's own project. The chapter first
appeared in print as an ungedrucktes Bruchstck in 1925. 1 Its first appearance as a
fragment - a circumstance shared with several other chapters - not only points to the
relative autonomy of the episode, or episodes. It also points to the essentially fragmentary composition of the novel. 6 Mann's original work on the novel began in 1911,
when all of Book I was written but only its fifth chapter, Der Theaterbesuch,
published. The rest of Book I appeared for the first time in 1922 as a novella, or novel
fragment, Buch der Kindheit. After writing Der Tod in Venedig, Mann then
worked on a second book for Felix Krull before breaking off to begin Der

Zauber-

berg, after the independent publication of the conscription scene in 1925, Mann
included it in a 1937 edition of the work as the last chapter of Book II, which he
subtitled fragmentarisch. The subtitle applies not only to the fact that Book II is
published incomplete, but also to the fact that the chapter immediately preceding the
conscription episode breaks off in mid-sentence, followed by the parenthetical remark, (Hier fehlen einige Seiten des Manuskripts). 7
Finally, Mann returned to the Felix Krull Fragment again in 1951 and produced the work we now have, Der Memoiren erster Teil. Although he often
claimed to have renewed his work on the same piece of paper on which he had left

Mann begins an introductory essay to a reading of Felix Krull by misquoting a line from
Oscar Wilde: Liebe zu sich selbst ist immer der Anfang eines romanhaften Lebens.
While critics such as Wysling have mostly proceeded with their analyses as if Mann had
intended Wilde's original a lifelong romance, Mann's own formulation actually indicates the more central issue at stake in the novel: life as literature. The essay is collected
under the title [Der autobiographische Roman] in Thomas Mann, Gesammelte Werke
in zwlf Bnden (Frankfurt a. M.: Fischer, i960), XI, pp 700-703. All references to
Mann's works will be to this collection, except when noted. In particular, all page references to Felix Krull will be to volume VII of this collection, except when noted.
' In the Neue Freie Presse, June 7, 1925 (Wien), pp. 29-34. The occasion was Mann's fiftieth birthday. This printing did not include the final two paragraphs of the episode,
which begin Nachtrglich erst and Reiferes Nachdenken, respectively: these were
added at the time of the 1937 version and retained unchanged thereafter.
6
See Herbert Lehnert, Anmerkungen zur Entstehungsgeschichte von Th. Manns
Bekenntnisse des Hochstaplers Felix Krull, Der Zauberberg, und Betrachtungen eines
Unpolitischen, DVjS 38, 2 (1964) 267-272; Hans Wysling, Archivalisches Gewhle.
Zur Entstehungsgeschichte der Bekenntnisse des Hochstaplers Felix Krull,* in ThomasMann-Studien, vol. (Bern, Munich: Francke, 1967), pp. 234-257; and Wysling, TMS
7

5. 543-544

Thomas Mann, Bekenntnisse des Hochstaplers Felix Krull (Amsterdam: Querido, 1937),
p. 140.
129

off forty years before, without even introducing an interceding paragraph break,
in fact Mann extensively reworked parts of the 1937 fragmentarische Book II
for the 1951 edition. 8 Even in this edition, the novel remained a fragment, pointing toward the continuation Mann planned but never executed. 9 In many ways,
then, the conscription scene represents key aspects of the novel's Entstehungsgeschichte: in its first appearance as an autonomous fragment, and then in its
central place in the 1937 fragmentarisch version, which Mann later reworked,
and effaced, into a seeming, even if provisional, whole.
It is important to recognize that this history of fragmentary composition and
multiple editions is not merely incidental to Felix Krull. Rather, as in the Diary, the
fragment reflects key concepts underlying not only the model of mimesis at work
in the novel, but also and more importantly the model for personal identity. On the
most basic level, the fragmentary composition points to a narrative form that can be
endlessly extended and never completed. Mann himself mentions this as the reason
why the work had to remain a fragment: man kann immer daran weiterschreiben,
weiterfabulieren, es ist ein Gerst, woran man alles mgliche aufhngen kann. 10
Corresponding to this narrative mode is a notion of character equally episodic,
protean, and open. The self is seen as a series of essentially independent, only loosely
connected experiences, without a final, defining goal - a self as fragmentary, episodic, and protean as the Felix who rotates his costumes for his godfather, Schimmelpreester, or who changes identities with simple changes in signature.
1

Wysling notes the deceit when he cites Mann's anecdotal claim and adds, In Wirklichkeit sind die Verhltnisse etwas verwickelter als die Anekdote wahrhaben will
(TMS 5, p. 516); Lehnen also lists several other places where Mann perpetuated this
suppression of the intervening work, e.g., in the Einfhrung in den Zauberberg, the
Lebensabriss, and the Princeton lectures (p. 269). However, neither notes the Krulllike aspect to either the act of reworking or the act of hiding the reworking. Mann was
particularly taken to imitating Felix when talking or writing about the novel: see for
example the last paragraph to [Der autobiographische Roman] (XI, 703), or Mann's
post-script to the 1923 edition of Buch der Kindheit (Stuttgart, Berlin, Leipzig:
Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt), and compare them with Felix's appeal at the beginning of
Book II. These appeals are mentioned by Walter Berendsohn, Thomas Mann: Artist
and Partisan in Troubled Times, tr. G. C. Buck (University: U. of Alabama Press,
1973), p. 173-174; however, he takes them as an expression of Mann's own attitude
toward his work.
Mann's reworking of the earlier material for its incorporation into the later novel is
most radical in the last third of Book II, 4, the chapter immediately preceding the conscription episode, and in Book 11,6, the chapter immediately following, which although
not included in the 1937 edition still belongs to the same work period. In fact, it is to
this chapter that the checkered piece of Prantl paper belongs (TMS 5, p. 520). The
first sentence to the 1925 and 1937 versions of the conscription scene is left out of the
1954 edition as well.
' See Hans Wysling, Thomas Manns Plne zur Fortsetzung des Krull,* in ThomasMann-Studien, vol. 3 (Bern, Munich: Francke, 1974), pp. 149-166.
10
[Rckkehr], XI,530.
130

More complexly, the fragmentary narrative mode reflects an identifiably aestheticist ideal of both composition and identity, based not so much on Kierkegaard
as on that other aesthete philosopher, Nietzsche. As we will see, in many different
and unexpectedly complex ways, the early Krull incorporates and problematizes
Nietzschean models of aesthetics, reality, and self-identity. Here, at the level of
composition, we have our first intimation of this.11 That is, we have fragments which
insist on remaining fragments, and which discard any easy notion of organic unity;
and yet counterbalancing this, we have an overriding stylistic urge continually to
assimilate and organize - or perhaps better, to refunction, reinterpret, even to
rewrite - those fragments into a unity, which is itself continually changing and
evolving. The model requires both that the fragmentary character be overcome,
superseded, and the unifying artifice effaced, or hidden; and that the same fragmentary character be maintained, its essential artifice exposed.12 Both the insistence on
fragmentation and the urge for overriding unity have obvious, and important, affinities with the Diary, and in respect to both literary composition and self identity.
And yet as we will see, the nature of both the fragment and of the unity are conceived
quite differently here, not least in the more emphatically temporal, or geschichtliche, dimension into which both are cast. These different conceptions not only
make for a quite different work of literature in Felix Krull, but also in it for a different
relation between literature and life.
Like its Entstehungsgeschichte, the novel's intertextual dimension can also
be seen to incorporate and engage key aspects of its thematic concerns. This is
acutely the case with the conscription scene. As in both the Ars and the Diary,
Felix Krull deliberately advertises its own literary artifice, conventions, and parody; and as in both, these conditions and operation are themselves translated into
the novel's most basic facts of character and plot.' 3 In particular, we already find
ourselves grappling at this level of the text with the way the parodie imitation
aggressively advertises its immunity to the affections of its cited material, even as

"

The Nietzschean model here invoked is largely derived from Alexander Nehamas,
Nietzsche: Life as Literature, Cambridge, M A : Harvard UP, 1985, especially pages
170-199. My debt to this excellent study is evident throughout the discussion that
follows.
" The tendency just to see the organic unity to both the novel and its protagonist is
particularly endemic among American critics, and leads to a very unproblematic and
distorted reading of the operant models of mimesis and self-identity in the work. See
for example George Steiner, Language and Silence (New York: Atheneum, 1970),
p. 269; Nigel Hamilton, The Brothers Mann (New Haven: Yale UP, 1979), p. 362;
R. J. Hollingdale, Thomas Mann: A Critical Study (London, 1971); Erich Heller,
Felix Krull Oder Die Komdie des Knstlers, in Vollendung und Grsse Thomas
Manns, ed. G. Wenzel (Halle: Kreuz, 1962), pp. 250-251; but also Wysling, TMS 5,
p. 516.
13
Robert Alter, Partial Magic: The Novel as a Self-Conscious Genre (Berkeley: U of California P, 1975), p. 212.

131

it also implicitly exposes itself to the aggressive authority of that material, and so
draws upon its infectious, evocative power - the very same issues that are also at
stake in Felix's mimetic performance, especially in the conscription scene. As we
have seen, similar issues are at work in both the Ars and the Diary, and in both a
similar reflective doubling is at work between the different orders of imitation. In
Felix Krull, there is an even greater and, if possible, more crucial interplay between the various levels, which corresponds, as we will see, to a more layered play
of fiction to the protagonist's I.
The target- or sub-texts employed most consequently by Mann for parodie
imitation in the early Krull are those of Manolescu and Goethe. They are central
to the novel, or novella, in a general way and are important to the conscription
scene in a quite specific fashion (although as I will argue, the primary text-world
from Goethe in the latter is not so much Dichtung und Wahrheit as it is Faust, and
in particular, Walpurgisnacht). As in Ovid's juxtaposition of the didactic and
elegiac modes, Mann's parody to a large degree derives from the audacious,
incongruous hybridization of textual worlds, which impudently joins together
different ideals of both literature and the self. However, as in Ovid, it is important
first to consider each of these text-worlds (as far as possible) separately, in order
to realize what each contributes to our topic.
The two volumes of Manolescu's memoirs not only provided Mann with a
wealth of disparate details for his depiction of the career of a confidence man.14
They also provided a central event, or text, which seemed to embody the most
essential issues of both the artificial I and literary parody, namely: Manolescu's
simulation of insanity before several investigative boards, or rather, his report of
that simulation, his fiction about his fiction. The event dominates both volumes
of Manolescu's confessions, was in many ways their impetus, and was certainly
the most well known moment in his career quite independently of his memoirs.
Manolescu was arrested for a series of jewel thefts in Berlin in 1901 ; his simulation
of insanity before prison authorities, hospital doctors, and finally court officials
continued until his escape from a state asylum in 1903. The issue that aroused so
much interest in the incident, both in the newspapers and then in his surprisingly
popular memoirs (1905-06), was what his German publisher called das psychologische Problem. Most simply, this was the question whether Manolescu truly
was insane or had only imitated his condition; but more complexly, there was
also the question whether such an extended imitation - as Manolescu vehemently,
and perhaps too vehemently, insisted it was - was not itself as much a product of
insanity as of art, and whether the sheer length of the sustained performance did
not ultimately supersede its fictive status.
14

132

Georges Manolescu, Ein Frst der Diebe. Memoiren [referred to as Manolescu I] and
Gescheitert. Aus dem Seelenleben eines Verbrechers [referred to as Manolescu II] (Berlin,
1905-06).

Mann uses this text-event not once, but twice in the early Krull: first, when
Felix simulates illness to stay home from school, the first evidence of his talent
and calling; 1 ' and then again, and more fully, in the conscription scene. 16 In the
latter case, Mann alters the original incident in two significant ways: he substitutes a military setting for the prison/courtroom in the source, and he changes the
(feigned) condition of the protagonist from insanity to epilepsy, or die sogenannten quivalenten. Both changes are designed to open up the episode to a
more emphatic incorporation of its literary dimension. First, the military setting
allows Felix to appropriate kriegerische Strenge, Selbstbeherrschung und Gefahr (371) to describe his own, mimetic enterprise; that is, to displace and absorb
the discipline and exertion of this respectable occupation for his own illicit
practice, 17 and thereby also to assimilate his activity to the same poetic tradition
as Ovid's student lover and Johannes, and like them to a certain functional identity with the artist (qua soldier and imitator). Second, the condition of (feigned)
epilepsy allows Mann to appropriate equally well established poetic lxica to
describe the infectious effect of the imitated material, or Geist, on the imitator
himself, a contagion which, we've seen, so often overcomes the immunizing
study and industry of the protagonist. In Felix's case, however, this possessing
Geist is necessarily inherited, once more casting a common theme into a more
insistently temporal dimension, and once more introducing something truly different into the equation.
Despite the obvious contributions of these two changes, it was still the original incident which rendered the Manolescu material most amenable to a thematic
incorporation of literary issues. It gives acute expression to a problem - our
problem - which Manolescu addresses on several occasions and in several contexts, although often with a look ahead to his climactic simulation. The problem
can perhaps best be seen by comparing two remarks he makes early on in his
second volume. In Die Lehrzeit, he explains how
Ein Verbrecher muss bestndig eine Rolle spielen, eine Maske tragen, die sich absolut
von seiner Person unterscheidet; er muss Eigenschaften heucheln und Eindrcke
erwecken, die ganz im Gegensatz zu seinem wahren Wesen stehen. (11,36)
Later on in the chapter Experimente, he formulates the problem somewhat
differently:
'' Notizblatt #575, in TMS 5, p. 410.
The conscription scene is perhaps the last chapter in the novel for which Mann actually
had the Manolescu texts: they were left behind in Munich and are now lost. See his
letter to Eva Schiffer, August 6, 1954, cited in part by her in Manolescu's Memoirs:
The Beginnings of Felix Krull? Monatshefte fr deutschen Unterricht 52,6 (i960) 292;
and TMS 5, p. 154 and p. 345, . 13.
17
For the processes of displacement and absorption, see Stephen Greenblatt, The
Improvisation of Power, in Renaissance Self-Fashioning. From More to Shakespeare
(Chicago, London: U of Chicago P, 1980), p. 230.

133

Mit einem Wort, ich musste mich gnzlich mit meiner Rolle identifizieren und vllig
vergessen, dass ich nur eine Rolle spielte. Denn nur so durfte ich hoffen, auch andere zu
berzeugen. (11,44)

Between them, these two passages express the basic, opposing sides not only to
life in imitation, but more generally to parody in literature as well. The first
emphasizes the artificiality of the performance, the immunity of the imitator, and
his interceding work and consciousness. The second sees instead the superseding
naturalization of the imitation/performance and the effacement of the imitator's
conscious control. In practice, of course - and the simulation episode is itself the
best evidence of this - these two sides are never so easily separated in Manolescu's
performances, so that his reader's perspective remains indeterminately, irreconcilably double. This characteristically stereoscopic optic certainly seems a major
source for the problem that so engaged his original audience, Mann included;
the fact that the same optic, the same conditions could be seen to characterize
Mann's own problematic imitation of Manolescu furnished the crucial doubling,
the functional identity between character and author, self and fiction, that so
engages us in Felix Krull.
Before proceeding to a more direct analysis of Mann's imitation of Manolescu,
and especially of the crucial doubling that imitation involves, we need first to
consider how Manolescu in general and his simulation in particular also incorporate another intertextual problem central to Felix Krull, a Nietzschean one. That
is the problem of the actor, Nietzsche's most negative assessment of the self as
fiction. He addresses the problem most consequently in Die Frhliche
Wissenschaft, and Mann noted two of its aphorisms as of seminal importance to
his narrative. In the first, Nietzsche approaches the dangerous concept of the
artist through a consideration of the actor:
Die Falschheit mit gutem Gewissen; die Lust an der Verstellung als Macht heraus brechend, den sogenannten Charakter beiseite schiebend, berflutend, mitunter auslschend; das innere Verlangen in eine Rolle und Maske, in einen Schein hinein . . . alles
das ist vielleicht nicht nur der Schauspieler an sich? (No. 361)

In the second, Nietzsche describes what happens when all that becomes transposed into everyday life:
[D]er einzelne [ist] berzeugt, ungefhr alles zu knnen, jeder Rolle gewachsen zu sein,
w o jeder mit sich versucht, improvisiert, neu versucht, mit Lust versucht, w o alle Natur
aufhrt und Kunst wird. ( N o . 356)

What is so intriguing about these two descriptions is not only their similarity to
the case of Manolescu but also their similarity to Nietzsche's own ideal of the self
as artwork. The double coincidence, however, is decisive. Whereas in Kierkegaard
the refashioning of the self according to a model of literary artifice had become an
eminent possibility, it still remained qualified by the implicit presence of other,
more viable models, namely ethical and religious ones. In Nietzsche, these other
models - including the social and >natural< modes of individual development -

!34

have also come to be understood as fictional, or at best artificial: not as possibilities of a different order, but emphatically of the same order. Thus, for the project
of self-fashioning, there are only choices between different kinds of fiction, between different modes of self-fictionalization; and it is precisely the tensions and
interstices - or equivalents, if you will - between these different modes that Felix
Krull can be seen to explore.
Probably the most important expression for Felix Krull of Nietzsche's contrasting, positive assessment of the self as artwork comes in the oft-quoted aphorism No. 290, also from Die Frhliche Wissenschaft. Not only does it provide the
needed counterpoint to the problem of the actor. It does so by shifting the problem more clearly into the literary sphere, thus bringing it closer to the actual conditions of Mann's novel and the actual focus of our study:
Eins ist not. - Seinem Charakter Stil geben - eine grosse und seltne Kunst! Sie bt
der, welcher alles bersieht, was seine Natur an Krften und Schwchen bietet, und es
dann einem knstlerischen Plane einfgt, bis ein jedes als Kunst und Vernunft erscheint
und auch die Schwche noch das Auge entzckt. Hier ist eine grosse Masse zweiter Natur hinzugetragen worden, dort ein Stck erster Natur abgetragen - beide Male mit
langer bung und tglicher Arbeit daran.

As in Kierkegaard, the transposition of aesthetic, and identifiably literary, models


into the living sphere facilitates self-stylization largely through organization and
integration, through the assimilation, however provisional, to a unifying plan of
what are essentially fragments of a self. And as in Kierkegaard, the resultant self is
very much the product of study and industry, of practice and work - although in
Nietzsche the work seems more insistently, and ultimately unavoidably, retrospective. We might also just note a more crucial difference from Kierkegaard, in
respect to both Nietzsche and Felix Krull, which will occupy us more fully in the
following section: that in this model some prior reality, or materia, seems firmly
in place, a given upon which one's aesthetic craft is practiced, a solidity that notably contrasts with the romantic nebulosity of a Johannes (and that is somewhat
slighted in Nietzsche's own description of the actor). In this respect, the operant
model for the artificial I in both Nietzsche and Felix Krull would actually seem
closer to Ovid, especially with the reinstatement of an underlying, original nature. And yet despite Nietzsche's language here, we are far from a return to such
a classical model; for what is restyled here is not, I will argue, Ovidian natura, but
rather more fiction: sustained fiction, inherited fictions - genealogies. That is, the
relation involved in this version of self-fashioning is between different fictions,
different orders of fiction; again with a more essential role given to time, and
again with a more layered play of fiction to the protagonist's I.
Despite the added complexity and layeredness offered by Nietzsche's model(s)
for development in Felix Krull, the most important new complexity and layeredness arise from a different source, namely: from the retransposition of Nietzsche's
literarily-based model(s) for personal identity back into the literary sphere. While

!35

the move is simple, its effects are not. What is now at stake is not only the project
of the artificial I, but also a crucial, self-reflective doubling of the author's artifice
in the character's, a doubling that in some sense radically refunctions the Nietzschean model in the new context. This is of course the same functional identity
we encountered in both Ovid and Kierkegaard, and the same doubling we mentioned in respect to Mann's parodie imitation of Manolescu. 18 It is in the context
of the latter - the most conspicuous, advertised source of citation for Felix

Krull

in general, and for the conscription episode in particular - that Mann most evidently explores the consequences and complexities of his retransposition. We can
see this especially in three of the more overt citations from Manolescu in the conscription episode, each of which concretely enacts a somewhat different aspect of
this self-reflective doubling: Manolescu and Felix before the mirror; the clumsy
and unsuccessful simulation of each one's predecessor; and the attribute in each
case of erbliche Belastung. 1 '

l!

Cf. Marthe Robert, The Old and the New. From Don Quixote to Kafka, tr. C. Cosman
(Berkeley, Los Angeles, London: U of California P, 1977), pp. 13-15: When imitation
imposes a way of writing on the novelist and a way of living on the hero, it creates a
functional identity between these two similar and disparate figures that tells us more
than any external circumstance about the true extent of their relation . . . The narrative
tells us . . . that the hero, a born imitator, defines himself by a function clearly analogous to literature, which, whatever its subject, pretends only to reproduce, represent,
and imitate some real or supposedly real aspect of life . . . Within the narrative itself,
imitation represents the equivalent to the very act of writing and clarifies the extent to
which author and hero are separate and yet absolutely united in their common cause.
It is because of its retransposition into the literary sphere and the resultant functional
identity between imitation and writing that Felix is most decidedly not about the problem of the actor.

' ' Despite the significant amount of research devoted to the relationship between Manolescu's and Felix's memoirs, even by scholars specifically looking for citations, none of
the three quotations here discussed has ever been noted in the critical literature. Schiffer
merely remarks Manolescu's simulations of insanity remind one of Krull's epileptic
performance for the draft board and looks no further (Manolescu's Memoirs: The
Beginnings of Felix Krull? 287). Anthony W. Riley, Three Cryptic Quotations in
Thomas Mann's Felix Krull,* Journal of English and Germanic Philology 55, 1 (1966)
99-106, although schooled in the approach of Hermann Meyer, overlooks these citations entirely and focuses instead on what seem suspiciously close to mere borrowings. Wysling quotes lengthy passages from Manolescu's memoirs and compares them
with Mann's Notizen, but bewilderingly says only about the simulation episode,
Dass es Manolescu . . . wiederholt gelungen war, Richter und selbst Arzte von seiner
Unzurechnungsfhigkeit zu berzeugen . . . drfte sich auf Knills Simulierkunst ausgewirkt haben (TMS 5, p. 159-160).
For the centrality of citation to Mann's mimetic practice, see Hermann Meyer, The
Poetics of Quotation in the European Novel, tr. T. and Y. Ziolkowski (Princeton:
Princeton UP, 1968), pp. 3-22 and 230-274. For the notion of diegetic (i.e. narrative)
citation as opposed to just literary (i.e. verbal) citation, see Linda Hutcheon, Narcissistic Narrative: The MetafictionalParadox (Waterloo, Ont.: Wilfred Laurier UP, 1980).
i36

Manolescu makes frequent mention of the hours spent before his mirror, and
Mann uses this as a leading motif, or quotation, in his early portrayal of Felix. As
the hypothetical voyeur/reader in each case indicates, Mann draws most directly
on a passage from Manolescu's chapter Experimente for the conscription scene.
In the first, Manolescu has been performing certain practical exercises, alone and
up in his room, in preparation for an upcoming caper, when he remarks:
Es muss ein seltsamer Anblick gewesen sein, wie ich vierzehn Tage hindurch von morgens bis abends an meinem Tisch vor dem Spiegelschrank hantierte. (I, 63. Cf. also
frmliche Theaterproben nachts in der Einsamkeit meiner Zelle I, 261.)

The imitation of this passage in Felix Krull introduces a crucial, added dimension.
Rather than starting from scratch and creating himself ex nihilo as Manolescu
does, Felix begins with a book, pointedly advertising the derivation of his actions
from, or their embeddedness in, a prior literary text. This added element not only
assimilates Felix's activity to the specific problem and tradition with which we are
concerned, wherein work and a book replace the simple, immediate self. It also
assimilates to Felix's activity Mann's authorial practice, which like Felix's and
unlike Manolescu's original begins its mimesis with a book, Manolescu's book,
and derives its actions from this prior text.
Felix first borrows a general reference work in several volumes to familiarize
himself with the rudiments of the conscription process - borrows from a Maschinist, appropriately enough, since it is in a similar capacity that he puts this
work to work. 20 He then finds his model text, eine gewisse ... Druckschrift
klinischen Charakters, immerses himself in his reading material, and
. . . bertrug das Gewonnene in der nchtlichen Einsamkeit meiner Kche bei Kerze
und Spiegel auf bestimmte praktische bungen, die einen geheimen Beobachter wohl
nrrisch htten anmuten mssen. (350)

Mann cites a text, and represents in that citation the act of citation; moreover, he
cites a text that has at its center both a mirror, the classic, self-reflective image for
literary imitation and doubling, and the imitator and his methodical machinations. All this incites us (the secret, included observer) to think together Mann's
activity and Felix's, to focus at once on both orders of imitation, and to do so
within the terms represented. In some ways, it is precisely such simultaneous,
vertical reading that seems qualitatively more urgent in Felix Krull, and that gives
the work its more actively layered texture.
20

Although no doubt unintentional, it seems hardly accidental that Denver Lindley's


English translation of Felix Krull (New York: Vintage, 1955) has Felix borrow these
volumes from an actor, even though Mann's text is emphatic on the point that they are
borrowed from a Machinist. The mistranslation gives acute expression to the common prejudice in favor of Felix as actor and of a related human model for his mimesis; but note that in the conscription scene, actors are included amongst the all-toohuman smelling group in the waiting area.

137

Let us consider in detail the shared issues of imitation implicit in this passage,
or rather, in Mann's citation of this passage. As in Ovid, the principle of imitative
citation allows Mann himself to affect a certain parodie, deliberately devised distance from the materia of his source, a secret detachment from and non-committal equivocality towards its affectations. The fact that these conditions are already
present in the source occasions a more complex specularity without, however,
changing the basic terms: Mann's text is still no more to be identified with Manolescu's than Ovid's with those of elegy. And of course, this ludic mobility and
parodie distance are again achieved only through a kind of literary violence. By
presenting the Manolescu material as a citation, Mann dehumanizes both it and
his own text by regarding both as only verbal artifice and clichd convention, and
refusing either any real content. Only thus does the one become imitable, and
the other remain an imitation.
Similarly, when Felix cites his clinical publication, and so transposes the principle of imitation into his own sphere and activity, like the author and like Ovid's
student-lover, he too acquires an all important immunity to the affections of his
materia. And again, his secret, parodie distance is only won through violence: he
also dehumanizes both his text and his self, denying either any real content. Both
the playful violence and the dehumanizing distance are familiar to us: but in a way
that is impossible for either Manolescu himself or Nietzsche's actor, and to a degree far greater than in either Ovid or Kierkegaard, Mann also makes his protagonist pay for this violence with the same violence practiced against himself. Mann
makes Felix suffer, as it were, the effects of his (Mann's) own imitation; by making us see his text as itself a citation, he empties it of content and so dehumanizes
both Felix and his world. To speak more with the text, Mann flattens or freezes
our reading by making us see the mirror instead of the scene behind or before it.21
For all his deserved reputation as a realist, mimetic writer, it is still especially
Mann who constantly and playfully stops us from taking his protagonist as
immediately human, live, or real, and forces us to see instead the literary artifice
and authorial construct.22
Such a carefully maintained detachment from the affections of his literary material, such a sovereign denial of any reality to its conventions, and such a
manipulative display of its essential artifice are, of course, the characteristics that
most forcefully identify Mann's work with the whole modernist movement,
whose acute, aristocratic self-consciousness found parody well suited to its needs.
11

22

138

Cf. Ortega y Gasset, The Dehumanization of Art, tr. H. Weyl (Princeton, Princeton
UP, 1968), pp. 10-11, his famous image of the garden in the window; and Roland
Barthes, Myth Today, in Mythologies, tr. A. Lavers (New York: Hill and Wang,
1972), pp. 123-124, his development of the same image.
See Thomas Mann, Meerfahrt mit Don QuijoteIX,
443 -445, where he describes this
process and identifies it with his own technique. I borrow the term order of imitation
from this essay.

But parody not only enabled Mann and other modernists aggressively to advertise the artifice and clichd conventionality of their borrowed texts. To some degree, and often to a very large degree, the infectious and sometimes vulgar vitality
of the original material was also able to animate the self-conscious, dehumanized
imitation from below with its own evocative, aggressive power.23 This is clearly
the case here: the opacity of artifice to Felix Krull dissolves somewhat, sometimes,
and draws life from the Manolescu original, which immediately compounds
and confuses itself with whatever autonomous vitality Mann's own text can claim
to possess. And this is also clearly an essential aspect of Felix's imitation, as he
consumes (verschlang) and incorporates (einverleibte) his text in order to
acquire die notige Erdenschwere und solide Wirklichkeit (350) for his mimesis.
For both Mann and Felix, the exposure to the infectious power of the original text
is considered not only unavoidable but also desirable; it is the necessary counterpart to the playful, immunizing derealization of the imitation (cf. the two poles
represented in our earlier passages from Manolescu). But as Kierkegaard and
Ovid have taught us to expect, and as Felix's subsequent experience confirms,
there is a kind of violence to this aspect of imitation as well. To speak again with
the text, infection can prove to be as violating, and dehumanizing, as immunity.
Both the issues of detached, dis-affected re-presentation and of superseding,
infectious possession, or animation, arise out of the problematic relationship
between the model and copy occasioned by their reflective doubling. But the passage Mann cites from Manolescu also raises central questions concerning the imitator's interceding activity and the consequent disfigurement of both model and
copy. That is, the quoted text makes us see not just the mirror, the model and
copy, but also or even more the bizarre and nrrischen manipulations that
accompany and accomplish the imitation. To speak more with the text, we see not
just the face and facsimile, but also the face-making.
In part, Mann thus foregrounds and thematizes a similar aspect of imitation
to that emphasized by both Kierkegaard and Ovid, namely: the study and industry, the work and consciousness required for the transposition. The notion
that the copy, even the exact faithful copy, is not an immediate effect (as the mirror image alone might suggest) but rather strenuous, exacting, and conscious
work is, of course, central to both Mann's and Felix's mimetic poetics. We might
think, for example, of Aschenbach's insistence that his works were not produced
all in one breath, but had been, rather, in kleinen Tagewerken aus aberhundert
Einzelinspirationen zur Grsse emporgeschichtet; or more appropriately, of
Zeitblom's mechanical transference of Adrian's original text of the dialogue with
the devil to his own manuscript (nicht nur Wort fr Wort, sondern, ich darf
wohl sagen: Buchstaben fr Buchstaben) and his insistence on what an intensive,
time-consuming occupation this proved to be.24 Both, but especially the latter,
23
24

Cf. Alter, Partial Magic, p. 177.


VIII,452; VI,334.
r

39

underscore how the interceding work is both the product and producer of a consciousness that radically alienates the copy from the model. Equally importantly,
both display yet another source of seeming violence to the mimetic process: not
so much the violence done to or by the model by or to the copy as the violence
done to and by the imitator by and to himself. That is, the sheer labor of imitation
once again takes its toll on the subject. It involves a violence ultimately inseparable from its self-consciousness.
As the depiction of Felix before the mirror makes clear, Mann also makes the
conscious calculation and protracted, exacting work of the writer an absolutely
central part of the shared identity between the author's and protagonist's mimetic
enterprises. In fact, it is this aspect of Mann's own practice that is most conspicuously present in the Manolescu original, and which already there most achieves
the effect of dehumanization. Like both Manolescu and Mann, Felix often explicitly calls attention to the work and consciousness that go into his imitations. In
the conscription episode, he explains how he goes mit grosser Genauigkeit, ja
streng wissenschaftlich zu Werke (350) and how the imitation demands not only
intellectual but also physical strength and effort. He makes similar claims when
describing certain childhood experiments in self-artefaction before his mirror,
and then again when playing school-sick. In all three cases, the labor to the imitation exerts a kind of escalating violence on Felix, a violence that in each case, and
to an ever greater extent, is translated into the imitation itself.
While the cited passage overtly displays the study and industry to Felix's
imitation, and hints at some of the same violence against the subject thereby
involved that we know already from Kierkegaard and Ovid, it nonetheless
emphasizes a slightly different aspect to the imitator's activity, and a slightly different violence. That is, the image of Felix before the mirror especially foregrounds the distortions and disfigurements involved in the translation of his
text, those operations that clearly mark the imitation as parodie imitation
(nrrisch). Of course, such a parodie transposition is also a crucial dimension
to Ovid's project, especially in the comic transference of didactic ideals and imagery into the erotic sphere, which simultaneously deflates the dignity of the one
and inflates that of the other. And such a two-way distortion is also part of Johannes's translation project, especially in the caricaturing of Eduard (and of himself
vis-a-vis the aunt) and in the exactly analogous idealizing of Cordelia (and of
himself vis-a-vis Cordelia). But far more than in Ovid, this semi-violent disfigurement to the translation activity is made part of the shared identity between the
literary author and his living character. And far more than in Kierkegaard, the
two ways to the parodie distortion, in the direction of caricature and ideal, often
occur together in Mann, on the same subject and the same material. In both respects, the role of distortion in imitation takes on new prominence in Felix Krull.
It should not surprise us that the first mirror in the book, in Felix's father's garden, is a (face-) distorting one, that the most conspicuous effect on Felix of his
140

equivalents attack is (facial) distortion, or even that the infectious effect of his
imitation on his audience is again (facial) distortion. 2 '
Mann was always keenly aware that even the most faithful copy of a text in a
new context caused a kind of creative, and often violent, distortion of the original. His description of Kleist's translation of Moliere's Amphitryon as eine
bertragung im allerkhnsten Sinne des Wortes: die wirkliche und unerhrte
bertragung, Entfhrung und Verzauberung eines Werkes aus seiner Sphre in
eine ihm ursprnglich vllig fremde emphasizes how the distortion can work in
the direction of idealization.26 More pertinently, his description in Felix Krull of
the device over the doorway that mechanically reproduces the first few notes of
Strauss' Freut euch des Lebens emphasizes how the distortion can also work in
the direction of caricature, or more precisely, of kitsch. This latter example illustrates especially well how it is the mechanism of transference itself, and not simply the new context, that causes the characteristic disfigurement.
The illicit, parodically violent traffic between high art and kitsch is perhaps
the most immediately significant source of the deformation to the imitation in
Felix Krull. Certainly it is a major source for the coincidence of caricature and
idealization in the imitation; and in fact, that coincidence is itself a major source
for the distortion in the imitation. By comically transferring the kitschy ideals
and imagery of Manolescu into the context of Goethean autobiography, or conversely by transferring the lofty ideals and imagery of a Goethe into the context
of criminal, popular confessions, Mann commits both worlds to a mutual deformation, as much through their improbable similarities as their ineradicable differences - for often it is not so much the moments of obvious difference as the instances of appropriate equivalence between the two orders that incite the most
volatile disfigurements in the imitation. Precisely where the copying seems most
exact, the simultaneous caricature and idealization seem most distorting.
Similarly, although more elusively, Mann also in part achieves the distorting
effect to his imitation simply by transposing Manolescu into Felix. The effect is
most evident in just those respects in which Felix is most like his model, is even, as
here, more or less a citation of his model; the simple change in signatory, the
intercession of a second, competing consciousness, distorts the original merely
25

26

[E]ine spiegelnde Glaskugel, welche die Gesichter beraus komisch verzerrte, 269;
Mein Gesicht verzerrte sich, 366; Ich sah einen [Kommissionsherrn], der beide geschlossenen Hnde an die Ohren gepresst hielt und, wahrscheinlich vermge einer Art
von Ansteckung, sein eigenes Gesicht zur Grimasse verzogen hatte, 368.
Kleist's Amphitryon. Eine Wiedereroberung, IX,i9i. The essay as a whole is extremely provocative for our reading of Felix Krull, because it suggestively plays with the
same duplication of the drama's intertextual activity and the characters' textual activity
that we have been exploring. Mann begins by comparing Moliere's original with
Kleist's magical translation of it into the new sphere, and then juxtaposes this with
his discussion of the encounters in the play itself of the original Sosias and Amphitryon with their magical translations from another sphere.
141

by opening and exposing the interval it inhabits. That is, as with the device over
the doorway, the mechanism of transference, and not just the new context, causes
the inevitable distortion/ 7
In respect to Felix, the passage we are considering conspicuously depicts the
nrrischen distortions to his mechanical translation of his text and its geistigen subject-matter into his live, physical world. The comic disparity between
the mystisch-religisen Auffassung (369) of epilepsy and the common, criminal
ideal of calculated draft evasion occasions a distortion to Felix's imitation closely
analogous to Mann's hybridization of high art and kitsch. And like Mann's,
Felix's works simultaneously in the direction of both caricature and idealization.
His imitation of jener geheimnisvollen Krankheit (371) in the new, low sphere
caricatures the notion of its possessing spirit along with its traditional associations of poetic inspiration, and not least through the mechanization and consciousness to its copying; but at the same time, the disease itself uncannily idealizes that same mechanical, calculated activity. Again, it is in some ways the simultaneity to the caricature and idealization that proves most distorting to both
spheres. And again, both aspects to the distortion - both the comic and the idealizing - represent a kind of violence, a violence inseparable from the translation.
Perhaps more surprising, we see this distorting effect even when Felix transposes himself into his (self-) imitation, when it truly is his own face that he makes
into the mirror. Far more than for either Ovid's student or Johannes, part of
Felix's mimesis involves citing or imitating himself, and very often it is at those
truthful moments where Felix faithfully represents his own (past) person that the
distortion to his imitation proves most disconcerting. Felix himself addresses just
this facet of his imitation in the conscription scene, where he explains that the
only difference between the original reality and the present citation is that the latter is ein Werk der Absicht und bewussten Zielstrebigkeit (361). And yet it is
just this intentionality, this interceding machination to the copying that radically
distorts the re-presentation. In a far from obvious way, nothing is more radically
and violently disfigured in Felix's fictionalizing imitation than Felix himself. We
see this here in his nrrischen exercises before the mirror; we will see it even
more graphically in his actual equivalents attack.
Finally, in order to provide the needed balance and accurately represent what
is special about Felix Krull, we should note that Mann closes off his cited passage
with the words, Hier kein Wort weiter! (351). Having exposed the imitator's
work, the mechanism and operation of his artifice, he then reconceals it, camouflages it, so that in what follows the interplay between artefaction and animation,
between conscious work and uncontrolled supersession, fiction and reality,
stays open, problematic, vital. It is just this closing occlusion that most forcefully
17

142

Cf. Luis Borges on Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote, in Labyrinths (New
York: New Directions, 1962), esp. p. 42.

associates Mann's work with the realist mode; but it can also be seen as yet another instance of his functional identity with his protagonist, as yet another example
of the increased interplay between the orders of imitation. Far more than Ovid's
or Kierkegaard's, Mann's work also excludes the reader, or more accurately, splits
the reader, so that part of our perspective always remains uneasily that of the tobe-seduced. We might say that Mann thus increases the play of fiction precisely
there where he seems most to efface it.
Before closing us out, however, the quoted passage has exposed several separate,
composite sources for potential violence in both Mann's parody and Felix's project
of the artificial I. Three are already familiar to us from theirs. First, the dehumanizing of the text, and the self, by regarding each as only artifice, or materia, and
refusing either any real content. Second, the opening up of the text, and the self, to
the aggressive animation of their (textual) source. And third, the exhausting efforts
and mechanization to the imitator's rational, conscious labor. A fourth source of
violence, distortion, is if not new then newly prominent, and as we will see not only
reveals a new dimension to the project of life as literature, but also a slight yet
significant refunctioning of the other sources of violence in the project. Finally,
there is a way in which Mann's parody itself serves as a potent source of violence for
Felix's mimesis, in its equivalent but distinct textual artefaction, animation, and
distortion of his character. We will need to remember each of these sources when we
come to our more detailed analysis of Felix's equivalents attack.
The second citation from Manolescu in the conscription scene re-presents an
issue central to parody in general, but only marginally so to our specific concern
with the artificial I. Still, it too secures the identity between Mann's activity and
Felix's, and creates the characteristic layered reading in its collapse of literature
and life. In the chapter Im Irrenhaus, as Manolescu is waiting his turn to appear
before the board of medical examiners, he reports on the fate of the man who
precedes him, a postal clerk arrested for killing an accomplice and now pleading
diminished capacity:
D e r Geheimrat Hess sich diesen Mrder vorfhren. Ich w a r zugegen, als der U n g l c k liche, der spter hingerichtet wurde, mit usserster Plumpheit zu simulieren begann,
und hrte, wie der Geheimrat ihm in aller Gemtlichkeit sagte: Mein Lieber, geben
Sie sich doch keine Mhe! So dumm, wie Sie zu glauben scheinen, sind w i r A r z t e denn
doch nicht. (1,236)

So Felix, waiting his turn, overhears the questions of the doctor and answers of
the recruit before him,
. . . linkische Redereien von einer Lungenentzndung, die jedoch ihren deutlich genug
durchschimmernden Z w e c k verfehlten, da sie ihm durch das Zeugnis seiner unbedingten Tauglichkeit trocken abgeschnitten wurden . . . Alsbald trat der Konskribierte bei
mir ein: geringes Fleisch, wie ich sah, ein Bursche mit einem braunen Strich um den
H a l s [!], plumpen Schultern, gelben Flecken am A b s a t z der Oberarme, groben Knien
und grossen roten Fssen. (356)

143

Again, we find something of the circumstances of the citation self-reflexively represented in the appropriated passage. Just as in each case the protagonist's talents
relate to those of his predecessor (des Konskribierten), so too do Mann's relate
to those of his predecessor, Manolescu. The parody lies in displaying the clumsiness and bad style in the mimesis of the amateur (as unwitting parodist, or caricature), by showing oneself the more accomplished, tasteful, and, paradoxically,
artificial. Herein lies the aristocratic malice almost inseparable from literary parody, the nauseated aversion to anything naively natural or embarrassingly
human shared by all our protagonists and their respective authors. In Felix's
case, however, this parodie competition, or distance, is also at issue in relation to
Felix himself, or rather, in the relation between Mann's and Felix's different literary performances, which continues the play between high art and kitsch touched
on above, and poses Felix as the preceding Konskribierenden. We will return to
this play when we come to Felix as narrator. For now, we need only note how the
parody between differently accomplished fictions is (uniquely) transposed into
Felix's own artifice and self-artefaction, with Felix at once the mocker and the
mocked, and how this, too, increases the layered complexity to his artifice, to his
consciousness, and, ultimately, to his character.
The last, and most overt, citation is also perhaps the most significant. It comes
in connection with the doctor's analysis of Felix's so-called equivalents attack,
and so is most closely connected with the dehumanizing violence to Felix's imitation and life in literature. Mann again takes his quotation from Manolescu's chapter Im Irrenhaus: after the postal clerk has been dismissed, Manolescu finally
has his own moment before the board:
Nachdem der Geheimrat... andere . . . Patienten inspiziert hatte, trat er zu mir, unterhielt sich kurze Zeit mit mir, wandte mir dann den Rcken und erklrte kurz seinem
Assistenten: Geistig anormal infolge erblicher Belastung. (1,236-237)

Manolescu is immediately concerned to clarify for us that diese erbliche Belastung, die in allen Gutachten der Arzte eine so berwiegende Rolle spielte, was
only an invented fiction, auf Kosten meiner toten Mutter (1,237). After having
been inspected by and having conversed with his doctor, Felix is dismissed in
much the same way and for much the same reason:
Ausgemustert, sagte [der Oberstabarzt]... und wandte sich zu den Herren am Kommissionstisch. Der Gestellungspflichtige, erklrte er, leidet an epileptoiden Zufllen, sogenannten quivalenten . . . Meiner Exploration zufolge, liegt erbliche Belastung
von Seiten eines trunkschtigen Vaters vor . . . (369)

As in the first passage of Felix before the mirror, the prominent role of citation
here on both levels of the text, generating both Mann's imitation and Felix's
equivalents (for of course the real begetter of his attack is the book, the klinische Publikation), compels us to consider the passage in terms of both its
flaunted artifice and its self-reflexivity. On the one hand, we are forced to see
144

erbliche Belastung as describing the conditions of imitation itself, where we see


both Mann's text and Felix's person burdened, cramped, contaminated, and
abetted by the conditions and gestures of his textual forebears. O n the other, we
are also forced to compound this account with our recognition of Felix's almost
cruel manipulation, distortion, and appropriation of his text, inheritance, and
ancestors to win a kind of freedom, at the expense of the dead - in other words,
to see in this description the (passive) straits and (active) strategy of the modern
parodist and literary self-fashioner par

excellence.

The major switch that Mann affects in Manolescu's text emphasizes even more
forcefully the decisive parallel between his own condition and operations and
those of his protagonist: the switch in genders, the substitution for the dead
mother of the dead father. With that, we are brought to the consideration of
Goethe, where an analysis of the issue of erblicher Belastung will allow us further to elucidate the three, newly prominent aspects we have discovered to both
the literary artifice and the artificial I: time, layers, and distortion.

II.

Inheritance and Imitation: Goethe in Felix Krull

When Felix essays his first few trials as a writer, he does so by imitating his
father's handwriting. As he explains:
Ein Vater ist stets das natrlichste und nchste Muster fr den sich bildenden und zur
Welt der Erwachsenen hinstrebenden Knaben. Untersttzt durch geheimnisvolle Verwandtschaft und hnlichkeit der Krperbildung, setzt der Halbwchsige seinen Stolz
darein, sich von dem Gehaben des Erzeugers anzueignen, was die eigene Unfertigkeit
ihn zu bewundern ntigt - oder, um genauer zu sein: Diese Bewunderung ist es, die
halb unbewusst zu der Aneignung und Ausbildung dessen fhrt, was erblicherweise in
uns vorgebildet liegt. (296)*
Later, when Mann wrote his essay Freud und die Zukunft, he applied the same
terms, the same overriding image of Vaternachahmung as Bildung and
Bewunderung to his own case as writer, explaining that for his Schriftstellerleben the Vaternachahmung amounted to an imitatio Goethe's. 2 ' The common semantic field not only invites us to recognize the functional identity between Felix's imitation of his father's handwriting and Mann's imitation of
Goethe's writings in Felix Krull. It also insists that we recognize how in both
cases the literary imitation, or forgery, is first and foremost a temporally cast
process - or, to be more precise: a historically or genealogically cast process. 30
28

The 1937 edition has hnlichkeiten des Krperbaues instead of der Krperbildung. Querido, 1937, p. 57.
2
' Freud und die Zukunft, IX, pp. 498-499.
30
Cf. also the Vorspiel: Hllenfahrt to Joseph und Seine Brder, and especially the notion, dass jeder einen Vater hat und dass kein Ding zuerst und von selber ist, Ursache
J

45

Felix also engages in an appropriation of his father's Gehaben in the conscription episode, this time forging not his signature but rather his biography.
Again, the appropriation also engages a resolutely temporal, genealogical dimension, as the erbliche Belastung behind his imitation underscores. And
again, the conflation of the father and text (the clinical publication) as both the
object of appropriation and the source of influence suggests a parallel between
Felix's imitation and Mann's own. But the conscription episode also foregrounds
an aspect of the Vaternachahmung which these two other passages choose to
suppress, namely: the extreme ambivalence towards its model that the imitation
entails. In the case of Mann, this ambivalence expresses itself not only in his
admiration and affirmation of the productive animation of his own writing occasioned by his Aneignung, but also in the evident animosity he directs against
his Goethean model through its parody in the novel. In the case of Felix, the
aggression and animosity are if anything even more apparent, both in the violent
effect that Felix's text qua father has on his imitation, and in the no less violent
distortion that Felix directs back against them. In fact, the case of Felix in the
conscription scene seems designed to thematize precisely those central, but often
suppressed, violent aspects of Vaternachahmung and Aneignung, of possession and dispossession, that also hold for the author himself.
Mann scholars have never hesitated to apply the appropriate Freudian framework and so point out the more or less Oedipal implications of Mann's imitatio
Goethe's, or for that matter, of Felix's relation to his father. They describe the
ways in which Mann felt himself crippled, cramped, even deformed by this overbearing forebear (erblich belastet), and the ways in which he in turn, in retaliation as it were, attempted to cripple, diminish, and deform his own adopted ideal
in order to sieze, or possess, his own freedom and individuality. Hans Wysling,
for instance, writes, Goethe war nicht nur bewunderungswrdig, er stand ihm
auch im Wege, or similarly, Goethe war nicht nur der Bewunderte, er war auch
der, der die Sptem zu erdrcken drohte.'1 Wysling also describes Mann's ambivalent response to Goethe's greatness: Einerseits liebt er [...] anderseits zersetzt
und zerstrt er sie, a response that he characteristically diagnoses as das geheime Mordgelsten, and more specifically, der Vatermord.52 In modest proportions, this primal, Oedipal scene would be seen to be staged in the conscription
scene by Felix.
There are, however, problems with the invocation of a Freudian model to
explain the genealogical dimension both to Mann's and to Felix's mode of imitation. Not the least of these is that at the same time as it imports a psychological

31
52

146

seiner selbst, sondern ein jedes gezeugt ist und rckwrts weist (IV, 18), which is
applied equally to selves and to texts.
Wysling, TMS 5, p. 217.
Ibid, p. 218.

dimension, it also imports a real or natural dimension into the equation, or rather: it also effaces the literary, fictional dimension that is already in the equation, and
that is essential to its issue. One risks forgetting that the genealogical problem at
stake is situated in the literary sphere, or perhaps better, is transposed into and
issues out of it, in an ongoing exchange that the Oedipal model is forced to ignore.
In this respect, we should remember that Felix's aggressive, imitative appropriation
of his father is specifically aimed at his handwriting and signature; that the imitation
is essentially understood technically, not psychologically, as the mimetic manipulation of certain empty, conventional mannerisms - manipulable precisely because
they are conventional, and empty - and that, in a very important way, the imitation
first invents the figure it then appropriates as father. The Freudian model is extremely valuable insofar as it foregrounds the newly prominent temporal/historical
dimension to both literary imitation and personal identity - in this regard it proves
itself very much a late 19th century model - and insofar as it alerts us to the violence
behind the seeming reverence of imitatio. But insofar as it overlooks the essential
interplay of fiction and reality, and reduces the literary to a symptom of the empirically real or natural, it proves inadequate to the dynamics of both literary imitation
and personal identity in the novel.33
Again, it is a Nietzschean model that proves most able to unlock that dynamic, and given its importance both to our topic in general and to Felix Krull in particular, it is perhaps worth dwelling on in some detail.34 Like the Freudian model,
Nietzsche's insists upon a genealogical dimension to personal identity, and like
the Freudian, it posits a complex play of violence and aggressions within that
genealogy. But unlike in Freud, the genealogy at stake in Nietzsche is not inherently either natural or real, but rather, at least at first, profoundly fictional and
constructed. To speak most simply in the terms of the conscription episode, the
source of the inherited Geist that animates the present reality of the self truly is
textual for Nietzsche: the conflation of father and text that we encounter
there is central to the Nietzschean notion of Erbschaft. This Erbschaft is
nothing more, or less, than a congeries of fictions and conventional commitments, much as Felix's father's script proves to be a deceptive, contradictory, and
impacted assemblage of gothic, latin, and baroque mannerisms. N o essential
reality, or father, is at work in the Nietzschean Erbschaft: only an ornate,
entangled synthesis of fragmented fictions.
33

34

Rolf Renner, Das Ich als sthetische Konstruktion: Der Tod in Venedig und seine Beziehung zum Gesamtwerk Thomas Manns (Freiburg: Rombach, 1987) pp. 1 3 2 - 1 4 2 ,
applies a Lacanian model and still falls into the same reductive trap. Note the almost
unquestioning reliance on Wysling's mode of analysis evident in Renner's footnotes.
As will become apparent, the representation of Nietzsche in this section is greatly
influenced by Michel Foucault, Nietzsche, Genealogy, History, in The Foucault
Reader, ed. P. Rabinow (New York: Pantheon, 1984), pp. 76-100, and especially by his
discussion of Erbschaft.

147

Whereas the aesthetic thus acquires a new priority and prominence for Nietzsche, to the extent that there is a tremendous expansion in what figures as text or
fiction in his world - the natural, social, psychological, ethical, and religious:
each and all are conceived as inherited fictions, each and all as entangled, impacted, and contradictory texts - still, for Nietzsche as for Ovid, the simple extension
through time of these various fictions fundamentally changes the nature of the
Erbschaft qua fiction.35 Over time, fictions come to function as reality, to
possess an invasive authority and inscriptive power every bit as forceful and compulsive as Ovidian natura - and in this respect, Nietzsche's occasional use of
natural terms to designate this inheritance is most telling.
What is so very different about the Nietzschean world, however, is the essential, ongoing exchange between the realms of fiction and nature: where the natural can be exposed and manipulated as fictional, and where at the same time the
fictional can eventually attain the compulsive solidity of a kind of nature, which
still always remains susceptible to further fictional refashioning. In a crucial development, history has replaced ontology as the active power behind the natural, and as such has at once eliminated its privileged autonomy and its intractability.'6 The fact that natura and artifice are no longer conceived as essentially
opposed orders results in the renewed, or continued, possibility that efforts at
overcoming one's nature and fashioning oneself into a fictional artwork are not at
all doomed to failure. However, the role of fiction as a kind of nature (as
Erbschaft) also creates new conditions for those efforts.
One of the most interesting examples of these new conditions can be seen in
the renewed emphasis in both Nietzsche and Felix Krull on the physicality of the
subject. This is especially striking after the decidedly decorporealized nebulosity
found in Kierkegarrd's Diary: however, what gives this physiological dimension its power is not, as in Ovid, natura, but rather again history, or Erbschaft.

"
!

148

Ci. Jenseits von Gut und Bse, No. 188; Die Frhliche Wissenschaft, No. 58.
I am of course not claiming that Ovid's project of self-fashioning does not also take
place in a context of fictions, even of inherited, historical fictions. Rather, in the Ars,
Ovid appropriates the conventions of the georgic and elegiac literary traditions as well
as those of the Augustan political program, and he does so because each is felt to possess
a shaping authority and reality that need to be deconstructed for the poet and lover to
achieve their respective freedoms. That is, his fiction-making project is aimed at a fictional inheritance in a way and for reasons very similar to those found in Nietzsche.
However, it would still be misleading to limit the Nietzschean notion of Erbschaft to
these fictions in Ovid, and even more so to expand the role of these fictions in Ovid to
account for all the functioning authority and reality at work in the poem. The Nietzschean Erbschaft is not always so conspicuously and handily constructed, and possesses an elusive, infiltrating authority not easily captured and controlled by such (ideological) systems. Conversely, it is precisely because natura is felt by Ovid to possess an
autonomous and ultimately privileged reality and authority that the opposing systems
of fiction and artifice, whether literary or political, prove so fragile and un-natural.

For Nietzsche, one's genealogical, fictional inheritance - one's erbliche Belastung - expresses itself even in the corporeal realm; it forms, or deforms, one's
very body. As Michel Foucault puts it,37
It inscribes itself in the nervous system, in temperament, in the digestive apparatus; it
appears in faulty respiration, in improper diets, in the debilitated and prostrate bodies
of those whose ancestors committed errors [i.e. fashioned fictions]. Fathers have only
to mistake effects for causes, believe in the reality of an afterlife, or maintain the value
of eternal truths, and the bodies of their children will suffer.

This is of course basically what we see so graphically represented in the conscription scene, as Felix's body suffers the inscription and deformation of his text
qua inheritance (significantly, the text is precisely one of illness). The physical
nature of the self becomes the surest expression of these fashioning fictions.
However as we will see, Felix is also able to exploit the logic of this interaction to
his advantage: to fashion his body through his own fiction, actually to mold and
alter his physical nature into an artwork, in a fashion fundamentally inconceivable in Ovid's world (and irrelevant in Kierkegaard's), but audaciously inevitable
in Nietzsche's.
A second, central condition of personal identity created by this new interplay
between nature and fiction - or more precisely, between different orders of fiction - is that it occasions a new and different notion of the layered, fragmentary
self. As in Kierkegaard, the self, or character, is conceived as a vertical, simultaneous array of successive fictions and orders of consciousness: to use an image
found in both authors (and implicit in Felix's forgery of his father's signature) the
self is a palimpsest. But now, the different layers of fiction also represent vastly
different orders of consciousness, due to the vastly different time frames they
involve.'8 Put concretely: in Kierkegaard's realm - that of romantic irony - we
saw the different layers of fiction, consciousness, and time with respect to the
author, editor, narrator, and even the reflective and immediate selves. In each case,
the difference in time and consciousness was significant insofar as it allowed for
the intercession of memory and its poeticization, or more actively, of study and
industry and their poeticization. In each case, however, the conditions and operations were strictly analogous, and in no case did a prior layer of fiction and consciousness actively function as an other, i.e. as an conscious for the succeeding one. But in Nietzsche's realm - in this respect itself indicative of late 19th
century historical consciousness - the different expanses of time truly invest the
respective layers of fiction and consciousness with different orders of power and
reality, and so too with potentially conflicting interests. Equally important,
prior levels are perceived actively and persistently to invade succeeding ones as
37
38

Foucault, p. 82.
C f . Die Frhliche Wissenschaft, No. 152; Also Sprach Zarathustra,
Nehamas, p. 252, n.14.

11,14;

see

also

149

both radically other and yet essentially intrinsic to their reality, in the form of
un-conscious, animating Geist." And as we will see, this Nietzschean model of
the palimpsestic self allows Mann to employ the vertical, con-scriptive array of
author, narrator and character to different effect than Kierkegaard, with far greater competition, invasion, and troublesome collusion between the layers of consciousness, and unconsciousness.
It is important to emphasize again, however, that the Nietzschean model not
only posits the various orders of fiction and consciousness at work in the selffashioning individual as different. It also posits the same active force at work in
creating the various orders. That is, it is the same aesthetic craft, or violence, that
is at work on a sustained and grand scale in the Erbschaft which gives form to
the bodies and (unconsciousness of a people and that in the self-artefacting individual is turned backwards against himself and this Erbschaft. 40 The notion
that it is in fact the same active force - interestingly enough, Nietzsche calls it the
instinct for freedom - at work in both cases is decisive, and in two different
ways. First, it shows how the self-fictionalizing project of the individual is the
most natural, human thing about him, the instinctive (or conservative) expression of his inheritance - hence the conspicuously conformist bent to Felix's character. But second, it also shows how the fictionalizing force of one's inheritance
can be confronted and opposed, subverted and overturned by the same force in
the individual; how, to paraphrase Nietzsche, fiction can be turned against something that is also fiction. This brings us back to the potential deformation
through seeming conformation mentioned in the previous section, and that consistently proves central to Felix's creative, and subversive, efforts at fictionmaking.
These new conditions - the apparently real and natural as sustained fictions, which nonetheless exert an invasive, inscriptive (we might also say, unconscious and physical) authority, and the self as fragmented, layered fictions, which
are both collusively continuous and aggressively turned against each other - these
conditions pull the project of self-artefaction into a new service, which is more
positive than in either Ovid or Kierkegaard, but no less steeped in violence and
self-violation. Most obviously, these conditions dictate the terms of one's selfartefaction: since the Erbschaft is very much a given, in both one's self and
one's reality, one cannot ignore or dispense with these fictions, but must define
one's efforts on their terms. 41 But equally obviously, these same conditions allow
3

' Cf. Die Frhliche Wissenschaft, No. 54.


Cf. Zur Genealogie der Moral, II,18.
41
This marks a major difference with the Diary, where the efforts at self-fashioning
seem relatively untroubled by a competing order, or reality, of underlying, controlling
human nature. Although both Kierkegaard's and Johannes' artifices appropriate the fictions of their times as well as of their literary traditions, there is not necessarily a sense
of compulsion to that appropriation, nor a sense of potentially ruling reality to the fic40

150

one's efforts at fashioning conscious fictions simultaneously to take the form of a


sustaining imitation of and a subversive, liberating attack against one's inherited,
unconscious fictions: legitimately, and perhaps successfully, to dispossess one's
Erbschaft in the very instance of its appropriation.
The means, or operations, for staging this Oedipal attack are basically twofold for Nietzsche. The first is critically to expose the fictionality of the allegedly
real to one's inheritance: to derealize, or dehumanize, the received traditions by
exposing their conventions, contradictions, devices and deceits. This critical deconstruction can be achieved through the kind of intellectual detachment and dissection that we witness in Felix's philological analysis of his father's script,
where the reality and authority of the father both disappear in the tangled swirl of
contradictory mannerisms.42 But as Nietzsche insists, it can also be achieved
through parody and mimicry, insofar as both aim to expose the imitable conventionality - and so inessentiality of the traditions, ideals, and values they parasitically inhabit.43 This is the positive, because negative and deconstructive, function
that Nietzsche attributes to the Komdiant and parodist, and that clearly also
gives a serious edge to Felix's more characteristic activity - and that incidently
reveals the affinity between Felix's critical penetration of and playful participation in the fictions of his given world.
If critical deconstruction proves a negative means for making fiction, and so
freeing oneself from the in-fluence of one's textual inheritance, Nietzsche also
offers a positive means. One cannot ignore or dispense with one's Erbschaft:
one can, however, reinterpret or refashion it in one's own way and toward one's
own ends, through a refunctioning or reorganizing of those fragmentary, contradictory conventions, devices and deceits into one's own unity (or contradiction),
one's own fiction. It is here that active, aesthetic work, style, taste, and system are
called for, as well as a force directed against one's inherited materiem every bit as
violent as that to its critical deconstruction. This is the positive, constructive dimension to Nietzsche's invocation of a literary model for the world and self: not
only can the nature and reality of both always be pried apart into fragmented fictions, they can also always be brought together again through more fiction. 44
Especially in respect to Felix, we should note that this positive task also falls

41

43

44

tional inheritance. Rather, Johannes' preference for myths and fairy tales as the shaping
forms for his life as literature, and his easy mobility between present and classical models, are fully symptomatic of his comparatively unimpinged freedom, insofar as both
bespeak a lack of constraint by either reality or history.
Cf. Foucault, p. 95.

Cl. Jenseits von Gut und Bse, No. 223; Zur Genealogie der Moral, 111,27; Foucault,
p. 93-94; Nehamas, p. 133.
Interestingly, Foucault designates this process in Nietzsche as Entstehung (see esp.
p. 86), and it certainly bears comparison with the process of composition to the novel's
Entstehungsgeschichte we discussed in the preceding section.

within the scope of parody, insofar as its deconstructive interpretation is always


also a constructive reinterpretation of its inherited material. We might even say
that if in the former case parody makes its break with its inherited fictions appear
as continuity, in the latter parody secures its continuity with its inheritance precisely through its break, that is, through its identical form-giving, aesthetic
impulse.
However, despite its essential susceptibility to both negative and positive
aesthetic reformulation, the Erbschaft, simply by virtue of its massive extension
through time, still retains sufficient recalcitrance and power to possess the individual and break through his refashioning; to compel the individual to move in
programmed obedience to its script, even in his efforts at refashioning. Its irrepressible, inscriptive authority does not, however, necessarily express itself openly
- as for example Ovidian natura did in the outbreak of violent passion - but rather covertly, as the breakthrough of an often dreamlike unconscious or, alternatively, as a simple condition of the body.45 And although displaced to a less exposed arena, the uncontrollable, controlling expression of this Erbschaft is no
less violent and violating than was that of natura in Ovid.
In fact, the entire relationship between the self-fashioning, fiction-making
individual and the fashioning fictions of his Erbschaft is nothing but a complex
series of violent, disruptive acts of aggression, even when they take the form of
collusive continuity. If anything, the instances of apparent and actual collusion when the Erbschaft prescribes the individual's efforts at self-fashioning, or
when the individual stages his liberating self-fashioning as an imitation of his
Erbschaft - are often those most laden with invasive, disruptive violence. In
this respect, the relationship between the two truly is Oedipal: but the reason
for this lies not in the immutable nature of psychological reality, but rather in the
ever malleable material of aesthetic fictions.
It is especially this complex play of hidden aggression and disconcerting collusion in the relation between the self-fashioning individual and his Erbschaft
that makes the Nietzschean model so applicable to the relation between Mann
and Goethe, and by extension, to that between Felix and his father/text. It helps
us understand the strategic importance of imitation and parody in the process of
self-becoming; the entangled, programmed script inherited by the individual, to
which he moves in mimetic obedience; and the subversive possibilities for reprogramming that script for himself precisely through his mimetic movements. But
as we discovered in the preceding section, the complex, layered play of fiction and
reality posited by Nietzsche's aesthetic model for reality takes on a whole new
complexity and layeredness when it is retransposed back into the aesthetic sphere.
Again, what is then at stake is the problem not only of the self as literature, but of
literature as literature - insofar, that is, as the author's fiction-making becomes
45

152

C f . Die Frhliche Wissenschaft, N o . 54.

self-reflexively doubled in the fiction-making of the character, in a way that radically refunctions the Nietzschean model for the latter.
We can see this refunctioning by considering more directly the problem of
Mann's literary imitation and parody of Goethe's writings in Felix Krull. As already mentioned, the text of Goethe most often cited in connection with the early
Krull, by both critics and Mann himself, is Dichtung und Wahrheit. To a lesser
degree, but in the same register, Wilhelm Meister also attracts attention. Both
works helped to originate, or organize, the conventions of the Bildungsroman:
Dichtung und Wahrheit in particular helped to set the standards for its first-person, autobiographical form. Moreover, due to the somewhat unique history of the
Bildungsroman, both works were responsible for generating specific models
not only for narrative, but also for the self, and especially, for the artist self. That
is, the Goethean texts established a certain compacted synthesis of literary form
and personal identity, each ostensibly conceived as an organic, gradually developing entity. The very naturalness attributed to both models contributed to - or
simply masked - the authority these conventions came to attain through Goethe's
works, and through time. This is the natural Erbschaft with which later writers
in the tradition were burdened, Mann included: where to place oneself within
certain modes of narrative fiction was also to find oneself within certain modes
of personal, or literary identity; and where to engage the Goethean literary inheritance was also to engage conventions all-too-readily accepted as natural.
As Mann explains in some preliminary remarks to a reading from the early
work, Felix Krull sets about parodying these conventions in two interrelated
ways.4* First, by the device of laying bare the device, by exposing the conventions
of the Bildungsroman to a kind of intellektualistische Zersetzung and so
robbing them of a naive, inviolate, sentimental reading. This is, we note, the same
deconstructive tactic proposed by Nietzsche for dismantling the authority of
one's Erbschaft, and that we see Felix employ in dissecting the conventional
stylizations of his father's script. Significantly, Mann refers to this parodie
Zersetzung as die Literarisierung and die Enthumanisierung of the Bildungsroman. And due to the close identification of the genre with the concept of
personal identity, the literalization and dehumanization of the one inevitably results in the literalization and dehumanization of the other: the self itself becomes
conceived not as natural or human, but as artificial and composed.
Equally significantly, Mann refers to this literalizing dehumanization of the
genre as largely impelled by developments in the historical cultural context. That
is, the dehumanized self and artwork are conceived as historical phenomena, and
in a double sense. As in Nietzsche, the dehumanization is conceived as a tactic
deployed against the authority of history. But in a way not necessarily important
to Nietzsche, it is also conceived as a tactic deployed against the loss of authority
4<

[Der autobiographische Roman], XI,700-703.

*53

by history: against the loss of reality and effect to the inherited conventions,
which can only be employed by later writers as conventions, as parody; and
against the loss of reality and naturalness to the inherited concept of self, which
can only appear to them as fiction and parody. In these contradictory ways, history can thus be seen to produce the dehumanized, fictional self in modernists
such as Mann. And somewhat paradoxically, it is precisely this historical dimension that makes the dehumanized, fictional self once again representatively
human and real in their works, that is: timely.
Second, and closely related to the dehumanization achieved through analytical Zersetzung: Mann subversively parodies the Goethean autobiography, or
Bildungsroman, by juxtaposing or hybridizing it with Manolescu's memoirs,
or more broadly, with the conventions of the Schelmenroman or picaresque
tradition.47 This not only plays the revered national poet off against a notorious
confidence man, and an intent, verisimilar literary genre against a playful, acutely
self-conscious one. It also breeds together a notion of self-identity as developing,
organic, and integral with one of self-identity as basically static, artificial, and
episodic. The distortive effect of this juxtaposition on the Goethean Erbschaft
is perhaps the most decisive aspect of the novel's parody. As in Ovid's incongruous mixture of the didactic and elegiac modes, not the least of Mann's parodie
effect derives from the naughtiness, audaciousness, and unnaturalness of the
juxtaposition: the two spheres are dissimilar, both in dignity and subject-matter,
and to join them together in a book or a figure is to create a comic, miscegenated
monster. But whereas that is more or less the end of it in Ovid, it is but half the
effect of the parody in Mann: for unlike in Ovid, the self as such a miscegenated
hybrid not only violates the accepted, operant notions of the self, it also conforms
to them.
The point is tricky, but crucial. In Ovid, both the parody and the subversion
of the parody depended upon the maintained, perceived difference between the
two engaged spheres. We saw this most graphically in the transposition of venatic
imagery into the sphere of erotic conquest, but it was no less apparent in the
comic equation of the lover with the farmer, soldier, and so forth. Moreover,
despite the essential dissimilarities between the two spheres, we noted how a single, common notion of human nature lay at the base of each, one that maintained
the all-powerful rule of (irrational) nature and man's fragile control over it, both
outside and inside himself. In fact, it was just this shared notion that subverted the
attempt to breed together the two opposing spheres, or genres. In Mann's postNietzschean world, not only has this ontologically natural self given way to a

47

Cf. . L . Schneider, Thomas Manns Felix Krull. Schelmenroman und Bildungsroman, in Untersuchungen zur Literatur als Geschichte. Festschrift fr Benno von Wiese (Berlin, 1973), p. 557; Oskar Seidlin, Pikareske Zge im Werke Thomas Manns, in
Von Goethe zu Thomas Mann (Gttingen, 1963).

!54

fictionally or historically natural self, in this case identified with the Goethean
natural self of the Bildungsroman. The single, common notion of human nature has also given way to one of the modern, miscegenated man: where the self is
not only not the product of a natural reality, it is not even the product of a single
sustained fiction, or history. Rather, for Nietzsche the modern (European) self is
a curious and contradictory crossbreed of (at least) two different, sustained, fictional Erbschaften. 48 This means a further sense of self-fragmentation and a
further attack against the notion of a pure, unified self through a further exposure
of the contradictory conventions to one's inheritance; and yet it also means a further, constructive possibility for forging a new identity. It is precisely this sense of
the self as a hybrid that Mann's parody is able to capture: to attack the myth of the
unified self by attacking the autonomy of its genre; and at the same time to open
up the possibility that through the juxtaposition a new, unprecedented self might
emerge. - In respect to both its strategies for parodying the Bildungsroman,
then, Felix Krull also reveals positive strategies for fashioning a new, more timely
sense of personal identity: both literalizing dehumanization and hybridizing
cross-breeding prove to be not only deconstructive of the inherited fiction, but
constructive of the contemporary self.
For the most part, Mann pursues both his decompositional and cross-breeding tactics at the level of the narrator and his performance, to whose parody we
will be turning next. However, we should note immediately that the imitation of
Dichtung und Wahrheit in the novel is extremely oblique at all levels of the text,
and certainly fails to produce a concrete instance of citation that finds itself thematically incorporated in Felix's own activity - as, for example, was the case with
the Manolescu. Despite the considerable critical attention devoted to the imitation of Goethe's work in Felix Krull, only a certain stylistic accommodation has
been discovered in the use of a few words and turns of phrase, in an expansive
syntax (admittedly almost indistinguishable from Mann's own), or in the execution of a single paragraph (pointed out by Mann himself). 4 ' Still, it is crucial to us
that nothing has emerged that points directly to Mann's imitation of Goethe
either thematizing its own conditions of operation or, more importantly, transposing those conditions and operations into Felix's imitation: nothing that represents the essential interplay of fiction and nature to the Goethean Erbschaft, the
violent and collusive play of possession and dispossession, the processes of dehumanizing Zersetzung and hybridizing monster-making; and nothing that represents these literary conditions as simultaneously conditions of personal identity, or rather, of the project of the artificial I.
Fortunately for us, the conscription episode proves to be an overlooked
exception; proves, that is, to be just such a thematization of the conditions and
48
49

Cf. Der Fall Wagner, Epilog.


See Thomas Mann, Adolf von Hatzfeld, X, 632.

ISS

operations involved in the imitation of the Goethean Erbschaft, through just


such a transposition of these themes into the project of the artificial I. However,
this only becomes evident once we readjust our expectations for the particular
form this inheritance will take; for once we cease to fixate on Dichtung und
Wahrheit, both the presence and function of the demonic world of the Walpurgisnacht in the conscription scene can begin to claim our attention. That the
Faustian world of demons should find its way into the novel is hardly surprising:
both Der Tod in Venedig and Der Zauberberg, the works written on either side of
the early Krull, prominently feature demonic worlds as part of their Goethean
universe, with the latter drawing explicitly on the Faustian and overtly on
Walpurgisnacht. But more importantly for us, the relationship between the
natural world of Dichtung und Wahrheit and the demonic, or unnatural
world of Faust is not so opposite or irrelevant as it might at first appear. Not only
are both worlds profoundly and significantly Goethean, both are profoundly textual as well. That is, the demonic, unnatural Geist is also understood as a sustained, compacted, inherited fiction, in every way analogous to the natural, in
respect to both literature and the self. Even more relevantly, the same play of possession and dispossession, of Zersetzung and monster-making that we outlined
in respect to the natural inheritance for both literature and the artificial I can
be perceived in respect to the unnatural inheritance as well. In fact, the Zitieren of this unnatural, demonic Goethean text, or Erbschaft, allows Mann
to represent all the more graphically the same, crucial interplay of artifice and
reality also at stake in the (only apparently) natural, undemonic Goethean text
and inheritance. And in a perhaps more subtle way, it also allows him to pit
Goethe against Goethe: to let the Goethean Erbschaft self-hybridize and selfdeconstruct; to turn its own fiction against itself.
Admittedly, the citational allusions in the conscription scene to the textual
world of the Walpurgisnacht are for the most part elusive, dispersed, partial and
fragmented. Certainly there is no direct citation, or imitation, on the order of
Mann's use of Manolescu, and the identification of the text that Felix puts on (and
that, as his erbliche Belastung, motivates his equivalents attack) with Goethe's demon-text is consequently more suggestively drawn. Nevertheless, the elusiveness, fragmentedness, and even generalness of these allusions and the Goethean text-world are also very much to the point. I mean this not only in the sense
that also applies to the Manolescu, namely: that the conscription episode is in
part about the partial concealment of the prior text, and the resultant occlusion
that continues the play of exposed fiction and convincing reality in relation to the
reader. I mean it also in a sense that applies uniquely to the (imitation of the)
Goethean Erbschaft, namely: that the conscription episode is in part also about
the way literature reuses literature - about the way the imitated literature is itself
something that inherits and organizes general, fragmented literary material, and
then as inheritance itself persists in such a general, pervasive, and partial form;
156

and about the way the imitating literature assimilates and appropriates that inheritance, making something new and strange out of it, succeeding and in some sense
replacing or displacing it. That the imitation does this partly through just such a
fragmenting and rendering general (formulaic, conventional) of the inherited material, and partly through an equally fragmenting compounding with other, foreign in-fluences (i.e., the Manolescu) I have already asserted. The time has now
come to return to the specifics of the text, to show how this is actually enacted.
Let us begin by considering the most explicit invocation of this other world,
or text. When Felix is putting on the book and experiencing his equivalents
and erbliche Belastung, a certain consistently applied imagery system stubbornly suggests the demonic world of the Walpurgisnacht. We hear of teuflischer Einfluss und Antrieb to his introductory gestures, which were nonetheless nur Einleitung und Anbeginn eines wahren Hexensabbats of further facial
contortions, themselves of such a nature that they had to belong to einem infernalischen Reich [...] wo unsere irdischen Leidenschaften in ungeheuere Verhltnisse ausgeweitet sich schauderhaft wiederfinden (36ji). Similarly, if less pointedly, we are told Der Leibhaftige [schien] im Begriff, mir den Hals zu brechen,
and the whole experience is summed up as gleichsam auf eine hllische Folter
gespannt (367).50 These images of course have an immediate, if relatively superficial, appropriateness to the descriptive needs of the passage, especially insofar as
they highlight the demonic aspect of any and all textual zitieren and possession.
But to overlook the insistent consistency of the references and so to treat them as
primarily incidental, rhetorical coloring is to miss the possibility of a more complex relevance of this imagery and its text-world to the equivalents attack itself.
Equally important, it is to miss the possibility that the same text-world is also
allusively active throughout the episode.
In fact, a sub-text demonic world does reveal itself behind the conscription
scene throughout. For instance, a guardian is set at the entranceway to the inspection room proper (where Felix's life in text proper begins). He is an Unteroffizier, described as tierisch, brutal, and schnauzbrtig with a biting
voice, and he holds in his hand the Stammrolle from which he reads aloud:
Doktor der Philosophie! rief er und lachte hhnisch, als wollte er sagen: Dir werden wir's austreiben, Freundchen! Dies alles erregte Furcht und Abneignung in meinem Herzen. (352.)

Doktor der Philosophie! is of course the key phrase, or quotation, worked into
the text with only minimal motivation and without further consequence.51 It is
50

51

Cf. Manolescu, when he vows to persuade the doctor, dass ich, der Mann, der vor dir
steht, von den Furien des Wahnsinns gehetzt bin! (11,225). Of course, the similarity is
not nearly so telling as Mann's substitution of a different demonic world. We might also
note that Mann uses the same, somewhat unusual designation of der Leibhaftige in
ber Goethes Faust to describe Mephistopheles (IX,605).
Cf. Castorp's Pfui Teufel! in his Walpurgisnacht scene (111,456), or Felix's own
!J7

especially significant, however, insofar as it specifically invokes Goethe's demonic


text. Moreover, the secondary sense of austreiben as exorcise is highly suggestive in this context as well, particularly when we notice how personally affected Felix feels by the address: as if the Unteroffizier were promising to call forth
the Goethean sub-text (es) out from within or behind Felix and his performance - as, in any case, does happen.
Like the quotation discussed in the previous section in relation to Manolescu
and the mirror, the textual citation here from Goethe is itself represented as
embedded in a text, the Stammrolle: that is, we are never allowed to lose sight
of the bookishness of this other text-world, which for all its real, albeit otherworldly effect and presence never ceases to be a patently paper world. In keeping
with this, and as befits the character at the crossover, this Cerberean sergeant is
especially involved in paper work and processing. His desk - like Felix's own site
of citation, a common Kchentisch - is strewn with papers and Schreibzeug;
later on, he becomes so absorbed in his Studium that Felix must interrupt his
reading. Similarly, Felix is here reduced to alphabetic status in the sergeant's
Stammrolle (da [das Geschft] alphabetisch betrieben war, 353), at the very
moment that he is also required to strip to his natrlicher Zustand (353). This,
too, recalls how Felix is always embedded in words and letters, always invented
from and returning to his origins in written language; how, as a literary construct, his stripped-down, natural state truly is alphabetic. Of course, it also
recalls how, as a living character, Felix's natrlicher Zustand, his very body
is itself the object and effect of textual inscription, or more precisely, of conscription: that is, how quite independently of his own efforts at self-artefaction, Felix's self is always in a sense already artefacted, both in literature and in
life.
Moreover, the figure of the Stammrolle - which itself incorporates the crucial play of the natural (Stamm) and textual (rolle) - also indirectly suggests
that the text to which Felix is subject, as both construct and character, is somehow a genealogically unfolding one (Stamm-rolle), What this does to the characterization of the paper-world behind the scene and its imitation is significant.
Even as the association of the Manolescu text with the figure of Felix with his text
before the mirror managed to incorporate the conditions of imitation associated
with the Manolescu into the text itself, so the association of the Goethean text
(Doktor der Philosophie!) with the figure of the Stammrolle incorporates the
conditions of imitation uniquely associated with the Goethean into the text as
well, and thereby breeds into the characterization of the paper-world and its imitation features not necessarily dominant in the former alone.
zum Kuckuck! in his encounter with the same (VII,541), both throwaway lines acting
as indices to their demonic subtexts. The Unteroffizier reappears in Doktor Faustus,
VI,186.
158

Once Felix gets by the sergeant and strips himself down - divesting himself
not only of his clothes but of the blood out of his face, his age, his name, continuing the reduction to a dehumanized state - he enters into the space where his selfconscious submission to the (hidden) text begins in earnest. It is there that he
encounters the primary ambassador, or representative, of this other world, the
Oberstabsarzt, whom Felix quite significantly identifies, or rather recognizes
(erkannte), as his Partner (358). Interestingly enough, he is the only figure in
the room who merits a description. His voice is first characterized as
meckernd, and this particular verb recurs throughout the scene; it is also
etwas schwach and dnn, almost below the human range. His body is
mager and gebckt, and doesn't really fit into human clothes, which hang
faltig und schlotterig am Leibe: the sleeves on his uniform are so long that one
can hardly make out if he has hands (one sees only the ungues). The description of
his face is especially telling:
Ein schmaler und sprlicher Vollbart, farblos dunkel wie das aufrechtstehende Haupthaar, verlngerte sein Gesicht, und zwar um so mehr, als er den Unterkiefer, bei halb
offenem Munde und hohlen Wangen, hngen zu lassen liebte. (358)

The goat-like appearance of the Oberstabsarzt is unmistakable, and is only


exaggerated whenever he bleats, shakes his outstretched head in temperamental
irascibility, or twitches his sparse beard. And by virtue of these caprine features,
Felix's Partner betrays his literary, genealogical ties not only to the iconographie demonology at work in many of Mann's other works, both early and late, but
also to that demonic world or tradition that Mann specifically inherits from
Goethe, namely: to the world of the Walpurgisnacht.
There are several other indices to the partial, fragmented presence of this other
text/world in or behind the conscription scene, such as the running joke concerning the doctor's exact place in the hierarchy of authority, which imitates Goethe's
little game concerning Mephistopheles' place in his hierarchy,52 or the persistent
difficulty that Felix (and the doctor) has in seeing and the compensatory heightening in the sense of sound, both of which contribute to an almost unshakable
sense of suggested darkness - a sub-night, as it were. But rather than simply
multiplying our references, let us instead consider what effects this other world,

Although Felix knows that he is nothing more than an Oberstabsarzt, he continually


shifts the doctor's title, referring to him as Herr Generalarzt, Herr Bataillonsmedikus, and so forth. The conspicuous absence of any description of the others in the
room has the contributing effect of leaving the immediate power structure equally
unclear. In Uber Goethe's Faust, Mann points out Goethe's constant, comic confusion of Mephistopheles' place in his power structure. This observation is by no means
unique: what is unique is Mann's follow-up discussion of Goethe's special efforts to
preserve this confusion during the Walpurgisnacht scene, efforts which included a
deliberate decision to leave out any description of the other demonic authorities that
might detract from this ongoing little game (IX,605).

159

or script, has on the con-scription scene, and vice versa; and especially, how this
text and its effects might figure in Felix's equivalents attack, in his act of
zitieren and experience of erblicher Belastung.
The most obvious effect of this other world behind the conscription scene is
one of literalization: the various indices to it function as parodie reminders of the
embedded textuality, the fictiveness, of the characters and their activity. That is,
like the citations from the Manolescu, these imitations freeze the text at the level
of artifice, empty it of reality, dehumanize it: and equally important, they have
the exact same effect on the world of the other text as well. These dehumanizing
effects both of and on this other-world are especially conspicuous in the case of
the doctor. N o t only does he thereby become a goat, he also becomes merely an
assemblage of iconographie commitments, a puppet-goat (woodenness is, incidently, another of the doctor's attributes). In fact, it is just this combination of
literalization and animalization that the doctor - and Unteroffizier, and in a
slightly different sense, Felix as well - undergoes through the presence of this
other world that proves crucial. N o t only does the association of the animalistic
and the literal directly capture the essential association of the underlying
(preconscious, corporal) natural and inherited textual in the operant model of the
(Goethean) Erbschaft. It also captures the essential strategy for deconstructing
and dispossessing that Erbschaft, by literalizing and so dehumanizing its alleged natural, even animal-like status.53
The Erbschaft is not, however, so easily dismissed: there is after all actually
something (mildly) demonic about the doctor, the sergeant, about the whole
scene: for again, the indelible power of the inherited Goethean material loads,
" It is interesting to compare Mann's strategy of literalization in respect to Goethe's demons with Goethe's own. For instance, the words Mann applies in his essay, Uber
Goethes Faust, to Goethe's handling of his Mephisto figure apply equally well to
Mann's own handling of the Oberstabarzt: So spielt der Dichter mit seiner Figur,
gibt ihr Augenblicke satirischer Selbst-Aufhebung und Einschrnkung ihrer Wirklichkeit ... sie ungewiss schillern, den Aspekt, die Selbstauffassung wechseln [lsst] (IX,
604-605). The parallel is not simply further oblique evidence for the relevance of Faust
to the conscription scene. Rather, it reveals the ironic and yet essential fact that even the
literalizing strategy for dispossessing and neutralizing one's inheritance can be an
expression of one's possession by its irrepressible power: that the Erbschaft can continue to compel the individual to move in programmed obedience to its script, even in
his efforts at deprogramming. We noted a similar doubling in respect to Mann's parodie
imitation of Manolescu - how Mann's aggressive artefaction of Manolescu was already
anticipated by Manolescu's artefaction of himself - and the example of Goethe allows
us to understand this, too, in a new way, as a new condition for the subversive project of
imitation in both literature and life, a condition peculiar to the historically burdened,
self-conscious writer of the modern era - burdened by and self-conscious about precisely such a history of other subversive, deconstructive projects of dehumanizing literalization. In the very instance of its abrogation, the inheritance exerts itself; subversion
is simultaneously a form of submission, dispossession of possession; where one's
imitation would buy freedom, it finds instead conscription.
160

infects, or possesses its imitation with its own aggressive reality, at least in part
overriding the effect of and efforts at lateralization. This, too, has a decidedly dehumanizing and violent effect on the primary text-world of Felix Kru.ll, in that it
lets in the demons, the unhuman, the superhuman: if in the first case this other
world dehumanizes through its artefaction of the characters, in the second it does
so through their animation. And as opposed as these two processes are in their
direction, they share in this single, identical effect, a coincidence most realized at
the moment when the Walpurgisnacht text is most realized, most fully in possession of Felix Krull, namely: in Felix's equivalents attack, when he re-presents
The Book qua erbliche Belastung and the Hexensabbat assumes center-stage.
Felix repeatedly characterizes his experience as keine menschliche, widernatrlich, nicht von dieser Welt, or kaum noch im Bereiche des Menschlichen (}66f.), and we are forced by the context to understand twin referents for
this unhuman world and experience. Artefaction in the text and animation by the
text both yield the same violent monstrosity, the artificial and demonic being
equally widernatrlich, nicht von dieser Welt, and noch kaum im Bereiche
des Menschlichen. Similarly, we recognize the double significance to the demonic, dehumanizing distortion in Felix's textual imitation. Literalizing dispossession of the textual inheritance and overriding possession by it both issue in the
same dehumanization, the same violent deformation of Felix's self.
And yet, of course, this is but the half of it, both in the sense that Felix's imitation, or possession, engages not only the unnatural Goethean world but also the
natural one, and in the sense that it is not only deconstructive of its text and
self, but constructive as well - or to speak more with the text: that it is not only
conscriptive, but also releasing. As I said before, the natural and the unnatural
worlds are intimately related, insofar as both are conceived as inherited fictions,
and more specifically, as fictions inherited from father Goethe: both prove equally artificial, and both, equally, possess and deform. In this respect, it is crucial to
emphasize how the unnatural play of fiction and reality, artefaction and animation, dispossession and possession, is played out in and about Felix's natural
body; how the prying apart of the demonic Goethean Erbschaft is simultaneously a prying apart of Felix's organic, natural Zustand. In fact, Felix's textual possession here doubly underscores the most unique aspect of his life in text:
how, in both his unnatural and his natural conditions and operations, his life, his
self, his deeds are always already in text, so that all his efforts at self-artefaction
are first attempts - and necessarily violent attempts - at de-artefaction; and so
that the force violently overriding his efforts of artefaction is always the same
force, i.e., that of artefaction.
Felix's submission of himself to the possessing, deforming power of his text
and inheritance does not, however, issue only in conscription, and it would be
misleading to focus solely on the negative consequences of Felix's equivalents.
After all, the outcome of his imitation is that he avoids conscription, and obtains
161

a significant degree of individual freedom, or rather, of freed individuality. We can


see this liberating, productive dimension most plainly in that, as a parody of its
inherited text (the Walpurgisnacht), the scene is also a new, or newly organized,
refashioned version of it: more precisely, in that through the operations of literalizing dehumanization which both author and character practice and submit to in
relation to the inherited text and self, a new sense of self (and text) emerges, defined precisely by its literalized dehumanization - by its life as artwork, im
Gleichnis, its consequent acceptance of fictionality and equivalents as its condition of reality and existence. But equally significantly, we can also see this productive dimension in that, through the hybridizing compounding of his imitation
of Goethe and Manolescu, Mann fashions a truly new, even if monstrous, literary
identity for Felix; for this aspect of equivalents seems also active and violently
formative in Felix's attack. As we have seen, the text that burdens, possesses, and
deforms Felix through its imitation in his attack is at once that of the Walpurgisnacht and that of the simulation episode, and the sense of personal, or literary, identity that comes with this erbliche Belastung is likewise at once Goethean and Manolescuean. This hybridization of both the animating text and the
resultant, re-presented self not only contributes its own fragmenting, distorting
forces, pulling Felix's self and body in competing, conflicting, and contradictory
directions. It also contributes forging, generative forces. Something new, and
newly contradictory, emerges in Felix: precisely through his double con-scription, his illicit assumption of equivalents, something individual and non-equivalent is wrested free.
One final point, which is perhaps appropriate to raise at the end of a section
that has been concerned with questions of Oedipus complexes and genealogical
lines, with naked, natural bodies and their unnatural contortions, with
Walpurgisnacht scenes and miscegenated hybrids. That is the matter of sexuality. In both of our other texts - in both the Ars and the Diary - it was the relationship between the erotic and the aesthetic that most engaged our attention, and
that provided the dialectic between life and literature that most tested the protagonists' self-fictionalizing projects. It is just this relationship that at first glance
seems absent from the early Kru.ll. as Felix himself explains, his life as artwork
seems necessarily to exclude him from the erotic sphere. And yet as the terms
above indicate, this is not exactly true. The erotic or sexual is still very much part
of Felix's life in imitation: it has simply been displaced. Rather than the erotic
sphere being aestheticized (as in Ovid and Kierkegaard), it is the aesthetic sphere
that has been eroticized; but the reversal is neither accidental nor avoidable, and is
instead fully symptomatic of the newly conceived conditions and operations for
the project of life as literature. Insofar as imitation has been genealogically cast,
the primary aesthetic relation has been in-verted, turned back against itself; and
insofar as the natural has become a function of the fictional, the erotic has also
become a function of the aesthetic, and by the same process of inversion has been
162

turned back against the protagonist himself. Thus, although Felix's life as artwork
does exclude him from the common erotic sphere, his equivalents attack itself is
still undeniably, even if per-versely, erotic, ein versetzter und transfigurierter
Geschlechtsakt' 4 - in its coupling of Felix's self with his Erbschaft, of his texts
with each other, and of his body with his book. In a strange but revealing way, it
is just when Felix is most literalized that he is also most thoroughly eroticized.
And yet perhaps this is fitting in a world where bodies are fictions, and fictions
breed bodies.
O f course, this inverted erotic play to Felix's self-artefaction is even more
conspicuous in respect to his role as narrator; in his anti-Pygmalion self-fashioning relationship with his character, and in his dialectical self-fashioning relationship with his reader. Similarly, it is in respect to Felix as narrator that the idea
of Felix as character suffering textual possession, distortion, and dehumanization
is most readily apparent; of his life in text as always already in text, his efforts at
self-artefaction always preemptively anticipated at another, prior level of his textual existence. Most importantly, the fact that the forming and deforming literary
text behind Felix's imitation and possession in the conscription scene is not only
the hybridized inter-text of Goethe and Manolescu, but also his own narrative
text not only compounds the competing, conflicting texts con-scripting, influencing, or siring his equivalents. It also situates the constructive forces to
this textual artefaction more firmly in Felix's own control; and it is Felix's exercise of this control over his life as literature that we need now to explore.

III.

Interlude: The new and novel play between

The imposition of the narrator figure between the author and his character - or
from another perspective, between the author and his reader - has many consequences for our study, in respect to both the interactions between the realms of
literature and life, and the protagonist's specific commitment, im Gleichnis zu
leben. T h e basic terms of these consequences are already familiar to us from
Kierkegaard. As in the Diary, the imposition of the narrator effects a further
fragmentation of the text, a further prying open of a sticky, organic reading model of mimesis. B y both his position and his practice, Felix, too, calls continuous
attention to the paper-work of his fictive world: himself a paper-product in relation to his author, he is also the paper-processor in relation to his former self. In
both cases, he makes us stop at the act of literary enunciation and observe the
condition and operation of his artifice.
Also as in the Diary, the positioning of the protagonist as narrator compounds the functional identity of the author and character, and with it, the issues
Thomas Mann, Dostojewski - mit Massen, IX,66i. See also TMS 5, p. 342.
163

of the artificial I. On the one hand, the author is allowed to adopt, or rather, to
simulate the character and perspective of his protagonist; to ape his manner, tone,
devices, and deceits. He writes as if he shares his values and evaluations - and to
some extent he does, and the simulation is itself a simulation - and yet he also
turns the imitation against itself, exposes its artifice, and so remains untouched,
distant, and immune." He, too, exercises the privilege, im Gleichnis leben zu
drfen (372), assimilating himself to a book, his character's book, and yet never
quite fully. This yields an especially clear, and important, case of the functional
identity between the author and character, played out at the site of the same I
and the same activity, writing. On the other hand, with all the peculiarities he
brings to bear on his other mimetic activities, the protagonist is also able to represent, or forge, himself in script. This in turn yields an equally clear and important
case of the functional identity of literary and self fashioning in the work, without
a change in character or shift in I.
However, whereas the basic literary framework remains the same as in the
Diary - the box within a box to the Chinese puzzle box, with its consequent
compounding of paper worlds and real worlds, as well as of functional identities
between author and character - both the new, narrative form and the new notion
of personal identity at issue in Felix Krull also lead to a significant refunctioning
of that framework. That is, Mann's parodie, novellistic format introduces a noticeable increase in both the conflict and exchange between the various orders of
imitation in its fiction, and this at least in part corresponds to the similarly increased competition and collusion between the different orders of consciousness
outlined in the preceding section. And as we will see, this increase in both fragmenting conflict and overriding complicity in the realms of both the text and the
self has crucial consequences for Felix's efforts at self-artefaction.
The increase in competition and collusion is perhaps most readily, and newly,
apparent in the relation between the author and narrator. For example (and most
obviously), through the intertextual imitations just discussed, Mann continually
recalls our readerly attention to a consciousness and perspective which exceed
and differ from those of his narrator, and so creates the detachment necessary to
impede our identification with Felix and his text, to expose their fictionality and
his own literary work. However, the effect of the intertext is not only to empty,
or artefact, Felix's narratorial performance, but also to inform, invade, or infect
his character and consciousness; to create a kind of unconscious for Felix which
Mann, and his texts, occupy. In this way, the author's order of imitation and consciousness function as the formative, but still profoundly fictional Erbschaft
described in the last section: as a prior, additional layer of fiction and consciousness that is both radically apart from and yet intrinsically a part of the protagonist/narrator's own self-fiction and consciousness; that is invasive in both
"
164

Cf. Robert, p. 30.

conflicting and abetting ways; and most importantly, that is that back toward
which Felix's self-fiction is turned.
We can see this new textual and psychic play even more clearly within the
more limited context of the author's and narrator's shared activity, writing, where
Mann takes special advantage of one of the innovative features of modern prose
fiction - double writing, or dual-voiced narration - in order to represent in
Felix his peculiar version of modern dual-voiced, or layered, consciousness.' 6
A s author, Mann has recourse to several standard techniques for maintaining his
distance and difference from Felix's narration. These serve the dual function of
exposing the artifice - or rather, the failed artifice - to Felix's written performance, and characterizing the texture and habits of his psyche. 57 Equally important, these techniques also enable Mann to maintain an implicit, other voice or
writing of his own, over and against his character's writing. Although by convention less limited and more accomplished than his narrator's - it is the master or
model-text against which Felix's failure is gauged - Mann intentionally manages
it that this other writing is neither stylistically nor conceptually completely unrelated. Indeed, only thus could it function as such a gauge.8 In its grander scale, its
otherness, and yet eventual similarity to the narrator's writing, this implicit
model-text of Mann can be said to serve as something of a textual unconscious, as

16

57
58

Cf. Dorrit Cohn, Transparent Minds: Narrative Modes for Presenting Consciousness in
Fiction (Princeton: Princeton UP, 1978), pp. 99-172; also M. M. Bakhtin, Discourse
in the Novel, in The Dialogic Imagination, ed. M. Holquist (Austin, U. of Texas P,
1981), pp. 259-331.
Cf. Cohn, Transparent Minds, p. 160.
This is the crucial point to Mann's essay, Adolf von Hatzfeld, (X, pp. 63if.), in which
he compares his own use of des zweiten, eingeschobenen Autors in Felix Krttll with
Hatzfelds in Die Lemminge. In the latter, the parodied narrator employs a style, or
voice, replete with hchst schriftstellerischen Wendungen . . . gewinnend altmodisch
und naiv bis zur Drolligkeit, very much like Felix. However, the style des wirklichen
und unverstellten Autors is radically different, neueste Erzhlung mit einem starken
Einschlag dessen, was man Expressionismus nennt, so that when the author's own
voice invades and controls the text - a circumstance that Mann claims is almost unavoidable - the result is Stilbruch and both a formal and thematic failing of the work.
Mann's implicit argument is that, given that the two voices or styles will necessarily
interplay, one should both employ a style which accommodates the fusion and motivate the formal fusion, or Stilbruch, as a thematically integrated element to the work
itself - as he himself has done in Felix Kru.ll.
See also Dorrit Cohn, The Second Author of Der Tod in Venedig, in Probleme der
Moderne: Studien zur deutschen Literatur von Nietzsche bis Brecht. Festschrift fr Walter Sokel, ed. B. Bennett, A. Kaes, and W. Lillyman (Tbingen: Max Niemeyer, 1983),
pp. 223-245, which offers a related reading of the complex interaction between Mann
and his narrator's similar but different writings. She also takes the Hatzfeld essay as a
point of departure, but applies its framework to a third-person narrative. What she
calls the second author, I call simply the narrator.
See also Wysling, TMS 5, 168-173.
165

Felix's fictional Erbschaft. For this reason, it is also important to stress that the
distancing techniques which foreground the (failed) artifice of Felix's narratorial
performance are not the sole signifiers of his psychic scope. They are, after all,
only partially present and fragmentarily in force; to some extent, the moments of
accomplished artifice, of writing indistinguishable from Mann's own, contribute
just as much to our understanding of Felix's character, consciousness, and efforts
at self-artefaction.
One technique, for instance, by which Mann advertises his distance from Felix's written performance is through the inclusion of certain clumsy, kitschy, convention-ridden clauses or sentences that fail to conceal their artifice or their ambitions. For example, early on in the conscription episode Felix writes, Im Mrz,
als eben mit Vogelgezwitscher und ssseren Lften der Frhling sich lieblich
ankndigte, verlangte die Satzung, dass ich meine Person im Aushebungsbezirke
zur ersten Besichtigung vorstellte (351). Especially in its first half, the sentence
reads like something of a citation from an overdrawn source of deliberately literary language, with an artificially bookish style in both syntax and lexicality. In
this respect, Felix's narratorial performance here is very much like the amateurish
efforts of the recruit who precedes him into the inspection room, efforts die jedoch ihren deutlich genug durchschimmernden Zweck verfehlten (356), precisely because the artifice of purpose and performance is all too transparent, imitative, and apish. With its devices unwittingly laid bare, the narrative is exposed in
its essential character as literary imitation.
These same apish aspirations and formal failings also reveal several important
features to Felix's character. We see his almost erotic delight in decorative ornamentation, his tendency to grasp after cultural heights clearly over his head, or
rather, his attempt to attain to those heights by the imitative appropriation of
their most superficial displays. More tellingly, we see Felix's desire not to be natural, original, or immediate in his written performance, but rather to assimilate or
accomodate himself to an established and admired model-text, and to accept his
imitation of that text as his code of (writerly) conduct. In this respect, we must
note that even as Mann counterfeits the tone, manner, etc. of his narrator, so
would his narrator counterfeit his; nor, I believe, can we regard all his attempts as
unsuccessful, all his desires as unfulfilled. There are numerous moments where
the relative success or failure to Felix's narratorial performance cannot easily be
gauged, such as in the second half of the sentence just cited; where the degree of
distance between the author and narrator cannot be calibrated and a conflation,
or equivalence, of styles occurs. Then Felix draws added life, added consciousness
from his model-text and author - even as Mann's own author-itative writing is
then exposed to the subversive distortion of its conventions by Felix's imitation
(or rather, by the hybridization of registers occasioned by his imitation).
Moreover, the fact that the same relations and operations pertain between
Mann and his model text - i.e., Goethe's prose - is very much to the point. The
166

duplication not only secures the further functional identity between author and
narrator, in the similar, back-turned imitation of an established model-text. It
also secures the further functional identity between the model or master text behind Felix's written imitation and the operant notion of Erbschaft. This lends
added significance to both the added consciousness Felix acquires, or suffers,
through his imitation of his model-text, and the distortion suffered by that text
through his imitation. It also lends added significance to the fact that the natural and personal writing style that Felix strives to affect is synonomous with the
most accomplished and conventional artifice.
A related instance of Mann's employment of this layered, double writing in
Felix's narration and consciousness comes in Felix's frequent digressions into
generalizations and abstract formulations. These Abschweifungen ins Allgemeine (271) or ins rein Betrachtende (309) also not only contribute to our understanding of the peculiar texture to Felix's psyche and so, too, of his artifice and
Mann's detachment, but again provide a vehicle for authorial invasion and backturned, narratorial imitation. For example, Felix defends himself against the characterization of his theft of chocolates as gemeiner Diebstahl in the following
terms:
[E]in anderes ist das Wort - das wohlfeile, abgenutzte und ungefhr ber das Leben
hinpfuschende Wort - und ein anderes die lebendige, ursprngliche, ewig junge, ewig
von Neuheit, Erstmaligkeit, und Unvergleichlichkeit glnzende Tat. Nur Gewohnheit
und Trgheit bereden uns, beide fr ein und dasselbe zu halten, whrend vielmehr das
Wort, insofern es Taten bezeichen soll, ... niemals trifft. (309)
The characterization and motivation of Felix are clear enough, and so too Mann's
parodie distance. Felix's Selbstgeflligkeit, his constant need to consider himself something special, and to dictate the terms by which we judge him: all this is
transparent enough that we recognize the rhetoric to his claim and distance
ourselves from its persuasion. And yet again, we also hear resonances which seem
to exceed Felix's own text and consciousness. In this case, we clearly detect imitative traces of a Nietzschean subtext, whose authority, quite apart from and yet
infecting and incrementing Felix's own, tends to prevail and to assert its
truth."
Again, this technique of saying at once two different things - or alternatively,
the same thing in two different registers - is not simply an example of literary
irony, but rather also represents both a psychological reality and a potent strategy in Felix's self-artefaction. Like his conscious imitation of Goethean prose, Felix's unconscious imitation of Nietzschean thought initiates a complex interaction with the fictional Erbschaft that (unsuspectedly) prescribes the text for his,
Felix's, self-representation. On the one hand, the generalization assimilates Felix
and his narratorial performance to an established, literary text, whose truth
" E.g. Die Frhliche Wissenschaft, No. 335.
167

functions as a kind of inherited model for human Nature. On the other, Felix's
imitative deployment of that inherited truth for his own self-fiction subversively distorts its natural authority by revealing its rhetoric and all-too-human interests. As we will see, the deployment of generalizations is one of the most significant features of Felix's narratorial practice, especially in terms of the literalizing
assimilation to a model-text of both his character and his narration; it is, as it
were, the concrete analogue, or enactment, of his deployment of an established,
model prose. And ironically, the effect - even the intended effect - of these generalizations is just the opposite of that proposed in Felix's quoted self-defense: the
living, original, individual instance is gladly, and industriously, made to suffer its
literalizing assimilation to the (other) word.
In both Felix's Goethean prose style and his digressions into abstract, Nietzschean formulations and generalizations, the initially established dissonance with
and distance from the author's model writing and consciousness can be seen also to
yield intermittently but still persistently to a complex kind of consonance, or conscription, which however maintains the sense of conflictual difference, as equivalence again occasions both mutual incorporation and deformation. This kind of
conscription is cast in a more obviously progressive pattern in the case of Felix's
Fehler des Voraneilens (271), the last technique of note for distinguishing his
narration. Felix's grasping ahead is most conspicuous at the beginning of his
narrative, where in the first five pages it is emphasized at least three times. As a
tendency, it is similar to Felix, as narrator, grasping at language over his head and, as
character, grasping at social culture over his head, and as such it initially contributes
to a consistent representation of his individual psyche. However, this tendency also
diminishes during the course of his narration, and with it goes one of the primary
indices to the gulf between the written performances of narrator and author. By the
time the conscription episode begins, it is still in evidence (hier muss ich . . . der
Versuchung, gleich alles vorauszusagen, aus Berechnung noch etwas widerstehen,
349), but it no longer seems to function as such an index. Rather, conscious calculation (aus Berechnung) has replaced unconscious impulse; what was an individual's psychological symptom has become a conventional novellistic effect. And in
this shift, Felix's narration has again brought itself into collusive equivalence with
the author's accomplished artifice; again, both his psyche and fiction open themselves up to the invasive artefaction of a model-text, this time of the Novel itself
(i.e., one of its dominant codes, plot suspense). The timing of the shift is significant:
by the time of the conscription scene, the mimetic performances and skills of the
author and narrator are of a sufficiently similar sophistication that the interplay
between their imitations can offer the liveliest degree of conscription and equivalence, which in turn can directly contribute to the effects of conscription and der
quivalenten in the scene itself.
The increasing sophistication to Felix's handling of narrative techniques and
language that increases the conscription with the author's order of imitation and
168

consciousness, effaces the conspicuous signifiers of his psyche and artifice (as
both become more artificial, conventional, and natural) and opens up both his
text and self to artefaction and possession by a model-text and its Erbschaft this increasing sophistication also has crucial consequences for Felix's character.
In particular, the next two sections will show how Felix comes to employ two
basic technologies of the novel - that of retrospection, and that of dialogue with
the reader - in order to construct for himself ein romanhaftes Leben. Interestingly, each has its analogue in Johannes' project, where both memory and the
detour through the other (Cordelia) were central techniques to his self-fictionalizing. However in his case both were most prominently in evidence in his role as
character: the diary form, in its ostensible, manufactured immediacy and exclusion of an outside reader, contributed to this, despite the obvious importance
of memory and self-poeticization in Johannes' narration. In Felix's case, both are
instead most prominently in evidence in his role as narrator. In fact, one of the
most significant shifts in the project of the artificial I is the shift in the novel of the
center of gravity for the interactions of fiction and reality to the site of the narrator: in his relation with the author, with his reader, and with his character.

IV.

Felix's retrospective life as literature

The very first sentence of Felix Krull calls attention to the narrator and his paper
work. Beginning, Indem ich die Feder ergreife, um in vlliger Musse und Zurckgezogenheit ... meine Gestndisse in der sauberen und geflligen Handschrift, die mir eigen ist, dem geduldigen Papier anzuvertrauen (265), it immediately establishes that the primary consciousness and performance in the work belong to Felix as narrator, a narrator who asks us to stop at the printed page and
witness there his recollection work and interceding script. So, too, the first sentence of the conscription episode, which also foregrounds Felix's writerly activity, although this time in a more fully revealing relationship with his text. He begins, ich gewahre in des Lesers Miene die Sorge, dass ich ... der heiklen Frage
meines militrischen Verhltnisses leichtsinnigerweise vllig vergessen haben
mchte, und so eile ich zu versichern, dass dies ganz und gar nicht der Fall war
(349). Here Felix presents himself not only in his aggressively advertised role as
narrating consciousness, but also in his double role as mediator: between the
reader, as the acknowledged, primary audience for his performance; and his character, his other I, for whom he now remembers what he then remembered, now
repeats what he then performed, now reveals what he once felt or thought. Both
new emphases - on recollection and on the acknowledged reader - help establish
the new prominence and importance placed on the position of the narrator for the
project of the artificial I.
169

The imposition of the narrator as recollector, the double allegiance of the I,


and the fusions and confusions between the narrator and his character were also
prominent features to Kierkegaard's Diary. They are somewhat exaggerated, or
refunctioned, in Felix Krull by the greater, more novellistic expanse in time both
within Felix's experience and between his original experience and its eventual,
present narration. Significantly enough, this same temporal axis both connecting
and disconnecting the two selves in the novel is also a primary source for the critical prejudice against first person narration in the realist novel, a prejudice Mann
can be said to have shared. Felix Krull is, after all, his only major work in which
the protagonist is also the first person narrator.
The reasons for the general suspicion of the form have mostly to do with its
potential violation of certain modern notions of realistic representation, or more
precisely: of the objective representation of a real self. Dorrit Cohn, for instance,
emphasizes the limitations imposed by mnemonic credibility on this mode of selfpresentation. As she explains, remembering that a first person narrator ... can
reach his past thoughts only by the simulation of perfect memory, long quotation of
his past thoughts can quickly appear as a kind of mnemonic overkill, as contrived
here as it would be in a real autobiography. 60 She also cites Percy Lubbock's related
criticism that the imposition of the recollecting consciousness and its description,
which is incapable of truly reproducing or reviving the past self, occlude the
reader's critical access to the reality of the original, experiencing self. 1 And a third
critique seems to lie behind both points, and that is of the resultant displacement of
importance to the past self, the violent vitiation of the real life center to the work.
These objections all pinpoint key characteristics of first person self-narration
and key aspects to Felix's narration. But rather than being burdened by these conditions, Felix confirms and evenflauntsthem: for like the Diary, Felix Krull thematizes just this artificiality and incredibility, this inaccessibility and self-contrivance.
On the one hand, we are supposed, to recognize how, as narrator, Felix contrives,
creates, composes and controls his character, frees him from the limitations inherent
to reality and thereby destroys and dehumanizes the natural, original grounding, or
life, of his former self; to see the unconvincing artifice of his character and his own
interceding and abetting work; to see the life im Gleichnis. On the other, we are
also supposed to recognize how this artefaction still faithfully reproduces Felix's
past, experiencing self, insofar as almost all of his experience is artefacting to begin
with; for as with Johannes, it is just this fiction-making that represents the most
60

61

170

Cohn, Transparent Minds, 16z. Cohn's brief discussion of Felix Krull in the chapter
Retrospective Techniques to her book is extremely provocative; I have intentionally
focused on several passages in Felix Krull that are also central to her analysis, in order to
bring out more fully the tensions between her fundamentally realist model and the
Nietzschean model added here.
Percy Lubbock, The Craft of Fiction (New York: Viking, 1957), pp. 139-140. Cited by
Cohn, pp. 153-154.

important, real fact about Felix. This duplication, which keeps his obtrusive written
artifice essentially implicated in the novel's real life concerns, is the subject of Felix's
introductory (and motivating) ruminations on gute Form:
Was aber meine natrliche Begabung fr gute Form betrifft, so konnte ich ihrer, wie
mein ganzes trgerisches Leben beweist, von jeher nur allzu sicher sein und glaube
mich auch bei diesem schriftlichen Auftreten unbedingt darauf verlassen zu knnen.
(266)
So far the parallel with Kierkegaard's Diary. But to a degree that far exceeds the
case of the Diary, the duplication in Felix Krull of the protagonist's fictionmaking project in the writing of the narrator is also a crucial one in terms of the
manufacture of self-identity, and for the same reasons which determine that the
site of writing and recollecting will be the primary site for the emergence, or
invention, of the self through its artefaction. In our first section, we quoted an
aphorism from Nietzsche, Eins ist not. - Seinem Charakter >Stil geben<.62 In the
model outlined there, there is no given, original self, or perhaps better: there is no
given, unified self that persists as a self through time. Rather, there are only fragments, even contradictory fragments of a self, which need to be fit into an
artistic plan before there becomes a self. For Nietzsche, self-identity and
stylization, or artefaction, are ultimately identical.
This stylization is unavoidably retrospective for Nietzsche, and this retrospection is unavoidably work. In part, it is retrospective because it is arrangement, or
rather rearrangement: the various pieces of the self, which to some extent only
unfold in time, are assimilated to a narrative which only then accounts for or
imparts the contributing significance of each. In part, it is also retrospective because it is continuous: the addition of new pieces, of new experience, requires the
rearrangement or interpretation of the preceding fragments in order to fit the revised narrative, or self. N o matter how thoroughly one had already stylized or
artefacted one's experience, even in the living of it, the very fluidity or provisionality of the seif allows and necessitates that it be stylized again, and to some
extent differently, from any and every later point in order to be again a seif.
Indeed, only from a momentary, artificially secure standpoint, such as that of a
recollecting narrator, can the stylization yield anything like a stable unified self.
The retrospection is work for related reasons. First, because it is never passive
remembering but always the active assimilation of one's experience to a unifying
artistic plan, or narrative. As with Kierkegaard's Johannes, memory thus involves
both labor and ratio in its accommodation of what was to aesthetic models.
And also as with Johannes, the skills needed to implement one's ratio and artefact
61

Die Frhliche Wissenschaft, No. 290. This aphorism is of central importance to Nehamas' chapter, How One Becomes What One Is in Nietzsche: Life as Literature,
pp. 170-199. The Nietzschean model that I here juxtapose with Cohn's realist model
is greatly indebted to Nehamas' discussion.

171

reality need long practice and daily work, both in the sense that they are not
easily acquired and in the perhaps more important sense that they need actively to
be applied to the immediate reality in order to provide suitable material for its
active withdrawal in the recollected reality. Only through such an extended, dialectical practice does style truly become style. But again, and again in a way that
exceeds the case of Johannes, retrospection is also work because it is continuous,
and continuously changing. The assimilation of what was to aesthetic models,
hard as it is, is never enough: the inevitably new, changing narrative also involves
new retrospective assimilation, which inevitably changes what was - the artefaction is never complete because life itself is never complete. One must, as it
were, daily work to implement and maintain the necessary skills to continue one's
efforts at self-artefaction; that is, to continue to be a self.
It is for this reason that the retrospective form of first person self-narration,
which seemed so ill-suited to the traditional realist notion of a convincing representation of a real self, proves so ideally suited to the Nietzschean notion of a
real self. Since there is no given self and only retrospective invention discovers a
real self for the individual through its work and assimilation to an artistic plan,
literature, and especially first person self-narration, can be seen to provide an
ideal paradigm for this difficult, real-life project, both in its dis/connection of the
self along a temporal axis, and in its devices (or plans) for the assimilation of material to a narrative. And it is for the same reason that Felix's retrospective self-narration, which so obviously and significantly flaunts its unreal artifice, is nonetheless essentially implicated in the very real task of fashioning a self. That is, it is not
only, as in the Diary, that the narratorial fiction-making reproduces the fictionmaking of the original character, and so is drawn into the real-life concerns of the
work. Rather, there is a sense in which the real life concerns of the work originate,
or are centered, in the narratorial fiction-making, which first fashions the character, together with its fiction-making, into a self.
The discovery, or simply significance, of the real-life self-fashioning to Felix's
narratorial artifice should not, however, lead us to neglect its obviously unreal
literary fashioning. Again, it is the retransposition of Nietzsche's literary model
for reality back into the unreal literary sphere that provides the new problem, and
test, for his particular conflation of literature and life. To some extent, the very
obtrusion to Felix's fiction allows for a consequent exploration of one of the dangers to this model of the artificial I, a danger recognized by Nietzsche as also by
Ovid and Kierkegaard. This is the danger of self-deception in one's self-stylization, or perhaps more accurately, the perilous interplay between self-deception
and public hypocrisy in all such artefaction - where in some sense, for all the necessity to their identity, the self can necessarily never be, or know itself to be,
identical with its stylized fiction. 6 ' Equally important, the obtrusion to Felix's
<3

172

Cf. Nehamas, pp. 185-186.

narratorial artfice allows for an exploration of the unreality of his self-fashioning, quite apart from any self-deception and opposed to any reality building.
Insofar as Felix constantly exposes the artifice to his character, his own work and
the abetting, distorting animation of his book, he constantly places the literalization of his character back into meaningful tension with its realization, leading us
to question the validity, and cost, of their equation.
Finally, the duplication of Felix's original fiction-making activity in his narratorial activity also aUows for an emerging self-awareness on the narrator's part,
that is itself in meaningful tension with his (potential) self-deception. It is, paradoxically, Felix's realization of his literalization. That is, his retrospective representation of his character's fiction-making allows him to become aware of his
present literary undertaking and handling of character; and eventually, in turn,
allows him self-consciously to represent, to repeat his present experience in his
past self and present creation. This is, we should note, the reverse of what critics
often assume about Felix as narrator, that he self-indulgently relives in the present
his infinitely more attractive past self. But this is itself self-indulgent: it is to attribute an original past self to Felix that does not and cannot exist, to overlook the
literalization required for the self-realization, and to misplace the true center of
power, privilege, and consciousness, which always belong to the writer.
One last point about the play of artifice and reality to Felix's narration, and
that is how it duplicates and implicates the same play at and between other orders
of imitation as well. This is true in several respects. Most simply, there is the way
in which the dialectical relationship between the narrator's fiction and the character's reality duplicates the relationships between the author and character and the
author and narrator discussed above, as well as the dialectic within Felix's performance itself, where in each case a text and work from a prior level compete and
collude with the presented reality, text and work of the next. More complexly,
there is the way the narratorial model for self-composition duplicates the history,
or model, of Entstehung to the novel's own composition outlined in our first
section; and the way its retrospective mode of self-fashioning duplicates, and to
some extent engages, the historically cast model of the self and its fictional
Erbschaft outlined in the following section, with its related requirement for
back-turned refashioning of given fragments and past stylizations into a new
unity. For us, it is not so much a matter of whether these different Nietzschean
models are consistent. In fact, the potential competition between these equivalents contributes an important, distortive play to their conscription, especially
(and as mentioned) when coupled with all the equally important resonances of
Nietzsche's model of the actor in Felix's self-impersonation as character. Rather,
for us the point is how their individual and collective interplays between fiction
and reality combine with those at and between the different literary orders of imitations to give added force and complexity to the issues at stake in the central case
of Felix's narratorial construction of an artificial I.

Unlike the relationship between the author and character, and far more than
that between the author and narrator, the relationship between Felix as narrator
and as character is to a large extent a developing one. It, too, reaches its culmination in the conscription episode. Significantly, the development in the relationship lies not so much, as one might expect, with the character, who seems fixed
and almost fully flexed from the outset, as with the narrator, who only gradually
comes to exercise the full range of his powers, letting go the traditional realist
conception of his self and task, and embracing the more problematic, Nietzschean conception of retrospective self-fashioning. For example, at the beginning Felix emphasizes the temporal distance which separates him from his former
self, and so in a sense guarantees and respects the autonomous integrity of his
character. When reporting the circumstances of his birth, Felix makes the narratorial aside wenn ich jenes frhe und fremde Wesen als >ich< bezeichnen darf
(270). In the same paragraph, while discussing the great gift for sleep that had
always been his, he remarks, jetzt,... wo ich, obgleich erst vierzigjhrig, gealtert
und mde bin,... jetzt erst ist auch meine Schlafkraft erlahmt (27of.). He repeats
the depiction of his changed present self at the opening of the Mller-Rose episode and elsewhere; and it is interesting to note how the natural, temporal gap so
maintained also maintains a certain powerlessness, a certain debility on Felix's
part as narrator.
In keeping with this emphasis on naturally determined differences, Felix is
initially at pains to explain how he can remember thoughts and experiences which
belong to that fremde Wesen, to ground his recollection work in some realistic,
credible basis. Thus, when reporting his childhood games of make-believe, he
explains, Ich glaube mich wohl zu erinnern, und oft ist mir erzhlt worden,
dass etc. (271). Similarly, when repeating his godfather Schimmelpreester's anecdote about Phidias, Felix notes, Ich habe mir diese usserung wrtlich gemerkt,
weil er sie oft mit denselben Redewendungen wiederholte (284). In both cases,
by rendering an account of how he has access to events or conversations from
which he is separated by intervening time, Felix hedges against any objections of
mnemonic in-credibility. This maintains the sense for the realistic reliability of his
report and for the objective independence of his subject; it also forestalls any
fluidity between his two selves, keeping his past self alien to both his present self
and his present literary fiction and production.
The case becomes more complicated when, instead of events or conversations,
Felix undertakes to report or quote his past thoughts. Here especially the literary device seems exposed and both the artefacting and animating work apparent;
here especially a simple realist conception of his self and task seem called into
question. Felix often offers extended citations of his earlier interior monologues,
and as if aware of the strain this places on his mnemonic credibility, he is, at least
at first, careful to hedge the reliability of his account. For instance, when he recalls his wanderings as a child through his father's wine cellars, Felix quotes his

174

thoughts directly, but comments on his quotation parenthetically: >Da liegt ihr,<
dachte ich bei mir selbst (wenn ich auch meine Gedanken natrlich noch nicht in
so treffende Worte zu fassen wusste). He ends the citation with another qualifier: Ahnlich sprach der Knabe (267). Similarly, when recalling his nauseated
reaction to the naked Mller-Rose, Felix provides both a pre- and post-monologic notice of modification:
Dies also - so etwa gingen meine Gedanken - dies verschmierte und ausstzige Individuum ist der Herzensdieb, zu dem soeben die graue Menge sehnschtig emportrumte! (293)
Obige Zeilen deuten in grossen Zgen den Gedankengang an, den mein Geist ... in
Mller-Roses Garderobe zurcklegte. (295)

In both cases, however, the effect of the quotation and qualifier is double-edged.
On the one hand, the qualifier does, as it should, naturalize Felix's recollection
work and forestall objections as to the necessary limits placed on his verbatim
reproduction of past thoughts by admitting to his interceding translation
work. On the other hand, both the sheer length of the quotations and their comically explicit cognitive sophistication easily override their realistic hedge and
expose as a counterfeit the convention that pretends such citations originate in a
past experiencing self, rather than in the work, consciousness, and text of the
interceding narrator/4 This is especially obvious in the second instance, where
the quotation is protracted over several pages and paragraphs, and where not
only the degree of psychological penetration but also the extensive development
of the intertwined insect metaphors call emphatic attention to Felix's mnemonic
overkill, his narrator's treffende Worte and Gedanken, and so too to the
abetting artifice in his self-re-presentation. In allowing for this fluid fusion and
confusion of past and present thought - or rather, of past experience and present
narration - Felix begins to abandon the pretense and confines of realistic retrospection and, with it, of the original experiencing self. The fictional citation replaces, or at least vigorously competes and colludes with, the original interiority
it re-presents; retrospection as present stylization, work, and consciousness competes with, and in some sense replaces, the notion of an original introspection to
be reproduced. This abandonment of the realist limitations on his project signals
the invasive artefaction of Felix's character, the dehumanization and literalization
of his former self, the increase in artifice to his I - but at the same time it also
signals the growing fluidity to Felix's relation to his character-self, his active part
in his self-realization, the increase in I to his artifice. One might even claim that
Felix's mode of retrospectively elaborating and replacing his original inner life
with the privileged calculations of his literary text answers to the Proustian dictum, True life, life at last discovered and illuminated, the only life therefore real-

64

Cf. Cohn, Transparent Minds, pp. 162-164.

175

ly lived, that life is literature6' - without, however, losing sight of all the unreal
artifice to that literary life, all the invention to its discovery, and all the potential
deception to its illumination that Felix's practice still makes us see.
A similar dialectic between Felix's abetting narratorial artifice and his character-self's original reality is also at work in Felix's reproduction of his body.
Here especially the conflation of the different orders of imitation is both formally
complex and thematically crucial; here especially the the play of real-life selffashioning and unreal literary fashioning is at work. In his corporeal self-representation, Felix's practice seems very much to resemble that of his portrait-painting namesake, Schimmelpreester. Felix recounts how he would frequent his
workshop: dort >sass< ich ihm, ... whrend er ... pinselte, schabte und schuf
... um ... meine Erscheinung, wie es ihm am besten gefiel, auf einen Pappendeckel zu werfen, sitting at times nackend Modell ... fr ein grosses Tableau
aus der griechischen Sagenkunde (284). When Felix takes this occasion to describe the natural, naked beauty which so inspired his godfather, the attendant
inclusion of this other Felix's busy working hands and representing Pinsel almost always mentioned whenever Felix depicts himself undressed - pointedly
reminds us of how we are presented more with the Pappendeckel-Tableau than
the naked original.66 Even as Felix cites and simulates his thoughts, he cites his
body: the gute Form of his schriftlichen Auftretens becomes in a sense the
gute Form of his natural appearance.
A peculiarity in the novel's Entstehung underscores the point by repeating
the practice. The Schimmelpreester passage originally ran as follows:67
ich war beraus angenehm und gttergleich gewachsen, schlank, weich, und doch krftig von Gliedern, goldig von Haut und fast ohne Tadel in Hinsicht auf schnes Ebenmass. Nur meine Beine waren vielleicht im Verhltnis ein wenig zu kurz; aber mein
Pate trstete mich ber diesen Fehler mit dem Hinweis, dass auch der Geistesfrst von
Weimar zu kurze Beine besessen und doch Zeit seines Lebens grosse persnliche Erfolge zu verzeichnen gehabt habe.

In the 1954 edition, the qualifying fast drops out, as does the sentence which
expands upon it, an alteration of the original glaring enough that most critics at
least mention it. However, what remains unchanged and does not get mentioned
is the dash that follows and its further note: -Diese Sitzungen bilden immerhin
eine eigenartige Erinnerung (284). Mann leaves traces of the transformation
work, which is supposed both to be erased and still remain to be read, because
that work and its interruption of a simple realist reading model for Felix as character are thematically relevant. We are supposed to see (and suspect) the artifice,

65

66
67

176

Interestingly, Proust in general and this sentence in particular are central to both
Cohn's and Nehamas' analyses. See Cohn, p. 146; Nehamas, p. 188.
C f . 327, 328, 356. For Felix's narratorial pen as Pinsel, see 293.
Querido, 1937, p. 38.

the paper/substitution work in the improvement in Felix's original appearance; to


see through the convention that pretends this body simply belongs to, or originates in, a former natural self. And we are also supposed to see how Mann's
authorial transformation work here merely mimics that of his narrator elsewhere;
for even in the earlier editions, all subsequent references to Felix's body improve
and erase this natural limitation.
In fact, and to further compound the issue, Felix himself goes so far as to
insist that we recognize that his corporal qualities have no origin in anything or
anyone natural, but rather dass sie bis zu einem bedeutenden Grade mein eigen
Werk sind (330), that he composes himself through his own study and industry.
At each order of imitation, then, a work model of re-presented artifice competes and colludes with a natural model of Felix's body.
Two points need to be made about this play. First, Felix's narratorial artefaction of his body is in many ways a manifestation of the same anti-Pygmalion
impulse we saw at work in the praeceptor's fashioning of his female student in the
Ars and Johannes' of Cordelia in the Diary. Here the impulse is active in Felix
himself, or rather, in his narrator's shaping of his character; for even as the erotic
impulse is perversely turned back against the self in the early Felix Krull, so too
the anti-Pygmalion impulse to fashion an artwork out of an other, and especially out of the body of another. In fact, and as the descriptions of Felix's body
underscore, the artefacting impulse generates the undeniably erotic one in Felix
(as narrator) for his character's fictive body.68 On the one hand, it is just this selfdirectedness to the anti-Pygmalion impulse that accounts for the apparent sense
of non-violation to its effects when compared with those in our other texts. On
the other hand, it also accounts for the increasingly vertiginous sense of selfviolation in Felix Krull. The violence shifts, it does not wholly disappear.
Second, for all the ostentatious artifice to Felix's self-fashioning of his body,
there is still the significant sense in which this remains, or imitates, an eminently
real possibility in the Nietzschean model of Erbschaft outlined above; insofar
as one's physical nature is always already the result of shaping fictions, further
fiction-making should be able to shape it anew. This is a further reason for the
apparent non-violation to Felix's anti-Pygmalion endeavors, or rather, for the
real shift in violation still at issue. It is also an additional way in which the play
of the different orders of imitation is at work in the play of fiction and reality in
Felix's artificial I. The compounding of the Nietzschean model of (corporal)
Erbschaft with the similarly Nietzschean model of (experiential, or interior)
8

In keeping with this, we might also note how the gender play has been transposed into
the space of a single self, where the split between Felix as fashioner and as materiem and
fashioned artwork is paralleled by a split between Felix's male and female qualities (e.g.,
552) - a partial feminization of character unique among our protagonists, but significantly related to the new, self-directed physical artefaction and its accompanying
eroticization.

177

retrospection both impudently doubles the sanctioning realities to Felix's selfstylization, and introduces a new play between their ineradicably different plays
of life and fiction. - Still, neither of these real-life models is meant to blind us to
the essentially literary context for Felix's narratorial artefaction of his former self,
in either thought or body; for again, it is just this context that provides the new
problem, and reality, for both models.
Some of the significance to this interplay in both body and thought of the narrator's retrospective artifice and his character-self's reality in the conscription episode can be seen at the point where, just before entering the inspection area, Felix
has stripped himself naked and das Blut [ihm] aus dem Antlitz gewichen war
(355); that is, at the point where Felix is both most reduced to his natural condition and yet most poised to assume his artificial, textual one. The condition, at
once natural and bloodless, inspires in Felix a feeling zu dessen Mitteilung die
Worte nicht gleich zur Hand sind (355). As Felix proceeds to analyze and articulate his psychological state, it is clear that the cognition work belongs not to his
character's but to his narrator's consciousness. He introduces a citation from material encountered in prison, i.e., well after the present scene (dass die Nacktheit
gleichmacherisch sei); he replaces his analysis of his original inner state with one
of this substituted literary citation (wahr ist sie im geringsten nicht); and he
concludes by formulating a counter Sentenz to be substituted for the original
one (dass die wahre und wirkliche Rangordnung erst im ursprnglichen Zustand
sich herstelle). But then, after this extended and sophisticated display of deliberative dialectics, Felix simply turns around and invests his character with all his
retrospective insight, consciousness, and calculations. He claims, frhe hatte ich
dies empfunden, and then allows his character-self to benefit from both the satisfaction and conclusions of an argument well turned: So wandelte . . . Freude
und lebhafter Stolz mich an (356). The elaborate narratorial machinery, with its
expansive capacity to elucidate the non-verbal reality of the past experience and
consciousness; the hypotactic literary style, with its verbal grace, proportion, and
control; and the theoretical formulations, with their translation of the particular
into the paradigmatic - all of this is simply slipped into his character-self, whose
original, inarticulate, and limited inner life is thus replaced by the narrator's literary work and text.
So, too, Felix's body, which is both the origin and heir of these abstracting
ruminations: it too benefits from, or rather arrogates for itself all the grace, proportion and control of its literary representation. Mann makes this clear by coupling to Felix's claim, frhe hatte ich dies empfunden, the tag, nmlich schon
als mein Pate Schimmelpreester meine Gestalt zu hherer Bedeutung auf die
Leinwand zauberte. Not the original body, but the magically improved copy of
the body is given as the source of Felix's sense of elevation and corporal superiority. It is this same represented, elevated copy that Felix can now present with
joy and lively pride: a body freed from the faults of its original too short legs, a
178

body which unlike all the others in the adjoining room has no human smell nor
heaviness, a body endowed with der freien Grazie, die eigentlich dem Gliedermann und dem Gotte . . . vorbehalten ist. 6 ' Even before entering the inspection
area, then, even before his performance, Felix is already possessed and animated
by the text, already thoroughly artefacted and dehumanized. And if there he is to
experience the peril and constraint of this abandonment of corporal realism, this
life in text, im Gleichnis, here he is allowed to experience its privilege and freedom as well.
One more mechanism available to Felix as narrator whereby his literary construct and work can collude with his character's original reality is what we might
call the dream device, which suddenly casts his character into the passive mode,
subject to magical, controlling impulses which seem to exceed his own consciousness. This is, of course, one of the most notorious of Mann's own stock
literary strategies for both the artefacting and animating of characters, transforming them through a shift in the Kunstoptik into Charaktermarionetten manipulated by dem zitathaften Leben out of which they arise and into which
they continually return.70 It is also one of his primary strategies for representing
the new psychological dimension of his characters, namely: the unconscious, and
later mythical, foundations of their human lives. However, it would be more
accurate, I think, to speak also of the fictional foundations of their literary lives;
for the (sometimes) mythical, unconscious dream world that Mann so often
evokes in his mature works always retains its profoundly literary identity, its
essential character as a conscious construct, and so extends the play of fiction and
reality, of textuality and psychic life into this dimension of his characters as
well/ 1
In Felix Krull, this strategy and device are put to a rather different, or compounded, use, and for two reasons. First, because in the context of first person
self-narration, the dream device almost automatically becomes something different, a conscious literary mechanism for the presentation of the character by himself. That is, it becomes a new technique for the artefaction of the self in the
equally new dimension of his self-identity; it becomes a new mode for colluding
with the author's artefacting activity, in the same sphere in which the author's text
newly colludes, and collides, with the character's self. And second, the device be-

69

Doktor Faustus, VI,410. The context is a discussion of Kleist's ber das Marionettentheater.
7
Freud und die Zukunft, IX,497-498.
71
This is in keeping with the equally new notion of Erbschaft discussed above; which
likewise associates the psychologically and fictionally formative; which exerts itself not
only as a corporal condition but also as an often dreamlike unconscious; and which
likewise motivates the intercession of the author's essentially alien (inter-) text into the
character's reality, where it simultaneously animates and literalizes (or alternatively,
exposes as literalized) his consciousness and actions.

!79

comes something different in Felix Krull because for Felix in particular, the
dream is never so much the product of unconscious impulses as it is the product
of conscious work and control, and so all the more forcibly calls attention to the
artifice in its conjuration. Even more than his later relation Joseph, Felix is very
much der heimliche Theaterdirektor seiner Trume,72 the contriver of his own
Kunstoptik, and not least by means of his privileged position as author of his
own (earlier) identity.
Again, this is an area where the different orders of imitation freely, and meaningfully, overlap and interplay, where author, narrator, and character are all engaged in equivalent fiction-making activities. And again, it is an area in which
Felix as character anticipates Felix as narrator, who only gradually comes to
apply the device to his own practice. As a child, Felix engaged in the trumerische Experiment (275) of unnaturally attempting to control the involuntary
expansion and contraction of his pupils. His successful substitution in his own
person of system for impulse, of conscious work for unconscious interiority and
corporality, is precisely what constitutes the trumerisch for Felix. Here, too, a
work model of re-presented artifice displaces a natural model of original life. The
same basic pattern is also at work in Felix's youthful engagement with music,
dieser trumerischen Kunst (280). He attentively studies and then rigorously
reproduces only the superficial, mechanical manipulations of a violinist. Insofar
as this constitutes music, it also constitutes the dream: the dream as fiction, imitation, and work.
The early apex of Felix's dream-making comes in the chapter that most pointedly anticipates the conscription scene, when Felix plays school-sick. Through
mimetic exertions as taxing and violent as the condition they intend to represent,
Felix produces a counterfeit reality and physical condition for himself and his
audience. As he exults, Ich hatte die Natur verbessert, einen Traum verwirklicht (302). Again the dream is presented as an operation of artifice, a strategic
device for self-representation; and if it is essential to Felix's project that the doctor
believe he is passively controlled by outside, natural forces, it is equally essential
to it that we perceive his conscious work and controlled composition.
When Felix appropriates the dream device for his narratorial project of selfrepresentation, these two audiences overlap and interplay, as do the corresponding effects of its implementation. The first extended example of this follows
immediately after Felix's flaunted dream work in playing school-sick. Having revealed the chocolate candy hidden in his desk at the end of that chapter, he begins
the next with the rhetorical ploy, Woher hatte ich sie? Sie war auf besondere, ja
phantastische Weise in meinen Besitz bergegangen (306, my emphasis). Since
this is really Felix's first crime - and a common one at that - he is especially concerned to shape and control his reader's response to his character's activity. Be71

180

Freud und die Zukunft, IX,487.

sides the generalized moral sophistry explicitly directed at the reader (discussed
above), there is also the dream strategy implicitly directed to neutralize his notions about die schwerfllige Ordnung und Gesetzlichkeit des Alltags (308).
Finding himself alone in a delicatessan shop, Felix suddenly feels himself
befremdet und trumerisch angemutet (307). The dream in which he finds himself moving slips almost imperceptibly into a fairy tale: Ja, das war ein Mrchen
oder ein Traum! (308) That is, a literary again replaces a psychological state: Felix evokes, or rather cites, an established literary text - the Sonntagskind in
fairytale treasure rooms - which provides both the magical impulses which
overwhelm and corporally control the passive subject (even to the extent that, like
puppet strings, he experiences them wie ein Jucken und Reissen in allen meinen
Gliedern, 308)73 and the Kunstoptik which mediates the reader's perception.
But even as he continues to present the event in terms of a fairy-tale dream, he
also increasingly addresses the savvy reader's perception of the strategy (man
lege die Tatsache aus, wie man will, 310): we are still half-supposed to see Felix's
literary work, his verborgene Werkzeuge and geheimen Fleiss (339), invade
his character-self's reality, supply the magical impulses which control his consciousness and action, and so conveniently provide him the alibi of the agentless
passive voice, by means of his own narratorial agency.74
However even here, for all the obvious artifice to Felix's insertion of this
dreamy fairy-tale as the programming script behind his (former) actions, there is
still a very significant sense in which it is nonetheless part of his real self. I mean
this not so much in the possible but rather uninteresting sense that the Sonntagskind text can be seen as part of the authorial, intertextual background to Felix's
character which, like the Walpurgisnacht text in the conscription scene, occasionally and unconsciously invades Felix's reality with its possessive, controlling
force. 75 1 mean it more in the sense that, as a conscious device in Felix's narratorial
73

A similar jerking of his body by the unseen controls of the guiding text occurs
throughout the conscription scene (e.g. 359). For Felix as puppet aus dem feinsten
Holz geschnitzt (273) gleichsam an einem langen Seil (351), cf. Mann's letter to his
brother Heinrich on February 17, 1910, where he explains how he is preparing himself
for the writing of Felix Krull: Ich lese Kleists Prosa, um mich so recht in die Hand zu
bekommen. In Doktor Faustus, when Adrian likewise immerses himself in Kleist's
prose, it is the Marionettentheater essay that is central, because for the planned work
die Verkrperung nicht Menschen, sondern Gliederpuppen zugedacht [war]. (Daher
der Kleist!), VI, 406. The representation of Felix as a puppet is another way in which
the human model of Felix as actor proves inadequate to an understanding of the
novel.

74

The narratorial implementation of the agentless passive Kunstoptik was already a


favorite strategy of Manolescu's. For example, as he is about to enter a hotel to steal
jewels, he reports, Fast automatisch begann ich die erste Etage zu erklimmen und
ffnete die nchste Tr, die mir in den Weg kam (1,135). On the other hand, the same
Optik is discussed in all seriousness by Mann in Freud und die Zukunft, IX,488ff.

7!

C f . Wysling, TMS 5, pp. 176-187.


181

arsenal, the Sonntagskind text can be seen as an artistic plan or narrative by


which Felix actively and retrospectively reinterprets and shapes himself into a
literary character who really exists. 76
Felix himself calls attention to this dimension of the fairy-tale device (and as
its customary motivation, the dream device is related) in one of his Abschweifungen ins Allgemeine:
Ja, der Glaube an mein Glck, und dass ich ein Vorzugskind des Himmels sei, ist in
meinem Innersten stets lebendig gewesen, und ich kann sagen, dass er im ganzen nicht
Lgen gestraft worden ist. Stellt sich doch das eben als die bezeichnende Eigentmlichkeit meines Lebens dar, dass alles, was an Leiden und Qual darin vorgekommen, als
etwas Fremdes und von der Vorsehung ursprnglich nicht Gewolltes erscheint, durch
das meine wahre und eigentliche Bestimmung immerfort gleichsam sonnig hindurchschimmert. (271)
Both the lived plan of this text and, more importantly, the retrospectively applied
plan of this text are key to Felix's early narratorial self-stylization and realization,
his (re)interpretive organization of his experience into a peculiarly mrchenhaft
romanhaftes Leben. And as the customary link of the text with the dream and of
the dream with work make clear, this personal providence is never something given, but rather always something self-constructed and achieved. 77 Of course, as in
the related case of Felix's construction of his body (or for that matter, of his
thought as well), his practice still raises crucial questions concerning the degree of
self-deception and/or public hypocrisy at work in this retrospective aesthetic
accommodation. These questions will be more centrally addressed in the following section: here we need only note how even the fairy-tale dream device,
with its characteristic coupling of text and work, can be seen as part of Felix's
narratorial self-realization - without, however, losing sight of its equally essential
part in his self-literalization.
In any case: in the conscription episode, the dream-device operates at a new
level of sophistication. For the first time, it is employed simultaneously by the
character and narrator, which changes the nature of the device; it is clearly also
employed by the author, which further changes its effects and significance. As in
the episode of playing school-sick, Felix's dream work as character has already
been exposed to us, insofar as he has already shown us the study, industry, and
now clinical text which will supply the dreamlike impulses which control his consciousness and bodily actions, and so substitute for but pose as an unconscious.
And as in the episode of stealing chocolates, Felix's narratorial performance and
literary mediation are also very much in the fore, so that we see his work and text
equally poised to supply the automating impulses to his character-self's consciousness and actions. The functional identity between these two controlling

76
77

182

Nehamas, p. 194.
Cf. Nietzsche, Persnliche Providenz, Die Frhliche Wissenschaft, No. 277.

texts - Felix's clinical publication and his narrator's present production - invites
the fusion and confusion between their respective dream work; and of course,
this is itself doubled by the controlling inter-texts of the author, which we have
seen also invade Felix's performance with their possessing, literalizing force, and
also pose as, and to some extent actually function as, an often dream-like unconscious. The conscriptive play of texts, dream work, and (unconsciousnesses becomes almost intoxicatingly complex: what we want to continue to concentrate
on is how Felix's narratorial text and dream work affect the play and outcome.
For here especially Felix is conscious of and in control of his double life in literature; here especially the effects of that consciousness and control are in evidence,
and at issue.
The device is invoked just as Felix has entered into the inspection area, that is,
just as he fully enters into his life in text. He is taken by a Traumgefhl in
which he feels himself einzeln und jedem Verhltnis enthoben, namenlos, alterslos, frei und rein im leeren Raum zu schweben (357), severed from all natural,
human origins, reborn into a suspended, puppet-like state - and yet still a state,
feeling, and dream of his own making and at his own command, the immediate
effect of his substitution in his own person of the clinical text. But even as - and
to some extent, precisely because - Felix proceeds to elaborate on and generalize
about this dream state and the sure, unself-conscious freedom he has attained
through his conscious efforts and practiced text, it becomes increasingly clear
how this dream-like freedom is equally or even more the result of Felix's narratorial text, consciousness, and work. And this brings with it an obvious, added
advantage for Felix's character's efforts to dehumanize, automate, and elevate
himself in thought, body, and unconscious: that nothing real or natural need limit
the artifice, that the assimilation into the fiction can be complete, the mind immaculate, the body impeccable, and the dream unimpeded.
This takeover of the character's controlling text and dream work, or more
accurately: this equivalence in the controlling texts and dream work, is not, however, to be reckoned as pure gain on the character's part. We might say that Felix
as character has taught his narrator to recognize the fictional, formative powers in
his literary enterprise, such that, by the conscription scene, we see the former's
fiction-making reflected in the latter's. But the same equivalence and the same
cultivated awareness also mean that the latter can now reflect, and reflect upon,
his fiction-making in the former's. The shift is subtle, but central. Up to this
point, we have traced the sustaining tension between Felix's retrospective artefaction of his character and his simultaneous realization of his character. This
tension is still at issue in the conscription scene, especially as the applied, artistic
plan of the clinical publication, much like that of the Sonntagskind text earlier,
allows Felix at once to construct a fiction and a truth about his character. However, this play no longer seems to be the central issue, or central tension. Rather,
Felix's heightened awareness of his narratorial artefacting powers also leads to an
183

increased interest in exploring the effects of those powers, in representing those


effects on and in his material. Put paradoxically, his realization of his literalization leads to a realization of his literalization; his growing consciousness of his
artefacting influence on reality leads to an increasingly self-conscious focus on
the reality to that artefacting influence. - But before we can fully explore this
aspect of the conscription scene, we need still to trace the development of that
other relationship through which Felix, as narrator, develops both his artefaction
of his character-self and his self-conscious interest in that artefaction, namely: his
relationship with his reader.

V.

Felix's dialectic of self-fashioning

One important difference between Felix's self-artefaction as character and as narrator is that whereas in the one case the Spiel auf [sjeiner eignen Natur (305) is
ludically directed at his partner-audience of, e.g., the doctor and Ersatzkommission, in the other it is directed instead at his partner-audience of implied
readers. We mentioned his mediatory relationship with the reader at the outset of
the last section, and we have alluded to it several times since. We need now to
address more directly and in more detail its crucial implications for our understanding of Felix's narratorial operation of artifice, and especially the ways in
which it repeats the practice of his character-self; and of the acquired effects his
operation has on his character-self, and the ways these secure the central importance of the narrator position to Felix's romanhaftes Leben. 78
Some of these implications can be sketched out in a general way already. First,
and most obviously: out of regard for the reader and in keeping with certain conventional notions of literary propriety, Felix is increasingly engaged in a rather
systematic stylization of his material, in both presentation and omission. This results both in an increasing, but still signalled occlusion of our access to the original character world and, conversely, in an increasing deformation, derealization, or textualization of the character and his world. Second, and again in diference to the reader, Felix can be seen to be shifting his conception of his
undertaking from an initial, non-fictional memoir of a real first-person, in which
veracity and intimacy are prime criteria, toward a more self-consciously fictional
creation of literary character, in which invention, aesthetic codes, and imaginative
78

184

Karl-Martin Khner, Wer liest den Roman ? Zur Interpretation der Leserfigur in Thomas Manns Hochstapler-Roman, in Hommage a Maurice Marache, 1916-197o (Paris:
Les Belles Lettres, 1972) 287-301, describes some of the significance of the reader for
Felix's mode of narration. However, he is primarily concerned with delineating the differences between Mann's real reader and Felix's fictional one, and not, as I am,
with the process by which Felix fashions himself through the reader. Thus, although we
often focus on the same passages, we mostly do so for different reasons.

effects become more and more the prime considerations. This means, of course,
an ever more collusive and competitive equivalence between the mimetic activities
and performances of character and narrator; an even more slippery and underhanded relation with the reader; and an even more artificial, or textual, existence
for the character to experience.
Third, as both cause and effect of his developing stylization and fictionalization of his material, Felix is increasingly engaged in a more consciously discursive, dialectic, and dramatic relationship with his reader, which forces the reader,
as partner-audience, into an ever more involved and implicated position vis--vis
the text. 7 ' On the one hand, Felix progressively places the reader in a position
hardly better than, e.g., the military doctor, unaware of the distortion to the
interceding paper work and text, unable to perceive the fiction to the performance, and so inevitably taken in. On the other, the reader is often offered a position far more privileged and informed, invited to see the work and text behind the
representation and so forcibly stopped from taking as real or natural what is
essentially, and proudly, artificial and composed. Most often, however, and at its
best, the reader is poised in a position between the two, caught in the interstices of
the imitation, split between the shifting perspectives of the real and real-seeming.
This introduces both a more game-like dimension to Felix's Spiel, and a more
pronouncedly public dimension and determinant to his performance and
character.
Finally, Felix's increasingly realized relationship with the reader also increasingly leads him to fashion his fictional character through, and to some extent in
the image of, his reader. In this, Felix's method of self-artefaction through his
reader eventually comes very close to resembling Johannes' dialectical method of
poetizing himself through his partner, Cordelia. As we will see, there is the same,
involuted process by which Felix first constructs the image of the other (here, the
reader) through which he then constructs the image of himself, with the same,
continuous intercalation of literary models and codes between the two images (or
poles) that always keeps this mode of self-fashioning a self-literalizing as well.
And there is the same, contradictory result as well, where in a significant sense the
reader increasingly becomes Felix's reflective, narcissistic self-image, and the detour proves no detour at all; and yet where Felix's self also increasingly disappears, and becomes replaced by or refashioned in the image of this other's ideals,
desires, and expectations. However, since Felix wishes his partner to be equally
conscious of and implicated in the artefacting process, he also develops a far more
agonistically (but still erotically) charged and ludically (half-) open relationship

' Mann offers his own insights into the functionings of the dramatic dialectic between
narrator and reader in first person fiction in a discussion of Dostoevsky's Notes from
Underground, in Dostojewski - mit Massen, IX,672-673. Also cited by Khner,
298.
185

with his reader than Johannes does with Cordelia. And since here, too, the selfartefaction has shifted its center from the character's to the narrator's sphere of
activity, Felix also constructs a far more narrated, or rather: novellistic self
through the dialectic.
We should mention that this dialectic mode of self-fashioning that seems to
pick up on Johannes' model also picks up on an important Nietzschean one. Here
again Felix Krull can be seen to be testing Nietzschean models for the self as
artwork; here again the relationship with other Nietzschean models is both collusive and competitive. In Aphorism No. 367 to Die Frhliche 'Wissenschaft, Nietzsche writes:
Ich kenne keinen tieferen Unterschied der gesamten Optik eines Knstlers als diesen:
ob er v o m Auge des Zeugen aus nach seinem werdenden Kunstwerke (nach sich-)
hinblickt oder aber die Welt vergessen hat: wie es das Wesentliche jeder monologischen Kunst ist.

Most simply, we can say that, in his developing relationship with the reader, Felix
seems to move from the latter, monological orientation toward the former, public
one. But more challengingly, we can say that Felix's practice also comes more and
more to question the validity of the distinction itself: to question whether style is
not always essentially public, always something between the character and
reader, even when appropriated for the most personal of projects, the shaping of
one's own private life and character.80 - Such are the general terms of and issues at
stake in the evolving relationship between Felix and his reader; now let's look at
them more specifically.
When Felix goes backstage at the theater and confronts the unadorned and
all-too-human Mller-Rose, he becomes so nauseated that he fails to pay any
attention to the subsequent conversation between the actor and his father. As a
result, he has no further factual details to add to his retrospective report of his
theater visit, but only additional elaboration of his interior state. Felix feels he
owes an explanation for this narratorial breach of conventional guter Form:
J a ich msste mir vorwerfen . . . wenn ich meine Erinnerungen nicht in erster Linie zu
meiner eigenen Unterhaltung und erst zweiter zu der des Publikums niederschriebe.
Auf Spannung und Proportion richte ich gar kein Augenmerk und berlasse diese
Rcksichten solchen Verfassern, die aus der Phantasie schpfen und aus erfundenem
Stoff schne und regelmssige Kunstwerke herzustellen bemht sind, whrend ich
lediglich mein eignes, eigentmliches Leben vortrage und mit dieser Materie nach G u t dnken schalte. (293)

Despite the double edge to nach Gutdnken, Felix offers here a fairly clear description of his initial conception of his narratorial enterprise, and consequently
of his relationship with both his reader and character as well. He is not concerned
to impart proportion to his material, nor to manufacture his report out of his
80

186

C f . Nehamas, p. 186; p. i f i f . , n. 16.

imagination or invented matter, nor to produce an attractive, because code-controlled, Kunstwerk. These are, however, all concerns or expectations which Felix implicitly attributes to his reader inasmuch as, by denying the claims and
importance of artwork to his project, he simultaneously denies the claims and
importance of his reader. In denying the reader a determinative role, however, Felix also assures him that he need not adopt a discriminatory role, either. If Felix
does not offer a well-proportioned and aesthetically disciplined artifice, this is
because he offers an unshaped, that is, im-mediate and intimate account of his
own first-person character, whose personal, original life he will not allow to be
regulated or mediated by the dictates of art and the imagination. The irony is
obvious: Felix is after all reporting a character engaged in precisely the practice of
producing himself out of his imagination and invented matter and thereby transforming himself into ein schnes und regelmssiges Kunstwerk. The impetus,
then, to abandon this initially neutral conception is characteristically double and
dialectical, deriving equally from his own character and his implied readers, eine
hochzeitliche Begegnung seiner und ihrer Begierden (295).81
Of course, despite Felix's claims to the contrary, this neutral, im-mediate conception of his narratorial representation is never really in force anyway, even from
the beginning. Even if he would initially absolve his work of fictional invention
and aesthetic imagination, he nonetheless and from the very outset would still
honor and preserve that Takt und Anstand, that gewhlte und durchsichtige
Ausdrucksweise (265) which conventionally belong even to his more modestly
personal literary enterprise. This much at least he feels he owes his reader and
so imposes on himself, or rather: this much he first imposes on his reader and
then back on himself. And of course, inasmuch as Felix engages in such a discrete
stylization of his personal, original life, he also engages both his reader and his
character in a far more active fashion than the passage above would admit. For the
reader, there immediately opens up a gap between the personal, original life and
its stylized, literary representation, which would conceal as much as it would
confess. For the character, there begins that inevitable move away from the personal, original life into its stylized and literalized representation, which in turn
would take away as much as it gives.
We see this from the outset and in the smallest as well as the most central details. So, for example, Felix claims early on (and offers as surety for the propriety
of his prose), Ich stamme aus feinbrgerlichem, wenn auch liederlichem Hause
(265). The feinbrgerlich, which to some degree is dictated by the Takt und

8l

C f . Notizblatt # 583: Mundus vult decipi (cf. Manolescu II, pp. 1 1 2 - 1 1 5 ) - Die Welt
schreit von Ewigkeit danach, betrogen zu werden - sehr gut. Aber auch [Manolescus]
Sehnsucht nach der Welt ist das Werk eines Betrugs von Seiten der Welt, das Blendwerk
des Schleiers der Maja . . . Es ist ein erotisches Betrugsverhltnis auf Gegenseitigkeit.
Cited by Wysling, TMS 5, p. 117.
187

Anstand Felix attributes to the reader and affects for himself, is in necessary
tension with the liederlich, which it tries stylistically to conceal, replace, or
translate (and the original character along with it) by means of syntactical arrangement, lexical selection, and so forth. The strategy, in fact, is very similar to
that practiced by Felix's father with his wine bottles (ich gebe dem Publikum,
woran es glaubt [268], he explains), with their ostentatious umschnrkelten Etikett and other displays of specifically writerly paper barriers and stylistic
improvements, 82 and whose blendende Aufmachung [der] Beschaffenheit des
Weines nicht vollkommen entsprach (268). A s the wine is transformed for its
audience by its stylistic flourishes and paper work, so Felix for his, by his: that is,
completely or not at all, so long as we have a taste of the original and our own
independent discrimination. 83

82

E.g. ein feierliches Rundsiegel, wie man es an Bullen und alten Staatsdokumenten sieht;
der Namenszug meines Vaters ; and the reflectively opaque, sparklingpaper Stanniol
(268). Since the figure of the wine bottle is an analogue for Felix's own character, the
particularly writerly nature to its accomplished artifice is worth emphasizing.
' ' I am aware of the somewhat superficial engagement here with the overall issue of
Geschmack in respect to the formation of Felix's character, and I can only plead that
a more thorough discussion at this moment would detract from the general argument. I
will at least point out one other important reason for the failure in Felix's stylization,
especially at the beginning. As mentioned, Felix's style aspires to a certain model
text and so to accommodate both his character and written performance to certain
conventional notions of literary decorum and taste. However, the very character and
background which Felix's style thus seeks to shape and suppress inevitably shape his
style and expose its seeking. So, for example, his use of such an unseemly term as
feinbrgerlich to stylize himself is probably as damning to his pretension as the original liederlich it seeks to replace, even as the paper-work to the Lorley extra cuvee
ends up betraying the same questionable taste as the substance it conceals.
The questionable taste of Felix's prose is, I think, far less subject to Felix's conscious
control than is the questionable taste of the original life, which I argue he can fairly
successfully re-form; however, it is also far less subject to ours. As the example of his
father's wine bottles makes clear, the issues of taste and decorum here slide into a characteristically ambivalent area between private supply and public demand. For this reason, we can never be quite sure where the failings in Felix's taste end and those in the
reader's begin, where the self-delusion leaves off and the public hypocrisy takes over.
Style is always essentially something public, and ultimately this public dimension to
Felix's taste and style is of far more consequence than whether they are good or bad.
N o matter what intrinsic value we place upon Felix's guiding principles, so long as they
are systematically enforced they will impose the needed discipline and constraint which
yield character and count as style. But on the other hand, the character they shape is
also bound to become more standardized and conventionalized in the process, less
personal, and more public.
The relative unimportance to the quality of the applied style or taste is emphasized in
some of Nietzsche's most profound reflections on character as artwork: see for example
Jenseits von Gut und Bse, No. 188, and Die Frhliche Wissenschaft, N o . 290. Nehamas
wrestles with the related issue regarding the relative unimportance to the moral quality
of character in Nietzsche: see Nehamas, pp. 191-194.
188

And yet this is exactly what Felix is in a unique position to deny, what in fact
his own deference to the reader and convention encourage him to deny. It is a
small and still significant step from the discrete in diesen Blttern nicht Wiederzugebenden (291) that Felix imposes on the uncouth utterances of Mller-Rose
to the same editorial procedure applied to himself, just as it is from his father's
paper presentation of Lorley extra cuvee to his own of anderen vornehmen
Marken . . . wie etwa >Grand vin Chateau Margaux< und >Grand cru Chateau
Mouton Rothschild< - zwei elegante Tropfen (278). In each latter case, our
readerly access to the original is occluded, cut off: and if this promotes discretion
and good taste, it does so by denying the reader any discretion or taste at all.
An example that brings out the consequences of this stylization for character
might come in a look at Felix and his father. Mein Vater, explains Felix, wiewohl dick und fett, besass viel persnliche Grazie und legte stets Gewicht auf eine
gewhlte und durchsichtige Ausdrucksweise, [und] gern liess er - und zwar in
vorzglicher Aussprache - Wendungen wie >c'est a, patant< oder >parfaitement<
in seine Rede einfliessen (265^). His father's command of select and lucid language manages to impart grace, attractiveness, even style to what still remains
- or does it? - his basic, solid fat. This is, after all, the man from whom Felix
acquired his love of language, his love of life in language; it is also and hardly
accidently the man from whom he learned to give dem Publikum, woran es
glaubt, by means of gewhlter although hardly durchsichtiger language. But
as we have seen, when Felix applies this practice to his own character, his position
as narrator allows him to take it one step further. For when Felix uses his command of language to impart grace and style to his character, there is nothing that
needs remain basic, solid, distasteful, or original: the stylization is complete and
so the public completely satisfied, that is, deceived. Wer die Welt recht liebt,
der bildet sich ihr gefllig (330), says Felix concerning his own body: where Felix
applies all his narratorial efforts to fashioning his character-self in the image of
this partly self-fashioned beloved's desires and expectations; and where the public, the reader is granted the determinative role Felix earlier denied, but conversely
robbed of his discriminatory role.
And yet again, this is but the half of it. If on the one hand the reader functions
as the (excluded) audience for Felix's self-stylization, on the other he functions as
the (included) attestant to dem Geheimnis seiner feinen Existenz (272), that is,
of his imaginary, artificial existence. For even as Felix would stylistically conceal
from his reader much that is distastefully natural, he will also continually expose to him the condition and operation of the otherwise silent and unseen artifice which distinguishes his life from the merely natural. This is the other pole to
the ludic relationship Felix constructs with and through the reader, the other turn
to his constant game of hide and seek. For instance, Felix awakes one morning
with the resolve to be a certain Prince Karl, an imaginary existence hidden to
all others and yet still the basis for his claim to superiority over die gewhnlichen
189

Burschen mit hartem Haar und roten Hnden (273): and Felix needs his reader
to acknowledge his elevating invention, the self-stylization that separates him
from unshaped reality.
Similarly but more pointedly, when Felix plays school-sick the reader plays as
essential a role in Felix's performance as the doctor, although in a diametrically
opposed capacity. If Felix is intent not to reveal to the doctor for a moment or
with the slightest of hints that he is counterfeiting his condition - for paradoxically, just this would make his case natural and commonplace - he is equally
intent to show the reader at every moment and in the smallest details that he does
mechanically produce his symptoms and never is really sick - for paradoxically
again, just this would make his case natural and commonplace. In fact, this need
for a discriminating witness, for an attestant to the stylistics behind the production, occasions Felix's first direct address to the reader, a slight but significant
shift from the in zweiter Linie status ceded in the previous chapter (our first
citation), and an equally significant shift from the merely implicit audience status
in Felix's stylization. Der Leser wird die Uberzeugung gewonnen haben, und
ich gebe ihm mein Ehrenwort zum Pfnde, dass ich nicht im grberen Sinne
krank war (305), insists Felix, and with this remark he initiates a more conscious
and articulated relationship with his equally more conscious and articulated
reader.
This more conscious implication of the more conscious reader begins radically to affect Felix's narratorial practice in the following chapter, in which he reports his chocolate theft. Wishing to retain the propriety that he feels his reader
demands - or rather, demands his reader demand - Felix is almost compelled to
adopt certain inventive and imaginative literary strategies for self-presentation
which inevitably draw him away from a simple, immediate report of a first person
toward a more self-consciously fictional creation of character. At the same time,
he is forced more and more to acknowledge his reader, not only as a collusive but
also as a competitive, independent consciousness, which in turn leads to the
increasingly agonistic character of his narration - hence the need for literary
strategy. We mentioned earlier two of these strategies, the fairy-tale/ dream device
and the moral sophistry whereby the narrator forcibly intervenes and seeks to
impose the optical system through which his character's actions are to be viewed.
Immediately following the most extended instance of the latter, Felix offers this
rather defensive aside:
Der etwaige Leser verzeihe mir diese Abschweifung ins rein Betrachtende . . . Allein ich
erachte es fr meine Pflicht, ihn nach Mglichkeit mit den Eigentmlichkeiten meines
Lebens zu vershnen, oder aber, wenn dies unmglich sein sollte, ihn beizeiten vom
Weiterblttern in diesen Papieren abzuhalten. (309!)

The similarities with the narrative situation that provoked the previous apology in
Chapter 5 (ich msste mir vorwerfen, etc.) are obvious: the narrator pauses to
note how he has departed from a straightforward report of factual details and
190

slipped into analytical elaboration of more abstract issues. But the differences in
his relationship with the reader are equally obvious. Whereas before the right to
judge was retained by Felix alone {ich msste mir vorwerfen), here it is yielded
to the possible reader; whereas before Felix admitted to no obligation to his
reader (beyond style), here he most emphatically does. For whereas before he
claimed that ich lediglich mein eignes, eigentmliches Leben vortrage, here he
allows the added responsibility, ihn [den Leser] nach Mglichkeit mit den Eigentmlichkeiten meines Leben zu vershnen, that is, actively and consciously to
mediate, to accommodate his personal, original life to the concerns and expectations of his reading public. And as he decided then, these expectations were to
include not only a concern for stylistic and moral decorum, but also for art-work,
for aesthetically disciplined artifice - for subjecting his character to the codes and
controls of literary creation. We cannot afford to lose sight of the effect of the
narrator's increasing realization of his relationship with his reader, and that is the
increasing de-realization of his relationship with his character: the paper-work
made more conscious is bound to make the character just that - more consciously
paper-work.
The shift in the optic of Felix's art away from the intimate and monologic and
toward the public and performative - or if you will, toward the dramatic and dialectic - receives emphatic expression in the apostrophe that opens the following
chapter: Unbekannter Leser! (311). And the motivation behind the apostrophe
is equally significant. Felix is about to recount his first sexual encounter, and this
causes him to pause: Nicht ohne zuvor die gelufige Feder beiseite gelegt... zu
haben, betrete ich hiermit ein Gebiet, etc. (311). Felix desires to strike the right
tone, affect the appropriate style in den folgenden Zeilen, not only out of his
own inclinations, nor only out of his respect for his reader's moral sensibilities,
but also and more importantly out of respect for his reader's literary sensibilities.
That is, he wants to give his audience a suitably literary character. Felix explains,
Ich bin weit entfernt, mich ausfhrlich ber eine Episode verbreiten zu wollen,
die zu gewhnlich ist, als dass ihre Einzelheiten das gebildete Publikum fesseln
knnten (313). Felix displays here a deference to the aesthetic interests he imputes to his reader - and we note how through this imputation, the reader is himself further fashioned and >improved< (gebildet) - which enforces both an editorial discretion and literary stylization on his character. The personal, original
life is thereby, on the one hand, more and more suppressed (or omitted) and replaced by concerns for a well-proportioned and disciplined Kunstwerk and, on
the other, itself invested with all the tastefulness of its retrospective literary representation. By that most essential act of artefaction and animation, style becomes
character, aesthetic propriety a kind of moral propriety, and public notions of
literary decorum private attributes of spiritual persuasion.
Thus, when Felix closes off this episode with the claim, Hiemit verlasse ich
diese Materie, bei deren Bearbeitung ich den Kanon des Schicklichen keinen
191

Augenblick durchbrochen zu haben glaube (315), he is calling our attention to a


rather complex set of interrelated points. First, simply to his narratorial presence
and process and implicit awareness of his implicit reader; for as modest as such a
gesture may seem, it nonetheless arrests our focus on the interceding paper-work.
Second, to his increased awareness of his original life as literary material, and his
report as a working, or rather reworking, of that material. And third, to his reworking of that material as explicitly involving the accommodation of his character to canonical, that is, literary (as well as moral) standards and controls, both
attributed to and generated by the reader. The reader himself becomes more
tasteful, shaped and determined by the imposed, imputed norms; but so too
and in turn does Felix's character, upon whom this consequent, code-controlled
literalization ultimately and inevitably devolves.84
We can see, then, that something of a tension has built up between the twin
pulls of Felix's literary endeavor, the desire on the one hand to render an unshaped, im-mediate, and intimate account of his first-person character and, on
the other, to produce ein schnes und regelmssiges Kunstwerk of appropriate
literary character. This tension comes to a head at the beginning of Book II,
where Felix openly admits not only to the prominent role the reader has played all
along in his writing, but also to the attendant pressure toward a more radical fictionalization of his material:
Lange haben diese Papiere unter Verschluss geruht... Denn obgleich ich auf den vorstehenden Seiten mehrfach versichert habe, dass ich diese Denkwrdigkeiten hauptschlich und in erster Linie zu meiner eigenen Unterhaltung und Beschftigung aufzeichne, so will ich nur auch . . . eingestehen, dass ich insgeheim . . . beim Schreiben doch
auch der lesenden Welt einige Rcksicht zuwende . . . Da aber musste mir die Frage vorlegen, ob wahrhaftige und bescheiden der Wirklichkeit sich anschliessende Vertraulichkeiten aus meinem Leben mit den Erfindungen der Schriftsteller wrden wetteifern
knnen. (322)

Felix's response to the challenge is, characteristically, split. Whereas on the one
hand he still intends to report his bescheiden der Wirklichkeit sich anschliessenden intimacies (and we duly note that this approximation, this Gleichnis, is as
close as Felix ever cares to come to reality), on the other he nonetheless intends to
report them in such a way that they compete more successfully with the inventions of novelists for the entertainment of his audience. The obvious implication
is that, in his own way, Felix intends to be equally novelistically inventive in his
handling of his character-self (and we duly note the self-citation, in erster Linie
zu meiner eigenen Unterhaltung, which in turn exposes the specific force to the
similarly repeated Rcksicht: the artefaction has already begun, the solution
84

192

None of this excludes the possibility for Felix to improvise on the reader's values, to
engage in a process of deformation through seeming conformation such as that described in relation to the Erbschaft in our second section.

preceded the dilemma). His final promise in this proemio chapter underscores his
intended foregrounding of refined literary design in a modest way. He assures us,
Ich beabsichtige, mir dabei, was Reinlichkeit des Stiles und Schicklichkeit des
Ausdrucks betrifft, womglich eine noch grssere Sorgfalt aufzuerlegen als bisher (323), a strategy which, through the detour of a more clean, proper, and stylized reader, translates into similarly improved, and similarly literary, character.
But what follows reveals a realization of literary machinations and contamination
that exceeds even this admitted escalation in literary design: Felix rises, as it were,
to the literary occasion, and this has important repercussions for both reader and
character.
This more consciously literary handling of his self and reader manifests itself
in a number of ways. At its simplest, we have direct addresses to the reader which
emphasize Felix's greater awareness of and concern for the audience's independent and detached perspective on his report - an independence and detachment,
moreover, which become matched by the narrator's own perspective. For example, when Schimmelpreester announces, jetzt komme ich drittens zu unserem
Kostmkopf, Felix slips in the parenthetical aside, (Der Leser versteht die in
diesem Namen enthaltene Anspielung) (333). As innocuous a remark as this may
seem (and be), it nonetheless hints at a subtle shift in Felix's attitude toward his
seif: a certain literary distance from that self, an optic which almost makes that
self more of an independent creature of the text than an attached, existential part
of his own identity. Felix comes, that is, to view himself from as detached and
literary a position as does the reader, while still maintaining an equally detached because equally literary - position from that reader. The same codes and controls
come to mediate both relationships and to shape both roles.
In the same mode, when Schimmelpreester admits to his powerlessness in relation to Felix's military obligations, Felix observes, So sah ich mich in einem so
kitzligen Falle allein auf mich selbst gestellt, und der Leser wird sehen, ob ich seiner Herr wurde (335). Here Felix momentarily occludes our access, and his own,
to his experience in an admittedly modest attempt to create literary suspense and
arouse readerly curiosity (cf. bis ich nach Paris abgehen oder zweifarben Tuch
wrde anlegen mssen, 339). That is, he begins consciously and purposefully to
arrange, dispose, and manipulate his reader and his original material according to
literary, and specifically novelistic, principles of calculation and design, to which
he calls attention. Quite simply, his life begins to become literature as Felix depersonalizes, de-realizes, and formalizes his relationship with his character and
his reader, and thereby gains literary control over both.
Similar occlusions calculated to maintain readerly interest and apportion
proper proportion to the represented material are at work in the opening lines of
the chapter immediately preceding the conscription episode, Chapter 4: Geschwind schlpfe ich ber die ersten, verworrenen Tage hin, die unserer Ankunft
in Frankfurt folgten, denn . . . [ich] msste besorgen, durch eine breite Schilde-

rung unserer damaligen Umstnde den Missmut des Lesers zu erregen (336).
Again, Felix manipulates access to reality for literary effect, arranging the highlights and tempo, the perspective and shadows (e.g., Ich schweige von, Ich
schweige auch von); again, he forms and deforms his character to aesthetic controls, concerned to accommodate the (equally formed and deformed) reader; and
again, he calls emphatic attention to his literary designs, his interceding work and
mediatory presence between reader and character, reader and reality, or rather:
reader and representation. Especially coming here at the opening of its chapter,
this sentence advertises how Felix is novelistically staging his character
throughout, binding him to literary conventions, and presenting him as moving
as much through his text as through his original life. The implicit consequences or
results of this increasingly literalized, formalized, and de-personalized relationship with his character can most clearly and forcibly be seen later on in Chapter 4,
when Felix actually begins to present himself in the third-person: Nun seht den
unscheinbar gekleideten Jngling, wie er, allein, freundlos und im Getriebe verloren die bunte Fremde durchstreicht! (340). Felix is no longer himself, but split,
fragmented into a literary creator and a literary creation, a self who creates textual artifice and a self who is a creature of that textual artifice. This is, we should
note, radically different from the initially conceived split between the elderly memorialist and dem fremden Wesen of his earlier self, for then the split was determined by nature, but here by art. And as Felix himself might say, this new relationship to his character-self is als ein Produkt der Selbstberwindung zu wrdigen: the narrator realizes his seif as literary character by de-realizing,
destroying, and violating the original, natural, and immediate grounding of that
self in - himself.
We should just briefly note that Mann was particularly concerned to maintain
and even augment the increasingly self-conscious practice of the narrator, his
more literary handling of his self and more active engagement with the reader
when he (Mann) reworked the ending of Chapter 4 for the 1954 edition (the chapter breaks off in mid-sentence in the 1937 edition). A few representative examples.
In the paragraph that begins, O Szenen der schnen Welt!, Mann has Felix
explicitly identify himself as an Erzhler (als solcher bettige ich mich doch
auf diesen Blttern, 344), a slight but significant move away from the mere memorialist or confessor of a less literarily conceived enterprise. Moreover, Felix
makes the self-identification as he discusses with his reader his awareness of the
codes for literary production, and especially of the principles governing plotting,
principles that he is quite self-consciously intending to transgress. A bit later on,
Felix begins a paragraph, Schwrmer und Gaffer! hre ich den Leser mir zurufen . . . Gedenkst du mich durch dein ganzes Buch hin mit solchen . . . Quisquillen
. . . zu unterhalten? (346). Here Felix actually gives his reader a voice, a dramatic
presence and occasion to express his demand for entertaining, that is, code-controlled Kunstwerk. He goes even further and (explicitly) makes his reader
194

make his character: Drcktest auch wohl, bis etwa ein Konstabier dich weitertrieb, Stirn und Nase an grosse Glasscheiben . . . ? - So tat ich - und bin berrascht, wie treffend der Leser . . . meine Schaugensse wiederzugeben weiss
(346). In the 1937 version, the same passage was simply rendered in the declarative
first-person (Ich drckte, etc.): its revision brings out not only Felix's more
playful and agonistic relationship with his reader, but also his more playful attitude toward his character-self, who is become more and more a plaything between himself and his reader. 8 ' In fact, Felix even goes so far as to have his reader
become his character (gerade als htte er [der Leser] selbst seine Nase an den
erwhnten Scheiben plattgedrckt). While still maintaining a certain critical,
calculated distance from the reader's position, Felix nonetheless gives graphic
expression here to that dialectical process of literalization in which both his reader and character are joined: where the reader is increasingly fashioned in Felix's,
and Felix in the reader's image, and both according to the codes of novellistic
fiction.
Finally, in the last paragraph of the 1954 edition, Felix declares das sage ich
[>jedes Wort sei an und fr sich und als solches bereits eine Phrase<], der, begriffen in dem Bildungswerk meiner Lebensbeschreibung, einem belletristischen
Ausdruck gewiss die erdenklichste Sorgfalt zuwendet (348^). Here Felix pointedly situates the Bildungswerk at the level of his narratorial artifice; he calls
emphatic attention to the literalization, the belletristics to which he subjects his
material; and he implicitly notes the de-naturing, the de-realization and depersonalization to which such a literary embedding exposes his character-self (jedes
Wort eine Phrase). In these various reworkings, then, Mann not only highlights
the growing thematic importance of Felix's literary performance, his literary handling of his self and his dialectic engagement with the reader. He also highlights
the growing consciousness of that importance, Felix's increasing exploration of his
own operation of narratorial artifice and his character's condition as artifice, his
increasingly self-reflexive interest in his own activity and its effects on and possibilities for his character, and his reader. And this brings him, and us, to the conscription scene.

' Querido, 1937, p. 139. Cf. Eva Schiffer, Changes in an Episode: A Note on Felix
Krull, MLQ 24 (1963) 257-262; Dorothea Ader, Sprachliche Zeichen ironischer
Erzhlweise: Zu Thomas Manns Bekenntnisse des Hochstaplers Felix Krull,* WW 20
(1970) 86-102; Anthony W. Riley, Die Erzhlkunst im Alterswerk von Thomas Mann
unter besonderer Bercksichtigung der Bekenntnisse des Hochstaplers Felix Krull,
Diss. (Tbingen, 1958), pp. 120-122. Cited by Khner, 295-297.

"95

VI.

Conscription

In the opening paragraph of the conscription scene, Felix is especially concerned


to establish what follows as a narrative performance, and thus too to compel the
reader to confront the consequent duplication of both character and narrator
staging a fiction, or more specifically: of both consciously creating an artificial,
textual self. The first sentence initiates the duplication: both its subject and topic
seem equally applicable to either Felix and his respective upcoming performance;
both must now remember their responsibilities vis--vis der heiklen Frage
[s]eines militrischen Verhltnisses. And the generalization that follows, which
discusses die freudige Beklommenheit, die wir empfinden, wenn wir im Begriffe
sind, unsere Fhigkeiten an einer grossen, ja bergrossen Aufgabe zu messen
(349), seems similarly calculated to reflect the implicit, double reference to the
intentions, skills, and undertaking of both character and narrator. The implicit
becomes explicit when Felix suddenly breaks off the generalization in midsentence:
- hier muss ich meiner Feder Zgel anlegen und der Versuchung, gleich alles vorauszusagen, aus Berechnung noch etwas widerstehen. Denn da sich nun . . . das Vorhaben
in mir befestigt, dieses Schriftchen . . . der Presse zu bergeben und vor die ffentlichkeit zu bringen, so tte ich unrecht, wenn ich mich nicht den hauptschlichsten
Regeln und Maximen unterwrfe, von denen die Kunstverfasser, um Neugier und
Spannung zu erzeugen, sich leiten lassen. (349)

This is Felix's most emphatic inclusion of his own work alongside that of artproducers (the repetition of Spannung and Felix's converted commitment to it
are just one index to the distance traversed since the report of his theater visit),
and we might well consider exactly what such an inclusion involves and how it
effects our reading of what follows. To begin, we see Felix as narrator determined
to replace system for impulse, to substitute literary Berechnung and its accompanying secrecy and occlusion for the more natural Versuchung, gleich alles vorauszusagen. In this small but important way, Felix fine-tunes the alignment
of his narratorial practice with his diegetic, or narrated practice: for the
Berechnung and its (exposed) secrecy have their clear counterparts in the great
thoroughness and scientific precision and coolest consideration and most
delicate forethought that Felix as character brings to bear on his undertaking as
well. Neither will allow us to read his performance as natural or un-mediated:
each insists that we witness the work, the interceding artifice and consciousness.
The functional identity is even more extensive and essential than this. As an
indispensable part of his narratorial calculation, Felix reveals how he will subject
himself to and let himself be led by the rules and codes of Literature; that is,
how he will assimilate or accommodate himself, his performance, and his character to an established model-text, and how he will accept his imitation of that text
196

as his code of (writerly) conduct. This not only brings Felix's narratorial program
into ever closer equivalence with the author's as well as, from a slightly different
perspective, with the reader's, and thus invites the full play of collapse and confusion between these various texts and consciousnesses. It also brings Felix's narratorial program ever closer to that of his character, who we remember will also
subject himself to the dictates of his model text, der Druckschrift klinischen
Charakters. In this more involved, self-reflexive, and yet still safely distinguishable way, then, we have a further functional equivalence between the narrator's and character's mimetic activities: as the one to his model text, so the other
to his.
The foregrounding of the model-text at each level seems especially to invite
the interplay of these equivalent orders of fiction and consciousness as well.
However, it is Felix's even more fundamental foregrounding of his own
Schriftchen which makes the fusion and collusion far more radical and, almost
inevitably, far more violent, too. As we discussed above, Felix's Schriftchen, by
which his past, original self is transformed into a present literary creation, doubles with the Druckschrift by which his character will transform his original
self into his literary creation. The collusive duplication allows the character to
join in the artifice of the narrator as an extension, or replica, of his own; it also
allows the narrator to join in the artifice of the character as a reflection, or replica,
of his own. Each operation involves a somewhat different, though related, increment in consciousness, but each also involves a corresponding increment in dehumanization. The character can only share in the narrator's artifice by exposing his
own essential artefaction and embedded textuality; and the narrator can only find
himself in his character's artifice by animating him with his own invasive Geist,
or book. And this is the point, the vital point. The multiple texts exposed at the
outset - the Druckschrift, the Schriftchen, and the implicit model-text generating the Regeln und Maximen for the narrator - not only aggressively
advertise the mimetic conditions at stake in the episode. They also fuse essentially
with the thematic subject matter of the con-scription scene and Felix's equivalents attack, which of course is very much about this operation of technical
artefaction and textual animation and its effects on character.
Because we have been cultivated - have had our own readerly, literary skills
fashioned by Felix, so that we are now prepared to play our own active, conscious, and code-controlled part, to match our own work and coolest consideration against Felix's86 - we can anticipate several major features of Felix's selffictionalization, and if we sketch these out now in a general way we will be able to

8<

Note that, in the conscription scene, the reader is apostrophed as urteilender Leser
(361). The episode is conspicuously dramatic in form, and this has as much to do with
the positioning of the reader vis--vis Felix's narratorial performance as it does with
that of the doctor vis--vis his narrated one.
x

97

explore them with more precision as we proceed. First, and as discussed above:
insofar as Felix compounds his literary machinations with his original condition,
he can expect to attain to the tranquil, sure, and unself-conscious freedom and
perfection of a puppet on top of that of the original and independent artist, to
attain to etwas zwischen Tun und Geschehen, Handeln und Leiden (357). In
this, his performance will have its predecessor in that of Mller-Rose, where
alles war von einer Unberhrtheit, wie sie im wirklichen Leben nicht eine Viertelstunde lang zu bewahren wre, und sozusagen nicht von dieser Welt (288).
Mller-Rose, of course, achieved his unreality and other-worldliness with Licht
und Fett, Musik und Entfernung (294), that is, with the devices of the theater.
Felix, however, can achieve his imperturbable unreality with the devices of literature instead, devices which differ significantly from those available to a mere
actor, and not least in their increased capacity to eliminate any potentially intrusive backstage reality.
In either case, and from a slightly altered optics, the freedom and perfection of
movement and appearance are only attained by subjecting one's self to certain
codes and conventions, certain systems of stylization. In regard to Mller-Rose
we are told:
[Nichts] konnte seiner Makellosigkeit etwas anhaben, seine Bgelfalten zerrtten, seine
Glanzlichter auslschen, seine rosige Miene unangenehm erhitzen. Zugleich gefesselt
und gehoben durch die musikalischen Vorschriften, die theatralischen Frmlichkeiten,
aber frei, keck und leicht innerhalb der Gebundenheit, war sein Benehmen von einer
Anmut, der nichts Fahrlssig-Alltgliches anhaftete. (289)

We have just seen Felix, as narrator, prepared to submit his self to similar Frmlichkeiten und Vorschriften (and as character, the notion of Vor-schrift has
become concrete), and so from this same source and procedure he, too, can expect
a similar Erhebung, to become similarly frei, keck und leicht. But again, we
need to note a crucial difference. Whereas the threat to Mller-Rose's state of
grace comes from the eventual obtrusion of an all-too-human reality, it would
seem that the threat to Felix can only come from much closer to home, from the
fiction itself; since he is able to eliminate far more consequently the conditions of
reality, it seems almost inevitable that Felix also experience far more consequently
the conditions of his unreality. For Felix, the vital, dramatic tension derives from
the artifice itself, from the underside of a life nicht von dieser Welt, gefesselt
and innerhalb der Gebundenheit der Vor-schriften, the further effects of the
disfiguring and dehumanizing artefaction of his body. And it is, I suggest, just
this essential identity between grace and violence in his self-literalization that
Felix undertakes to expose and explore in the conscription scene.
Let us begin by noting some of the simplest signals to Felix's invasive and
abetting increments to his character's consciousness and some of the most basic
ways in which he initiates his character's unreality and textual immunity. For
198

example, when Felix enters the connecting passageway, he tells us, Meine Spannung war schmerzhaft, mein Herz hmmerte ohne Takt, und ich glaube wohl,
dass das Blut mir aus dem Antlitz gewichen war (355). The seemingly casual,
almost superfluous inclusion of the phrase, ich glaube wohl, dass, introduces a
site of calm consciousness immune to the agitation of the other I, a consciousness in control, observing, shaping, secure - and far from remaining superfluous to the moment, this calm distance and elevation are immediately repeated
in the character-self as ein anderes Gefhl, von freudiger Art, which fuses with
his anxious Bewegung (355).
Another, and perhaps better, example of this fluidity and conflation of consciousnesses and the ensuing, invulnerable absence-in-presence comes a bit earlier
in one of Felix's more characteristic devices for achieving this state, the generalization. Felix is still sitting in the common room with the other potential recruits:
Schwer drckte die Langweile um mich her auf die Hupter und die Gemter, ich aber
litt nicht unter ihr, denn erstens war ich von je geduldigen Wesens, kann lange ohne
Beschftigung wohl bestehen und liebe die freie Z e i t . . . (354)

By a process almost imperceptible due to the ease of the transition, Felix escapes
from the oppressive boredom of the waiting room by sliding into the present
tense, into the site of his narrator self, and so too into his detached, privileged
consciousness, his essential freedom from the strictures of the narrated reality. We
note, however, that this Aufhebung has its ambivalent effects, even at this stage.
Not only does Felix lose the heaviness of human hebetude: he loses some of the
blood to his appearance as well.
The conflation and fluidity of consciousnesses also work in the other direction
and to the opposite effect. Not only can Felix's character apparently retreat to and
join in his narrator's privileged detachment; his narrator can also, of course, invade
and take possession of his character's immediate presence. In this case, the transgression of autonomy results not in textual immunity but in textual infection. Two quick
examples: when Felix firsts enters the barracks, he reports, Noch sehe ich den
niedrigen, doch weitlufigen Balkensaal vor Augen (352); when he first enters the
inspection area, he experiences eine Empfindung, die ich als... kstlich in meinem
Gedchtnis bewahre (357). In both cases, the narrating self becomes in a sense the
experiencing self, animating his former I with his own invasive, foreign spirit,
even as in the previous cases the experiencing self becomes the narrating self, escaping from his life into his text. This two-way to-and-fro between the narrator and
character, while most evident in such relatively circumscribed instances, is nonetheless one of the most important and pervasive dynamics informing Felix as he
begins his equivalents performance, and needs to be recognized as such if we are
fully to follow the developing dynamics of that performance.
One of the most basic cases in which this performative dynamic between
character and narrator makes itself felt is in what we can call the stage directions
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or script for Felix's words and actions. Here especially the trick to Felix's claim,
was ich in der Folge sagte und tat, stellte sich gleichsam ohne mein Zutun,
comes to the fore; here especially the effects of his Maximen und Regeln are in
evidence. So for example (and at its simplest), Felix gratuitously stylizes, or codifies, his initial entrance into the common waiting room as mein bescheidener
Eintritt (352). The immodest attribution of modesty is, of course, a set part of
Felix's literary calculations according to the controlling codes of his model-text
and refined reader's expectations. And for all the conspicuous artifice to the attribution, we still see how Felix's character benefits from his narrator's literary
Zutun and Vorschrift. Without any necessary work or contribution of his
own, he simply slides into the elevating stylization and freely suffers the substitution of the script and its coded conventions for the (perhaps similar, perhaps
merely neutral) original circumstances of the given reality.
The case becomes only somewhat more complex when Felix describes how he
goes in anstndiger doch anspruchsloser Haltung dorthin, wo Arzt und Kommission mich erwarteten (357). Again we detect the narrator's incremental formalization of his character, whom for the reader's and convention's sake he elevates, without any effort or conscious intent on his, the character's, part. But this time we are
aware that the character is also consciously and actively engaged in presenting a
formalized, pre-scripted self, not to the reader, but to the doctor and commission.
Here the character and narrator are in collusion in the codified creation of the
artificial I, so that wherever the former's artifice and style may end, limited by the
constraints of any relevant reality, the latter's can pick up and perfect the result by
increasing the available unreality. We see Felix delicately and untouchably poised
between his self-stylizations, doubly detached from the crudely factual situation,
and doubly inscribed by textual Maximen und Regeln.
Once the performance proper begins, however, the artificial I's produced by the
narrator and character no longer fully overlap. The target audiences are more distinct, in that the reader is supposed both to know more and to be differently
convinced, according, that is, to a different script and different controlling codes.
As a result, Felix's stage directions become variously charged, the work variously
exposed. We see this already in the directions for Felix's first spoken words, presented mit einer gewissen trichten, doch nicht ungeflligen Bestimmtheit (358).
The certain silly certainty seems rather patently a part of the character's artifice,
of his calculations according to his controlling script and codes. It is meant to be
naively real to the doctor but consciously accomplished to us, and so ultimately not
to affect Felix, who remains distanced, immune, and other. But the not unpleasant
certainty, while certainly still part of the character's self-stylization, seems also to
signal and so extend the narrator's strategy, to conform to his controlling script and
codes, and to have its evident antecedents in his bescheidenem Eintritt and
anstndiger doch anspruchsloser Haltung. In this case, the stylization is aimed at
convincing us, even if somewhat conspicuously exposed as a stylization: Felix
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invests his character with the invasive spirit of both their scripts. In both instances,
but from different optics, Felix remains an artifact, processed and produced; but
he thereby gains a double advantage, able to enjoy both the detached immunity from
and the abetting animation of his adjectival attributes.
A slightly different effect arises when, as part of his literary strategy for maintaining Neugier und Spannung, Felix intentionally occludes our perspective to
approximate that of the other audience. For example, after Felix has gotten the
doctor's goat with the verbal excesses of his responses, he answers his next query
in a more reserved fashion:
Ich durchlief sechs Klassen der Oberrealschule, versetzte ich leise und anscheinend
bekmmert darber, dass ich ihn befremdet und bei ihm angestossen hatte. (}6of.)

The inclusion of the caveat anscheinend is Felix's narrative device for exposing
the work and consciousness that separate both our reading of bekmmert from
that of the doctor and Felix's own character from the affect of his performance.
But whereas there are a few other such disclaimers, Felix's overall strategy is to
exclude such references: phrases such as entgegnete ich sehr leise und beschmt
(359) are actually far more characteristic than, say, leise und anscheinend beschmt. Much like his bridled feather or kein Wort weiter! Felix's stage directions are aimed at camouflage, or rather, at flaunted camouflage, at pointedly
hidden machinations and their peculiar kind of dramatic dynamism. This is, after
all, the procedure dictated by the controlling codes of his model-text and reader.
And the effect of this prescribed effacement of the interceding work and fiction
on both our reading and Felix's character is decisive. While in no case do we read
the, e.g., beschmt as real, still the absent index encourages us to collapse Felix
with his performance, to animate and contaminate him with his imitation. Even
though his character-self emphatically remains artifice, Felix's narratorial program - and in a crucial sense this is simultaneously the Novel's and the reader's
program - brings it about that he does not, cannot remain absolutely immune to
his artifice. The unreal assumes and exerts a reality of its own.
We could no doubt proceed to give a more detailed account of the effect of
Felix's coded stage directions on both our reading and his character, but let us
consider instead his operations in regard to Felix's speeches. Here especially we
sense the narrator's textual invasion and artefaction of his character's reality; here
especially we sense Felix's self-conscious exploration of the effects of that invasive
artefaction. There are many examples, most only fragmentarily convincing, or
perhaps better, only partially suspect (and there is a point to the partiality). One
of the most flagrant comes in Felix's eventual answer to the doctor's repeated
query about his school record:
Ich blieb in der Schule zurck und gedieh nicht zur Beendigung ihres Kurses, weil ein
wiederkehrendes Unwohlsein mich fter bettlgerig machte und damals hufig den
Unterricht zu versumen zwang. (361)

201

Or similarly, when Felix expands upon the symptoms of his alleged indisposition:
... ein Sausen in beiden Ohren und hauptschlich eine grosse Not und Furcht oder
vielmehr Verzagtheit des ganzen Krpers, welche endlich in heftige Wrgekrmpfe
bergeht. (363)

Felix comes across, deliberately comes across, as a narratorial, bookish fiction in


these speeches. We might even say he comes across as a stylized citation or, as the
Marquise de Venosta puts it, eine briefstellerische Fiktion (622). But the formal
issues at stake in Felix's narratorial handling of himself do not remain formal, but
rather are immediately, and self-consciously, translated into basic issues in the
episode itself. We know that Felix's character comes to his performance ready to
present himself as something of a citation of his model text. For this reason, while
certainly and essentially revealing of Felix's narratorial work and text, the excessive verbal artifice in his speech is also symptomatic of his diegetic enterprise, is
part and parcel of his character's commitment of himself to the (prior) text. This
seems especially the case in the second instance, where Felix enumerates his supposed symptoms and seems to be citing almost verbatim a sentence out of his
klinische Druckschrift, or rather, to be presenting himself as the citation. And
the bookish elegance of the first example seems to issue from a similarly preprogrammed automation or literalization of his own experience, a prior restructuring of his (past) self according to the dictates of the Druckschrift. Obviously,
Felix gains in grace, poise, and detachment by this substitution in his person and
speech of citational artifice for spontaneous response; but still, the negative, selfviolating effects of the dehumanizing textualization prove ultimately unavoidable. The doctor pointedly identifies Felix's exaltierte Redeweise (369) as an
index to the condition that occasions his equivalents: the radically dehumanizing disfigurement which Felix then undergoes seems inseparable from the exalted
eloquence elsewhere. Each derives from the same textual animation, the same
exposure of and to the unseen, controlling text.
Insofar, then, as the exaltierte Redeweise is a product of Felix's character's
text-work, we can say that in his attack he experiences the self-reflexive equivalent of his narrated existence: of himself as not himself but his re-presented
Gleichnis. But since Felix's narratorial text-work is not merely self-reflexively
implicated in his character's exalted speech, it follows that it is not merely selfreflexively implicated in the attack, either. Rather, as his abetting animation of his
character increases and begins to exceed the limits of his character's text-work,
Felix's narratorial contribution becomes more directly the primary text, the
primary effect occasioning the attack.87
87

So far we have concentrated on instances in which it is almost impossible to distinguish


clearly the narrator's from the character's fiction. There are, however, several instances
where Felix seems to avail himself of arger bertreibungen und grotesker Lizenzen,

202

This more dominantly and pervasively felt narratorial presence and control
comes to its crisis point in the speech immediately preceding and precipitating
Felix's equivalents attack. The speech rises to a rapid crescendo and, significantly, the narratorial contamination and control increase apace. E r empfing ein
kirchliches Begrbnis, Felix begins, and he pointedly tells us that his agitation
was too great for him to order and control his speech. A n d yet despite this disclaimer, Felix's speech strikes us as quite ordered and controlled, as rednerischelegant. His next sentence runs as follows:
Dafr kann ich Beweis und Papiere beibringen, dass er kirchlich bestattet wurde, und
Erkundigungen werden ergeben, dass mehrere Offiziere und Professor Schimmelpreester hinter dem Sarg schritten. (365)
If anything, Felix's language here seems unnaturally and bookishly precise for
someone in his actual situation. A n d as elsewhere, the source of this precision
and immunized elegance seems to be the hidden, automating work and text, or
rather, that illicit conflation of the character's automating work and text and the
and so to challenge the limits of an actual, original performance. Perhaps the most sustained example of this comes in the running jest Felix makes out of multiplying the
doctor's titles. Although he knows the doctor is an Oberstabsarzt, Felix initially
addresses him as Herr Generalarzt; and although the doctor specifically, and angrily,
checks him when he does so a second time, by Felix's account he still persists in his
practice, generating no less than six additional titles of address (seven in the 1925 printing). However, none of this prompts a further reaction from the doctor, and this in turn
should prompt a further reaction from us - as in fact it did from one of its very first
readers.
When Erika Mann sent her father a list for corrections and improvements to the manuscript before the 1954 publication, this jest was the only substantive point that bothered her in the early work. E.g., >Herr Lazarettkommandant< ist allzu unwahrscheinlich - da es den Arzt verrgern msste. Zum Verlesen eignet es sich - zum Lesen
nicht!; or again, der >Batallionsmedikus< [scheint] mir wiederum in seiner Unglaubwrdigkeit nicht komisch (TMS 5, 529). As the examples of the chapter devoted to
Kretschmar's lectures in Doktor Faustus and the original chapter devoted to the Twentyman family in Felix Krull show, Mann took Erika's objections quite seriously and
was prepared to rework whole chapters to answer them - when, that is, he considered
her objections not to conflict with his objectives. In this instance, Mann chose not to
alter his text, and not, I believe, because he disagreed as to the effect of the joke on the
reader, but because the effect Erika described is exactly the one he wanted. The repeated appellations do strike us as unbelievable; they would have to annoy the doctor, if he
actually heard them; and whereas they are not suited to what Erika calls Lesen, they
are suited to what she calls Vorlesen, a presentation of the episode that deliberately
exploits its essential narratorial dimension. However, the unreal narration to which
they call attention and belong is Felix's own. He freely invents and exaggerates details
to entertain his fiction-hungry audience (ein Erzeugnis seines Eifers zu unterhalten),
even if this means ostentatiously flaunting his character's fictional, textual status. And
this is the point: even if the jest didn't happen in the episode, it nevertheless is intricately involved in what is happening, the experience of textually embedded and unreal
existence.

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narrator's. (We should note, too, how Felix is prepared to furnish the paper-work
that backs up what he is saying, since in a related, formal sense this is very much
at issue in what he says.)
The extent to which it is the latter's and not the former's work and text that are
in control - and, consequently, motivate the incipient equivalents - becomes
ever more apparent and insistent. In Felix's next sentence, where he claims to be
losing even more control and yet where the language again evinces complete control, certain phrases begin emphatically to stop our reading at the verbal surface:
Geistlicher Rat Chateau erwhnte selbst in seiner Gedchtnisrede . . . dass das Schiesszeug unversehens losgegangen sei, als mein Vater prfungsweise damit hantiert habe,
und wenn er nicht vllig Herr seiner selbst war, so geschah es, weil gross Ungemach
uns heimgesucht hatte. (365)

Felix's use of the word das Schiesszeug is eccentric enough to attract attention in itself. But it does so all the more because the entire phrase - Schiesszeug/unversehens/losgehen - has been used by Felix as narrator already,
when he first recorded his meeting with Chateau (325: and we note how Felix
presents his speech as coming from a memory-text, since again in a related,
formal sense this is very much at issue). The (self-)citation is deliberate and
significant. It openly betrays the narrator's textual possession and literary
artefaction of his character: if the character seems to be losing control, this is
because the narrator can be seen to be taking control; and if the narrator's fiction seems ever more aggressively exposed, the exposure to the fiction seems
ever more aggressive, too.
The second especially suspicious phrase in this sentence is advertised as such
by Felix himself. He intrusively interrupts his report to say, Ich sagte >gross
Ungemach< und gebrauchte auch sonst einige ausschweifende und trumerische
Ausdrcke (365^). Such an aside exposes more artifice than it accounts for.
While ostensibly intended to render credible the phrase as original, it still
insists that we witness at this point the literary artifice that constitutes both Felix's performance and, more essentially, his threatened, destabilized condition.
(Again we note the related, formal relevance to Felix's claim that, if he wasn't fully his own master, that is because gross Ungemach, i.e., literary language had
afflicted him [uns].) Moreover, the expression trumerische Ausdrcke
works to the same effect. While the appeal to the dreamlike should naturalize
the marked strangeness to Felix's phrasing, as we have already seen in this novel it
also immediately signals the conscious, though concealed, work and text which
supply the automating impulses to the character's consciousness and actions. All
dream effects here are also conscious narratorial effects, and the connection is all
the more decisive when such literary Ausdrcke are at issue, and especially
Ausdrcke which so emphatically bear the stamp of Felix's peculiarly literary prose.
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If we are unsure about the precise origin of gross Ungemach, we are left in
no doubt about the following dreamlike expression. For next comes this: >Der
Ruin hatte mit hartem Knchel an unsere Tr geklopft,< sagte ich ausser mir,
indem ich sogar zur Erluterung mit dem gekrmmten Zeigefinger in die Luft
pochte (366). When Felix first recited the financial collapse of his father and
family in Book I, he wrote, der Ruin pochte, um mich bildlich auszudrcken,
mit hartem Knchel an unsere Tr (317). As Felix rather loudly insists, the formulation is one of his proudly stylized, literary images, that is, pointedly part of
his narratorial artifice. When it reappears here as a kind of citation, it all the more
pointedly exposes the dream expression as again part of the narratorial work and
text, and so stops us at the verbal surface, dehumanizing and derealizing Felix in
both his words and actions.
The effect of the citation, or of the substitution for the original self of the citation, is twofold. On the one hand, even as the cited text, the foregrounding of the
narrator's text, forces us to confront Felix as literary artefact, it also reinforces
Felix's detached superiority over the narrated reality, his privileged absence-inpresence and unaffected freedom from the engaged reality. On the other hand, the
same act of citation which so forcibly prevents us from taking Felix and his performance as real and gives him his immunizing Unberhrtheit at this moment
can also be seen to be exerting its own reality on Felix, to be animating and possessing him with its own evocative, aggressive power. Thus, Felix's claim to be
ausser sich has an incisive aptness: it expresses succinctly and exactly the way
what is in him is the narrator's outside text, his invasive, foreign, literary spirit.
In fact, Felix's narratorial citation so completely possesses, automates, and overpowers his character-self at this point that it becomes translated directly into
bodily effects, zur Erluterung.
This automating textual possession continues to mount as Felix continues to
contaminate and re-figure his character's speech with textual citations of his own
literary images; so, for example, the nets of his father's creditors reappear,
again conspicuously and impossibly joined with throat-cutting imagery.88 And
the dehumanizing, dis-figuring effects on Felix's character of this textual possession continue to be ever more graphically translated into their bodily equivalents.
As his narratorial consciousness takes greater control of his character, his character is made to experience this eclipse and surrender of his own consciousness: he
becomes unsinnig. As the narratorial text converts him into a dehumanized literary artefact, Felix's character experiences this loss of human vitality as well: he
becomes verfrbt. And as the narratorial work comes to comprise the decisive,
distorting Tun and Leistung to the performance, Felix's character also comes
to experience the equivalent of his passive, that is, suffering, distorted state: twice
Felix insists that what follows happens* to his character-self - and what hap88

For the nets, 319, 320; for the throat-cutting, 319.


205

pens, of course, is textual distortion. This is the underside to the unconscious


grace of the dehumanized puppet, made to dance by the outside and hidden,
manipulating artist, the underside to the life not in the human realm, but in
text, im Gleichnis. This is the peril to the equivalents, a peril essentially inseparable from its privilege.
And yet even in the midst of this most graphic realization of Felix's textual,
dehumanized condition, the sense of Felix's detached immunity to and conscious
control over his self-representation never disappears. The first sentence describing his attack confirms this: Mein Gesicht verzerrte sich - aber damit ist wenig
gesagt (366). Even as we are made to witness the wild distortion of Felix's features, we are also made to stop and consider the question of the aesthetic disposition of those features; to consider the character and his condition not as live, human reality, but rather as decidedly literary material. More than in any other way,
the sense of Felix as character being in control of his self-artefaction here is conveyed by Felix as narrator consciously ordering his self-composition, reflecting
upon himself as literary imitation, showing us his work, and making us see his
book. If on the one hand Felix can be said to suffer the equivalent of his textual
existence, to be possessed by its foreign, inhuman Geist, jerked about by its
automating artifice, and distorted by literary reality, on the other he can be said
still to enjoy the equivalent of his textual creation, to share in the sense of aesthetic distance, Selbstbeherrschung, and freedom from the strictures of that literary
reality. Both conditions, the infection and immunity, the constraint and detachment, result from the same commitment of the character-self to the narrator's
controlling text; and we should beware of the temptation even to think these two
apart.
One final point about Felix's narratorial reformation and deformation of his
character-self at this moment, and that concerns the constitutive in-fluence of
those other rules and codes active and at issue in the conscription scene: those of
Literature itself, the Regeln und Maximen introduced in the opening paragraph
of the episode, which equally bespeak the controlling codes of the author and
reader, and equally require the conscriptive assimilation of Felix's character and
narration to an established literary model-text. We detect this influence when Felix pauses in the middle of his description of his equivalents attack and says:
Die Abenteuer meiner Zge in einzeln durchzunehmen, die greulichen Stellungen
eingehend abzuschildern, in welche mein Mund, meine Nase, meine Brauen und meine
Wangen, kurz, alle meine Gesichtsmuskeln gerieten - und zwar unter steter Abwechselung und ohne dass eines der Missgesichter sich wiederholt htte - eine solche Beschreibung wre ein allzu weitlufiges Unternehmen. Nur soviel sei gesagt... (366f.)

We see Felix applying here the principles of editorial discretion announced in the
opening paragraph, omitting details whose expansive, immediate exposure might
arouse den Missmut des Lesers and offend against implicit codes governing literary decorum and procedure, namely, those designed to entertain and maintain
206

Neugier und Spannung. 8 ' We see the overt influence of these rules not only in
Felix's bridled feather, in his shared deliberations on his efforts to impart aesthetically proper proportion to his self-composition. We see it also in the repetition of
the words Nur soviel sei gesagt. The phrase originally appeared in the emphatic
first position of the second paragraph, connecting Felix's revelation of those
literary Regeln und Maximen with that of his character's model-text and academically precise proceedings. When the phrase reoccurs here in a context that
again unites the two model-texts and sets of rules generating their respective selffashionings, it all the more forcefully confronts us with the identity between Felix's equivalents attack and his narratorial task of making his original life into
literature: of subjecting his character to the inherited aesthetic codes of the author
and to the public aesthetic codes of the reader. At one level, we see such codes
lending grace, proportion, and control to the character; at another, we see them
imposing torture, distortion, and a kind of tyranny on the same character. In
some respects we want to maintain a distinction, to deny the violence done to
another's self by ourselves, our author, and our literary tradition. But in others,
we are forced to admit to the effect: to see the extremely ambivalent issue of life
when it becomes Literature, and Literature when it comes alive.

' We might also note Felix's emphasis on Die Abenteuer meiner Zge, especially since
he also writes just before the attack begins, nun sollte das ganz und gar Abenteuerliche
mit mir geschehen. Compare this with the sentence from the preceding chapter:
Schwrmer und Gaffer! hre ich den Leser mir zurufen. Wo bleiben deine Abenteuert (346). That das ganz und gar Abenteuerliche should happen to Felix is a requirement imposed by the reader on the narrator, and through him on to the character.
207

Chapter 4: Thomas Mann and the late Felix Krull

I.

Wiederkehr

In 1951, after an interval of almost forty years, Thomas Mann again took up the
manuscript to Felix Krull, eventually turning the early novella and its fragmentarische continuation into a novel some 400 pages long. During the intervening
years, Mann had written three major novels and several minor ones. He had also
occupied himself extensively with both classical works and, for the writing of
Doktor Faustus, with Kierkegaard's Either/Or as well.1 A crucial consequence of
these intervening developments is that, by the time he returned to Felix Krull,
Mann had fairly radically revised notions of both literature and personal identity,
each of which he increasingly came to understand in newly intertextual, mythical terms. These revised notions affected both the depiction and significance of
Felix's attempt to live im Gleichnis, and not least in the increasingly affirmative
and even humanizing cast to his life in literary imitation.
Many of the most important changes in the depiction of Felix's attempt to
construct for himself an artificial I can either directly or indirectly be traced
back to the fact that the original model for Mann's own literary imitation, namely
Manolescu's memoirs, no longer plays a determinative, formative role in the later
work. The conscription scene seems to be the last piece in which the memoirs
played a major part; they were left behind when Mann left Munich in 1933, and he
apparently made no effort to secure another copy.2 Along with the abandonment
of the Manolescu model, although in a subtler way, came the abandonment of the
1

208

Leverkiihn is reading the Either when the devil comes to visit him in Palestrina (VI,
297). See also Wysling, TMS j, p. 483. The influence of Kierkegaard's text on the later
Felix Krull might well be detected in the specific shape that Mann gives to certain episodes; for example, in his use of the Amor and Psyche myth as literary background
for Felix and Zouzou, or rather, for Loulou and Zaza; or in his original name for Maria
Pia's character, Elvira, which recalls the Don Juan myth so central to the Either as a
whole and to the Diary in particular (only after the manuscript was complete did
Mann go back and change the name to Maria: see TMS 5, p. 521). However, the more
important influence would be in the introduction of erotic love as the determining
force to Felix's existence, in the reconception of Felix as a Liebesknstler. See below.
See Eva Schiffer, Manolescu's Memoirs: The Beginnings of >Felix Krull<? Monatshefte fr deutschen Unterricht 52, 6 (i960) 292.

Nietzschean one, or ones, as well. As we will see, the changes to the character of
Felix's life as literature that follow from the letting go of Manolescu are also those
that entail a subdued but determined turning away from the ideals, and problems,
derived from Nietzsche that dominate the earlier work.3
Perhaps the most conspicuous of these changes is in the de-emphasis on the
sheer amount of geheimen Fleisses, wissenschaftlicher Berechnung, and
khlster Besonnenheit that go into the making of the represented self. It was
this dual sense of incessant industry and studied calculation in the construction
of the counterfeit I that most directly connected the figure of the confidence
man with the seducer figures in Ovid's Ars and Kierkegaard's Diary, and, with
them, with the figure of the fiction-making artist. And it was the same substitution of system for impulse that most forcibly occasioned the somewhat violent
dehumanization to Manolescu's, and then Felix's, character. Both the labor and
ratio and their accompanying dehumanization continue to play some part in the
later Felix Krull; but Mann's new conception of Felix's life in imitation also dictated that they no longer play as decisive a part.
One of the best places to see this shift in the role of ratio and labor in the
construction of Felix's character comes just where the continuity seems most evident, namely: when Felix visits the Stoudebecker Circus and attends to the performances of the acrobats, clowns, and especially Andromache, La fille de
l'Air.4 Felix continuously stresses the almost intimidating amount of hidden,
physical effort and calculation to the phantastischen, an die Grenze des Menschenmglichen gehenden, aber mit leichtem Lcheln ... vollbrachten Leistungen of all these Artisten, geschult zur Grazie im ussersten Wagnis (455). He
is particularly taken by the stern earnestness and self-discipline of Andromache,
that artist in artificial flight far above dem gemeinen Grund (460).' He notes for
instance, dass die prziseste Berechnung Lebensbedingung war bei allem, was
5

I do not intend to claim that Nietzschean models do not continue to apply to the later
work, or even that Mann did not continue to be influenced by Nietzsche in writing the
later work. Certain Nietzschean ideals obviously do persist, perhaps most noticeably
those concerning cheerfulness and the lightness of being; and as Mann himself points
out, his relations with Nietzsche are too entangled ever to be ex-plicated. Nonetheless,
I do intend to argue that the Nietzschean models of self-fashioning that dominated the
earlier work no longer dominate - but the argument is made more cleanly through the
example of Manolescu.
Like much else in the later work, the first indications of the Circus episode can already
be found in Mann's notes taken during his first work period on the novel: see TMS 5,
p. 412. In this case, the material proved ideally suited for his self-reflective revaluation
of the early work.
Andromache can also been seen to incorporate certain Nietzschean ideals, or more precisely: certain imagery systems dear to Nietzsche's thought. See Marion Faber, Angels
of Daring: Tightrope Walker and Acrobat in Nietzsche, Kafka, Rilke, and Thomas
Mann (Stuttgart: Akademischer Verlag Hans-Dieter Heinz, 1979), pp. 5-43 and 124164. Thus, Felix's reflections on her are also indirectly reflections on him.

209

sie tat, versteht sich am Rande; or similarly, Diese stets aufs Haar genau auszukalkulierende Knappheit der Bedingungen liess erbeben (460). Of course, Felix
uses the same basic terminology to describe his own performances in the early
work, most notably in the school-sick and conscription scenes. And in a milder
form, it also applies to the Felix of the later work. We see it in the schooled precision to his performative gestures when serving or eating, which always keeps his
actions artificial and his self ludically detached; in the study and industry he devotes to composing his counterfeit letter to his, or rather de Venosta's, parents; or
similarly in the rather programmatic declaration he makes to de Venosta himself:
Ich bin gar nicht gewohnt, das Leben als einen Spass aufzufassen, lieber Marquis.
Leichtlebigkeit ist nicht meine Sache, gerade im Spass nicht: denn es gibt Spsse, die
sehr ernst genommen werden wollen, oder es ist nichts damit. ( 5 1 6 - 5 1 7 )

It is not without reason, then, that Felix watches these circus performances in
nachdenklichster Hingezogenheit ... wie einer, der sich vom >Bau,< vom Fach
fhlt (463). The acrobats, clowns, and especially Andromache are all functional
figures for Felix himself, and not least in the hidden labor and ratio that go into
the construction of their characters.
Moreover, in considering the effect of this hidden industry and calculation on
the characters of these Artisten, Felix is moved to make some of his most pointed observations concerning the dehumanization inherent to the self as artwork.
And in keeping with his own ideals in the early work, Felix not only recognizes
the dehumanization, he also affirms it. He says for instance, Alles muss
>menschlich< sein fr die Gewhnlichkeit, und man glaubt wunder wie warmherzig wissend hinter den Schein zu erblicken, wenn man das Menschliche dort
aufzufinden und nachzuweisen behauptet (458). For Felix, it is just this
Menschliche that these artists have labored to overcome, as he explains vis--vis
the clowns:
[S]ind sie, sage ich, Menschen, Mnner, vorstellungsweise irgendwie im Brgerlichen
und Natrlichen unterzubringende Personen? N a c h meinem Dafrhalten ist es blosse
Sentimentalitt zu sagen, sie seien auch Menschen . . . Ich erweise ihnen Ehre, ich verteidige sie gegen humane Abgeschmacktheit, indem ich sage: nein, sie sind es nicht, sie
sind ausgefallene . . . dem Leben nicht angehrige . . . kobolzende Zwitter aus Menschen
und nrrischer Kunst. ( 4 5 7 - 4 5 8 )

Although Felix first frames these considerations in reference to the clowns, he


goes on to explain that they pertain more essentially to Andromache. He asks
several times, War Andromache menschlich ... hinter ihrer ... tatschlich unnatrlichen Produktion? (460). Again he answers in the negative, and again her figure provides something of a functional, reflective equivalent for his own: Felix,
too, abandons in his abenteuerlichen Kunstleistungen the merely human and
natural realm for a privileged, perilous existence in studied artifice.
But despite Felix's evident admiration for these various, cavorting hybrids,
and despite his reflective identification with the professional industry and design
210

in the construction of their characters, there is still an underlying sense of reserved rejection of all these figures and, with them, of the ideal of himself that
dominated the earlier work. The sense of subdued disavowal can be felt not only
in the breaking off of relations with his would-be professional companion, Stanko, that closes the chapter, nor only in the related Bosheit with which he exerts
a kind of counterpressure to the proffered performances (463). It can also be seen
in his equivocal response to Andromache herself. One of the dehumanizing
effects to the study and industry in Andromache's self-fashioning is that she has
attained to a kind of artificial androgyny. Her body has developed an unnaturally masculine cast as a result of her artwork, a cast which effectively annihilates both her feminine and human nature. This limits her to only an aesthetic
relation to another, to only a shared, artificial flight with her partner, with no
possibility of a more human relationship:
Dies war ihre Art mit dem Manne zu verkehren; eine andere war bei ihr nicht erdenklich,
denn zu wohl erkannte man, dass dieser strenge Krper das, was andere der Liebe geben,
an seine abenteuerliche Kunstleistung verausgabte. Sie war ... also kein Mensch. (460)
For all his reverence for and identification with Andromache's life as artwork,
achieved by virtue of both labor and ratio, the exclusion from that life of the possibility of love occasions an emphatic, even if sympathetic, distancing by Felix.
That is, if there seems to be a noticeable lessening in the role of geheimen Fleisses and wissenschaftlicher Berechnung to the makeup of Felix's character in
the later work, and so a weakening of this tie to the figures in the Ars and Diary,
that is because there is a corresponding strengthening in the role of love to his
makeup, and so too a new and equally essential tie to these previous figures. Felix
becomes ein Erotiker, or as Diane puts it, ein Liebesknstler (444).'
Of course, this reconception of Felix's character requires some rather delicate
reworking of his earlier history. It is just this that we see in the two chapters Mann
revised most extensively to accommodate the early work to the new, namely : Chapters 4 and 6 of Book II, each of which now pointedly develops the new erotic
dimension to Felix's person. The need for the makeover is obvious. In Book I, 6,
after his first sexual encounter with the house-servant, Genovefa, Felix expressly
declares his rejection of a life devoted to sexual pleasure and love, weil mein
schwieriges und gefhrliches Leben Anforderungen an meine Spannkraft stellte,
denen sie unmglich htte gengen knnen, wenn ich mich auf so durchgreifende
Art htte ausgeben wollen (314). Although at times he indulged, his earnest sensibility always brought him back to einer strengen und angespannten Fhrung, for
as he explains, der tierische Liebesvollzug... entnervt uns (315). That is, the early
Felix was clearly cast in the mode of the similarly enervated, desexualized Andro-

For Felix as now ein Erotiker, see Mann's letter to Paul Amann, December 23, 1951.
Quoted in part by Wysling, TMS 5, p. 285.
211

mache. For him, too, the difficult demands of his life as artwork emphatically
excluded him from the common ground of human sexuality - which he both despised as common, and feared as somehow too real, too overwhelming.
That is, until Felix encounters the other circus-artist in his life, Rosza, in the
reworked Book 11,6, which now facilitates the transition to a new constellation of
these concerns. Rosza intervenes to convince Felix,
dass ich zum Liebesdienste geschaffen und ausgezeichnet sei, ja mir selbst und der Welt
viel Lust und Freude bereiten wrde, wenn ich einem so przisen Berufe Folge leistete
und mein Leben gnzlich auf diesem Grunde errichten wrde. Sie aber wolle meine
Lehrmeisterin sein und mich in eine grndliche Schule nehmen. (381)

Under her strict, preceptorial charge, Felix is made to devote his study and industry
to the precise profession of love, to an ars amatoria: no longer are the two always
completely at odds. That this amounts to a fairly radical revision of Felix's makeup is
acknowledged by the author/narrator, in that he specifically recalls the earlier passage in which he described the enervating effects of sexual love on his character. He
answers the contradiction with a sovereign Nun denn, followed by a substitution
of the concept benervend for that of entnervend (384). And he specifically
attributes to Rosza's ars amatoria the new and decisive Verfeinerung to his character: Denn ich weiss bis in den Grund meines Systems hinab, dass ich die Stckchen meines Lebens nicht mit so viel Feinheit und Eleganz htte vollfhren knnen,
ohne durch Rozsas schlimme Liebesschule gegangen zu sein (385).
The positive introduction of the erotic sphere and the corresponding deemphasis in the negative role of labor and ratio are, then, the most conspicuous
changes on the narrated plane which follow from the abandonment of Manolescu's memoirs for Mann's literary imitation, and of Nietzsche's models for Felix's
life in imitation. Another, equally significant change comes in the similarly deemphasized role of the narrator. In the early Felix Krull, the narrator played a crucial, and in some ways the crucial role in Felix's efforts at imitation and self-artefaction, and not least insofar as he mediated the functional identity and lively
interplay between the author's and character's mimetic activities. On the one
hand, as narrator Felix strove continuously and conspicuously to conduct his
own writerly performance according to the dictates of Literature, that is, of his
tradition, his author, and his reader. On the other, he also strove continuously,
and again conspicuously, to transform his character-self into a distinctly literary
character, by assimilating his original life to the codes and conventions of his
chosen model text(s). As we saw, both operations involved a consequent derealization, or dehumanization, of their objects, in the one case the model-text, and in
the other the character-self. And both operations involved an indispensible
violence to their literalizing imitation, a violence as intrinsic to Felix's narratorial
efforts at derealization as to those at his intimately related realization.
In the later Felix Krull, both aspects of Felix's narratorial activity are downplayed, as is their accompanying violence. Mann continued to foreground Felix's
212

imitative and inventive literary impulses in his reworking of Book II, 4, the leadup to the conscription scene. But by his own admission he soon abandoned this
emphasis as no longer compatible with the new project. 7 N o effort is made to
maintain the apishly imitative prose in the manner of Manolescu. Rather, the
prose becomes smooth, stylistically secure, and transparent: without an aggressive dialectic with the style of the author, and without an aggressive imitation of a
literary model by either the author or Felix. N o r does Mann maintain the focus
on Felix's narratorial fashioning of his character. Although Felix continues to
present his seif retrospectively, his retrospection is no longer specifically
charged with the issues of literalization or realization. And although he continues
to cultivate a relationship with the reader, that relationship is no longer specifically charged with the issues of stylization and imitative accommodation to literary
expectations. This is not to say either that Felix's attempt as character to live in
imitation is no longer cast as the functional equivalent to an attempt to live according to the dictates of Literature, or that his character's self-realization is not
still deliberately displayed as an unnatural derealization - far from it, since if anything both are even more emphatic in the later work. But both now take place far
more directly in the interplay between the authorial and primary orders of imitation. This fundamental shift corresponds to an equally fundamental shift in the
evaluation of the no longer necessarily violent and disruptive collusion of life and
literature in the work. And it also introduces some important new strategies for
implementing the collusive interplay that effectively bypass the narrator.
Perhaps the best approach to the new interplay between the authorial and primary orders of imitation and their accompanying new collusion of life and literature is momentarily to side-step to a discussion of Mann's justly famous essay,
Freud und die Zukunft (1936). The essay has surprisingly little to say about
Freud and psychology; its real topic is Mann himself and his new understanding
of the role of literary imitation in personal identity. He begins the crucial, second
half of the essay by discussing an article by Ernst Kris, entitled Zur Psychologie
lterer Biographik. Kris describes how older biographies of artists almost autonomically incorporated into the life-stories of their protagonists certain abiding,
schematic-typical traits, biographisches Formelgut konventioneller Art, in
order to legitimate them as richtig in the sense of Wie es geschrieben steht.8
This practice, this impulse to fashion a conventional, literary I out of the
unique, individual, and original self is of course precisely that of Felix in the early
work. But whereas then the practice was perceived as essentially conscious, agonistic, dehumanizing and artifical, now it is recognized by Mann as primarily
unconscious, playful, humanizing and natural: 9

TMS 5, p. $16.
Freud und die Zukunft, IX, p. 491.
' Ibid, p. 492.
8

213

Das Leben ist tatschlich eine Mischung von formelhaften und individuellen Elementen, ein Ineinander, bei dem das Individuelle gleichsam nur ber das FormelhaftUnpersnliche hinausragt. Vieles Ausserpersnliche, viel unbewusste Identifikation,
viel Konventionell-Schematisches ist bestimmend fr das Erleben - nicht nur des
Knstlers sondern des Menschen berhaupt.
The unconscious incorporation of much Konventionell-Schematischen is decisive, both insofar as it provides the codes and models to guide one's steps with
surety and grace and, equally important, insofar as it preserves die Freiheit in der
Lebensgestaltung des Menschen. 10 That is, the possibility for self-fashioning the instinct for freedom - is now conceived as situated within, and not against,
the shaping, unconscious background. Thus, there is no need for extra-ordinary,
distortive labor and ratio in order consciously to craft the given into an individual, artistic plan. Rather, it simply - and benignly - happens, and it happens to all.
Mann quotes Kris with evident approval when he writes, Viele von uns >leben<
auch heute einen biographischen Typus." The self as fashioned literary artwork
is no longer the perverse, artificial exception. It is the happy, human rule.
Mann finds Kris' formulation of this relationship between personal identity
and (the imitation of) literary convention not only to be convincing, but also to
pinpoint precisely the place where psychological passes over into mythical
interest, the place where ich als Erzhler den Schritt vom Brgerlich-Individuellen zum Mythisch-Typischen getan habe. 12 This is the step that has been made
between the early and late Felix Krull; it is also the step taken away from Nietzsche, and especially from his aggressively conceived relationship between the selffashioning individual and his cultural, historical Erbschaft. 13 A s Mann's own
italics indicate, mythisch is the decisive word, and not least because it provides a

10

"
"
13

214

Ibid, p. 494 and 492.


Ibid. p. 492.
Ibid, p. 493.
The temptation to see this not only as a step away but as a step backwards, in retreat that is, away from the problematics of history into the timeless repose of myth - is
understandable but not, I think, entirely fair. I mean this not only in the narrow sense
that, for example, the later Felix Krull can be shown to evidence a heightened social
awareness, and even critique, of Felix's historico-cultural mileau. I mean it also in the
more general, and pertinent, sense that Mann's concern with myth does not exclude the
problematics of history. Doktor Faustas is perhaps the clearest example of the fact that,
for Mann, history and myth can be mutually incorporative. And Joseph und seine Brder is perhaps the clearest example of the fact that Mann's concern with myth is itself
historical, even improvisatorally historical, that is, a consequent, appropriative attack
on the Nazis' concern with myth, or rather, with history and myth. Of course, Felix
Krull is a quite different, less serious work than these others. But an argument could
be made that the use of myth in Felix Krull is also historical, that is, timely, insofar as it
underwrites a post-Fascist, technology age problematic of personal identity, where
standardization and substitutability have become decisive conditions for the project of
self-fashioning (see below).

new, dynamic bridge between the realms of life and literature - which however
also undergoes a key functioning through its transposition back into the literary
sphere. That is, not only does mythisch describe the newly installed, unconscious background, or model, against which the human individual shapes his
individual life. It also describes the conscious literary models against which the
author imitatively shapes his characters' lives, both forcing them to move in mimetic obedience to mythical models, and simultaneously exposing them as the
literary constructs they are. For by adopting a specifically textual schema for the
unconscious life of the individual, in which Mythus das zeitlose Schema, die
fromme Formel [ist], in die das Leben eingeht, indem es aus dem Unbewussten
seine Zge reproduziert,' 4 Mann simultaneously acquires a playful strategem for
self-consciously exposing the literary life, and copying, of his characters. As he
puts it: 1 '
Es gibt eine mythische Kunstoptik auf das Leben, unter der dieses als farcenhaftes
Spiel, als theatralischer Vollzug von etwas festlich Vorgeschriebenem, als Kasperliade
erscheint, worin mythische Charaktermarionetten eine oft dagewesene, feststehende
und spasshaft wieder Gegenwart werdende Handlung abhaspeln und vollziehen.

It is just this mythische Kunstoptik that Mann, as author, brings to bear on


Felix's individual life in the later work. As Felix makes his gradual, supposedly
unique climb through a series of social identities and encounters, Mann constantly exposes him as simultaneously moving in imitation of certain literary, mythical
models, mostly drawn from the canon of classical literature, but also from German and even from his own. !i In this way, Mann constantly casts Felix's attempt
to live im Gleichnis as the functional equivalent to a living according to the
dictates of Literature. In this way, too, he constantly flaunts Felix as an unreal,
literary artefact, as a Charaktermarionette. And as we will see, he achieves this
latter effect not only by increasingly flaunting Felix's grounding in mythical
Vor-bildern, but also his grounding in language and Poesie. The pairing is
essential insofar as it secures the fundamentally textual nature of the engaged
myths.
As Mann notes in his essay, this Kunstoptik ist ein ironisch berlegener
Blick; denn die mythische Erkenntnis hat ihren Ort nur im Anschauenden, nicht
im Angeschauten.17 That is, the author and reader are aware of the character as
moving in mimetic obedience to literary models; however, the character himself
is not. If this condition actually held for Felix, it would entail a reconfiguration of

14
15
I(

17

Freud und die Zukunft, I X , p. 493.


Ibid, pp. 497-498.
Cf. Wysling: Mit seinem sozialen Aufsteig geht der mythische Hand in Hand; or
similarly, alle Figuren [sind] teils real, teils als Verkrperung eines Mythos zu nehmen. TMS 5, p. 263 and p. 269.
Freud und die Zukunft, IX, p. 494.
2I

the basic terms of our study that effectively eliminated its central focus, namely:
how a character consciously works to fashion a literary artwork out of himself.
But Mann goes on to recuperate just this possibility: 18
Wie aber nun, wenn der mythische Aspekt sich subjektivierte, ins agierende Ich selber
einginge und darin wach wre, so dass es . . . sich seiner Typik bewusst wre?

Or similarly: 1 '
[E]s fehlt nur, dass diese [mythische] Optik in die Subjektivitt der handelnden Personen selber eingeht, in ihnen selbst als Spielbewusstsein, festlich-mythisches Bewusstsein vorgestellt wird.

Mann first raises this possibility subjunctively and as a question, and although he
goes on to grant this mythical, or literary, self-consciousness to his Joseph, we
need to be more cautious in attributing it to Felix, who clearly remains far more
naive than his biblical counterpart. After all, Felix does not consider himself
stark in der Mythologie (504), and at one point even ironically claims, dass an
mir . . . nichts Mythologisches zu entdecken ist (605). Still, with some circumspection, I think the attribution can be made. As we will see, Felix certainly does
becomes aware of his type, of the impersonal, conventional schema to his own
identity. He certainly does come to understand himself as moving imitatively in
the traces of his Vor-bilder. And perhaps most importantly, he certainly does
display the Spielbewusstsein in respect to personal identity that maintains die
Freiheit in der Lebensgestaltung. That is, Felix wields the Kunstoptik over his
own life that Mann describes, recognizing the artifice to his unique I and then
actively shaping for himself an artificial, schematic I. However, he does so without ever fully sharing in the literarily mythische Kunstoptik of the author. Felix
has as it were the functional equivalent of Mann's optic on his own identity; we
might say that he consciously works to fashion something of a literary artwork
out of himself, without being fully aware of the literary nature of that artwork.
This much I think we can argue fairly securely. But I think we can also argue a
slightly stronger claim: that Felix also participates in the awareness of himself as a
Charaktermarionette, that he participates in and contributes to the progressive
unfolding of his life in mythical, poetic terms. The exact extent of this participation and contribution is, admittedly, difficult to calibrate and control, since the
interplay between Mann's artefaction and Felix's own remains as fluid as that between the realms of das Unbelebte and Sein in Kuckuck's cosmology. Still, I
think we can show that the extent is great enough to matter.
In the early work, the narrator largely took on the burden of implementing, or
mediating, this interplay between literary artefaction and the character's reality.
In the later work, Mann introduces a new strategy that exploits the new associa18

Ibid.
' Ibid, p. 498.

216

tion between the literary and unconscious dimensions of Felix's unconscious. At


the same time, his new strategy also links this unconscious literary dimension to
the similarly introduced, and similarly unconscious, erotic dimension. As we will
see, Felix's mythical development goes hand in hand with his erotic development, and the more the one passes over into his own consciousness, so does the
other. Mann formulates the new strategy and program in the zustzlichen Betrachtung he places at the end of the first section of the new work, namely Book
11,4 It is worth quoting in its entirety:
V o n zarten und schwebenden Dingen heisst es zart und schwebend reden, und so werde
eine zustzliche Betrachtung hier behutsam eingerckt. N u r an den beiden Polen
menschlicher Verbindung, w o es noch keine oder keine Worte mehr gibt, im Blick und
in der U m a r m u n g , ist eigentlich das G l c k zu finden, denn nur dort ist Unbedingtheit,
Freiheit, Geheimnis und tiefe Rcksichtlosigkeit. Alles, w a s an Verkehr und Austausch
dazwischenliegt, ist flau und lau, ist durch Frmlichkeit und brgerliche Ubereinkunft
bestimmt, bedingt und beschrnkt. H i e r herrscht das Wort - dies matte und khle M i t tel, dies erste Erzeugnis zahmer, massiger Gesittung, so wesenfremd der heissen und
stummen Sphre der Natur, dass man sagen knnte, jedes Wort sei an und f r sich und
als solches bereits eine Phrase. Das sage ich, der, begriffen in dem Bildungswerk meiner
Lebensbeschreibung, einem belletristischen Ausdruck gewiss die erdenklichste Sorgfalt
zuwendet. U n d doch ist mein Element die wrtliche Mitteilung nicht; mein wahrstes
Interesse ist nicht bei ihr. Dieses vielmehr gilt den ussersten, schweigsamen Regionen
menschlicher Beziehung; jener zuerst, w o Fremdheit und brgerliche Bezuglosigkeit
noch einen freien Urzustand aufrechterhalten und die Blicke unverantwortlich, in
traumhafter Unkeuschheit sich vermhlen; dann aber der anderen, w o die mglichste
Vereinigung, Vertraulichkeit und Vermischung jenen wortlosen Urzustand auf das
vollkommenste wiederherstellt. ( 3 4 8 - 3 4 9 )

Felix locates his true interests, which are also the book's, in the extreme, silent
regions of human relation: that is, in the unconscious regions where sexual desire has its home and, as we have just seen, where myth has its home as well. The
silent, erotic, unconscious dream dimension to Felix's character becomes, then,
the primary dimension in which Mann carries on his secret, mythical artefaction
of his characters). However, Felix identifies two such silent states, between which
he places the realm of the word: that is, the conscious realm where social identity has its home and, as Felix says, where poetic self-fashioning has its home as
well. The verbal, social, conscious dimension to Felix's character becomes, then,
the primary dimension in which Felix carries on his own, poetic artefaction of his
character. As we will see, the two dimensions openly interplay, with the silent
mythical machinations of Felix's unconscious and Mann's Kunstoptik gradually passing over into the verbal realm of Felix's own consciousness and efforts at
self-fashioning. The exchange becomes noticeably more active as the book progresses, as does Felix's awareness of his life in book. In fact, the erotic program
of movement announced in this paragraph - from silent glances to the embrace
beyond words, with the realm of the word separating and distinguishing them exactly describes the literary program to the whole later work. Felix goes from
7

the silent g l a n c e s e x c h a n g e d w i t h the p r e - l i t e r a t e / m y t h i c a l R o s z a t o t h e e m b r a c e


b e y o n d w o r d s w i t h the f u l l y m y t h i c a l , p o s t - l i t e r a t e M a r i a P i a , w i t h his s o c i a l rise
and c o n s c i o u s s e l f - a r t e f a c t i o n i n b e t w e e n . A n d as w e n o w h o p e t o s h o w , this
s a m e m o v e m e n t a l s o d e s c r i b e s t h e c o u r s e o f t h e c h a n g e in t h e literary, m y t h i s c h e n K u n s t o p t i k : f r o m p u r e l y u n c o n s c i o u s t o (almost) c o n s c i o u s in F e l i x
himself.

II.

Das zitathafte Leben

T h e n e w p r o g r a m f o r F e l i x ' s d e v e l o p m e n t o p e n s its first stage i n t h e R o s z a c h a p ter, w h i c h t a k e s p l a c e s a l m o s t e x c l u s i v e l y in a p r e v e r b a l , p r e - c o n s c i o u s , a n d


d r e a m - l i k e w o r l d , w h e r e silent g l a n c e s p l a y a m a j o r role, t h e erotic r e i g n s u n r e strained, a n d w h e r e F e l i x s e e m s n o t y e t t o have a c q u i r e d a n y identity. 2 0 R a t h e r ,
his a c q u i s t i o n o f an i d e n t i t y c o m e s o n l y w i t h his a c q u i s i t i o n , t h r o u g h i m i t a t i o n ,
o f l a n g u a g e : b o t h c o i n c i d e w i t h his t r i p t o Paris. A f t e r i m i t a t i n g b a b y - t a l k o n t h e
t r a i n - r i d e in, F e l i x i m m e d i a t e l y e n g a g e s in s p e a k i n g F r e n c h , in v o r b e r e i t e t e n
W e n d u n g e n , w i t h the i n s p e c t o r at the b o r d e r , a n d h e j u s t as q u i c k l y a d o p t s a
n e w , p o s i t i v e e v a l u a t i o n o f die R e d e (388). 21 T h e e n t r a n c e i n t o F r a n c e is t h u s

20

Even before meeting with Rosza, Felix describes his stillen Begegnungen (374) with
ladies of fashion, carried on completely by wordless, desirous glances. H e similarly describes the silent, almost pantomime pickup routine of the prostitutes, again carried on
by suggestively wanton eyeplay; Felix also specifically insists upon the importance of
silence for their erotic appeal (377). In keeping with this background, the pickup between Felix and Rosza is also conducted wordlessly, in an extended exchange of promiscuous glances and pantomime gestures. Their conversation in the carriage is conducted with the entbundenen Unverantwortlichkeit, die sonst nur dem Traum eigentmlich ist, w o unser Ich mit Schatten ohne gltiges Eigenleben, mit Erzeugnissen seiner
selbst verkehrt (380). This Traumgesprch is basically the sole extent of their verbal
exchange, denn in Ubereinstimmung mit ihrer fremden Erscheinung sprach [Rozsa]
gebrochen und fehlerhaft, ja konnte eigentlich berhaupt kein deutsch, so dass ihre
Worte und Wortfgungen o f t ganz verkehrt waren und sonderbar ins Unsinnige
entglitten, was die Traumhaftigkeit des Zusammenseins sehr erhhte . . . brigens fanden Wort und Geplauder jetzt und in Z u k u n f t nur sprlich statt bei unserem Verkehre
(381-382).

11

Die Franzosen nmlich lieben und ehren die Rede - durchaus mit Recht! [weil] ein
Mensch sich desto weiter vom Tier unterscheidet, je besser er spricht - und zwar franzsisch. D e n n das Franzsische erachtet diese Nation fr die Menschensprache, gleichwie ich mir vorstelle, dass die frhlichen Vlkchen der alten Griechen ihr Idiom fr die
einzig menschliche Ausdrucksweise . . . mgen gehalten haben (388). The mention of
the Greeks at just this point of entry is not, of course, coincidental. A s we will see, it is
intimately related to the other event that accompanies Felix's entrance into this new
sphere, his ganz unterderhand acquistion of Diane's jewels, which initiates and funds
Felix's parallel, but silent and unconscious, acquistion of a mythical identity. For now,
we need only note Felix's simultaneous passing over into the realm of society and of
language, the realm in which his manufacture of an identity will begin.

218

pointedly depicted as an entrance into the world of language, and so out of the
first silent stage shared with Rozsa.
The entrance into the world of language is itself depicted as an entrance into
the artifice of the represented self. We see this in that Felix comes into his first
new identity in France by means of his decidedly supernatural display of linguistic and mimetic prowess before Generaldirektor Strzli of the Hotel St. James and
Albany. The scene has obvious similarities with the conscription episode. Again
Felix fashions himself into something of a literary parody, imitatively appropriating the conventions of his chosen model and directing them into the service of his
construction of an artificial I. And again his performance comes to exceed the
natural limits of his character and to be abetted by the self-conscious flaunting
of Felix as an artificial construct. But significantly, this time Felix has no need
either of studious, industrious preparation or of a specific text to transform himself into such a literary parody. Felix now claims to be universell von Veranlagung und alle Mglichkeiten der Welt in mir [zu hegen], and thus to possess a
linguistic Begabung... die stets enorm und geheimnisvoll war (413^). By virtue
of this enormous, secret gift, Felix himself requires only the slightest smattering of a language, accompanied by a characteristically bertrieben echte
Nachahmung des jeweiligen nationalen Sprachgebarens, in order to become the
linguistic character he imitates:
Dieser nachspttelnde Einschlag meiner Darbietung . . . hing mit einer beglckenden,
beinahe ekstatischen Erfiilltheit vom Geiste des Fremden, in den ich mich versetzte
oder von dem ich ergriffen wurde, - einem Zustande der Inspiration, in welchem mir
zu meinem eigenen Erstaunen, das nun wieder den Ubermut meiner Travestie verstrkte, die Vokabeln, Gott weiss woher, nur zuflogen." (414)

As in the conscription scene - but without the accompanying violence - the


Geist des Fremden that possesses Felix, takes him captive, and inspires him to
speak words not his own, can be quite bluntly ascribed to textual intrusion.
However, this time the intrusion comes not in the form of the character's text, or
even of the narrator's text, but rather in that of the universal, mythical background to Felix's character, which autonomically endows him with viel Ausserpersnlichem, viel Konventionell-Schematischem. Significantly, the textual
background emerges here in its most artificial and literary, or verbal, form, to
match Felix's own pronouncedly artificial, verbal display. As Strzli several times
tells Felix, Sie fallen schon wieder ins Poetische (416). Even as Felix consciously
and purposefully discards with a sense of real, individual, and merely human
identity and instead constructs an artificial, conventional, and poetic self, so

"

It is interesting to note that Mann's own linguistic talents in this scene are as artificial as
Felix's, and equally inspired, or rather, supplied by dem Geist des Fremden. Mann
wrote the long paragraph that follows this quotation in German; he then had someone
else, perhaps his wife, translate it into French. See TMS 5, 521.

219

does Mann double the stakes by self-consciously suspending the sense of Felix as
real and instead dropping him back into his fictional foundation, his unreal
condition as literary, poetic artefact.
By falling into the poetical, Felix secures for himself a new social role and a
new, less private name: as Strzli again tells Felix, Sie werden jetzt Armand
genannt werden (416), after the previous holder of the newly acquired position as
lift-boy. And while the new, formulaic identity is embraced with playful affirmation, it also has its somewhat disconcerting, dehumanizing effects. We see this
most clearly in that, along with his new name, Felix also acquires a new set of
clothes, or rather: a uniform, simply taken von der Stange (418) and, without
any adjustment or even fitting, suited to his figure. The motif, which will be repeated with ever greater regularity, conveys one of the concomitant effects of Felix's fall into the poetical and abandonment of a limited, individual self. His body
becomes konventionell-schematisch, von der Stange, generic and formulaic.
And although there is something anti-Pygmalion to the corporal transformation that is similar to the denaturalization of Felix's body found in the early work,
the differences are still more obvious, and more decisive. Then the artefaction of
Felix's figure was conscious, labored, and aimed at achieving a uniquely ideal
individuality. Now the opposite is the case: the artefaction is unconscious, automatic, and aimed at undermining all sense of his unique individuality.
The depersonalized, generic sense of Felix's new self does not, however, remain only authorial or unconscious. It also finds its way into Felix's self-understanding. He says to the lift-boy he is replacing, Ich bin jetzt Armand. Ich trete
in Ihre Fusstapfen. Ich bin Ihr Nachfolger, und ich gedenke eine weniger ungehobelte Figur abzugeben als Sie (420). The ease with which Felix succeeds to an
established, uniform identity, deliberately and imitatively becoming an incorporated copy of an impersonal, conventional model, displays the surefooted Spielbewusstsein that perceives the self as an artifice one can slip out of and into, in
an ongoing poetics of substitution and re-presentation. That is, from Felix's own,
conscious version of the mythischen Kunstoptik, the self itself is something
artificial; the reality is the generic, gehobelte Figur that the individual varies
only with the greater or lesser touch of personal grace and style he brings to the
rote part and uni-form. 2 '
Parallel to Felix's more or less conscious acquisition of a generic, social identity has been his acquisition of a generic, mythical identity. In this respect, too,
13

Cf. Kleider machen Leute, Marquis, - oder besser wohl umgekehrt: Der Mann macht
das Kleid (503). The point is an important one that Mann maintains throughout the
later work: e.g., wenn zweie dasselbe tun, [ist] es mitnichten dasselbe (383); Die selben Verhltnisse sind nicht fr jedermann dieselben (398). In this respect, style still
plays a crucial role in the constitution of self identity and individuality for Felix in the
later work. However, it is still a noticeably different, and in most respects diminished
role, in keeping with the similarly different, and diminished, role of individuality.

220

Felix falls schon wieder ins Poetische, although here the poetic background
functions on a far more silent, non-verbal level, in keeping with its more or less
unconscious grounding. This acquisition, which is intimately tied up with the figure of Diane, also begins at the border to France, with Felix's acquisition of her
jewels. The theft, mehr ein Geschehen als ein Tun, occurs ganz unterderhand
and unversehens (389). The acquired jewels occupy Felix all die Zeit schon still
in den geheimeren Bezirken [s]einer Seele (399). He describes them as mein
heimlicher Reichtum and meine im Traum erhaschten Rcklagen (453). Moreover, they are nicht von moderner Arbeit and belong rather to einem historischen Jahrhundert (399). By all these various indices, Mann pointedly associates the jewels with the unconscious and mythical reaches of Felix's character.
The heimliche Reichtum is then made to supply a new, secret identity for
Felix. After a trip to rue de l'Echelle au Ciel where he translates the goods into
ready cash, Felix goes to a department store, ins Konfektions-Rayon ... wo ich
von der Stange weg einen sehr angehmen Uni-Anzug ... kaufte, der mir passte
wie angemessen, leaving behind die Hlle, in der ich gekommen war (430).
The parallel established by the repeated motif of the uniform with the preceding
acquisition of his new social identity underscores how here, too, Felix abandons
his unique, individual self and enters into the Konventionell-Schematische. The
difference, however, is that in this case Felix is unaware of the generic Vorbild
to which he is fashioned: the imitation is unconscious, mythical. All Felix knows
is that he is preparing himself for his meeting with Diane, dass ich meine ussere
Person in eine unseren Beziehungen angemessenere Verfassung gebracht hatte
(431). Until that meeting, their Beziehungen remain secret and silent, and his
identity bildlos and gestaltlos.
In the encounter with Diane that closes Book II, Felix is finally made aware of
his imitated mythical model. As part of its erotic development, the scene explicitly and significantly combines the verbal-poetic and the silent-mythical planes.
As love and language rise here to the eloquent, metered verses of Diane, so too
does the mythical order rise to a new level of articulated consciousness.
Diane is a woman accustomed to poetizing experience by filtering it through
language and a specifically literary mythische Kunstoptik. She is eine Frau der
Poesie, eine Schriftstellerin who composes Romane, verstehst du, voll Seelenkunde (443). She is particularly adept at converting erotic activity into a kind of
aesthetic event, almost into a form of poetry. As such, she represents a decisively new
and different ars amatoria from that of Felix's previous erotic partner and preceptor,
the pre-verbal Rosza. As Felix says, Nie gab es eine ausdrucksvollere Frau ! Das war
Gesang, was sie von sich gab, nicht anderes. Und sie fuhr fort, sich auszudrcken als
ich bei ihr war, es war ihre Art, alles in Worte zu fassen (442). Like Felix before
Strzli, she too keeps falling into the poetical. Her speech tends to flow into baroque
rhyme and meter at moments of passion; the chapter ends with her alexandrinian
declaration that Felix will find his culmination in her literary works:
221

Ja, wenn das Grab uns deckt, mich und dich auch Armand,
tu vivras dans mes vers et dans mes beaux romans. (450)

In her own way, Diane combines love and literature in a self-conscious mode that
almost rivals, and certainly recalls, Johannes. She, too, is an accomplished practitioner in the poetization of the erotic life.
As with Johannes, an important aspect of Diane's poetization is the poetization, or mythification, of her partner. She names Felix Hermes by virtue of both
his Gtterglieder (442) and then his thievery, which in fact she has Felix reenact
to clinch the desired assimilation to his, or rather, her literary model: Steh auf,
wie du da bist, diebischer Gott, und stiehl! (448). Equally importantly, by seeing
and desiring Felix as Hermes, Diane also sees and desires him as something
Konventionell-Schematisches, that is, only as one in a series of infinitely reproducible and substitutable copies - only as imitation, as depersonalized, literary representation. As she explains, das Gttliche ... das seid ihr, ihr ganz
jungen Menschen mit den Hermesbeinen (448); or even more explicitly, Willst
du glauben, Geliebter, dass ich nur dich, immer nur dich, geliebt habe, seit ich
empfinde? Will sagen, natrlich nicht dich, sondern die Idee von dir, den holden
Augenblick, den du verkrperst? (445). Significantly, Diane eventually breaks
out into verse, and thus foregrounds the essentially artificial, literary character to
her peculiar collusion of love and myth:
Nie endigt dieser Rausch; ich werde mit ihm sterben,
doch immer wird mein Geist, ihr Ranken, euch umwerben.
D u auch, bien aim, du alterst hin zum Grabe
gar bald, doch das ist Trost und meines Herzens Labe:
ihr werdet immer sein, der Schnheit kurzes Glck,
holdseliger Unbestand, ewiger Augenblick! (446)

In a manner again reminiscent of Johannes, in conceiving Felix as a depersonalized copy of a mythical model, Diane also contrives to disseminate and pluralize
his figure throughout her experience, turning Felix and each other youth into a
standardized reproduction of the same, generic Typus. That is, just as with
Cordelia, Felix is mythified and multiplied at once, by the same gesture of derealizing, idealizing literalization, and by the same substitution of the self as mythical
copy for the human original.
But of course, and crucially, far more than with Cordelia and Johannes, the
mythification, standardization, and multiplication of Felix's figure by Diane's depersonalizing poetization is not merely to be seen as a perverse distortion of reality, nor a perverse violation of Felix's person. Rather, the mythical character of
the unconscious, the way Mythus ist Lebensgrndung, makes her literalization
simultaneously a realization of his hidden figure. That is, Diane brings Felix into
conscious contact with the Vor-bild and Gestalt of his own, previously unconscious imitation. In this instance, literature and life are in complete, if playful
222

complicity: by applying her Kunstoptik to Felix's character, she sees the real,
that is, the copy, behind the artifice of his identity.
Diane, then, is certainly a character in whom the authorial mythische Kunstoptik has been realized. And as her gentle banging of Felix's head against her
own suggests, some of her intelligence and optic seem to be transmitted to Felix
as a result of their encounter - still not in a consciously literary mode, but rather as a psychological heightening of his own functionally equivalent optic on personal identity and erotic love. For instance, when declining the advances of Lord
Kilmarnock, Felix explains:
Bitte - ich mchte Sie nicht verletzen, noch mir die Ehre schmlern, aber wenn ich
genau so, wie ich geschaffen bin - jeder ist nur einmal da - so laufen doch von meinem
Alter und natrlichen Bau Millionen herum, und abgerechnet das bisschen Einmaligkeit ist einer wie der andere beschaffen . . . Das Genre ist allezeit da und berall. (490)

The recognition of the generic basis and endlessly propagated character of his
own identity fuels in turn Felix's playfully malicious Gedanken der Vertauschbarkeit (491), the thought that the various individuals who populate the hotel,
and especially the diners and waiters, could be interchanged without loss. It is, as
it were, the social equivalent to Diane's poetics of substitution, that again overlooks claims to intrinsic selfhood and again sees only duplicable forms and
standardized types.
It is important to stress, however, that the notion of infinitely reproducible
and substitutable copies not only results in a depreciation of the authentic individual. It also preserves, crucially preserves, die Freiheit in der Lebensgestaltung
for the individual. We see this in Felix's readiness to refuse Kilmarnock, to forego
this particular Seitenpfad, and to leave it open to someone the same-butother.24 We see it also, and more positively, in Felix's experiment on his idea of
interchangeability. Funded by Diane's gift, Felix purchases yet another outfit
von der Stange (497) and fashions for himself yet another counterfeit identity,
as a gentleman who appears as diner in restaurants similar to that in which he
continues to appear as waiter - even though that same secret fund frees Felix
from the need to be a waiter, and so makes that identity equally artificial, equally
a choice. Although the strategy is simple, the consequences are vertiginously
complex:
Es lief dies, wie man sieht, auf eine Art Doppelleben hinaus, dessen Anmutigkeit darin
bestand, dass es ungewiss blieb, in welcher Gestalt ich selbst war und in welcher ich nur

24

In fact, after the meeting with Diane, Felix is presented with a series of choices, or
Seitenpfaden, for his further Lebensgestaltung, in what we might call his Judgement of Paris: success in his profession (Andromache/Stanko), followed by marriage
and wealth (Eleanor Twentyman/Kilmarnock), both of which he rejects in favor of love (de Venosta). Each case plays crucially with the possibility of substitution based on
duplicability.

223

verkleidet war . . . Verkleidet also war ich in jedem Fall, und die unmaskierte Wirklichkeit zwischen den beiden Erscheinungsformen, das Ich-selber-Sein, war nicht bestimmbar, weil tatschlich nicht vorhanden. (498)

Only the imitated, imitable forms and artificial selves remain: the original,
unique Ich-selber-Sein has been made to disappear. And yet it is just this disappearance that supports the freedom, im Gleichnis leben zu drfen.
It is in his character as no one (509) and on the basis of his personal poetics
of substitution and self-multiplication that Felix agrees to become, and is qualified to become, the counterfeit Marquis. Significantly, in becoming the Marquis,
Felix also comes to move in the traces of a newly compounded poetical, in
which the social, verbal, and conscious imitation and the mythical, silent, and
unconscious one begin to interplay in ever heightened form. 2 ' So, for instance,
besides requiring yet another set of generic clothing von der Stange for his new
identity (527), Felix must also, and first, be able to forge an exact copy of de Venosta's signature. Again, Felix's conscious, appropriative imitation of an identity
is intimately connected with his almost super-natural, imitative language abilities; and again, by virtue of those abilities, Felix finds himself falling into the
poetical - but now with a decisive, added dimension. The signature that Felix
imitates and inherits is not, the Marquis observes, original or selbst erfunden,
but rather itself vererbt and imitated from a prior model (518). As Felix puts it,
it is eine Art von Erb-Uberlieferung (555). And as the duplication to the imitation of the inherited signature indicates, by becoming a copy of the Marquis, Felix simultaneously inherits his own, copied background, that is, his literarymythical background.
This compounding duplication to the imitation of the Marquis leads in turn
to an equally decisive compounding of the literary-mythical background to Felix.
One of the first questions de Venosta asks Felix is Sind Sie stark in der Mythologie?, to which Felix replies Nicht sehr, Marquis. Da ist zum Beispiel der Gott
Hermes. Aber ber den bin ich nicht hinausgekommen (504). But once Felix becomes the Marquis he does, unconsciously, go beyond this single model. That is,
in keeping with the multiplication and syncretism, or Ineinander, of Felix in his
new role, there is a correspondingly multiplied, syncretistic Ineinander of
mythical models to Mann's conscious and Felix's unconscious literary imitation.

25

This is especially the case once Felix, as the Marquis, arrives in Lisbon, where the
heightening to the interplay of the conscious/verbal and unconscious/dream dimensions becomes most acute. We see it first in Felix's dream after listening all night to
Professor Kuckuck: Felix's sleep is untief, as the dream-world seems to come closer
to the surface, and in his dream Felix hears eine unverstndliche Sprache - wahrscheinlich stelle es Portugiesisch vor (549), as the conscious language-world seems to
fall deeper into the dream dimension. We see something similar in Felix's stopping to
ask directions of everyone he meets, interactions that take place in a combination of the
incomprehensible language of his dream and of silent pantomime.

224

Professor Kuckuck gives some indication of this new scheme to the mythical
background in his conversation with Felix on the train. When, in the middle of
his explication of die Idee des Zellenzusammenlebens . . . [die] Ansammlung . . .
spezialisierter Kleinindividuen, Vielzelligkeitsgewebe (539) Felix lets drop the
name of Hermes, Kuckuck adroitly integrates the reference by describing das
Zellengewebe (540), and a bit later, Die Mosaik . . . zur Hermesgestalt (545).
Just as Kuckuck's cosmos works on the principle that all life forms share a common foundation in certain standardized and endlessly imitated schmas - we
might call it Diane's poetics of generic multiplication and identity raised to the
level of metaphysical cosmology - so now does Mann's mythology work on the
assumption that myths, too, share a common generic foundation, that they are
multiplied variants or combinations of a few central figures or Handlungen.26
We might say that the mythische Kunstoptik is here applied to myth itself. The
result is a fast berspannende Ausdehnung (546) of the literary myths to Felix's
unconscious imitation, which makes of Felix's character a mythical mosaic, an
Ansammlung spezialisierter Kleinindividuen.
It is interesting to note again the striking similarity here with Johannes' method of mythification. Even as Johannes folds together the various mythical figures
from his letters and other texts in order to make the one, composite myth about
Cordelia, so does Mann fold together the various mythical figures from his
unconscious texts in order to make the composite, mythical background for
Felix. In each case, this syncretic gathering is the essential, dialectical countermovement to the character's plurification through mythification. And in each
case, the sense of the mythical is established both by the specific literary texts
and by the general, pluralized composite incorporated into the character's self. 27
26

17

It is precisely this double coincidence with Diane's erotic poetics and Mann's mythical
poetics that secures the functional relevance to the novel of Kuckuck's otherwise intrusive discourse. See Thomas Rosenmeyer, Das Kuckuckskapitel, Deutsche Vierteljahrsschrift fr Literaturwissenschaft und Geistesgeschichte 61, 3 (1988) 540-548.
The parallel is even more extensive, insofar as Johannes also adds the various women,
or rather, the various pieces of women from his actiones in distans to his mythical composite of Cordelia, even as Mann also adds the various life forms, or rather, the various
pieces of life forms from Kuckuck's cosmos to his mythical composite of Felix. In each
case, these pieces not only contribute to the diffuse manifold that adds its sense of the
mythical to the image. They also occasion the decisive hybridization of the literary
and life in the mosaic image that adds its sense of the mythical. In the case of Felix,
this life dimension is also essential, insofar as it represents that aspect of the mythical
mosaic-making of which he is conscious, or rather: of the mythische Kunstoptik in
which he participates through his appropriative imitation of Kuckuck's language.
We might also note that, intimately connected with Felix's conscious imitation of
Kuckuck's optic on life, is his new, conscious role as artist. In imitatively becoming the
Marquis, Felix also becomes a Knstler, Maler, Graphiker and it is on this basis that
Kuckuck first secures Felix for his subject: brigens wird es Sie als Knstler interessieren, dass wir Spezialisten beschftigen, Meister in ihrer Art, die nach den Skelettfun-

"5

But in Felix's case, the Mosaik nonetheless preserves a more marked sense for
the singularity, or specificity, to the different, spezialisierten pieces; and as we
will see, this has crucial consequences for his life as literature.
Perhaps the easiest place to see this new, tesselated Ineinander of mythical
models to Felix's unconscious literary imitation is in the scene that initiates Felix's own conscious Ineinander of identities with the Marquis, namely: in Book
111,4, and its insistent evocation of the Faust myth. Felix holds a ticket to that
evening's performance of Gounod's Faust in his pocket throughout the scene
(499); his conversation and pact with de Venosta are staged to coincide exactly
with the Theaterzeit (521). The Marquis begins the conversation by declaring
himself an alleged Weltmann, remarks how unsere Begegnung ... meinen
Wissendurst reizt (501), and proceeds to offer Felix - or rather, Felix as himself
- eine Bildungsreise, wie sie im Buche steht (517). And as Wysling notes, Felix's
imitation of the Marquis explicitly becomes an imitation of Goethe's Faust once
he embarks on his Weltreise.28 This is especially the case in Felix's various
exchanges with Professor Kuckuck, much of which also imitates Adrian Leverkhn's Weltreise with Professor Ackercocke in Mann's own Doktor Faustus.
We see something similar in the second scene of identity-transmission. When
de Venosta makes Felix eine genaue Kopie seines Siegelringes (525), he also
makes him a copy of Mann's Joseph by reenacting the Sei wie ich of Pharoah
to Joseph. 2 ' And as Wysling again notes, Felix's imitation of the Marquis also be-

28
19

den all die vergangenen Tierformen hchst anschaulich und lebensvoll rekonstruieren,
wie auch den Menschen (536). The Kunstoptik that Felix comes to wield and the art
that he comes to practice in his role as the Marquis is precisely a Kuckuckian, combinatory Ineinander of life forms, especially of his own and Zouzou's (see below).
It is also interesting to note how the kind of artist Felix becomes gives added meaning
to the initials he acquires in becoming the Marquis, inscribed on his clothing and jewelry: L.d.V. Mann himself associated the pseudo-scientific, universal poetics introduced in Kuckuck's discourse with his own artistic imitation of Leonardo da Vinci and like Felix's, an important part of his artistic imitation is that it remains emphatically superficial and unreal. As Mann wrote to Hermann Weigand: Lassen Sie mich
ein Wort sagen ber den vermeintlichen second Leonardo und eine verblendende
Schein-Universitalitt, die in Wirklichkeit berall nur skin-deep ist. Natrlich haben
Sie recht (quoted by Wysling, TMS 5, p. 286).
Thus another objection raised by Rosenmeyer, that the vast majority of Mann's material for constructing Kuckuck's discourse is simply derived from, even copied from, popular handbooks can also be seen as peculiarly in keeping with the poetic practices of
both Felix and Mann for this novel. And an additional appropriateness might be observed in the fact that the popular handbook Mann drew on most extensively was
Allgemeine Biologie by Paul Kammerer, who was at the center of the most notorious
scientific fraud and counterfeiting scandal of the time. See TMS 5, 497-502; Arthur
Koestler, The Case of the Midwife Toad (New York: Vintage, 1973).
Wysling, TMS 5, p. 288-299.
Felix himself indirectly draws attention to the imitation by noting Diese Handlung,
ein pantomimisches >Sei wie ich!<, erweckte zu viele Erinnerungen an bereits unserem

226

comes an imitation of Joseph once he reaches Lisbon, especially in his audience


with the King (a la Joseph with Pharoah) and his subsequent Erhhung. 30 In
both these examples, Mann's literary practice copies Felix's living practice. Even
as Felix begins to construct for himself a composite character that pushes him
ever further into the artifice of his fiction and of his self-imitation, so Mann constructs Felix as an explicitly composite literary character, thrusting Felix ever
more into the artifice of his fiction and of his self-imitation.
Somewhat more subtly and centrally: Mann also underwrites Felix's imitation
of the Marquis with his own imitations of classical myths; by consciously copying the one, Felix inevitably finds himself unconsciously copying the other, and
thus mosaically compounding his Hermesgestalt. The most insistent of these
myths derives, I think, from one of Mann's favorite stories from classical antiquity, Apuleius' Amor and Psyche.31 The Marquis repeatedly stresses how he is
von Familie and Hochgeboren, two distinctions that he describes as ganz
analog (502) and as forever setting him apart from ordinary men; the name
de Venosta clearly conveys to which particular hochgeborenen Familie he
belongs. A s the letters exchanged between Felix and the Marquis' parents show,
the mother is the primary, that is, the important de Venosta; the father,
who remains a far less central and shadowy figure, war Kammerherr >und all
das<, hatte aber nebenbei, oder eigentlich hauptschlich, seine Hand in der Stahlindustrie (493), the contemporary equivalents of the traditional roles of Venus'
traditional spouse, Vulcan. 32
Kindersinn vertraute Einkleidungs- und Erhhungsgeschichten, als dass sie mich nicht
eigentmlich htten ergreifen sollen (525).
30

W y s l i n g , TMS 5, p. 264. G e o r g Lukacs, Essays on Thomas Mann, tr. S. Mitchell ( U n i versity Library, 1964), notes further parodie imitations of Doktor

Faustus and Joseph

und seine Brder. See esp. pp. I i 6 f f .


JI

A s W y s l i n g repeatedly, and convincingly, argues, Mann's imitative use of m y t h in the


later Felix Krull is o f t e n elusive and more hinted at than insisted u p o n (e.g., TMS 5,
p. 296). But as indirect support for Mann's use of A m o r and Psyche here w e can l o o k
to his foreword to Die schnsten Erzhlungen

der Welt (,829-837), an editorial proj-

ect M a n n pursued concurrently w i t h the w r i t i n g of the later Felix Krull.

In that

foreword, he writes, Wie htten wir, z u r Reprsentation der rmischen A n t i k e , den


>Goldenen Esel< g a n z abdrcken knnen? A b e r dass das Reizendste daraus, >Amor u n d
Psyche<, ins B u c h k a m , das ist mein Werk (X,83i). Mann's choice of the w o r d das
Reizendste to describe the m y t h is especially suggestive, given his use of reizend
and its equivalents almost to the point of overkill in describing Z o u z o u . F o r more o n
Mann's reception of Apuleius* w o r k , see Meerfahrt mit Don

Quijote

IX,452-457;

Die Kunst des R o m a n s X,350.


T h e significance of Felix simultaneously b e c o m i n g an A m o r figure and an artist in imitatively b e c o m i n g the Marquis - a combination that clearly incorporates him into the
tradition of (imitative) aesthetic seducers w i t h w h i c h w e are concerned - is most c o n spicuous in his relationship w i t h Z o u z o u , that is, in the relationship that casts h i m as
A m o r to her Psyche. See below.
32

B y Vulcan here I mean rather Vulcan/Hephaistos: for Hephaistos as a kind of


chamberlain, see the Iliad,

1,571-600.

" 7

As for Loulou himself, not only does his surname and background hint at his
identity as an Amor figure. So too does his iconographie appearance, his zu
dicken, gerteten Kinderbacken und kleinen, verschmitzten uglein darber
(493), mythical indices to which Felix ironically calls added attention when, describing himself as Loulou, he deceitfully says, dass an mir, mit meinen . . .
Apfelbacken und Schlitzugelchen . . . nichts Mythologisches zu entdecken ist
(605). Moreover, like Amor in Apuleius' tale, Loulou has caused a major upset in
his parent's plans, and in the general order of things, with einem unstandesgemssen Liebesengagement (494), that is, with his inadequately concealed illicit
relationship with >der Person,< wie sie [die Eltern] natrlich sagen (506). Mann
has Felix further underscore the merely mortal status of the Persnchen by describing Zaza's beauty as das voraussichtlich rasch Vergngliche (494). Despite
his parents' attempts to separate them once the relationship is discovered, Loulou
is determined to go behind their backs and stay with his Person, hoping even to
make her his wife and elevate her to his own high-born, of family status. - By
all these rather pointed, playful indices, Mann activates the mythische Kunstoptik on de Venosta and his Handlung, making us see them as Amor and Psyche hinbercharakterisiert (560), as incorporated copies of this literary text or
scheme.
When Felix, then, self-consciously fashions himself into a copy of the Marquis, he also unconsciously finds himself becoming such an A m o r figure and
moving in mimetic obedience to this (hidden) mythical text, to be benignly
possessed by its schematic conventions, which almost seem to replace, and certainly to standardize, his own, personal feelings. We see this especially in the way
Felix feels compelled by his imitation to fall in love with Zouzou and become her
seducer from the moment he first sees her:
Diese junge Person nmlich ... erinnerte mich auf den ersten Blick zum Stutzen an
Zaza - wobei allerdings ein Nur-dass meiner Feder zur Pflicht wird ... Eine andere
Zaza - so anders in der Tat, dass ich mich nachtrglich frage, ob eine eigentliche hnlichkeit, wenn ich sie auch mit Augen zu sehen glaubte, berhaupt vorlag. Glaubte ich
sie vielleicht nur zu sehen, weil ich sie sehen wollte, weil ich - sonderbar zu sagen nach einer Doppelgngerin Zazas auf der Suche war? Ich bin ber diesen Punkt nicht
ganz mit mir im reinen ... Kann es sein, das ich die Verliebtheit in sie in meine neue
Identitt aufgenommen, dass ich mich nachtrglich in sie verliebt hatte und in der
Fremde einer Zaza zu begegnen wnschte? (559-560)
Here, too, both the conscious and the unconscious-mythical imitations impose a
poetics of standardization and substitution that overrides all matters of individuality. Although Felix himself never experienced any personal attraction to Loulou's Zaza, once he embarks on his imitation he finds himself compelled by the
conventions of his role to seek out another Zaza to desire. Similarly, although all
that Zaza and Zouzou have in common are achtzehn Jahre und schwarze
Augen ($60), the ruling optic turns Zouzou, too, into a standardized, substituted copy in its textual scheme. Both in a sense become hinbercharakterisiert
228

imitations of Loulou and Zaza and, with them, of Amor and Psyche. Both fall
schon wieder ins Poetische, and are made to act out as Charaktermarionetten
the prescribed Handlung of their literary, mythical text.
Insofar as the literalizing mythification of Felix's character that accompanies
his imitation leads to a depersonalizing schematization of his emotions and
actions, the effects of living mythically and im Gleichnis seem rather confining, even enslaving. This is true both insofar as they lead to a certain flattening,
uni-formation of his character (and Zouzou's as well), and insofar as they also
lead to a certain programmed automatization of his supposedly individual and
freely chosen course. However, the same multiplication of mythical models that
involved Felix in this new controlling schema also keeps open the all-important
possibilility of choice, die Freiheit der Lebensgestaltung. The discovery of
choice, or deviance, within the mythical composite is perhaps the major innovation in Mann's version of Johannes' project of constructing the individual as a
mythical composite, and is certainly a major liberating, individualizing factor in
Felix's unavoidable imitation of unconscious, literary-mythical models. Felix
does not, after all, end up with Zouzou as this literary schema would dictate; and
the active presence of his other mythical models not only makes that deviant
choice possible, it also conveys something of what is at stake in making that
choice.
Perhaps the most important example of the active presence of Felix's other
mythical models can be gleaned from the King's seemingly casual inquiry to
Monsieur Hon, was fr einen Adonis bringen Sie mir da heute? (605). Of
course, no such reference is ever casual in Mann, and the fact that Felix devotes
the following paragraph to deceitfully trying to dissuade his parents, as readers,
of the appropriateness of the appellation only draws to it added attention. The
syncretic unification of Hermes and Adonis was already established by Mann in
Joseph und Seine Brder, which at least partially explains the addition of Adonis
to Felix's mythical mosaic. But the evocation of his figure and, with it, his
Handlung has specific relevance to Felix's Handlung at this moment in his
tale.
Adonis is, after all, best known as Venus' lover. In the version told by Apollodorus and accepted by Kerenyi (Mann's primary authority on classical myth),
Adonis is actually the lover of both Venus and Persephone. Mann critics have long
noted the mother-daughter pair of Maria Pia and Zouzou as a copy of Demeter
and Persephone. They have also gone somewhat further in expanding Maria to a
Great Mother figure who syncretically assimilates features of various goddesses
into one mythical composite, including especially aspects of Venus, or rather, Venus/Aphrodite.33 But to my knowledge no critic has noted how Felix's multiple
53

Cf. Wysling, TMS 5, p. 268, esp. his mention of venus barbata and footnote No. 26,
p. 376.

229

mythical imitations create a crucial, dramatic tension to their mythical amalgams,


or conversely, how their mythical amalgams create crucial, dramatic options for
Felix's life in literature. As an imitation of Amor, Felix is directed to become the
lover of Psyche/Zouzou; as an imitation of Adonis, of (both but especially) Venus/Maria. Which will he choose? Even more: through the syncretic contamination of his other mythical model, for Adonis to love Venus becomes something
incestuous, which Felix's love for Maria Pia clearly is. Conversely, for Amor to
love Psyche becomes an attraction to a death figure, which, we will see, Felix's
love for Zouzou clearly is as well.
The multiplication of texts, then, that follows from the standardization and
intermixing of shared patterns, does not simply yield a single, generic, uniform
scheme for the life im Gleichnis, as it does with Johannes. In respect to Felix, it
keeps alive a dramatic choice to his life in mythical imitation: die Freiheit in der
Lebensgestaltung. In respect to Maria, it keeps alive a dramatic tension to her
imitation of Venus: as mother (of Amor) and as lover (of Adonis). And in respect
to Zouzou, it keeps alive a dramatic tension in the association of the Psyche and
Persephone figures in her character, a pairing that at first puzzles, but eventually
proves, I think, quite telling. 34
Through his constant imposition of this mythischen Kunstoptik, which
shows all the various characters, and not just Felix, to be incorporated literary
imitations moving in mimetic obedience to these multiple mythical models,
Mann institutes a decidedly double effect in the collusion of life and myth in the
novel. It is an optic not unlike that at work on the legendary white stag that
Felix so identifies with and that stands as doorkeeper to the entire Kuckuckschen Schpfung (646) which dominates this, the last part of Felix's adventures.
On the one hand, the stag seems fully alive, and in his character as a mosaic composite of the generic parts and conventions of the reindeer, elk, cow, horse, tapir,
and so on, he stands as living evidence of the mythical poetics of imitative duplication that underlies Life itself. On the other hand, a simple shift in perspective
reminds us that he is not alive at all, but stuffed, the artwork of an Ausstopfer
like Hurtado, and the sentinal to a whole world of merely, and emphatically, artificial beings - a world that includes Felix and all the others, who in their character
as mosaic composites are also only artificial, stuffed beings, rekonstruiert according to a mythical poetics which underlies not Life, but Mann's own self-consciously taxidermie fiction.
The manner in which we are made to see Felix living mythically shares in
this same, strange doubleness, or split. On the one hand, emphasizing the pecu-

34

230

In a footnote to Das Motiv der Kstchenwahl Studienausgabe, ed. A. Mitscherlich et


al (Frankfurt a.M.: Fischer, 1982) X,i9i, Freud identifies Psyche as a death figure,
without however suggesting why death (or what death) should be a Psyche figure. I
argue that the latter issue is the crucial one for an understanding of Zouzou: see below.

liarly literary character to the various myths, by imitatively duplicating their


forms and conventions, Felix comes to move more and more in a purely fictional,
unreal dimension. As Felix himself puts it, das zart schwebende meiner Existenz, ihr heikles Doppelgngertum mir gnzlich verbot, es . . . mit der Wirklichkeit aufzunehmen (584), weil mir in meiner Unwirklichkeit ja nicht erlaubt
war, es mit der Wirklichkeit aufzunehmen (632). On the other hand, emphasizing the life quality to the myths, by imitatively duplicating their forms and
conventions, Felix also comes to move more and more within what we might call
Wirklichkeit itself, Lebensgrndung: within the almost sacred formulae that
underlie and unify life.
To the extent, then, that Felix himself comes in the last part of the book to
share in the mythische Kunstoptik, and so to enact in his own consciousness
Mann's fusion of myth and life, he also comes to share in the same basic split,
between living mythically as living in literature and in emphatically unreal artifice, and as living in sacred formulae and in real Life itself. Significantly enough,
this split comes to be itself split between Felix's relationship with Zouzou and
with Maria Pia, so that his choice between them comes to be, crucially comes to
be a choice between two different erotic and mythical poetics: between love in
language and love in silence, and between life in literature and life in - life.
The particular collusion of love and literature, or rather, the particular version
of the mythischen Kunstoptik at work on Felix's and Zouzou's relationship
comes to its climax in the originellen Rede on love that Felix delivers to Zouzou against the background of the cloister of Belem. The speech is prompted on
the one hand by Zouzou's pedagogical principle, Schweigen ist nicht gesund
(630), and, on the other, by Felix's newly emphasized desire, mich ber den Gegenstand formell und buchdeutsch auszudrcken (538). The result is that, between them, Felix and Zouzou conspire to bring about a verbalization of the silent erotic that pointedly recalls Diane's poetic erotic practices. The fact that it is
Felix who here assumes the role of both seducer and speaker shows how far he has
come as both eroticist and artist.35
In both these roles, Felix remains aggressively poised between his background, literary dimension and his immediate, personal dimension. Mann has
advertised all along how there is nothing original to Felix's desire for Zouzou.
Rather, the programmed impulses of his fictional role that dictate that Felix desire
Zaza and her mythical counterparts in Zouzou schoben sich [s]einem Denken
unter (584). In keeping with this, it is specifically in his role as Zouzou's seducer
that Felix is made to experience most forcefully his own Unwirklichkeit. Similarly, Mann makes it clear that there is nothing at all real or original to Felix's
"

As mentioned, in imitatively becoming the Marquis, Felix also explicitly becomes an


artist, and the significance of his role as artist primarily emerges in his relation with
Zouzou. See above, note 31.

231

speech here, either, at least not original or real to Felix. 3 ' Rather, as in his performance before Strzli, the literary text behind his fictional character here
appropriates and controls his speech, so that Felix finds himself falling schon
wieder ins Poetische. As Felix repeatedly exclaims, so sprach ich, denn es
strmte mir zu (634, 643) or more explicitly, Die Poesie aber wurde mir leicht
wegen des zart Schwebenden meiner Existenz (63z).37 In this respect, we should
note how Mann's choice of the fairyland architecture to the cloister as the background to Felix's speech, and love, further emphasizes the decisively art-ificial
quality of the inspiring background. Felix specifically states, dass diese steinere Feerie mir den Sinn phantastisch erhhte und bestimmt nicht ohne Verdienst
an der Vortrefflichkeit der Worte war, die ich an Zouzou richtete (636; cf. 643).
He also specifically equates his feelings for the architecture with his feelings for
Zouzou (Oh, Danke! Ich bin also ein Mdchen im Knig-Emanuel-Stil, ich bin
eine kaprizise Baulichkeit!, 637). In both respects, then - in respect to both Felix's love and his language - Mann's mythische Kunstoptik is aimed at self-consciously revealing Felix and Zouzou as living and acting in fiction, that is, as literary artifacts.
Despite the emphatically unnatural, artificial origin of Felix's speech, it is still
the case that Felix here pursues his erotic ends with a highly self-conscious sense
for his own fiction-making activity, as well as for his own living in fiction. In fact,
we can even say that Felix performs here with a self-conscious sense for his own
making of and living in literary fiction. Felix consciously constructs his seduction speech as a literary artwork; and in so doing, he comes very much to share in
the literary Kunstoptik of the author, as well as in the literary tradition of the
seducers in Kierkegaard and Ovid. The speech itself is a masterpiece of self-conscious art. At the same time that Felix produces an eloquent and moving poetic
defense of love that displays his newly won sophistication as an eroticist, he also
continuously calls emphatic attention to its poetic mechanics, which displays
his newly won sophistication as a literary artist. So for instance, he repeatedly
points out the deliberately artificial, bookish quality to his language: Ich sage
absichtlich und bewusst >umspinnt<, weil ich mit poetischen Worten die Poesie
der Liebe verteidigen muss (632); or similarly, Ich sage >Zhre< und brigens
auch >rinnen<, weil es poetisch und also der Sache angemessen ist (639). Even
more outrageously, Felix repeatedly refers to the paragraph format of his speech:
Sie mssen entschuldigen, Zouzou, wenn ich in der fr Sie vorbereiteten Rede
dann und wann pausiere und sozusagen einen neuen Paragraphen beginne
(639^); Das ist ein Paragraph meiner Rede, Zouzou, ich mache einen Abschnitt

37

See Mann's letter to Erika Mann, June 7,1954, where he refers to die >originelle< Rede
of Felix: the scare quotes say it all.
Cf. Zouzou's comment reported by Felix: bei so viel Glanz, wie er ausstrahle von
meiner Person, sei es schwer, nicht ins Poetische zu verfallen (586).

232

(641); or again, Ich spreche von der Liebe . . . paragraphenweise . . . und mache
hier abermals einen Abschnitt (642). The comically explicit literary calculation
that Felix brings to the counterfeit fashioning of his poetized seduction combines
and colludes with the almost exaggerated intellectual playfulness that Mann
brings to his fictional fashioning of Felix's character in this scene. Even as the one
turns life into a literary artifact, so the other love.
The same literalizing optic continues to be the dominant one for the rest of
Felix's and Zouzou's relationship. The drawings he makes combining her naked
figure with Zaza's which comprise the heimliche Band underlying their relationship; the book she is reading as he approaches her to hand over the drawings;
even and especially the pointedly literary choreography to their final meeting: all
display the same comically intellectual artefaction that permeates Felix's speech.
And while there is undeniably something Reizendes and Bildhbsches about
this particular combination of life and literature, even as there is about Zouzou
herself, still at some level there seems something profoundly wrong about it, too
- again, even as there is about Zouzou herself.
This wrongness to the love for Zouzou can be sensed not only in Felix's
final rejection of her in favor of her mother, nor only in the fairly insistent mythical identification of Zouzou with Persephone, the goddess of death. It can also be
sensed in Felix's origineller Rede itself. Although Felix claims his speech is
poetisch und also der Sache angemessen, the particular combination of love
and poetry he here develops hardly seems suitable at all. We sense this in the way
the self-conscious, literary fashioning of his speech clashes so strangely with the
silent and natural poetry of the love he describes; we sense it in the studied, calculating approach he takes to something he himself recognizes as spontaneous and
emotional. There is something loveless, even lifeless about Felix's poetic speech
on love, lifeless just because it is poetic - and the same holds true for Mann's own
literary Kunstoptik, or rather, for that version of it he brings to bear on Felix
and Zouzou. By continually exposing how their supposedly real and unique lives
move in literary, mythical imitation, Mann renders them dehumanized and lifeless, just because he renders them mythical: Charaktermarionetten. We might
even say that, in both cases, it is precisely the self-conscious intellectualism to the
optic that yields the sense of lifeless, if still playful artefaction to this combination
of life and literature and of love and literature; and that it is precisely insofar as
Zouzou represents this self-conscious, Psych-ic artefaction that she becomes a
Persephone figure, for the death she represents is precisely the death of art in its
self-conscious dehumanization. It is not without a sense of poetic justice that
her intended turns out to be the taxidermist, Hurtado. His combination of art
and life turns out to be the perfect complement to her own.38
38

In this respect, it is most interesting to note that Mann modelled Zouzou's figure on a
mannequin in a downtown, Los Angeles storefront. See TMS 5, p. 515.
2

33

Whereas the particular version of the mythischen Kunstoptik at work on


Felix's and Zouzou's relationship comes to its climax in the originellen Rede on
love delivered against the background of the cloister of Beiern, the version at work on
Maria Pia comes to its climax at the bullfight Felix attends and that decisively
changes his Verhltnis zu dem Doppelbilde... indem es den einen Teil, den mtterlichen, mit sehr starkem Licht, einem blutrotem, bergoss und den anderen, den
reizend tchterlichen, dadurch ein wenig in den Schatten stellte (645). As dies
Gleichnis von Licht und Schatten underscores, there is clearly a mythische
Kunstoptik at work on the depiction of Maria Pia as well, one that casts her as a
Demeter to Zouzou's Persephone. However, as the characterization of the light as
blutrot indicates, the optic is nonetheless achieved by different means and to
radically different effect. If the optic on Zouzou seems always to associate her with a
dehumanized world of art, then that on Maria Pia always associates her with an
almost animalistic - and in this sense also dehumanized - world of nature and life.
The different strategies of mythification are evident from the very outset.
Whereas the first two times that Felix sees Zouzou his immediate impulse is to
associate her with Zaza and thus with the self-conscious poetics of imitative duplication that also involves his own counterfeit identity, when he sees Maria Pia
these same two times his impulse is instead to associate her with that primal
world of blood and intermingled types that Kuckuck introduced as Life. The first
time he thinks, Alt-iberisches Blut, mutmasslich . . . also mit keltischem
Einschlag. Und allerlei Phnizisches, Karthagisches, Rmisches und Arabisches
mag auch im Spiele sein (561); and similarly the second time, Es wirkte dabei
etwas rein Blutmssiges, ein Rassendnkel mit, der etwas Animalisches und gerade dadurch Erregendes hatte (583). The same split in the optic at work on their
figures is also evident in Mann's choice of backgrounds for each one's major
scene. Even as the ornate, fairyland architecture of the cloister conveyed the artificial background to Zouzou's character, so does the urtmliche animalism of
the bullfight capture the Life background to Maria's. As Felix says, die gestrenge
und elementare Person dieser Frau [wurde] mir mehr und mehr eins mit dem
Blutspiel da unten (654).
It is important to emphasize that, despite these differences in the strategies of
mythification, the relationship between Felix and Maria Pia is still set every bit as
much within the formal and Konventionell-Schematischen as is that between
Felix and Zouzou. Here, too, there is an active collusion of art and life, of formal
artifice and spontaneous nature. And here, too, Felix comes to acquire something
of a sense for his own living and participating in myth. We sense this in the way
Felix, during their walk in the botanical gardens, converses with Maria Pia and
attempts eine vorsichtige Wrme ins Formelle zu legen (593), even as, when she
interrupts Felix's and Zouzou's rendezvous, he again confronts her formell
(660). Even more notably, we sense this in Felix's recognition of the formal, staged
character of the bullfight: of its character as Maskerade and Theater (648f.),
2

34

even as Spiel and Jux (655); and of the performance of his own double, Ribeiro, as dedicated to fashioning tnzerisch anmutige Posen in der Gefahr und plastische Bildvereinigungen des Gewaltigen mit dem Eleganten (6$4). In this case,
however, the collusion of artifice and real life does not bring Felix closer to the
fictional ground of his mythical existence, but rather to its almost religious
ground. Kuckuck's erudite exposition of the Mysterium of the Mithras cult
after the bullfight makes this quasi-sacred ground explicit, but Felix himself
comes to appreciate it intuitively first, without any need for its express
verbalization.
In fact, a crucial aspect of this particular collusion of art and life that keeps it
somehow appropriate and real is its insistence on avoiding the artefaction that
seems always to accompany the mediation of the word. Whereas Zouzou's
Grundsatz is Schweigen ist nicht gesund, Maria's seems to be that silence must
be maintained; and whereas with Zouzou the aggressive mediation of the word
tends to violate the poetry and nature of both life and love, with Maria the equally
aggressive mediation of silence tends to preserve the poetry and nature of both. The
insistence on silence at the bullfight is as unyielding as that on language in the
cloister scene. The ride to the stadium verging in einer Schweigsamkeit oder doch
Sprlichkeit des Austausches, die hauptschlich von Senhora Marias aussergewhnlich wrdevoller, ja starrer und kein Geplauder aufkommen lassender Haltung bestimmt wurde (649). As the fight begins, Die Stille ringsum war gross
(651). In particular, Meine Nachbarin zur Rechten, die hehre Frau hielt sich
stumm ; whenever Kuckuck begins learnedly to verbalize the proceedings, wandte sie die Augen nur ab, um strafend den Kopf gegen den Gatten zu wenden (652).
The delicate dignity of the spectacle, its precarious balance between playful artifice
and deadly serious life, requires silence so as not to do disservice to either. The
artifice of the self-conscious intellect and its language games have here no place.
The same stress on silence continues to characterize the poetics of Maria when
she turns her sights from the game of life to the game of love. When she breaks up
the rendezvous of Felix and Zouzou, she immediately cuts Felix off with her
command: Schweigen Sie! and then again, without his having uttered another
word: Schweigen Sie! . . . [A]lles was Ihnen nun bleibt, Ihnen einzig zukommt,
ist, zu schweigen und es reiferen Personen zu berlassen, Ihre Sache zu fhren
(66of.) Even as, with Zouzou, the combination of love and language recalled Diane, so now with Maria the combination of love and silence seems clearly and
significantly to recall Rosza. But with Maria, the silence is now a quite different
one, as different in fact as the two silences Felix identified in the erotic program at
the end of Book II, 4. This silence is between two partners fully in possession of
the mythischen Kunstoptik over their own characters and Handlung, fully
conscious of its obgleich unverhofft, vollen Notwendigkeit. But they choose
the silence that acknowledges the dignity - even the comic dignity - of love, of
life, and even, I suspect, of artifice.

235

Conclusion

In some ways, the project of the artificial I seems to have come full circle, in
others, to have remained strangely the same. In Ovid, the strong sense of an
underlying and undeniable (irrational) nature yielded a sense of self too real to
admit to successful refashioning through literary artifice, which proved either too
fragile or too forceful. Either the self violently reasserted its own identity, or the
artifice violently violated the original, spontaneous self. In Kierkegaard, that
sense of a competing order of underlying human nature seemed no longer fully in
force. The result was that the refashioning of the self by literary artifice was no
longer an impossible violation of a real and essential identity, but rather an eminently possible and in some ways even necessary operation by which one first
forged for oneself a real, even if experimental, identity. The project still retained
many of the dark, almost demonic ambivalences so prominent in Ovid. But beneath these continuing tensions there emerged a new possibility, that the artificial
I is more of an I, a more fully realized self.
In the early Mann, sustained historical fictions in the form of Erbschaft
reintroduced an underlying, competing order against which the protagonist's
project of literary self-fashioning took place. But that order was itself profoundly
artificial, and although extension through time granted it a compulsive power
often equivalent to Ovidian natura, the Erbschaft still maintained its essentially deconstructable and reconstructable character. Moreover, although representing a shaping and often controlling reality, the Erbschaft still did not necessarily represent a coherent or unifying force. Thus, too, although to some extent
fashioned by these inherited fictions, the given seif did not amount to a real
identity for the individual. Rather, the protagonist's own fiction-making was required both to refashion the fictional Erbschaft and to fashion for himself a
real, unified self, and literature was seen to provide an ideal paradigm, and context, for his real-life project. The undertaking still retained, and perhaps even
increased, its sense of violence and self-violation, and the effects of the self-literalization kept their ambivalent volatility. But both the violence and the self-violation were in some sense represented as unavoidable, and self-individualization
and -stylization as inseparable.
By the time of Mann's late work on Felix Krull, the reversal of conditions to
the project is complete. Now it is Literature itself, as myth, that has become the
236

primary underlying and undeniable (irrational) order, while original, individual


identity itself has become increasingly fragile, even artificial. On the one hand,
the fictions of the underlying literary order are no longer represented as essentially inessential, and so still malleable. Rather, along with their quality as an abiding,
unchanging ground, has come their character as real and necessary. On the other
hand, the individual, whether construed as a natural given or as an aesthetic
accomplishment, has become ever more tenuous and fictive. Even the mythical
multiplication and reunification of the self that seemed so exceptionally contrived
in Kierkegaard has become an almost natural rule. Once life has in this sense been
conceived as literature, literary imitation and the self as fictional artifice become
unavoidable operations and conditions. The notable decrease in violence to the
process is but the reverse side of the equally notable increase in its inescapable
necessity. The most that one can ask to have is a sure touch of personal grace and a
playful, affirmative awareness of one's citational participation in etwas festlich
Vorgeschriebenem.
Even in the course of this long reversal, however, at least one crucial point has
remained constant and unchanged. For all the irreverent delight and self-conscious skill that all three of these authors bring to the fashioning, and flaunting, of
their fictional artifice, each one finally brings us back to a recognition of the dignity and claims of the human individual and real life before, after, and in the midst
of all art and dehumanizing design; brings us through literature to a point beyond
literature, to a point about ourselves. It is a small point, an almost embarrassingly
humanistic point; it is nonetheless a decisive point, without which, for all their
art, Ovid, Kierkegaard, and Mann would not be the truly important artists they
all, equally, are.

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