© HHP Feb 27, 1997

"Die thematische Entwicklung des Begriffs "Übertretung" hin zur "Erlösung" und "Transzendenz"
in Hermann Hesses Werk bis 1919"


Trevor David Smith

Doctor of Philosophy

University of Buffalo, Department of Modern Languages and Literatures


Dissertation Advisor: Dr. Michael M. Metzger

Hermann Hesse (1877-1962) postulates in his renowned essay from 1932, "Ein Stückchen Theologie," a three-stage process of humanization. The transposition from the first stage ("innocence") to the second ("guilt") initiates this process and represents an immoral or contrary action, i. e. a transgression. Only after such misconduct may one attain the transcendental third stage, which Hesse equates with "grace," "liberation," and inexorably with "belief." Examined in other philosophical, biblical and mythical systems of humanization and individuation, "transgression" performs a similar inceptive function toward liberation and transcendence. The misdeeds of Adam and Eve and Prometheus are examples of this process. Hesse's conception of an "awakening of the spirit" refers to these myths and demonstrates an affinity to considerations by Anaximander, Friedrich Nietzsche, Sigmund Freud, Carl Gustav Jung, Erich Neumann and Michel Foucault. Hesse's major literary focus after 1919 is the potentiality of humanity, whereby the realization of the self is an intrinsic component. Hypothesizing that "transgression" is the fundamental means towards this goal, significant instances of this concept are traced in Hesse's work between 1892 and 1919. In the earliest works (from "Der Karzer" to _Unterm Rad_), transgressions are committed arbitrarily and are generally punished in a befitting manner. Transgressors do not attain liberation or transcendence during these years. In works from 1905-1911 ("Anton Schievelbeyn" to "Pater Matthias"), transgressions often yield feelings and declarations of guilt. In several works, protagonists begin to strive toward liberation through acknowledgment of their guilt and improvement of their character. It becomes apparent that "transgression" gradually acquires an instrumental function. In Hesse's work from 1912-1919 ("Üble Aufnahme" to "Kinderseele"), numerous persons are liberated only after they transgress and turn inward to discover their true, inner-selves. This internal process serves as a type of transgression, because it entails self-will ("Eigensinn") and a break with the bourgeois herd. This process can thus be likened to one of individuation in which "transgression" manifests itself as the initial and cardinal asset towards Hesse's understanding of humanization.

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