The Stranger in the Self. Hofmannsthal’s Relationship to Jewishness

David Österle


This articles examines Hugo von Hofmannsthal’s changing view on his own Jewish origins from a biographical perspective. In his youth Hofmannsthal not only repeatedly expressed sympathy for the Jews and their plights but also antipathy towards Roman Catholicism. However, the poet’s views got increasingly skeptical towards his great grandfather’s religion from the mid-1890s onwards. This shift of opinion needs to be seen in the context of continued migration of ethnic groups within the multi-ethnic Habsburg empire, especially of Jews and Slavs from Galicia, who were perceived as a threat by large parts of the rest of the population. With recourse to Michel Foucault (Of Other Spaces) Hofmannsthal’s increasing identification with the Catholic culture of the Habsburg monarchy and the suppression of his Jewish heritage can be interpreted as a dialectical process of appropriation and resistance. This article discusses the question, if the poet’s creative biographical engagement with prominent figures of the Habsburg monarchy such as Prince Eugen and Empress Maria Theresa became a surrogate for Hofmannsthal’s own troubled and therefore unwritten history.


This article was submitted to the European Journal of Life Writing on March 6th 2015, and published on Febreuary 21st 2016.


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Copyright (c) 2016 David Österle

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European Journal of Life Writing - ISSN 1876-8156 - is an open access initiative supported by the VU University Library.