What is a repetitive relationship

Reference texts as a principle of reflection in Arno Schmidt's "Black Mirror"

Table of Contents

1 Introduction

2. Terminological considerations: self-reflection in the narratological sense

3. Narrative theoretical prerequisites in Schmidt's "Black Mirror"

4. The function of the reference texts
4.1 Formal and content classes of reference texts
4.2 "Acoustic waste" - hit title
4.3 Postcards and letters
4.4 The fantastic story Achamoth
4.5 Professor Stewart's "Man, an Autobiography"
4.6 “My view” - Talking about ego
4.7 The narrator's childhood memories

5. Conclusion


1 Introduction

"(1.5.1960) / Lichte? (I got up on the pedals) -: - Nowhere. (So ​​as always for the past five years). / But: the laconic moon along the crumbled road (from the edges degrees and couch grass have broken the tar cover, so that only two meters of road remain in the middle: that's enough for me!) / Step further: stares the pointed silver larva from m juniper - so continue - "[1]

The events of Arno Schmidt's “Black Mirror” set in so suddenly. A nameless first-person narrator[2] is one of the last survivors of a Third World War and roams the Lüneburg Heath. He reports on his lonely existence in the form of a diary and pauses again and again in his report to intersperse set pieces from literature, philosophy, art, religion or culture in general. The number of references is enormous, hardly a sentence can do without a content or structural allusion, title and authors are mentioned again and again. The fact that “Ego” actually also quotes foreign texts usually remains unmarked and only catches the eye of experienced and well-read recipients. The reference texts are therefore very heterogeneous in nature and have no direct significance for the progress of the plot. But why are these text references built up?

In terms of content, closely related to the term “text reference” is the term “intertextuality”, which was first introduced by Julia Kristeva. In various theoretical concepts, this term is interpreted on the one hand as a general contact between each text and other texts, but on the other hand, a distinction is also made between the degree of intertextuality. Following this interpretation, a broad and a narrow understanding of intertextuality can be differentiated. The term text reference is closest to the narrower understanding of intertextuality, since it considers the degree of intertextuality and not only literal quotations are included, but complex structures that are formed by the set of all text references. Text reference can therefore be built up in certain texts, but does not have to apply to every literary text.[3]

Intertextual allusions or text references can also be self-reflective. The view of oneself is typical for literature and fictional texts are actually "self-reflective" by definition, since narrative texts often deal with narration and its possibilities. Nevertheless, the "self-referentiality"certain Literature spoken - which appears to be a contradiction when literature is already self-reflective.

So what does self-reflection actually mean and what possibilities does a narrative have to reflect on its own status and the rules of its production and reception?

With regard to Arno Schmidt's “Black Mirror”, the following quote provides a first impression of the complex self-reflection of the story: “What does it say later? >> Black mirrors lay around a lot << [note: p. 213]. And that's how it is. The novel constantly reflects its presuppositions, becomes its own poetics, studies its design, its intentions and goals, the law of its creation and completion. And at the same time he constantly points beyond himself, to the past, which is most intrinsic. "[4]

From this one can already deduce that self-reflection is dealing with the peculiarities of the respective medium and that self-reflective elements refer to the status of the text, its production and reception.

But how can the self-reflection for a functional analysis of a narrative text be broken down in more detail and what functions do the numerous text references in Arno Schmidt's narrative, which are "always lying around", fulfill in this context?

2. Terminological considerations: self-reflection in the narratological sense

Self-reflection is to be understood as an activity "which can be specified" optionally as >> reflecting on oneself << or as >> looking at oneself <<. "[5] This basically means different forms of self-referentiality, i.e. that a system refers to itself. In this sense, intertextual allusions can be included, since they can be understood as the reference of the literature system to the literature system, but they do not form the core of self-reflexivity.

This self-reference can be specified as self-reflection in the sense of mirroring or as self-reflection in the sense of observations. The first possibility, self-reflection in the sense of a mirroring, is always associated with a doubling. In this case, a part of a narrative is "in a repetitive relationship with other parts or the narrative as a whole".[6] On the other hand, there is self-reflection in the sense of observations when parts of the narrative or the narrative as a whole are viewed or examined. Closely related to the distinction between these two types of reflection are some fundamental characteristics of a narrative, which are, so to speak, preconditions for the differentiation of the types of reflection.

In a narrative, a distinction must generally be made between a level of narration and a level of narration; according to Genette, three components can be distinguished: the narration (the sequence of events), the narration (act) and the narration (as the result of the act).[7] Self-reflection in the sense of observation can take place on the level of the narration or on the level of the narrated, while self-reflection in the sense of mirroring is only possible on the level of the narrated. The subject of self-reflection can be the narrated, the narrative, the narrative as well as the poetological principle of a narrative.[8]

Further different reflection types can also be determined for the two types of reflection, viewing and mirroring. First of all, self-reflection in the sense of contemplation can take place on the level of narration.[9] As explained above, the level of narration must be distinguished from the level of the narrated. Thus everything that has to do with the narrated story can be thematized on the level of the narration, for example if the narrator reflects on the narrative process. The act of storytelling or writing and its conditions can be commented on, as can the story itself or the reception or reactions of the readers. The poetological principle can also be reflected; this is usually associated with a change of tense from the past tense to the present tense.

In addition, reflection in the sense of contemplation can take place on the level of what is being told.[10] On this level, too, self-reflection in the sense of observation is possible if, for example, the characters look at and comment on what is being told within the story. The narrative itself can also be reflected upon (in a conversation about a book that contains one's own story) and the poetological principle of the narrative can be visualized. Many narratives reflect their own poetological principle, e.g. by interspersing conversations about art and literature in the narrative. In a detour, the poetological principle can also be reflected on by looking at other art forms, e.g. by turning the figures towards music or painting. In both types of reflection, self-reflection is linked to the speech of the narrator or a character.

Self-reflection in the sense of mirroring is only possible at the level of the narrated and not tied to the speech of a character or the narrator.[11] Rather, it is present when a part of the narrative is in a repetitive relationship to other parts or to the narrative as a whole. This can be the case if there is a change of narrative level, if there is a frame as well as an internal narration and the frame narration is repeated verbatim or analogously in the internal narration. This type of reflection can also be present if there is an indication that a mentioned book, manuscript or similar repeats what is told in the frame story (motif of the book in the book). In Schmidt, such changes of narrative level can be recognized not only by a repetitive relationship, but also by means of the printed image, which corresponds to a "process of consciousness concretized in the text"[12] should correspond. The printed image is correspondingly “restless”, punctuation marks are set differently from orthography rules, new paragraphs mark a new thought.

It is also possible to mirror the poetological principle of the narrative, in particular the motif of the book in the book is often used to approve or reject the model of a certain poetics using its example and to reflect the effect of literature. This makes it clear that there can be overlaps and links between the types and types of reflection and that the poetological principle can be reflected, for example, through both a reflection in the sense of viewing and in the sense of a mirroring.

By building up text references, all types of reflection are basically possible, since a reference text, depending on its design, can act as a “mirror” to reflect all levels of the narrative. However, this depends, among other things, on the specific narrative theoretical requirements of each narrative.

3. Narrative theoretical prerequisites in Schmidt's "Black Mirror"

The literary form of Schmidt's story “Black Mirror” is that of an inner monologue, whereby it sometimes appears like a diary written by the protagonist Ego due to exact dates, subjective descriptions, logs, inner reflections and individual language use. In contrast to the first part, the narrative form in the second part of the narrative is not limited to the diary form, as letters, questionnaires and childhood stories are included here.

The narrative situation is a first-person narrative situation.[13] Since the first-person narrator is the protagonist of the narrated and also acts as the narrator at the narrative level, it is present in the text as both a narrative and an experiencing self. The act of storytelling or text production is explicitly addressed in several places, e.g. when it says "I want to know why I still diary" (p. 229). The reader is also addressed directly several times: “A pebble of gravel: lives longer than you, Mr. Reader Irgendein!” (P. 218) or “is from Schiller, if you shouldn't recognize the style!” (P. 277). At first glance, these readers' forms of address appear absurd and the genre is satirically broken[14], since in the narrated world there is no longer anyone to whom the ego could turn - at least ego assumes that no one exists apart from him. Nevertheless, a communication situation between narrator and reader is established and the text is thus marked as public text. In contrast, the text produced by the narrator appears as a diary, i.e. as a non-public text. But this is only paradoxical at first glance, since a diary can also be chosen as a form for literary texts.

In addition, the reading salutations indicate a double communication situation between narrator and reader. Within the fictitious depicted world there is no longer a possible reader; the ego speaks to itself and also imagines a reader.[15] The text produced by Ego can therefore only be non-public. The diary as a form of narration would be conclusive in this respect. In addition, there is a second relation that relates to the real existence of the text outside of the narrated world. At this level, the reader's knowledge is assumed that the text at hand is a science fiction that was published in 1951. The text is understood - at least on this level - public.

As a consequence, there should actually be two narrative instances - one in the narrated world that is congruent with the ego and a second instance that produced the text in the real situation outside the narrated world. The reading addresses could then only be carried out by the authority outside the narrated world, since there are no longer any potential recipients within the narrated world. In Schmidt's story “Black Mirror”, however, the narrator instances cannot be reconstructed separately from one another inside and outside the text, but rather both are present in the text. This is to be seen as a reflex in which the second narrator, not identical to the protagonist, is involved in the text and belongs to the level of reality of the author at the time of text production. The narrator instances are a first-person narrator of the narrated world (ego) and a “writer-narrator” of the real world.

In this way, the first-person narrative situation also creates a “precisely constructed 'pseudo-realism”: Partly, through self-reference to one's own texts, the fiction is built up that author and narrator are identical, partly this reading is ironically repealed (and at the same time supported): >> a literary starving sufferer , Schmidt had scolded himself << [...]. "[16]


[1] The page numbers of the primary text are given below in the running text and refer to the following edition: Schmidt, Arno: Schwarze Spiegel (BA work group I Novels, Stories, Poems, Juvenilia Vol. 1), Zurich 1987, here p. 201.

[2] called "ego"

[3] Müller 1989, p. 13 f.

[4] Difficult 2009, p. 8.

[5] Scheffel 1997, p. 47.

[6] Ibid., P. 48.

[7] Ibid., P. 49 f.

[8] Ibid., P. 54 f.

[9] Ibid., P. 56 ff.

[10] Ibid., P. 64 ff.

[11] Ibid., P. 71 ff.

[12] Hinrichs 1986, p. 106.

[13] Müller 1989, p. 21 ff. 9

[14] see also Huerkamp 1981, p. 224 ff.

[15] Sonnenschein 1991, p. 54.

[16] Hagestedt 2009, p. 12.

End of the reading sample from 24 pages