The sections

Section I: Keller’s texts

The transformative character of Keller’s texts first appears when one considers the techniques and methods with which they are “processed.” In the past years, the Historisch-Kritische Keller-Ausgabe (HKKA) has made the genesis of Keller’s texts available in both printed and digital form, so one can now follow this process in detail. Not only in the two versions of Der grüne Heinrich but also in the manuscripts of many other texts, one can ascertain enormous semantic displacements on the macro- and microstructural levels, allowing deep insights into Keller’s creative economy. The radical intra- and intertextuality of Keller’s texts, which creates their hybridity, also contributes to these displacements. The first section will reevaluate the genesis and generativity of Keller’s texts on the material basis of the critical edition.

Section II: Keller’s knowledge

As a function of literary figuration, Keller’s texts accumulate and generate knowledge. At times, they take up specific theorems (for example, Darwin’s theory of evolution or Feuerbach’s philosophy) or become receptive, like “Regine,” to modern natural sciences. But at the same time, they also always negotiate the validity spectrum of “occult knowledge,” participate in spiritualist discourses, and explore fields of knowledge that first appear at all in modern literature. This applies explicitly to the epistemological complexes of both anthropology and psychology (exemplarily, of course, in Keller’s Traumbuch). These paradigms disclose, among other things, modern gender roles and the economies of desire that underpin them. The second section thus takes up the challenge of accounting for Keller’s receptive and productive participation in the epistemological restructuring of modernity.

Section III: Keller’s worlds

Keller’s century is the century of imperialism and colonialism. Martin Salander, the hero in Keller’s final novel fragment, acquires his fortune in Brazil; Don Correa, from the cycle Das Sinngedicht, goes first to Portugal and then to Angola looking for a wife; Thibaut, in the novella Die Berlocken from the same cycle, participates in the American Revolution; and Der grüne Heinrich opens the imaginary space of Asia—again and again, the borders between the “familiar” and the “foreign” are surveyed, the imagination of the “other” is localized, and the processes of decolonialization and recolonialization are reflected on. The third section will illuminate this rule-governed social process—also, and in particular, from the perspective of inter- and transcultural reception.

Section IV: Keller’s narration

Keller is a master of the art of narration. He not only reinterprets traditional literary genres like the legend, but with, for example, the bildungsroman and the novella, he also molds the forms that psychologically probe the modern subject. At the same time, in texts such as the Züricher Novellen and, of course, Die Leute von Seldwyla, he succeeds at sketching utopias, dystopias, and heterotopias and at creating possible worlds through doubling reality, thereby renegotiating the borders between fact and fiction. In this process, it is precisely the interplay of the “artificiality” of the real and the “reality” of art that proves Keller, already in Gedanken eines Lebendig-Begrabenen, to be a modern narratologist. This section will investigate the systematization of Keller’s art of narration, which he explicitly treats with the concept of realism.

Section V: Keller’s media

As a writer and painter, Keller pointedly experiments with different media and their forms—with both literary genres and the genres of oil painting, chalk and pencil drawings, and knitting patterns. Image and text—both Der grüne Heinrich and Hadlaub are about them—are reciprocal reference media in this process, and they reflect each other constantly. Investigating the different intermedial relations and transmedial forms of the narratives, which continue from one medium to the next, will be the task of the fifth section.