In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section E. T. A. Hoffmann

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Bibliographies and Journals
  • Biographies
  • Memoirs/Diaries by Hoffmann and by Others Concerning Hoffmann
  • Letters
  • Hoffmann the Author
  • Hoffmann as Composer
  • Hoffmann’s Music
  • Hoffmann and Music Criticism
  • Hoffmann as Sketch-Artist and Caricaturist
  • Hoffmann’s Professional Appointments
  • Editions of Hoffmann’s Works
  • Essay Compilations on Hoffmann
  • Hoffmann and Romanticism
  • Reception of Hoffmann
  • Modern Translations of Hoffmann
  • Offenbach’s Les Contes d’Hoffmann, and Further Musical Settings of Hoffmann

Music E. T. A. Hoffmann
Salvatore Calomino
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 November 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199757824-0225


As one of the foremost German writers, composers, and critics of music in the early 19th century E. T. A. Hoffmann (b. 1776–d. 1822) has been claimed by scholars in the various, complementary fields that he cultivated. By the time of publishing the first volumes of his Fantasiestücke in Callot’s Manier in 1814, several of the fictional pieces from this collection had appeared previously in the Leipzig periodicals Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung and Zeitung für die elegante Welt during the years 1809–1814. At the same time, Hoffmann’s important pieces of music criticism had also been published, for the most part anonymously, in the former journal. Hoffmann’s early contributions to musical composition (chamber music, sonatas, occasional music to dramas, opera Aurora) culminated in the premiere of his opera Undine at Berlin in 1816. During a continuing juridical career, lasting until his death in 1822, Hoffmann pursued his interest in writing fantastic and satirical narratives, combined often with a musical thematic. Despite popularity among some contemporaries, during his lifetime literary colleagues and scholars received Hoffmann’s work with, at best, ambivalence; his value as a composer was left to be reevaluated by later generations. During the second half of the 19th century Hoffmann’s fictional publications were subject to a scholarly neglect, a fate shared by fellow Romantics. In the early 20th century editorial ventures undertaken by Georg Ellinger and Carl Georg von Maasen coincided with Hans von Müller’s critical studies on Hoffmann’s letters, diaries, and legal briefs. This incipient work was completed by Friedrich Schnapp starting in the 1960s until his death in 1983. Schnapp’s generation saw the beginnings of an ever-greater resurgence of scholarly interest in Hoffmann’s total oeuvre. This development has led, in the following decades, to interdisciplinary, scholarly trends and to the presentation of Hoffmann’s literary, musical, and juridical writings––as well as letters and diaries––in a multivolume, collaborative edition integrating all aspects of the artist’s work in chronological order with supplementary bibliographical entries. Recent scholarly as well as biographical presentations have further tended to examine Hoffmann’s work as a unity of literary, musical, graphic, and professionally juridical efforts.

General Overviews

Overviews of Hoffmann’s contributions were traditionally influenced by (auto-) biographical approaches, for example, Sakheim 1908. Although understood as a legitimate consideration, more recent attempts to develop critical models for discussing Hoffmann’s work, such as Feldges and Stadler 1986, have tried to provide both life and oeuvre as complementary yet distinct areas of study. In addition to useful lists of works written and composed, as well as information on Hoffmann’s life and methods of work (Allroggen 2001/Keil 2000), recent overviews have integrated bibliographical considerations in keeping with an expanding number of approaches to the European Romantic artist, for example, psychoanalysis, medicine, natural philosophy, position of the artist, the grotesque, and aesthetics. (Kremer 2012).

  • Allroggen, Gerhard. “Hoffmann, E(rnst) T(heodor) A(madeus) [Ernst Theodor Wilhelm].” In The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 2d ed. Vol. 11. Edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrell, 585–594. London: Macmillan, 2001.

    Includes significant list of works by Hoffmann set to music, or planned as such, by later composers.

  • Daemmrich, Horst S. The Shattered Self. E.T.A. Hoffmann’s Tragic Vision. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1973.

    Revisionist examination of Hoffmann’s oeuvre focusing especially on longer fictional narratives published after The Golden Pot. In these later works Daemmrich outlines a “profound pessimism” along with a predominant tension between self-transcendence and self-realization, between innocence and the fascination with evil and destruction in the same characters. Emphasizes The Elixirs of the Devil.

  • Feldges, Brigitte, and Ulrich Stadler. E.T.A. Hoffmann: Epoche, Werk, Wirkung. Munich: C.H. Beck, 1986.

    The authors follow the division, used also later in Steinecke 1997 (cited under Biographies), of Märchen, Erzählungen, Romane for fictional oeuvre. The volume also contains an important section on “Sprache, Stil, Poetik” which focuses especially on characteristics of the collections of shorter works and typification. Feldges has an original essay of Hoffmann’s reception of Rousseau and the importance of educational and pedagogical reforms.

  • Keil, Werner. “Hoffmann, Ernst Theodor Amadeus [Wilhelm].” In Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart, Personenteil. Vol. 9. Edited by Ludwig Finscher, cols. 113–122. Kassel, Germany: Bärenreiter, 2000.

    Includes bibliography with modest list of later musical settings by composers inspired by Hoffmann’s fictional creations.

  • Kremer, Detlef, ed. E.T.A. Hoffmann: Leben – Werk – Wirkung, 2d ed. Berlin: Walter De Gruyter, 2012.

    Most comprehensive recent study of Hoffmann as a writer, musical figure, professional involvements including legal work, graphic artist, relation to other Romantic thinkers, and influence on contemporary and later writers; written by individual specialists in each aspect of Hoffmann’s life and work; the volume takes up and expands considerably on many of the topics from the reference handbook Kaiser 1988 (cited under Bibliographies and Journals) while incorporating the subsequent twenty years’ worth of research.

  • Sakheim, Arthur. E.T.A. Hoffmann. Studien zu seiner Persönlichkeit und seinen Werken. Leipzig: Haesdel, 1908.

    In addition to early chapters on reception of Hoffmann in France, England, and Russia, Sakheim considers the state of research on Hoffmann at this time, typologies of fairy tales, style and poetics, as well as satire and humor.

  • Segebrecht, Wulf. Heterogenität und Integration. Studien zu Leben, Werk und Wirkung E.T.A. Hoffmanns. Frankfurt: Peter Lang, 1996.

    While bearing a title similar his earlier essay, Segebrecht’s monograph expands considerably on and introduces topics new in the 1996 title. In addition to biographical information Segebrecht examines evidence for analogies between the juridical and artistic careers enjoyed by Hoffmann, the importance of English literature in Hoffmann’s development, and the reception of Hoffmann in later generations up to the late 20th century.

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