Aesthetics in Information Overload: The Notebooks and Working Methods of Theodor Fontane


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships


German Language and Literature


The first in-depth study of the notebooks of the German writer Theodor Fontane (1819 - 1898), this project explores what material is for a so-called realist. It argues that Fontane, rather than taking his material from the “real” world, derived it from the streams of mass-medial communication and overload of secondary information that busied the nineteenth century. The dissertation shows his deployment of the notebooks as part of an open storage system made for constant growth. Through this system, Fontane turned the permanent influx of more data into an outflow of aestheticized text. Three things are thus at stake: the reconstruction of a set of notational and epistemic techniques, an assessment of realism as a mass-medial phenomenon, and the possibilities of aesthetics in information overload.