Adelbert von Chamisso's Peter Schlemihl and the quest for the self

Christa Knellwolf King*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


In this article, "Adelbert von Chamisso's Peter Schlemihl and the Quest for the Self," Christa Knellwolf King discusses the well-known novella, Peter Schlemihl (1814), by Adelbert von Chamisso as an interpretation of the Faust typology. Concentrating on Chamisso's transformation of the Faustian pact with the devil, it analyzes the story's reasons for subdividing the negotiations between Schlemihl and the devil into two stages: an initial exchange of Schlemihl's shadow for Fortunatus's purse of inexhaustible wealth, and the devil's subsequent effort to make Schlemihl part with his soul in exchange for regaining his shadow. The most important emphasis of Chamisso's Faustus narrative, this article argues, is that it goes beyond analyzing the craving and limits of human knowledge and certainty that characterized the early modern versions of the Faust typology in order to examine a contemporary character's quest for self-understanding.The article concludes that the irresolvable ambiguities of the story are occasioned by Chamisso's own inability to reconcile his ideals about moral and scientific integrity with the principles of a society lusting for wealth and power.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationFaust Adaptations From Marlowe to Aboudoma and Markland
PublisherPurdue University Press
Number of pages15
ISBN (Electronic)9781612494722
ISBN (Print)9781557537584
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)


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