Masters Theses

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



Major Professor

Stefanie Ohnesorg

Committee Members

Daniel Magilow, Maria Stehle


This thesis is a comparative study of two major works by the German author E.T.A. Hoffmann, Der Sandmann (1818) and Der goldne Topf (1819). Der Sandmann has been analyzed under the filter of psychoanalysis by Freud himself. The goal of this thesis was to analyze whether a psychoanalytical approach can be extended to other works by Hoffmann, showing the same underlying structures even though the content seems to differ widely between the two works at first glance. Der goldne Topf is the text that I chose to compare to Der Sandmann, as both texts tell the story of a student who is caught in a life between reality and fantasy.

Freud's analysis of Der Sandmann is almost completely based on the role of the father in the text. The strongest difficulty in showing the same underlying motivation for the two protagonists, Anselmus and Nathanael, to choose fantasy over reality, death over life, is that there is no apparent father figure in Der goldne Topf. However, by interpreting the two texts on the basis of Freud's psychoanalysis, it can be shown that a father figure is indeed present in both texts, even though it might not seem like it at first.

In chapter 1 of this thesis, I will give an overview over those parts of Freud's theory, which will be of importance in the analyses of the two selected works by Hoffmann, namely narcissism, the oedipus complex and the analysis of dreams. In chapter 2, I interpret Der Sandmann and in chapter 3, Der goldne Topf is analyzed, applying the same theories as far as possible. Finally, in chapter 4, I compare the two works, and I show that many features of the texts can be matched up on the basis of this theory, including the role of the father. So far, Der goldne Topf has never been analyzed exclusively on the basis of Freud's psychoanalysis before and, therefore, the findings of this thesis provide new insights for research on the two texts and on E.T.A. Hoffmann in general.

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