“Of unknown cause”— in the conclusion of the eponymous tale written by Théophile Gautier in 1833, it is not clear what exactly the protagonist Onuphrius dies of after his infatuation with E. T. A. Hoffmann drove him mad. Thus, the reference to the possibility of “Hoffmania” is both highly medicalized, as Hoffmann appears as a case study of the sick author, while all its causes and mechanisms are left unexplored. With this suppression of the etiology of pathological reading, Gautier separates himself from both the tradition of literary discourses on pathological reading and from the new etiology of mental disorders. This allows him to expound the premises of his theory of “art for art’s sake,” as it echoes the paradox this theory is based upon, which contends that art is free and independent, yet its effects are deeply felt on the subject’s body, in a way that must remain unclear.


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 370-388
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.