Frames are everywhere. They are found in fields as diverse as sociology, computer science, cognitive psychology, and, of course, literary studies. Broadly defined as structures that support or enclose a system, concept, or object, frames are used to present and store information, organize knowledge, and contextualize social interactions. Frames, it seems, are fundamental to our very way of knowing and understanding the world. My primary goal in this dissertation is to advance our understanding of literary frames in particular beyond their function to provide context at the borders of a text, merely serving to situate the ‘central’ narrative. Instead, I seek to give the narrative frame interpretive force. Through close textual analyses, I demonstrate the ways in which narrative frames generate a new significance or understanding that is not explicit in the texts themselves and that would not otherwise exist. My understanding of the frame, then, is not as a static structural element, but rather as a dynamic, active intervention that has the capacity to direct interpretation. I make this argument through an investigation into the function(s) of narrative frames within one specific tradition: German-language novellas of the nineteenth century. My project looks at the works of four authors from four distinct moments in literary history across this century, following the development from Romantic nationalism to poetic realism: Clemens Brentano, Ludwig Tieck, Adalbert Stifter, and Conrad Ferdinand Meyer.




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