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The Case of LiteratureForensic Narratives from Goethe to Kafka$
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Arne Höcker

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781501749353

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: January 2021

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9781501749353.001.0001

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“Observe, Write!”

“Observe, Write!”

Histories of Observation and the Psychological Novel Anton Reiser

(p.49) 2 “Observe, Write!”
The Case of Literature

Arne Höcker

Cornell University Press

This chapter examines how Karl Philipp Moritz invoked the psychological productivity of novelistic storytelling in publishing the “psychological novel” Anton Reiser (1785–1790) as part of his project of empirical psychology or Erfahrungsseelenkunde. This use of fictional narrative for the representation of dispassionate observation, and the choice of engaging a literary genre for the production of psychological knowledge assigned irreducible cognitive qualities to literature. Anton Reiser is not only another case of Moritz's extensive psychological project but also a paradigmatic case for the importance of literary form in the observation and recording of psychic phenomena. The institutional framework of the novel is not just the Magazin zur Erfahrungsseelenkunde, but literary discourse as an epistemological rather than aesthetic enterprise. Ultimately, Anton Reiser is a literary exercise in establishing a perspective from which self-observation becomes possible.

Keywords:   Karl Philipp Moritz, novelistic storytelling, psychological novel, Anton Reiser, empirical psychology, fictional narrative, observation, literature, self-observation, psychological knowledge

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