Document Type


Date of Award



Schnitzler, Arthur, Geist im Wort und der Geist in der Tat

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Comparative Literature

First Advisor

Robert O. Weiss

Second Advisor

Marilyn G. Rose

Third Advisor

Paul Weigand


Arthur Schnitzler's Der Geist im Wort und der Geist in der Tat (hereafter: GWT) is a curious work. Consisting of two diagrams and a text of approximately ten thousand words, it is unlike anything else the author wrote. Yet GWT probably is as important as, perhaps even more important than, any of his other works in terms of charting the range and depth of his own personal views.

Schnitzler's fiction depicts life as his created characters face it and try to cope with it, but suggestions in those works as to his own views could not be completely confirmed from them alone. What is spoken or thought there comes from the mouth or mind of a created essence, not necessarily from Schnitzler's personal store of opinions.

With the publication in 1967 of the fifth volume of the author's collected works, Aphorismen und Betrachtungen (hereafter: AuB), the personal views of life and the human, condition were made generally available for the first time. Besides GWT, AuB contains another important, formerly-published but also long-out-of-print work, Buch der Sprüche und Bedenken (hereafter: BSB), along with a great deal of of other aphoristic and essayistic material from Schnitzler's literary estate never before in print.

The main sources for gauging the true cast of Schnitzler's thinking are GWT and BSB, because they were published in the author’s intended forms. More important, they were published late in the author’s life, both in 1927, which would appear to make them the definitive statements of his mind at full maturity.

The attention of this study is focused primarily on GWT for two reasons. First, it has not yet been appraised in accordance with what the author says in it. Secondly, only by a proper and thorough analysis of GWT may one gain a full insight into the author’s profound depth of mind. The scope of this study will confine itself largely to the first of the two reasons just given, with the hope that it may serve others in carrying forward their investigations of Schnitzler’s poetic mind.

GWT, as our title suggests, represents the diagrammatic emblem of Schnitzler’s own conclusions about the human significance. The text of the work comprises, as it were, the keys that unlock the emblem. GWT, it should be noted here at the outset, does not deal directly with human life, is not intended to, and this is the point that has been missed in all previous approaches to it.

This work of Schnitzler’s represents the results of his apparently life-long quest to determine the foundations for the forces, the drives, the instincts—whatever one may want to call them—that move humanity. Those foundations he calls the prototypes of the human mind. They have real existence, but in a world beyond the physical one, and when they do appear in the physical one, they must do so in the form of human beings who represent them. Not all men represent the prototypes, but when that is the case, those men possess as the core of their personal essences a condensation of the prototypal one.

Not only does Schnitzler conclude the prototypal natures and their representation by human beings—that is but the premise on which GWT begins its exposition—but he writes this work in order to substantiate the relationships that he perceives among the prototypes themselves. The entirety of his descriptions is devoted to bringing his readers to the same perception of that added dimension to man’s essence.

The chief aim of this study is to aid in that process. The planned approach to GWT is as follows. Part I, in lieu of a general introduction, lays the groundwork for the interpretations. First, GWT contains specialized terminology whose definitions as the author uses them must be observed in order to understand his theme and purposes. The basic premises and hypotheses will also be presented in Chapter I. Chapter II will approach the extant literature devoted expressly to interpreting GWT, so as to point out differences between previous opinions and this one about the manner of Schnitzler’s thinking and its capacities. The sum of the previous opinions is that the author intended GWT to be an ethical study, and that as such it poses inner contradictions for his mind and literary expression. That view will be supplanted by a reappraisal of the author’s thought processes, and evidence will be adduced to show that it was his very skepticism and agnosticism that enabled him to progress, free of inner encumbrances, to the profound level of contemplation necessary to establish the premise and systematization that GWT really represents.