The MLC concentrates on a character-biography as biography-of-reading in Jean Paul’s novel Titan. The librarian Schoppe is presented, on the one hand, as a reader of Fichte who, out of the initially satirical reading of Fichte in the Clavis Fichtiana, has developed his own solipsistic version of Fichtean philosophy. On the other hand, his self-diagnosis, carried out in a public announcement, of the symptoms of incipient madness distinguishes him as knowledgeable in contemporary psychiatric discourses, such as when he refers to the idée fixe. In an idiosyncratic combination of Fichte’s Philosophy of the Ego and contemporary theories of madness, he develops the project of choosing his own idée fixe, in order to achieve the ideal state of perfect identity of action and thought without knowledge of past or future.
Schoppe is thus shaped as a reader following his own interests, who interprets each of the texts he reads in his own sense and so is able to create arguments on which to found his actions. This becomes especially clear when he attempts “to impress upon himself and make his own a true revulsion and horror in advance” of his wish to kill his arch-enemy, and so to avoid the potential legal consequences of the act. Schoppe is presented as an individualistic reader, in whom the crisis of understanding leads him to coopt the philosophical and psychiatric discourse of the period, in each case at its points of aporia.
The consequences of these readings for Schoppe’s life are presented within Titan in a very drastic way. In the MLC the observation of the connection between living and reading in the literature around 1800 will be presented through this especially eccentric biography of reading.
Respondent: Joachim Harst (Cologne)