Theodor Storm's novella Der Schimmelreiter is set in northwestern Germany, a region with a long history of dyke building and coastal flooding. Drawing on insights into material agency, complexity, and the entwinement of materiality and discourse that have emerged from science studies, I read this text as an exploration of distributed agency that challenges humanist assumptions about both “man” and “nature” by disclosing the limits of rational human mastery in the face of unruly natural phenomena, both “inner” and “outer.” At the same time, the multiple narrative frames of this tragic tale foreground the ineluctable force of viewpoint in any narrative performance of ecocatastrophe. As such, it exemplifies how narrative fiction can provide an imaginative space of reflection to investigate both the complex causality of hybrid natural-cultural disasters and different modalities of human responses to them.
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Kate Rigby; Of Mice and Men and Aquatic Flows: Distributed Agency in Theodor Storm's Der Schimmelreiter. New German Critique 1 August 2016; 43 (2 (128)): 153–176. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/0094033X-3511919
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