'Kannitverstan': The Contingent Understanding of Anecdotes
Author: Fleming, Paul
Source: Oxford German Studies, Volume 40, Number 1, 2011 , pp. 72-81(10)
Publisher: Maney Publishing
Abstract:Drawing upon the work of Walter Benjamin and Hans Blumenberg, this paper examines Hebel's famous story 'Kannitverstan' as an exemplary or even meta-anecdote, since it underscores the contingency of mis/understanding at the heart of the genre. Uniquely concerned with contingency and the question of understanding, anecdotes forsake empathy in favour of imposing themselves on the space of the reader, a reversal of hermeneutic directionality that Benjamin calls the 'street insurrection of the anecdote'. This essay argues that 'Kannitverstan' lays bare the dual strategy of anecdotal narration: the simultaneous attempt to reveal the contingency inherent in all understanding and to contain this capriciousness by ordering and sequencing the contingent pieces into a meaningful nexus without, however, dissolving their arbitrary relation to one another.
Document Type: Research Article
Affiliations: New York University
Publication date: 2011-03-01