Ebner's Ethical Creatures: Animals and Humanity in the Work of Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach

Date of Award

Spring 5-15-2014

Author's School

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department

Germanic Languages and Literatures

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Type



This dissertation situates the work of Austrian author Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach within late nineteenth-century historical and social developments in Europe, especially those having to do with animals, as they are presented in literature of the period more generally. I devote particular attention to the ethical aims of Ebner's animal representation in the context of nineteenth-century German-speaking Europe's understanding of the human-animal relationship.

I investigate Ebner's portrayals of animals and the social goals of employing such representations; questions raised by human-animal comparison and the social criticism undertaken by aligning human and animal characteristics; and literary and ethical implications of human-animal relationships. I analyze the manner in which Ebner portrays human behavior inspired by, influenced by, and directed at animals and the attribution of various degrees of cognition and emotion to animals themselves. Whether imagined by human characters in the texts or communicated to the reader via narrative identification with animal figures to inspire reader sympathy and empathy, Ebner's depictions of animals draw heavily on nineteenth-century developments in attitudes toward the human-animal relationship and the status of nonhuman animals.

To put Ebner's work in dialog with other European writers and demonstrate her participation in a pan-European trend in literary animal depictions, I treat additional novels, novellas, and poetry by writers including Theodor Storm, Theodor Fontane, Paul Heyse, Leo Tolstoy, and Émile Zola, as well as periodicals and activist and scientific writing from Germany, Austria, France, Russia, and England.


English (en)

Chair and Committee

Lynne Tatlock

Committee Members

William W. Clark, Paul Michael Lützeler, Matt Erlin, Pascal Ifri, Miriam Bailin


Permanent URL: https://doi.org/10.7936/K7FJ2DRC

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