Subproject A04

An Anthropology of Crime. On the Discursive Interferences between Poetics, Morals, Law and Medicine in German Crimes Stories of the 19th Century

Jodocus Donatus Hubertus Temme (1798-1881) is an important author for both law and German literary studies. He did not only publish crucial reference works and textbooks on civil and criminal law, but he also produced the most substantial and voluminous oeuvre of crime narratives and novels of 19th-century Germany. His works were widely received through serial publication in popular family and culture magazines such as Die Gartenlaube. It is all the more surprising therefore that Temme’s literary works feature only rarely in studies on the international history of crime literature. Such histories tend to focus on the anglophone (E. A. Poe, W. Collins, A. C. Doyle etc.) and francophone realms (É. Gaboriau). However, the due consideration of Temme’s oeuvre as part of the German narrative tradition can modify the history of crime literature fundamentally, as it shows a stronger tendency towards social criticism and a critical reflection of the law, which is due to Temme’s dual professional disposition as both a legal practitioner and a novel writer. Thus, the focus on Temme’s works will change literary histories of crime literature, inasmuch as it shows us that the crucial feature of social criticism does not enter the international crime novel as late as the 20th century.

The example of Temme lies at the heart of the CRC’s research objective on law and literature. It is paradigmatic for research cluster A, materiality, for the trials in his works are not only instances of legal practice, but also the crucial subject of his crime narratives. Temme’s texts capture questions of social and political relevance in a public discourse, thereby exploring both anthropological dimensions (in his literary works) as well as their legal consequences (in his theoretical works). The ‘Temme Case’ provides insight into the contrast of the individualized singular case versus the generalized exemplary case, and, in a kind of medial analogy, into the contrast of serial publication in a popular magazine (in the 19th century the most popular form of medium per se) with utmost public visibility and distribution versus the reduced impact of publications on the law directed at a small group of experts. This poses several questions: How are notions such as ‘crime’, ‘law’, ‘value’, ‘norm’ and ‘punishment’ conceptualized? How do these concepts depend on the target audience and distribution realm or on the particularities of genre? How do they relate to discourses on law and justice? What is their connection to notions of ‘understanding’ and ‘comprehending’? What is the role of (fictionalized) facts in narratives, semantics and morals?

The project’s objective is the analysis of the relation between Temme’s literary and legal works with a view to the specific transformations the material undergoes. The PIs follow up on the premise that Temme used the literary representation of criminal cases in order to utilize narration as a kind of courtroom practice. Narration allowed him to negotiate anthropological, psychological and moral aspects of offences, crimes and punishment through fictionalized, individualized examples. The premise necessarily raises the question what influence these literary practice excursions had on Temme’s works on the law. Moreover, besides the question of his personal motivation to produce literary works as a legal scholar, the project focuses on forms of publicity and their medial implications and strategies. This also includes the reconstruction of victim-perpetrator-narratives in both legal and literary discourses, an analysis of rhetorical patterns of argumentation and a special focus on literary genre conventions.


Prof. Dr. Andreas Blödorn
Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster
Germanistisches Institut
Abteilung Neuere deutsche Literatur
- Literatur und Medien -
Schlossplatz 34, Raum 151
48143 Münster
Tel.: +49 251/83-24433
Email: Prof. Dr. Andreas Blödorn

Dr. Kristina-Maria Kanz
Hochschule des Bundes für öffentliche Verwaltung
Studiengang Verwaltungsinformatik
Gescherweg 100, 48161 Münster
Tel.: +49 251/8670 6850

Research Assistant

Johannes Ueberfeldt

Student Assistant

Niklas Lotz