Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Languages & Literatures


Adalbert Stifter believed in a natural law which he called the sanftes Gesetz (gentle law) as the sustaining power for both mankind and nature. He sees the sanftes Gesetz at work in the powers which he deems gross (great): those gentle laws which govern the world order. His foreword to the Bunte Steine is a summary of these beliefs. Although he did not write the foreword specifically to discuss the Bunte Steine stories, these thoughts are evident in the six stories of the collection. An examination of the workings of the sanftes Gesetz in nature and in man can therefore aid in the understanding of these stories. The aspects of the sanftes Gesetz which are discussed in this thesis are supported by other material from Stifter's letters and from the critics, and then illustrated with examples from the Bunte Steine stories. This method will show that this sanftes Gesetz philosophy, as contained in the foreword to the Bunte Steine, is evident in the sanftes Gestz stories.

These thoughts are examined in two areas in this thesis. First of all, the sanftes Gesetz in nature is discussed, with particular attention to those areas which Stifter deemed "gross und klein (small)". Man's place in nature is then examined, and man's relationship to nature is clarified. The second part of the thesis is a discussion of the characteristics of the sanftes Gesetz in society, and has three focal areas: the concepts of gross and klein in the individual, love and the family as the basis for the sanftes Gesetz soviety, and the working of the sanftes Gesetz in society as a whole.