The Indecent Body of Sculpture: Theodor Storm’s Realist Psyche

  • Catriona MacLeod
Part of the Genders and Sexualities in History book series (GSX)


Stubbornly associated with eighteenth-century neoclassical aesthetics, in the nineteenth century sculpture comes under scrutiny as a species of obsolete, sensualistic object. This essay considers the ambivalent status of sculpture in German Realist Theodor Storm’s novella Psyche (1875). Storm’s text is preoccupied with questions of decency and indecency, questions that were raised not only by Storm himself, but by contemporary reviewers, as well as viewers of sculpture in the novella. Psyche, this chapter argues, flirts with the eroticism of antique sculpture, but also uses sculpture cathartically to dispel the indecency of its source. The chapter also considers the pairing of this classicizing Psyche with the grotesquely corporeal Nordic sculpture of a “Walküre,” a juxtaposition couched in strongly nationalist terms, in the years following German unification.

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© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Catriona MacLeod
    • 1
  1. 1.University of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphiaUSA

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