A recurring theme in the reception of Schumann's Eichendorff Liederkreis is the question mark over its sense of narrative continuity and the presence (or otherwise) of a central protagonist. Up until now, however, scarcely any attempt has been made to view these features in the context of Eichendorff's wider literary production. This article proposes applying an Eichendorffian aesthetic to Schumann's op. 39, viewing its phantasmagoric interconnections, absence of clear narrative order, sense of temporal dislocation and persistent theme of the loss of self as profoundly reflecting the concerns of Eichendorff's prose fiction. Neither the view that Schumann's cycle does possess a unified narrative and central protagonist, nor the converse, that it should be seen as a disparate group of songs, is adequate. Instead, it is the tension between the two views that emerges as crucial in coming to an aesthetic understanding of the cycle. Schumann's procedure, in juxtaposing a number of poems drawn from disparate works, presents an extreme case whereby narrative and subjective identity are put to the test, and the listener is invited to fill the vacant space left by the withdrawal of a unifying subject with his or her own sense of subjectivity.
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