UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Christoph Martin Wielands Erzahlweise in Geschichte des Agathon und Der goldene Spiegel. Maurach, Bernhard


CM. Wieland created a style of writing which was new for the German novel of the late 18th century. It is the aim of this thesis to show the various means Wieland used in order to present to the reader works of psychological, educational and political content which would be read, not only for that content, but also for pleasure. Mainly on the basis of two of his major works, Die Geschichte des Agathon, (1767), and Der goldene Spiegel, (1772), but also on some theoretical and critical works by other authors, some of the more important features of Wieland's narrative style are analysed and illustrated with examples. The first work to be dealt with, Die Geschichte des Agathon, was written for the upper and upper middle classes. Turning directly to the reader, Wieland, following the trends of his times, often addresses the female reader endeavouring to further her education. Moreover, in order to be pedagigical without being pedantic, Wieland assumes many roles beside that of author. We find him donning the mask of editor, translator, commentator and sometimes even that of an imaginary reader engaged in dialogue with the author. Asking rhetorical questions and voicing different opinions according to the role he plays at the moment, he taunts the reader, who is thus forced not only to take a position toward the action presented by the author, but also to pass critical judgement on and give thoughtful appraisal to ideas which underlie it. Innumerable humourous references to works of other writers entice the reader to read these works and thereby broaden his knowledge, round out his education, making reading more enjoyable. The other novel, Der goldene Spiegel, addresses itself to another class, that of princes and other rulers, since it deals with government. Its aim is the education of princes. Instead of conversing directly with readers, as in Agathon, Wieland has here chosen for his medium a narrative within a narrative. The characters of the various narrators serve for the most part, the functions which Wieland elsewhere discharged in his many disguises. So here, also, questions are asked and commentaries given in the form of conversation between the narrators, but in fact aimed at the reader, who may resemble the characters of either narrative. Wieland himself plays several roles. The most important is that of the philosopher Danischmend in the introductory narrative. He also gives comments and explanations, often of a humourous nature, by introducing various translators who in the course of centuries have translated the 'work' into several languages and commented on it. Each novel is of a different tenor. In the Agathon, where he is speaking to his own class, Wieland seems to be less restrained, whereas in the goldene Spiegel, since it pertains to matters of the great of this world, he uses a more subtle approach to make his own ideas more palatable without being offensive. The enjoyable and intelligent alternation among the disguises of his didacticisms serves to bring the reader closer to the problems which Wieland has at heart without presenting mere facts. The reader is so skilfully coaxed that the conclusions at which he will arrive will be at least similar to those aimed at by Wieland. That the reader may reach a high level of insight and humanity is the immanent goal of the novels. Added to his pedagogical purpose are his fluent style and mastery of language which give Wieland's novels an air of freshness and liveliness unknown to other German novels of his time.

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