UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Wielands Ironie Weissenborn, Georg Kurt


The object of this study is Wieland's concept of irony. Wieland did not put forward a "theory of irony", but he has commented on irony in his works, in his correspondence, and in the footnotes to his translations of classical authors. This thesis consists of four parts, and the investigation proceeds as follows: Part One reviews the literature on Wieland's irony in order to establish a basis on which a contribution can be made to Wieland scholarship. No one denies that Wieland uses irony, but many disagree on its origin, its function, and its historical association. Part Two constitutes a detailed analysis of Wieland's most characteristic comments on irony as they occur in chronological order. Thus, an insight is gained into the development of the poet's theoretical understanding of irony which was conditioned by his attitude toward Socrates, the first historical eiron. As Wieland’s anti-Platonism gathered momentum, his use of the words Ironie and ironisch increased, and so did his attempts at defining irony. They are most numerous in Aristipp, Wieland's last novel, in which he also deals most extensively with Socrates. Part Three concerns itself with Wieland's manner of presentation. It is a study of the way in which the poet employs irony, and it investigates the stylistic devices in the service of this irony, with initial emphasis on his change from Platonist to Ironist. Part Four concludes the investigation by contrasting Wieland's irony with certain aspects of the romantic irony of Friedrich Schlegel and Ludwig Tieck. While it appears that Wieland uses stylistic techniques derived from literary models which also served the writers of the romantic generation, it also becomes evident that the intent of Wieland’s irony was more socially oriented than theirs. His central interest is in man himself, not in man's metaphysical concern. Wieland's irony is not irony for its own sake, but didactic irony for the purpose of enlightening the reader. As such, Wieland's irony serves as the means of characterization based on the contrast between eiron and alazon. In the light of his deep commitment to Reason (Natur), Wieland does not employ irony for the sake of suspending natural laws in the service of the wondrous. Basically, he establishes a constellation consisting of three human types: the misguided ethical and metaphysical idealist (Schwarmer), the cynical sensualist (Sophist), arid the representative of the graceful, Socratic golden mean (Philosoph). Whereas previous studies examine stylistic influences by other ironic writers on Wieland's manner, of presentation, this investigation reveals a by far greater influence of Socrates on Wieland's understanding and uses of irony. In this, the German author came to reject the characterizations of the eiron Socrates as presented in the works of Aristophanes and Plato, in preference to Xenophon’s description of the Greek philosopher as a pragmatist.

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