The Individualization of Fortune in the Sixteenth-Century Novels of Jörg Wickram:
The Beginnings of the Modern Narrative in German Literature
This book is an examination of the concept of Fortune in the narratives of the sixteenth-century German writer, Jörg Wickram. Wickram, often regarded as the founding father of the German prose novel, posited an internalisation of Fortune quite at odds with the ideas of both his contemporaries and predecessors. Throughout the Middles Ages, Fortune functioned as a representation of the experience of contingency and the human attempt to cope with it within the confines of a God-given order. The Renaissance saw the advent of the notion that an individual possessed the ability to control his or her life to a certain extent, but the perception of Fortune as an external force acting on human agents remained intact. Wickram, however, saw Fortune not only as an external force acting in conjunction with or competing with divine agency, but also as a force within the human mind; it was this innovative understanding which set him apart from his contemporaries and lent originality to his literature. To illustrate this, this work examines Wickram’s thought and his narratives, focusing on three major issues: The relationship between Fortune and God; the internalisation of Fortune to the human mind; and the location of Wickram’s Fortune in a historical context.
“Standing at the centre of Dr. Cordula Politis’ study are narrative works by Jörg Wickram, generally speaking one of the less well-known authors of the sixteenth century ... in her study the leading role is played by the thesis that Wickram, inspired first and foremost by Petrarch, altered the conception of Fortuna as a power at work outside of man and internalised it ... In her close reading of the novels, Dr. Politis makes clear how intimately Fortuna (be it as a power acting without or from within) and individual are interwoven, and how differently this relation is shaped by Wickram . . . A particular achievement of this study, one which cannot be sufficiently highly estimated, is not least that Wickram and his novels have been brought before English readers for the first time on a considerable scale.” – (from the Preface) Prof. Dr. Ingrid Kasten, Institut für Deutsche und Niederländische Philologie, Freie Universität Berlin
Table of Contents
Preface by Ingrid Kasten
ISBN10: 0-7734-5448-9 ISBN13: 978-0-7734-5448-4