Germanic Languages | Colloquium
G625 | 17037 | A. Polaschegg


Reflecting Sentimentality: The Epistolary Novel

It is a remarkable genre that has made its appearance on the stage
of European literature in the middle of the 18th century,
fascinating both writers and readers, and appealing to enlighteners
and sentimentalists alike. Remarkable, because after all, the
epistolary novel encourages its recipients to do no less than
habitually read the most private correspondence – however
fictitious – of people they are not even loosely acquainted with.
There is hardly any greater indiscretion to be committed in social
life. And there is hardly any other literary genre that raises the
reader’s tension between affirmation and distance, between
reflection and emotion, to such a degree as it is effected by the
epistolary novel. Working on the 18th century “classics” as well as
on contemporary epistolary novels (including an email novel), the
colloquium will try to sound the aesthetic and epistemological
potential of the genre. Focussing on the specific structure of
scriptural communication, the leading question is in how far the
form of private letters may be regarded as a superior means to a
specific literary end – and what in the world (of literature) that
particular end might be.
The colloquium will be held in German and encompass discussion of
the following titles, most of which are to be dealt with in the form
of excerpts:

Montesquieu: Lettres Persanes (engl. transl. excerpts)
Richardson: Pamela (excerpts)
Goethe: Die Leiden des jungen Werther
Gellert: Leben der schwedischen Gräfin von G... (excerpts)
Laclos: Liaisons Dangereuses (engl. transl.)
Herbert Rosendorfer: Briefe in die chinesische Vergangenheit
Ingo Schulze: Neue Leben (excerpts)
Daniel Glattauer: Gut gegen Nordwind