Germanic Languages | Historical Study of German Literature II
G571 | 2641 | Wailes
Topic: Grimmelshausen's Der abenteuerliche Simplicissimus Teutsch (1668-69) and
the Temper of the Time
Three credit hour course meets; 7:15-8:30, MW BH 134
Simplicissimus, the first German novel that still has a readership outside the
university, is a commentary in fictional form on major themes of 17th-century
German culture. Sending his protagonist through a long series of crises and
transformations, Grimmelshausen confronts many important systems of belief and
behavior that were employed to order the chaotic century. The entire novel will
be read, but textual points of focus will be chosen to illustrate five of these
systems and the critiques to which they are subjected; hence the course will
progress in five, three-week units: (1) Providence and fortune; life's flux and
the search for constancy; randomness and chance within a Christian philosophy;
(2) Government and the state; the legacy of More's Utopia (1516) and the
immanence of Hobbes' Leviathan (1651); (3) War and violence; cruelty and human
nature; artistic and philosophical stylizations (as in the visual arts); (4)
Demonology and witchcraft (the notorious Malleus maleficarum ["Witches' Hammer"]
went through 29 editions between 1487 and 1700, and well over a thousand people
were burned in the 1620s in the bishoprics of Wrzburg and Bamberg)--
Grimmelshausen writes out the evil occult again and again; (5) Realism: does the
commingling of everyday detail and familiar adventure with excursions into the
fantastic (e.g., Mummelsee) cohere as an expression of perceived reality?
Depending on student interest, it may be possible to include consideration of the
"productive reception" of Grimmelshausen and his age by Grass (Das Treffen in
(+) probably the Reclam UB edition (ISBN 3-15-050761-8)
(+) Short titles of selected relevant scholarship: I.M. Battafarano,
"Hexenwahn und Teufelsglaube im Simplicissimus" (1977); F.
Gaede, "Grimmelshausen und die Tradition des Skeptizismus"
(1976); H. Geulen, "Wirklichkeitsbegriff und Realismus in
Grimmelshausens Simplicissimus" (1977); M. Meumann, D.
Niefanger, eds. Ein Schauplatz herber Angst: Wahrnehmung und
Darstellung von Gewalt im 17. Jahrhundert (1997); V. Meid,
"Utopie und Satire in Grimmelshausens Simplicissimus" (1982);
D. Naumann, Politik und Moral. Studien zur Utopie der
deutschen Aufklrung (1977), pp. 67-90.