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Novel Translations

Novel Translations: The European Novel and the German Book, 1680–1730

Bethany Wiggin
Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: Cornell University Press
Pages: 280
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  • Book Info
    Novel Translations
    Book Description:

    Many early novels were cosmopolitan books, read from London to Leipzig and beyond, available in nearly simultaneous translations into French, English, German, and other European languages. In Novel Translations, Bethany Wiggins charts just one of the paths by which newness-in its avatars as fashion, novelties, and the novel-entered the European world in the decades around 1700. As readers across Europe snapped up novels, they domesticated the genre. Across borders, the novel lent readers everywhere a suggestion of sophistication, a familiarity with circumstances beyond their local ken.

    Into the eighteenth century, the modern German novel was not German at all; rather, it was French, as suggested by Germans' usage of the French word Roman to describe a wide variety of genres: pastoral romances, war and travel chronicles, heroic narratives, and courtly fictions. Carried in large part on the coattails of the Huguenot diaspora, these romans, nouvelles, amours secrets, histoires galantes, and histories scandaleuses shaped German literary culture to a previously unrecognized extent. Wiggin contends that this French chapter in the German novel's history began to draw to a close only in the 1720s, more than sixty years after the word first migrated into German. Only gradually did the Roman go native; it remained laden with the baggage from its "French" origins even into the nineteenth century.

    eISBN: 978-0-8014-6007-4
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xvi)
  5. Introduction. “Little French books” and the European Novel
    (pp. 1-14)

    One man’s anger haunts the pages of this book and demands exorcism. As the seventeenth century drew to a close, Gotthard Heidegger (1666–1711), occasional critic and full-time Swiss Calvinist, poured his rage into pages treating the origin and progress of romance, Mythoscopia romantica. The baroque syntax and vocabulary fail to obscure Heidegger’s shrill tone. Styled as a conversation between friends, Heidegger’s anti-romance, anti-novel tirade has long been identified as a foundational text for the history of the German novel. It has been reprinted, excerpted, collected in anthologies, quoted by scholars, and read by generations of Germanisten as arguably the...

  6. 1 Fashion Restructures the Literary Field
    (pp. 15-61)

    In 1654, poet Friedrich von Logau (1605–1655) briefly commented on an age-old problem: the willy-nilly proliferation of books. Unlike Logau, others had already spilled quantities of ink on such ubiquity. Gutenberg’s invention had, they groused, made a bad problem worse. Every fool believed his scribblings to merit wider circulation, Erasmus—and many subsequently—had noted.¹ The cleverness of Logau’s quick formulation lies in its divergence from the biblical verse “Of making books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh” (Ecclesiastes 12:12). Many, Logau hints, bemoan the unfettered spread of letters—every Tom, Dick,...

  7. 2 Curing the French Disease
    (pp. 62-106)

    As the seventeenth century drew to a close, fashion turned up in a new French ensemble: gallantry. “The Character of a town-gallant” appeared in 1675 in London; but it might just as well have been published in a number of other cities or even towns where fashion now reigned. The gallant had become a stock character, strutting and preening his way across English, Dutch, French, and German pages. In his introductory remarks to the famous lecture On the Imitation of the French (and source of this chapter’s second epigraph), philosopher, lawyer, publicist, and man-about-town Christian Thomasius snickered that gallant labels...

  8. 3 1688: The Roman Becomes Both Poetical and Popular
    (pp. 107-146)

    In 1688, Albrecht Christian Rotth (1651–1701) enshrined the Roman as the highest form of German poetry in his Vollständige Deutsche Poesie (Complete German Poetry). The work was a compendious survey spanning two volumes, intended perhaps for students such as those Rotth knew at the Gymnasium in Halle that he directed. Rotth’s treatment of the Roman, like many other discussions of the genre then percolating across Europe, drew extensively on Pierre Daniel Huet’s Traité de l’origine des romans, from which this chapter’s epigraphs are drawn. Huet’s original French was speedily rendered into English by an anonymous translator who paid homage...

  9. 4 1696: Bringing the Roman to Market
    (pp. 147-183)

    By 1696, August Bohse (1661–1742) had made a name for himself: Talander. It was a pseudonym designed to evoke romance. With pride of place on title pages printed in Leipzig, Frankfurt, Dresden, or “Cologne,” many printers’ favorite fake place of publication, the name Talander summoned up visions of gallant French fictions. Perhaps, readers were meant to guess, the name originated in the volumes of a Scudérian romance. Or maybe Talander was a code name for a real person, such as Alcandre, the character so obviously Louis XIV in the nouvelle by prolific scribbler, later Bastille prisoner, Gatien Courtilz de...

  10. Conclusion. Robinson Crusoe Sails on the European Market
    (pp. 184-206)

    In 1723, Johann Jakob Bodmer (1698–1783) and Johann Jakob Breitinger (1701–1776) enumerated a list of thirty-five must-have titles to stock a lady’s library. The Swiss Bodmer and Breitinger, famous figures of the German Enlightenment, wrote from Zurich under the pseudonyms Dürer and Holbein. Their curriculum occupied the fifteenth issue in part 4 of the journal Die Discourse der Mahlern (Discourses of the Painters), which “the painters” had begun editing a few years earlier. The list, signed by Dürer, answered a question posed in a letter to the editor authored by die Mahlerinnen (the lady painters). They asked a...

  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 207-234)
  12. Index
    (pp. 235-248)