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Storytelling in the Works of Bunyan, Grimmelshausen, Defoe, and Schnabel

Storytelling in the Works of Bunyan, Grimmelshausen, Defoe, and Schnabel

Janet Bertsch
Copyright Date: 2004
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 168
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  • Book Info
    Storytelling in the Works of Bunyan, Grimmelshausen, Defoe, and Schnabel
    Book Description:

    The modern novel appeared during the period of secularization and intellectual change that took place between 1660 and 1740. This book examines John Bunyan's 'Grace Abounding' and 'The Pilgrim's Progress', Johann Grimmelshausen's 'Simplicissimus', Daniel Defoe's 'Robinson Crusoe', and J. G. Schnabel's 'Insel Felsenburg' as prose works that reflect the stages in this transition. The protagonists in these works try to learn to use language in a pure, uncorrupted way. Their attitudes towards language are founded on their understanding of the Bible, and when they tell their life stories, they follow the structure of the Bible, because they accept it as "the" paradigmatic story. Thus the Bible becomes a tool to justify the value of telling "any" story. The authors try to give their own texts some of Scripture's authority by imitating the biblical model, but this leads to problems with closure and other tensions. If Bunyan's explicitly religious works affirm the value of individual narratives as part of a single, universal story, Grimmelshausen's and Defoe's protagonists effectively replace the sacred text with their own powerful, authoritative stories. J. G. Schnabel illustrates the extent of the secularization process in 'Insel Felsenburg' when he defends the entertainment value of escapist fiction and uses the Bible as the fictional foundation of his utopian civilization: arguments about the moral value of narrative give way to the depiction of storytelling as an end in itself. But Bunyan, Grimmelshausen, Defoe, and Schnabel all use positive examples of the transfiguring effect of reading and telling stories, whether sacred or secular, to justify the value of their own works. Janet Bertsch teaches at Wolfson and Trinity College, Cambridge.

    eISBN: 978-1-57113-653-4
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-ix)
    J. B.
  4. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. x-x)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-6)

    In Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners (1666) and The Pilgrim’s Progress, part 1 and part 2 (1678, 1684), John Bunyan tries to show his readers how to enter a world founded on the language and story of the Bible. Believers walk the path of righteousness by learning to read. They attain salvation by learning to tell their stories.

    The seventeenth century was a time of religious upheaval and social and intellectual transition throughout Europe. Because of these political and ideological upsets, the seventeenth century also witnessed profound tensions in terms of language use and language theory. Medieval writers...

  6. 1: Bunyan’s Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners
    (pp. 7-22)

    John Bunyan’s spiritual autobiography introduces many of the linguistic and religious tensions that appear in his fictional works, as well as those of Grimmelshausen, Defoe, and Schnabel. In Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners Bunyan tries to move from a reprobate existence to participate in the life and language of the righteous elect. This process is problematic, in part because of the conflict between his Calvinist theology and the structural demands of his source narrative, the Bible. An examination of Grace Abounding will clarify Bunyan’s attitude toward language and the Bible and will highlight the difficult relationship between Bunyan’s...

  7. 2: Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress
    (pp. 23-46)

    According to John Bunyan, the positive use of words and stories awakens religious belief and strengthens the elect community. In The Pilgrim’s Progress, part 1 and part 2, he tells the story of his characters’ journey through an allegorical landscape, from sin to redemption. Bunyan bases his faith in the transforming power of the story he has created on his faith in the transforming power of the story told in the Bible (PP, 4–6). He publishes his work in order to help his readers understand how their actions and attitudes affect their spiritual prospects (PP, 6–7). By reading...

  8. 3: Grimmelshausen’s Der Abentheurliche Simplicissimus Teutsch and Der seltzame Springinsfeld
    (pp. 47-78)

    This chapter considers the importance of language, storytelling, and the justification of fiction in Grimmelshausen’s Der Abentheurliche Simplicissimus Teutsch in relation to moral and religious tensions similar to those that appear in Bunyan’s texts. Like The Pilgrim’s Progress, Simplicissimus contains many ambiguities and contradictions, but it is possible to arrive at a satisfactory interpretation of the text by taking its moral element into consideration. In order to understand more completely what the book is saying about the value of fiction, this chapter will also examine one of its sequels, Der seltzame Springinsfeld, and briefly discuss some of Grimmelshausen’s other texts....

  9. 4: Introduction to the Robinsonade
    (pp. 79-88)

    Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe was a great hit when it was first published, and it quickly attracted many imitators. Many subsequent works of realistic adventure fiction consciously use Robinsonade episodes to capitalize on Crusoe’s popularity. Through imitation authors build up a specific set of conventions to satisfy reader expectations. Establishing these conventions is an important stage in the evolution of the eighteenth-century novel as a respected and clearly identifiable literary genre. Although Schnabel acknowledges the questionable reputation of Crusoe imitations in 1731, Jean-Jacques Rousseau recommends Robinson Crusoe as a work of great educational value in 1762. Writers like Joachim Heinrich...

  10. 5: Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe
    (pp. 89-112)

    Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe has been hailed as the first English novel. It certainly was one of the most influential among the early English novels, and it was directly responsible for creating the genre of the desert island novel, or Robinsonade. Secondary criticism usually treats Robinson Crusoe in one of two ways. Critics sometimes look from Crusoe forward. They discover in Crusoe the seeds of the English social novel, with its emphasis on empirical reality, verisimilitude, and detailed observation. They also describe the influence of Enlightenment philosophical and economic thought on Defoe’s work. A second group of critics aligns itself...

  11. 6: Schnabel’s Wunderliche Fata einiger See-Fahrer (Insel Felsenburg)
    (pp. 113-134)

    Time has not been particularly kind to Johann Gottfried Schnabel’s Wunderliche Fata einiger See-Fahrer. Immensely popular when first published and part of the childhood reading of some of the most important figures of German Romanticism,¹ the first volume barely remains in print. Even the work’s most enthusiastic fans — and there are not very many! — admit that it is not a literary masterpiece. Within the present argument, Schnabel’s work is important precisely because it is neither particularly deep nor extremely original. Schnabel intended his work for popular consumption and he consciously wrote within the already recognizable Robinsonade genre. The Wunderliche Fata...

  12. Conclusion
    (pp. 135-140)

    Throughout Grace Abounding and The Pilgrim’s Progress Bunyan tries to show that the search for salvation is not a straightforward progression. The belief in the effectiveness of good works is one of his greatest temptations. It would be reassuring to be able to climb a ladder toward God, and it would certainly give his autobiography a more systematic structure and a clear sense of development leading to a happy ending.

    If achieving salvation were merely a process of satisfying a specific set of moral guidelines or requirements, the authors of the texts discussed in this book would be able to...

  13. Works Cited
    (pp. 141-146)
  14. Index
    (pp. 147-152)