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Title: The nature of realism in Grimmelshausen's Simplicissimus cycle of novels
Author: Aylett, R. P. T.
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 1981
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The thesis opens with a survey of the problems involved in analysing realism, then, without wishing to pre-define realism, and having taken account both of modern theory concerning realism and seventeenth-century poetics, proposes an approach to Grimmelshausen's novels based on the search for plausibility and verisimilitude in the areas of character depiction, plot, depiction of time and space, and congruence between the fictional world and the real world of the times, and based also on an examination of the values with which the work is imbued. The analysis of character reveals that Simplicissimus is no mere type or vehicle figure, but rather a character drawn with great subtlety: a teleological autobiographer revealing his character often despite himself, not a rounded, complete man but recognisably a consistent individual developing from somewhat peculiar childhood circumstances. Similarly, Courasche's story, although couched as self-denigrating propaganda, reveals a subtle portrait of a twisted, dualistic personality which results from the confluence of natural inclination and peculiar circumstances. Minor characters in the cycle are, on the whole, not simply figures: they are three-dimensional, well-portrayed characters in their own right. The plot is seen to contain much that is realistic, and such elements which might to modern sensibilities appear implausible are seen not to lie outside the scope of the credible in the seventeenth-century context. Moreover, their inclusion by the author reflects current literary theory and practice. Temporal elements are, in the main, reflected and portrayed realistically, but the treatment of space, including the depiction of milieu, is less convincing; this, though, is consistent with the various narrators' own interests and with their perception of the world, and should not be seen as an indictment of Grimmelshausen's ability to write convincingly. The 'made' world of the fiction matches in many crucial aspects the real world of the times, both physically and spiritually. The values with which the bulk of the cycle is imbued are non-idealistic and pragmatic: in short, realistic. The author's overall philosophy is seen to shift from the advocacy of world-denying asceticism in Book Six to a far more realistic attitude in Book Eight; the apparent reversion to a less enlightened attitude at the end of the cycle does not reflect the author's true philosophy, and the sincerity of the last two books must be doubted. Although there is no question that the cycle's realism is intermittent, being strong in some areas and less so in others, the cycle does, on the whole, lean towards the realistic.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available