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Durham e-Theses
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Narrative representation in Goethe's Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre

Hopkins, Howard Wyn (1994) Narrative representation in Goethe's Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre. Masters thesis, Durham University.



This study aims to address a number of issues. What type of novel is Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahrel How modem or forward-looking is Goethe's novel? What methods does Goethe use for presenting the events and characters of his novel? An approach from the point of view of narrative technique is adopted to provide answers to these questions. Taking the theories of Wayne Booth, Percy Lubbock, Gerard Genette, Eberhard Lanimert and Michael Toolan, I examine showing (modem) and telling (archaic) as a question both of voice and of detail, and then look at direct methods of presenting 'thought' in the text (i.e. commentary and sententiousness) in comparison with indirect methods (implication, motif and indirection).Applying these concepts to Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre, the novel opens in a scene - the action and dialogue emerge from this scene. This forward-looking opening establishes a norm of situation-bound dialogue and episodic chapters. The modem novel’s obsession with the depiction of external features and surface details is shunned. The degree of reference to the existing genre is underlined by the widespread use of sententious discourse by both narrator and characters. However, by comparison, Goethe's use of sententious discourse is complex. The treatment of central themes ('Bildung' and 'Heilung') and central characters (Mignon, Philine and the Turmgesellschaft) is examined as a study of Goethe's techniques of implication. The conventional presentation of Philine (she is defined) is contrasted with the way in which Mignon is never summarised or even commented upon. In conclusion, Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre is compared with the earlier Geschichte des Agathon (Wieland) and the later Effi Briest (Fontane). In terms of the degree of scene, the external presentation of Mignon and the implicating process used in the treatment of key themes, Goethe's novel anticipates the realistic novel. Nevertheless, in its use of sententiousness and its cursory scene-setting, Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre does look back to Agathon.

Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Award:Master of Arts
Thesis Date:1994
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:24 Oct 2012 15:14

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