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Title:The Whole Is the Sum of Its Parts: A Structural and Thematic Analysis of "die Sieben Weisen Meister"
Author(s):Skow, Katherine Kent
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Kalinke, M.,
Department / Program:German
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Literature, Germanic
Anthropology, Cultural
Abstract:Die sieben weisen Meister was a popular work of prose fiction in German-speaking Europe from c. 1470 to the end of the seventeenth century. A framed collection of fifteen tales, Die sieben weisen Meister surpassed both Eulenspiegel and Johannes Pauli's Schimpf und Ernst in the number of editions published and copies sold.
Die sieben weisen Meister belongs to the European Seven Sages of Rome cycle, which springs from an older Eastern literary tradition, the Book of Sindbad, which dates from the ninth century A.D. From its first appearance in France, c. 1150, to the nineteenth century, versions of the Seven Sages of Rome were translated into many European languages.
This study traces the interrelationship of misogyny and the problem of appearance versus reality in Die sieben weisen Meister, and concludes that the work is structurally and thematically sophisticated. Just as the framestory and the individual tales complement each other, so too do the underlying themes reinforce each other. Indeed, the one generates the other, in that misogyny motivates deception, and vice-versa. Thus, the relationship of the thematic elements mirrors the interplay of the structural elements.
Misogyny lies at the heart of Die sieben weisen Meister. From the alleged rape staged by the evil empress to the revelation that she has disguised a lover as her maid, the figure of the empress draws on negative depictions of women. As one would expect, the sages are antifeminist in their narratives; the misogyny in the empress's tales comes as a surprise, however, and leads to the conclusion that the empress is being characterized further as unable to think clearly.
The underlying themes, the popularity of the genre of the framed collection of tales, the advent of printing, and the development of a middle class morality might throw light on the immense popularity of Die sieben weisen Meister in the early-modern German-language area. Far from being a loose collection of tales, Die sieben weisen Meister is a sophisticated literary construct informed and generated by misogyny and the problem of appearance versus reality.
Issue Date:1992
Description:204 p.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1992.
Other Identifier(s):(UMI)AAI9305697
Date Available in IDEALS:2014-12-17
Date Deposited:1992

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