Nature in Jung-Stilling’s Lebensgeschichte: A Study of the Portrayal of Nature in German Peasant Literature
Creators:Kunkler, Francis Robert
german peasant literature
nature in peasant literature
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Publisher:The Ohio State University
Series/Report no.:The Ohio State University. Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures Undergraduate Research Theses; 2016
There is a large trend in ecocriticism that focuses on, and often criticizes, the way in which nature is portrayed in Romantic literature, with critics frequently focusing on the works of authors such as Goethe. However, the portrayal of nature in peasant literature has largely gone unnoticed. Very little is written concerning this topic. Johann Heinrich Jung-Stilling’s Lebensgeschichte, published in 1777, is among the first autobiographical accounts of a man who was able to work his way out of peasantry: first teaching as a schoolmaster, eventually studying medicine at the University of Strasbourg, and becoming a professor at the University of Marburg. It was edited and submitted for publishing by Goethe, a friend of Jung-Stilling’s. The first two books, Jugend and Jünglingsjahre, relate the story of Jung-Stilling’s family and his childhood. In this account, Jung-Stilling provides realistic, accurate, and detailed imagery of the setting in which the story takes place. Furthermore, upon closer examination of both the narrator and the characters, their relationships to nature turn out to be much more complex. Examining Jugend and Jünglingsjahre more closely reveals that Jung-Stilling has created a web of protagonists, all of which have very different interactions with and relationships to nature. This variety of perspectives reflects the different views of nature at the time, as well as the beginning of Romanticism. In this study, I will analyze the different nature perspectives and how the narrator represents them. In doing so, I hope to open the doors to further study of peasant literature - in particular, of how and whether the portrayal of nature in such literature differs from canonical Romantic authors.
Academic Major: German
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