New knowledge, disturbing and attractive: The Faustbuch and the Wagnerbuch as witnesses of the early modern paradigm shift

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

2 Scopus citations


The emergence of the modern world, or, the ultimate paradigm shift in natural sciences, occurred considerably earlier than commonly assumed. Already in the sixteenth century several German authors indicated the extent to which numerous scientific discoveries had had an impact on the general mentality. The anonymous authors of the prose novels Historia D. Johann Fausten and Wagnerbuch project stunning images of their protagonists' efforts to gain access to new knowledge and of how they desperately resort, because of their painfully felt human limitations, to necromancy. Although their pacts with the devil are regularly portrayed as extremely condemnable, the narratives themselves reveal an extraordinary fascination with transgressions against traditional knowledge. Both novels thinly mask the true attraction exerted by new scientific knowledge and geographical explorations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)515-535
Number of pages21
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - 2006
Externally publishedYes


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Literature and Literary Theory

Cite this