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

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Abstract

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
JournalDaphnis
Volume35
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - 2006
Externally publishedYes

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ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Literature and Literary Theory

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