Academic journal article German Quarterly

Noble Lies, Slant Truths, Necessary Angels: Aspects of Fictionality in the Novels of Christoph Martin Wieland

Academic journal article German Quarterly

Noble Lies, Slant Truths, Necessary Angels: Aspects of Fictionality in the Novels of Christoph Martin Wieland

Article excerpt

Shookman, Ellis Noble Lies, Slant Truths, Necessary Angels: Aspects of Fictionality in the Novels of Christoph Martin Wieland. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1997. 237 pp. $39.95 hardcover.

Expanding on a Yale dissertation, Ellis Shookman here examines Wieland's nine novels as metafictions that reveal his evolving ideas about fictionality. No previous studies, says Shookman, have "shown [fictionality's] significance as a thread that runs through" all the novels (190). The three concepts of the book's title (allusions to Plato, Emily Dickinson, and Wallace Stevens) evoke the ways in which fictionality informs Wieland's novels, and serve as the organizing principle of Shookman's book: thus, Part I covers "Imagination" in the early novels; Part II, "Ideals" in the middle novels; and Part III, "Illusion" in the late novels. These concepts are also the focus of three of Wieland's essays ("Unterredungen mit dem Pfarrer von ***," "Uber die Ideale der Griechischen Kunstler," and "Versuch uber das deutsche Singspiel") that are informed, as usual, with the need to "teach readers how to read via the writing process itself" (17). An introductory chapter offers overviews of current theories of fictionality and of its history, focusing in particular on the history of the German novel, and the efforts of Wieland, following thinkers like Bodmer and Breitinger, to rehabilitate a genre "long decried as sinful flights of fancy and ... an immoral waste of time" (1). Over the course of the Enlightenment, Shookman argues, "critics' thinking evolved from a normative concept of mimesis ... into a more refined aesthetics of fictional illusion," thus suggesting "new ways of defining fiction [that might] overcome . …

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