This book treats both the literary history of the modern German novel and theoretical considerations about gender and 18th-century narrative strategies. It attempts to overcome a two-fold division in scholarship by treating Christoph Martin Wieland's Geschichte des Agathon and Sophie von La Roche's Geschichte des Frauleins von Sternheim, the two novels generally considered to be foundational in the development of the German Bildungsroman, in conjunction, rather than as examples of unrelated traditions, and by considering the reciprocal influence of fictional and theoretical writing dealing with the developing genre of the modern German novel. Baldwin also examines Wieland's Don Sylvio and Maria Anna Sagar's Karolinens Tagebuch and analyzes how gender as a relative construct functions in each of the four texts. In so doing she shows how the new German novel of the 1770s aligns reading and narrative practices with gendered attributes to establish narrative authority and cultural legitimacy for the new stories of identity they explore.
The interpretations proceed from an analysis of the ways that reading and narration are represented in the novels, and in their poetological prefaces, to show that the texts take up, challenge, and contribute to contemporary literary and social theories of the novel.Claire Baldwin is assistant professor of German at Colgate Unversity in Hamilton, New York.