- Die Grazie tanzt. Schreibweisen Christoph Martin Wielands ed. by Miriam Seidler
Die Grazie tanzt. Schreibweisen Christoph Martin Wielands draws its title from the opening lines of Der neue Amadis (1771), in which the comic muse describes the Graces as dancing according to unstudied rules (“nach unstudierten Gesetzen”). The editor of the volume, Miriam Seidler, interprets this line as a reference to grace as an aesthetic category, more specifically, as a lightness and aptness of poetic expression attained through a neoclassical harmony of form and content (20). The choice of title is fitting, as grace constitutes one of several common threads, which run through the volume.
As the contributions of Julia Steiner and Elke Pfitzinger demonstrate, Wieland’s concept of grace continues to promote fruitful discussion. Steiner and Pfitzinger expand Seidler’s definition, drawn directly from Bernd Auerochs’s entry on grace in the Wieland handbook, to incorporate the classical understanding of grace as beauty in motion. For Steiner, the dance scene in Wieland’s Grazien (1770) expresses the concept of grace both thematically and formally, as dancing is the quintessential example of beauty in motion and Wieland’s use of prosimetrum (i.e., his alteration of prose and verse) captures the dancers’ rhythmic movements at the level of the syllable. From a different angle, Pfitzinger describes grace in Wieland’s works as a product of the author’s characteristic polyphony. Wieland’s verse narratives, for example, achieve movement through the back and forth of various speakers. According to Pfitzinger, this movement contains the key to understanding several of Wieland’s texts, particularly Der neue Amadis (1771): “Sinn findet sich nicht in je einer der Text- oder Aussageebenen, sondern im graziös-geselligen Hin und Her” (266). Steiner and Pfitzinger both highlight specific formal characteristics of Wieland’s verse, which promote grace by engendering a sense of movement. Pfitzinger’s thesis, in particular, merits further study, as it has the potential to synthesize two key elements of Wieland’s writing style, i.e., the graceful and the polyphonic.
In addition to a productive discussion of grace, Die Grazie tanzt also provides new perspectives on the relationship between theory and practice in Wieland’s [End Page 159] oeuvre. As Seidler points out in her introductory remarks, metafictional reflections form an integral part of most of Wieland’s works. Yet one should be careful not to take the content of these reflections at face value but rather to ask oneself if, or to what extent, Wieland’s metafictional commentary matches his poetic practice. Frank Zöllner finds an example in Wieland’s early works where theory does indeed match practice. However, Andreas Beck, Misia Sophia Doms, Kristin Eichhorn, and Pfitzinger all describe cases in which there are significant incongruities between Wieland’s metafictional reflections and his fictional world. As these authors draw their examples from Wieland’s later works, one is left to speculate about a possible development in Wieland’s writing style and the consequences thereof.
Zöllner’s case is fairly straightforward. In the first part of Gesicht des Mirza (1754), Wieland argues that examples of virtue are more important than speculative scholarship on the subject. In the second part of the text, he then uses Mirza’s vision to illustrate his argument. In contrast to Gesicht des Mirza, Die Abenteuer des Don Sylvio von Rosalva (1764), Idris und Zenide (1768), Der neue Amadis (1771), and Euthanasia (1805) all feature complex relationships between the author’s/narrator’s commentary and the fictional world (see Beck, Eichhorn, Pfitzinger, and Doms, respectively). Doms’s analysis of Euthanasia serves as a case in point. The preface to Euthanasia. Drei Gespräche über das Leben nach dem Tode maintains the illusion that one of the characters, Blandine, wrote down the conversations, of which the body of the text is comprised, shortly after they transpired. But the text itself contains footnotes and other formal aspects, which clearly indicate the existence of an author. Doms sees the tension between the claims of the preface and the footnotes as...