The Parrhesiastic Urszene of the Modern Novel in Wieland’s Geschichte des Agathon: Subject as Method

Malte Wessels


It appears that Christian von Blanckenburg presents two contradicting criteria for the modern novel: on the one hand it has to render visible the relationship of causes and effects that shape human life, on the other hand the subjects in fiction should be presented as autonomous and not as their author’s ‘machines.’ I argue that Blanckenburg’s notion of subjects in fiction depends on a ‘biocentric’ model that actually does not apply to the novel and its rhetorical surface. I will then present parrhesia as an alternative concept of authenticity that functions on the novel’s textual surface. I will present the final book of the third version of Wieland’s Geschichte des Agathon as a model case for parrhesia’s role in the construction and function of subjectivity in the 18th-century novel and argue that subjectivity can be understood as the novel’s method of self-authentification. (MW)

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