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Jörg Wickram’s Rollwagenbüchlein: A Study of Laughter and Narrative

Alessandrini, JL; (2014) Jörg Wickram’s Rollwagenbüchlein: A Study of Laughter and Narrative. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London).

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The phenomenon of laughter in early modern narrative texts is central to literary and cultural history. Particularly rich sources of laughter are early modern collections of German secular short prose narrative, known as ‘Schwanksammlungen’ (1555-1565) that were read for entertainment and pleasure. Such comic (anecdotal) tales, narrated in ways that appear to reproduce the language used by ordinary people, offer literary historians a deeper insight into contemporary understanding and appreciation of laughter in literature. This thesis offers a fresh reading of the motif of laughter in Jörg Wickram’s Rollwagenbüchlein (1555), which may be regarded as the epitome of this type of literature. This study considers laughter as an important key for interpreting the Rollwagenbüchlein, and explores what a close reading of scenes featuring laughter can tell us about Wickram’s narrative technique in his collection. It principally investigates to what extent the inclusion of explicit references to laughter adds to the Rollwagenbüchlein in ways that exceed comic functionality, on the basis of which a more nuanced reading of the text as a whole may be undertaken. It examines the extent to which this collection evinces a broader thematic interest in laughter and related phenomena – which provides further insight into early modern cultures of laughter. The main contention of this thesis is that Wickram capitalises on the social and emotional significance of laughter in order to flesh out his portrayal of everyday life, thereby also illuminating ideas about laughter that are irreducible to norms. Laughter is read as a revealing expression of urban mores and mentalities in mid-sixteenth-century Germany. Such a reading allows us to trace how burgher attitudes to laughter helped to shape German early modern conceptions of society, psychology, and life in general. This study falls into two parts, the first of which tackles the Rollwagenbüchlein’s portrayal of laughter’s social significance (chapters two ‘laughter and social processes’ and three ‘laughter and religious practice’), and the second - its emotional-psychological dimension (chapters four ‘laughter and emotionality’ and five ‘laughter and rationality’).

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: Jörg Wickram’s Rollwagenbüchlein: A Study of Laughter and Narrative
Language: English
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > SELCS
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1443882
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