The Lyric Poetry of Johann Christian Gunther as a Paradigm of the Transition from Baroque to Enlightenment

Sutherland, Catherine. 1991. The Lyric Poetry of Johann Christian Gunther as a Paradigm of the Transition from Baroque to Enlightenment. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

This dissertation seeks to do two things: firstly to examine Gunther's poetry in the context of his age; and, secondly, to use a study of his verse as a key to illuminate the intellectual and literary life of the transitional period in which he wrote. This dual approach, which combines closely textual with contextual analysis, seeks to challenge simplistic assessments of Gunther whether as an early precursor of the Sturm und Drang or as an unswerving upholder of the Silesian tradition. The contextual study offers a new perspective on the literary transition from the seventeenth to the eighteenth century, firstly by focussing on imagery in the lyric poetry of this time, which, it is agreed, cannot adequately be characterised by the concept of Barocke Bildlichkeit. The focus then shifts to an analysis of wider issues in literary debate in the early decades of the eighteenth century. It is argued that Gunther's poetic legacy was neglected by his literary successors both because his solutions to the dilemmas of the transition were not seen as radical enough and because he did not belong to any of the opinion forming literary societies of these early decades. The textual study focusses on the relationship of Gunther's poetry both to the form and to the content of the past century's literary tradition. The ambivalent tension we find in Gunther, who pays lip service to the pillars of the literary tradition and continues to use its forms while at the same time perceiving its inward hollowness, becomes evident in his satire and parodies of occasional verse. This tension, it is contended, is paradigmatic of the transitional period itself. This tension also permeates the content of Gunther's poetry and his use of tropes. A chapter on Gunther's use of the figure of Job shows how he subverts the traditional connotations of this biblical figure for his own purposes of establishing a new poetic ideal of Redlichkeit or literary sincerity. Gunther's poetry may be seen as paradigmatic of the transitional period in which he was writing because his concerns were those of his age; what however sets him apart from his contemporaries is his poetic isolation. Guinther sought to forge a way forward in relation to the Silesian tradition, just as his contemporaries were seeking to break free of its century long stranglehold. Gunther claimed Lohenstein and Hofmannswaldau as his poetic idols, yet his concept of Redlichkeit could not be further from their elaborate ornamentation. Whilst attempting to remain true to these models, Gunther often unconsciously undermines them and in so doing, often strikes out on a much more unusual path than his peers.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

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Lyric poetry, Baroque, Enlightenment, Johann Christian Gunther

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

English and Comparative Literature



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Date Deposited:

09 Jul 2020 14:34

Last Modified:

08 Sep 2022 14:35


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