2017 Student Research Conference:
30th Annual Student Research Conference

Traditions of Nihilism in German Picaresque Works


Jesse R. Dinkins
Dr. David Partenheimer, Faculty Mentor

The German literary tradition of picaresque novels precedes and follows the birth of nihilist and voluntarist philosophy in Germany. Satire in Grimmelshausen’s Simplicius Simplicissimus, written in the seventeenth century, lends itself to the subsequent voluntarist movement, culminated in the German nihilist philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche. The paper contrasts pre-Nietzschean work Simplicius with post- Nietzschean novels Grass’ The Tin Drum and Brecht’s Mother Courage, both of which use the picaro narrative in order to portray a war-ravaged Germany from a humorous perspective. The juxtaposition of the humorous portrayal of war and the use of the picaro create an attitude of nihilism and will to self in the German literary tradition. By examining these works using Nietzsche’s nihilist philosophy, the paper asserts that Simplicius and the general portrayal of the Thirty Years’ War in a humorous way creates a nihilist attitude that would define the German philosophical identity and its subsequent picaresque literature.

Keywords: Simplicius Simplicissimus, Friedrich Nietzsche, The Tin Drum, Mother Courage, Nihilism, Germany, Voluntarism

Topic(s):English

Presentation Type: Oral Paper

Session: 403-1
Location: MG 1096
Time: 2:30

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