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Katritzky, Linde

A Guide to Bonaventura's Nightwatches

Series: Ars Interpretandi - Volume 9

Year of Publication: 1999

New York, Bern, Berlin, Frankfurt/M., Paris, Wien, 1999. X, 291 pp., 5 fig.
ISBN 978-0-8204-4110-8 hardback  (Hardcover)

Weight: 0.600 kg, 1.323 lbs

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Book synopsis

Literary criticism and a reference guide to Bonaventura's extratextual sources are combined in this interpretation of the Nachtwachen as a menippea - the satiric subgenre dealing with the discrepancy between ideals and realities in the encyclopedic pursuit of ultimate truth. The seemingly random profusion of interspersed names, hints, and allusions has been decoded and interconnected to disclose the comprehensive background against which the anonymous author tests the validity of traditional knowledge and wisdom, as well as his own experiences and views. Proper names, in particular, are taken to provide authorial indications in a text, where time, place, and action are deliberately indistinct. When their jumbled sequence is unraveled and their signpost function is recognized, the text appears as a veritable compendium of eighteenth-century culture and tightly structured intellectual experience, which, in its apparently haphazard arrangement, mirrors the confusion of life.
Oxymeronic combinations and abrupt changes of mood and situations further emphasize the perplexities of human existence, all of them characteristics of the menippea, which does not supply direct and unequivocal answers. Sense and deeper meaning emerge, however, when all points of reference are combined to reveal firm coherence under the discordant surface. The menippea can only imply solutions. Its generic assignment is to pose questions, cast doubt on accepted attitudes, and to stimulate independent thinking, active responses, and new approaches to perennial problems. In the Nachtwachen these objectives are pursued with unusual erudition and an intensive intellectual curiosity that tests the limits of human understanding in all conceivable directions. By appropriating the achievements of literature, art, science, and philosophy, the work points to an author of unusual, scholarship and vision.

About the author(s)/editor(s)

The Author: Linde Katritzky, Adjunct Professor at the University of Florida, graduated from the University of Munich, Germany, and holds an M.A. in German and a Ph.D. in English from the University of Florida. She lived for many years in England and has published articles on literature, the Enlightenment, and English/German cultural relations in international journals. Her monograph, Lichtenbergs Gedankensystem, is volume six in the series The Enlightenment: German and Interdisciplinary Studies (Peter Lang, 1995), and Johnson and 'The Letters of Junius'. New Perspectives on an Old Enigma,, is volume five in the series Ars Interpretandi/The Art of Interpretation (Peter Lang, 1996).


Ars Interpretandi / The Art of Interpretation. Vol. 9
General Editor: Raymond Gay-Crosier