Storytelling in the Spectators / Storytelling dans les spectateurs

by Klaus-Dieter Ertler (Volume editor) Yvonne Völkl (Volume editor) Elisabeth Hobisch (Volume editor) Alexandra Fuchs (Volume editor) Hans Fernández (Volume editor)
Conference proceedings 306 Pages
Series: Die Aufklärung in der Romania , Volume 13

Table Of Content

  • Cover
  • Title Page
  • Copyright Page
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • Citability of the eBook
  • Contents/Table des matières
  • List of Contributors
  • Introduction
  • From Telling Stories to Storytelling: Orality, Fiction and Politics in the Spectator (1711–1714) and the Female Spectator (1744–1746)
  • The Pastoral in Motion: Sociability in the Spectator
  • Embroidering the Loose Dress of the Spartan Maids—Text, Sex, and Textile for Joseph Addison
  • Stories of Authorship, Politics, and Friendship: Hugh Kelly, Oliver Goldsmith, and the Babler (1763–1767)
  • From Anecdote to Anecdote: The Chaotic Order of Storytelling in Dutch Anti-Spectators around 17251
  • Raconter soi, raconter l’autre. Stéréotypes nationaux dans les « spectateurs » de Justus van Effen
  • Quantifying Spectators
  • Society and Sentiment: (Hi)storytelling in Denmark’s Den patriotiske Tilskuer (1761–1763)
  • Migrations d’une pratique narrative: La Spectatrice danoise de Laurent Angliviel de la Beaumelle
  • Radical Storytelling in the Age of Revolution: Norway’s Provinzialblade (1778–1781)
  • On Searching and Finding. Narratives in the Medical Weekly Der Tirolische Arzt
  • Le masque brisé: heurs et malheurs de la fiction dans les « Spectateurs » de Jacques-Vincent Delacroix de part et d’autre de la Révolution française
  • Embedded in the Mainstream of Argumentation: Narratives in Die mühsame Bemerckerin
  • The Transformation of Stories in Bohemian Spectators and the Problem of Observing Characters’ Minds
  • Escenificar el acto periodístico: escritura y lectura en las micronarraciones de los “espectadores” españoles
  • “[U];n talento de soñar tan ordenada y metódicamente”: la narración onírica en los “espectadores” españoles
  • Historias y relatos en El Corresponsal del Censor (1786–1788)
  • Republicanismo y liberalismo en el periódico La Pensadora Gaditana
  • Le journal de bord de El Argonauta español (1790)
  • Narrare nei fogli moralistici italiani
  • List of Figures

List of Contributors

Hélène Boons

Université Paris 3-Sorbonne Nouvelle

Claire Boulard Jouslin

Université Paris 3-Sorbonne Nouvelle

Cinta Canterla

Universidad Pablo de Olavide, de Sevilla

Joseph Chaves

University of Northern Colorado, Greeley, CO

Katarzyna Chlewicka

Nicolaus Copernicus University, Toruń

Misia Doms

Lower Austria University of Education, Baden bei Wien

Klaus-Dieter Ertler

Université de Graz

Alexandra Fuchs

Università di Graz

Michael Griffin

University of Limerick

Cornelis van der Haven

Ghent University

Elisabeth Hobisch

Universidad de Graz

Amélie Junqua

Université de Picardie Jules Verne, Amiens

Ellen Krefting

University of Oslo

José de Kruif

University of Utrecht

Elisabel Larriba

Aix Marseille Univ, CNRS, TELEMME, Aix-en-Provence

Maud Le Guellec

Universidad de Lille – Centro de investigación CECILLE

Aina Nøding

National Library of Norway, Oslo

Václav Smyčka

Charles University, Prague

Inmaculada Urzainqui

Universidad de Oviedo

Yvonne Völkl

Université de Graz


The Spectators, also known as Moral Weeklies, were an important magazine genre which came into being in the early 18th century and which shaped European identity by developing the strategies of critical journalism and by popularizing the ideas and values of the Age of Enlightenment. In almost all European countries, Spectator magazines were popular in the 18th century and beyond. Through their particular narrative architecture, they helped to form the collective memories of Europeans and influenced the sociability of groups and the personal development of citizens. Investigating modes of storytelling in the Spectators is an important starting point for a paradigmatic investigation of our historical, cultural and philosophical evolution since the Enlightenment and the impact of these magazines on issues of identity in today’s Europe. In this collection on “Storytelling in the Spectators”, we present a series of contributions which study English, French, Spanish, Italian, German, Dutch, Czech, Polish and Danish-Norwegian periodicals.

In the first chapter, Claire Boulard Jouslin offers a study on the theme “From Telling Stories to Storytelling: Orality, Fiction and Politics in the Spectator (1711–1714) and the Female Spectator (1744–1746)”. She shows that Eliza Haywood’s Female Spectator is often described as one of the followers of Addison and Steele’s Spectator, because it used stories to reform its female readers—a method that seems to come close to Christian Salmon’s definition of storytelling as a way to control opinion by aestheticizing politics and by offering people attractive models to imitate. But she questions this assumption by examining the nature of storytelling in both papers. Although both seem to engage in storytelling, rejecting the traditional oral form of telling stories and adopting instead a more visual one, their conception and use of stories differed substantially. Their political views (one whig, the other tory) led them to define the role played by imagination differently. This, in turn, conditioned the very nature of the narrative forms they used. The Female Spectator associated a tory vision with historicised/historical writings in reaction to the Spectator’s strategy of equating a whig vision with fictional narratives. Both periodicals are early instances of storytelling which stress turning the reader into a critical, independent and reasonable agent, a view of the reader which does not fit with our latter-day suspicion of storytelling as a vehicle for seductive propaganda.

In “The Pastoral in Motion: Sociability in the Spectator”, Joseph Chaves takes up a familiar topic in studies of Addison and Steele’s Spectator: their circulation ←9 | 10→in London’s burgeoning venues for polite sociability, such as the coffee house and the public park. Arguing that we have not fully appreciated Addison and Steele’s sense of the significance and novelty of the form of these interactions, this essay traces the Spectator’s attempt to understand them through the notion of propriety. Because propriety, in Addison and Steele’s understanding, mediates between what is natural, in any given situation, and convention, their writings often frame urban sociable encounters through the ancient genre of the pastoral. At the same time, in their attempt to represent the emergence (and dissolution) of new forms of consensus that arise from such sociable circulation encounters, the essays feature a very specific kind of narrative: stories that are fragmented and intertwined with other stories.

In “Embroidering the loose Dress of the Spartan Maids—Text, Sex, and Textile for Joseph Addison”, Amélie Junqua unravels the various threads of a single story first narrated by Plutarch, and twice reported by Addison in his periodical essays. From its first telling in the primary source to its reappearance in Addisonian prose, the story has acquired quite a few layers, causing heated but rather pointless debates among classical scholars. Retold by Pierre Bayle in his Dictionnaire with all its interpretations, the anecdote becomes a focal point from which to gauge the attention commanded by feminine clothing at the start of the 18th century. When feminine garments become the subject of male scrutiny, textile and text are one, and the female body, an object in absentia, only revealed through and by a surface.

In “Stories of Authorship, Politics, and Friendship: Hugh Kelly, Oliver Goldsmith, and the Babler”, Michael Griffin focuses his analysis on the Babler of Hugh Kelly, which was a collection of essays originally serialised in Owen’s Weekly Chronicle from February 1763 until June 1767. Griffin describes the inception and development of that weekly publishing venture, drawing particular attention to the magazine’s coverage of three topics in particular: the plight of the professional author in the still burgeoning, post-Spectator market for periodical essay writing; the nature of party politics and the economic wellbeing of nations; and the nature of friendship. Goldsmith’s dramatic career would come to be shadowed by the unhappy jealousy that it created with Kelly, but their mutual work in the world of Grub Street periodicals saw the two Irishmen co-operate, however briefly, on the Babler. In that magazine, Kelly fashioned a Spectator-style venture which was timely in its commentaries on the modernising worlds of authorship and politics.

Cornelis van der Haven has a look at the Dutch magazines in “From Anecdote to Anecdote: The Chaotic Order of Storytelling in Dutch Anti-Spectators around 1725” and discovers early satirical counterparts of the genre. ←10 | 11→The first Spectator-parodies appeared in the 1720s. One of the most successful authors of these satirical moral weeklies was Jacob Campo Weyerman, who in his magazine writing explicitly mocked the spectatorial genre. Dutch literary historiography has created a strict dividing line between the spectatorial magazine and the satirical magazines of Weyerman, a division which has often been criticised over the last decades. This paper focuses on the narratological differences and similarities between Weyerman and Justus van Effen, focusing on the role of the narrateur and the narrataire and the function of the anecdote. It will in particular investigate the way in which Weyerman’s stories, kept together by series of anecdotes, create a kind of “fragmentary unity” that seems to be different from the more classical rhetorical structure of Van Effen’s moral essays.

The spectatorial work of Justus van Effen, composed in French, is the topic of the contribution of Yvonne Völkl, who addresses the constructions of national stereotypes in Van Effen’s writings. With the topic of “Narrating the Self, Narrating the Other”, Yvonne Völkl takes a look at storytelling in general and at the transmission of stories through media. She also addresses the questions of how and to what extent national stereotypes were developed in this context and the manner in which the author constructed his Dutch self in contrast to other European nations in his francophone adaptations of the Spectator.

José de Kruif applies a metholodology of “distant reading” to the magazine and offers some examples of textmining in her essay on “Quantifying Spectators”. Through some examples of Dutch Spectators, the Hollandsche Spectator (1732‒1735) of Justus van Effen and De Denker (1763‒1764) by the Mennonite vicar Cornelius van Engelen, de Kruif demonstrates the ways in which new digital methods can add to our knowledge of the genre. Although relatively few articles in Dutch Spectators are presented as storytelling, there are many narratives incorporated into the much more common treatises in these texts. José de Kruif suggests that analysis of a sufficient number of treatises might bring up approaches that will also be suited for a sufficiently large corpus of “special” genres in Spectators (e.g. dream-narratives).

Ellen Krefting contributes a study on “Society and Sentiment: (Hi)storytelling in Denmark’s Den patriotiske Tilskuer” and shows how various kinds of storytelling are put to political and educational use in that magazine. She is particularly interested in its discussion of the relationship of history to fiction, pointing to the advantages of fiction over historical accounts in conveying moral examples. A professor of political science, Jens Schielderup Sneedorff published Den patriotiske Tilskuer (The patriotic spectator, 1761–1763) as a logical consequence of his moral-political philosophy of patriotism. This philosophy was based on ←11 | 12→the idea of harmony between the four estates (nobility, clergy, bourgeoisie and peasantry) under an absolutist ruler, where each member of each estate was supposed to contribute to and strive towards the common good and the perfection of society as a whole. The combination of industriousness, enlightenment and loyalty was essential to the civic virtue of a patriot, according to Sneedorff. But this mentality did not emerge spontaneously; it needed nurturing, guidance and education, which was exactly what Sneedorff’s spectator journal aimed to provide.

Of a similar cultural moment, but in French, Klaus-Dieter Ertler analyses the migrations of a narrative practice in La Spectatrice danoise of Laurent Angliviel de la Beaumelle. It is interesting to observe how at the end of the spectatorial genre in Protestant areas (1749–1750), a young Frenchman went to Copenhagen to “civilize” Scandinavian culture by means of the moral press. He created a female voice within a Danish background in order to discuss basic forms of behavior and knowledge, following Protestant ethics, with a clear orientation to the contemporary Freemason’s worldview.

In “Radical Storytelling in the Age of Revolution: Norway’s ProvinzialbladeAina Nøding focuses on Norway’s first major literary critic and journalist, Claus F. Fasting, who singlehandedly published a weekly periodical called Provinzialblade (Provincial Journal; 1778–1781) for four years in his hometown of Bergen. His magazine (which exhibits some traits of the Spectator) presented original and translated texts on a variety of topics and genres, overtly promoting quite radical enlightenment ideas to a conservative readership. Many of the stories were authored by Voltaire and Montesquieu, as well as some which were set amidst the ongoing American War of Independence. Nøding argues that these stories make up important and strategic elements of Fasting’s larger political discourse on liberty, reason and moral sentiment.

“On Searching and Finding: Narratives in the Medical Weekly Der Tirolische Arzt” is the title of Misia Doms’s essay, which brings up another type of spectatorial writing in the 18th century, that of the medical weeklies. These papers form one of the most influential spin-offs of the enlightened Spectator project—next to journals for children and for female readers, or literary weeklies. By analysing the famous German periodical Der Arzt as well as its nearly forgotten Austrian counterpart Der Tirolische Arzt, the present paper gives an overview of the large range of storytelling devices used in medical weeklies: Micronarratives, which present only a narrative nucleus inserted in general medical reflections, can be found next to detailed stories of sickness and healing with individual characters, climactic developments and/or unexpected turns. Alongside stories and micronarratives Misia Doms finds in these papers a rudimentary poetics of medical narration.

←12 |

One of the last Spectators of France, published before, during and after the French Revolution by Jacques-Vincent Delacroix, constitutes the corpus of Hélène Boons. She analyses the problem of the fictional author or editor in “The shattered Mask: Fortunes and Misfortunes of Fiction in Jacques-Vincent Delacroix’s ‘Spectators’ on both sides of the French Revolution”. For Boons, the author and magistrate Delacroix proves to be a rewarding resource when it comes to providing a diachronic approach to the Spectator genre. The author modified the form he has selected according to the political storms he endured and his choices affect both the relationship between speech and narration and the generic device of an authorial identity in disguise. The present study offers hypotheses to understand why the spectatorial voice slowly quietened during the 19th century. The core of the problem is to be found in the role granted by this particular type of periodical press to storytelling and, more broadly, to fiction.

Katarzyna Chlewicka contributes “Embedded in the Mainstream of Argumentation: Narratives in Die mühsame Bemerckerin”, in which she studies an early Polish adaptation of the first spectators, written in German, which appeared around 1735 in the city of Gdansk. The journal privileges explicitly the genre of the story as a didactic and rhetorical concept. It does so using an “authoritative narrative style” and employing representative characters. Here, storytelling is also an object of meta-reflections concerning constitutive features of Spectator-stories such as the fictitious and/or the fabular.

In his contribution, Václav Smyčka explains the “Transformation of Stories in Bohemian Spectators and the Problem of Observing Characters’ Minds”. His article deals with the transformations of poetics and narrative structure in fictional prose of that area. The genre emerged there in the 1770s and influenced its traditional fictional prose. It was characterised by new kinds of digression, new sociolects and ideolects, which atomized previous prose fictional genres like the exemplum, anecdote, or the chapbook. However, the new poetics cultivated by later spectators, which included a greater sentimentalism, as well as ideas of the French enlightenment novel and “Sturm und Drang”, helped to reduce the contingency of fictional prose and to re-establish a lost coherence. These two transformations signal the emergence of the modern short story in the spectators and other literary journals.

The Spanish periodicals have an important position in Europe, as they are the expression of the Catholic cultures during the second half of the century. Maud Le Guellec observes the staging of the writing and reading process in the journals and its micronarrations. Many Spanish Spectators aim to highlight the new practice of journalism and to deal with issues such as the act of ←13 | 14→redaction, the individual or collective reading of an issue, the journalist positioning in regard to his work and its reception. Maud Le Guellec shows some of these mises en abyme in order to interrogate the writing and the functions of metajournalistic reflexion.

Elisabeth Hobisch studies the function of the dream visions in the Spanish Spectators and argues that the authors of the genre developed their own style of dream narration and made use of its aesthetic characteristics for their specific goals. They were confronted with two traditions of dream narrations, the spectatorial and the local, and they managed to combine these two traditions in very amusing ways. Even if the structure elaborated by the authors of the first Spectator-models was maintained by many Spanish authors, Elisabeth Hobisch brings up examples of completely different uses of the dream and critical discussions of them.

Inmaculada Urzainqui analyzes the histories and tales contained in the Corresponsal del Censor, published fortnightly in Madrid, from May 1786 to June 1788 by Manuel Rubín de Celis, one of the most original Spanish Spectators. The essay studies its epistolary character and the ambiguity of its expressive voice. After an explication of its particularities and objectives, Inmaculada Urzainqui demonstrates two types of micronarrations, where the medium engages emotionally with the reader in order to bring a major plasticity to the expression of its ideas: those referring to the situation of the author, and those narrated by the author’s supposed correspondents.

Biographical notes

Klaus-Dieter Ertler (Volume editor) Yvonne Völkl (Volume editor) Elisabeth Hobisch (Volume editor) Alexandra Fuchs (Volume editor) Hans Fernández (Volume editor)

Klaus-Dieter Ertler, Yvonne Völkl, Elisabeth Hobisch, Alexandra Fuchs and Hans Fernández are collaborators in the research project on the Spectators at University of Graz.


Title: Storytelling in the Spectators / Storytelling dans les spectateurs