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Storytelling in the Spectators / Storytelling dans les spectateurs

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Edited By Klaus-Dieter Ertler, Yvonne Völkl, Elisabeth Hobisch, Alexandra Fuchs and Hans Fernández

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. 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.

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Radical Storytelling in the Age of Revolution: Norway’s Provinzialblade (1778–1781)

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In the twin kingdom of Denmark-Norway, the apex of the spectator genre was reached with Professor J.S. Sneedorff’s The Patriotic Spectator (Den patriotiske Tilskuer; Copenhagen) in 1761–1763, over 30 years after the first Danish spectator journal appeared1. However, editors employing the genre soon saw the need to develop the genre to attract readers, as it was growing old fashioned. It is perhaps no surprise, then, that the first major feat of successful periodical journalism in Norway only indirectly shows affinity with the spectator form. Provinzialblade (Journal of the Province), published weekly in Bergen between 1778 and 1781, enjoyed nationwide acclaim for combining familiar elements, such as moral and philosophical essays and stories, with more topical issues such as recent inventions or travelogues. Its outspoken editor, Claus F. Fasting (1746–1791), was very much himself, not a fictitious character, nor part of a ‘society’. His journal thus resembles the more modern magazine form, combined with spectator aspects and literary criticism. Furthermore, the stories and essays he translates and authors often address political matters of the time in quite a radical manner. These issues are at once local and global in their scope and in the circulation of the texts themselves. The title Provinzialblade hides an agenda that is truly transnational and advanced. Particularly regarding the question of slavery.

In singlehandedly publishing Provinzialblade in his hometown of Bergen, Claus Fasting instantly became Norway’s first major journalist. He had returned to this city on the Western coast of...

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