Masters Thesis

You can’t handle the truth: mediations of reality in Goethe, Godwin, and Shelley

In this thesis for Curriculum B (Literature), I explore common themes and features in the novels The Sorrows of Young Werther (Goethe), Caleb Williams (William Godwin), and Frankenstein (Mary Shelley) and investigate possible reasons for these similarities. Written within 40 years of each other at the turn of the nineteenth century, these novels represent the early evolution of a new form of fiction (the novel) as the respective authors try to use it to convey a message to their public with mixed results. As the rise of the novel also coincides with the rise of the European movement known in retrospect as Romanticism, we see, too the emergence of a new relationship between author and reader: the necessity of an “ideal” or “sympathetic” reader who will interpret a text whose meaning is purposefully obscured through mediated narrative forms.