Johannes Rothe: Aspects of his didactic writing

Johnson, Morven Elizabeth Leighton (1981) Johannes Rothe: Aspects of his didactic writing. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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The aim of the study is to examine in detail Johannes Rothe's approach to literature as a vehicle for his didactic aims. Rothie lived as priest, town-clerk and schoolmaster from ca. 1360 to 1434 in Thuringia. His striving to impart his moral code through literature led him to compose several works of a didactic nature. Although he was concerned to present his works in an aesthetically acceptable form, his true purpose in each case was to teach a moral, as he often states in the prologues or Introductions to his works. His religious works Lob der Keuschheit, Liber devotae animae as well as the legends, the Passion and the Elisabethlegende, are addressed to members of the religious orders, while his Ratsgedichte aim at improving moral standards in the towns. The Ritterspiegel is composed with the hope of converting the impoverished nobility to a more useful and morally impeccable way of life based on consciousness of a social duty. In the prologues to his chronicles Rothe stresses the didactic function of history-writing and expresses the hope that his readers will learn from the exam.ples of the past. Rothe's description of his times is shown to be influenced more by his didactic aims than by a wish to be realistic. In the Ritterspiegel the privileges accorded to those of knightly status are seen to be described not for their own sake, but are exploited in each case by the author as an opportunity to introduce his didactic point. The description of social changes and knightly life, although on the surface realistic, is also moulded in such a way that Rothe's moral code comes to the fore. His depiction of social advancement, while basically accurate for his times, is one which suits his didactic purpose, for the good are rewarded with advancement while the wicked are demoted. Rothe compares the knights of his day to those of a hazy Golden Age of etzwanne and finds them lacking in the qualities he is seeking - namely the heroic values of the perfect Christian knight who is willing to sacrifice his own life for Christianity and for the general weal. The comparison, however, is based on generalisations which serve Rothe's didactic aim rather than historical accuracy. Rothe's chronicles are typical examples of medieval history-writing. They are based on his belief that history is the manifestation of God's will on earth. At the same time they suit his didactic purpose since the events of history are shown to be manipulated in such a way chat the just are rewarded and the wicked punished. Divine influence manifests irself in many forms; paranormal phenomena play a significant role as portents of God's intentions. Rothe shows that even the most powerful individuals are unable to influence the course of events plotted by the just Christian God. Rothe's works reflect the most striking features in the social and economic developments of his time. He recommends that every member of society should work towards the common weal (gemeyn nutz). At the same time, he emphasises the quality of nutz (usefulness) as a value in itself Every action - including Rothe's writing itself - is judged by its essential usefulness; in a series of collocations based on the classical qualities of honestum and utile Rothe explains the basic elements of his moral code. From the recommendation to lead a useful life, he proceeds to promote the concept of working for one's living. He shows reward - whether it be of a spiritual or a material nature - to be dependent on personal effort. While propagating a basically religious ethical code, Rothe is able, with his plea for social consciousness and the right to work for one's living, to take account of the sweeping social changes of his times.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Additional Information: Adviser: John Roberts
Keywords: German literature, Medieval literature
Date of Award: 1981
Depositing User: Enlighten Team
Unique ID: glathesis:1981-74139
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 23 Sep 2019 15:33
Last Modified: 23 Sep 2019 15:33

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