Date of Award

12-2009

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts

Major

German

Major Professor

Stefanie Ohnesorg

Committee Members

Daniel H. Magilow, Maria Stehle

Abstract

Generally speaking, scholarship in the field of Germanistik has taken an interest in Friedrich Schlegel’s early publication, “Vom aesthetischen Werte der griechischen Komoedie” (1794), either because of its perceived influence on German Romantic Comedy [(Catholy 1982), (Kluge 1980), (Holl 1923), (Japp 1999)], or else because of its relevance as an example of Schlegel's still inchoate aesthetic philosophy [(Dierkes 1980), (Behrens 1984), (Schanze 1966), (Michel 1982), (Dannenberg 1993), (Mennemeier 1971)]. As a theory of comedy in its own right, Schlegel’s essay has garnered little attention, in part because of its supposed inapplicability to comedic praxis and at times utopian implications, in part because of its seemingly contradictory argument, and lastly in part because Schlegel himself abandoned the essay’s central premise soon after its publication. However, it is the central argument of the present study that Schlegel’s essay can be shown to be interesting and relevant precisely for the theory of comedy it contains. Through a close reading of Schlegel’s essay on Old Greek Comedy, as well as an examination of Schlegel’s early political and aesthetic beliefs, which will help render Schlegel’s theory more intelligible, it will be shown that Schlegel’s theory of comedy is novel in so far as it is one of the first aesthetic theories to claim that comedic practice is necessarily deprived of aesthetic validity unless it exists in a social atmosphere of freedom of expression, namely, such as that of the Athenians. The implication is that Schlegel here predicates an aesthetic theory upon one of society. Schlegel’s theory is also interesting for the peculiar type of comedy it advocates, namely a joyous comedy (Comedy of ‘Freude’), which stands in direct opposition to the ‘Satirische Verlachskomoedie’ of the Enlightenment and makes use of a comedic mechanism (joy) that is anathema to traditional negative comedic elements (satire, derision, mockery etc.). The conclusion discusses what the relevance and value of these implications might be for future research.