Changing Notions of Money and Language in German Literature From 1509-1956

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This study examines the multiple relations between money and language, e.g. abstraction, arbitrary assignment of meaning, ready negotiability and exchangeability, and the way these issues are reflected by and upon in some key works of German literature. It demonstrates how changing notions are explored, affecting not only plots and characters, but also impinging on the very language of the texts themselves. The literary investigation covers Fortunatus, Till Eulenspiegel, Nathan der Weise, Kabale und Liebe, Peter Schlemihl, Faust II, Soll und Haben, Der grüne Heinrich, Buddenbrooks, Von morgens bis mitternachts and Der Besuch der Alten Dame in the light of contemporary world view and man’s role within it, socio-economic developments, monetary practice, and linguistic changes as well as linguistic reflections.


“. . . Wenzel’s work has two cardinal virtues. One is that it has a particular focus that is not only richly thematic but also stylistic in its implications. . . . That field of force that is money – magic – language seems to me immensely suggestive and allows a broad range of texts to be considered. And this is the second great virtue of Wenzel’s study: as we move from the early sixteenth century (Fortunatus) to the twentieth century (Dürrenmatt), we find ourselves registering an important strand of German – and European – cultural history.” – Martin Swales

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