Friday, September 28, 2012

Abstract: "Johann Fischart alias Wilhelm Friess? Notes on the Authorship of a Horrible and Shocking Prophecy"

This is the abstract I submitted for the paper I'll be giving in October at the Sixteenth Century Society Conference, in which I'm going to argue that the second prophecy of Wilhelm Friess should be attributed to Johann Fischart. Attributing anonymous works to Fischart was quite popular in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, but scholars have become much more hesitant about it in recent decades, and recent attempts to attribute anonymous works to Fischart haven't met with much acceptance. So I'm almost embarrassed to claim that Fischart wrote "Friess II," but in this case I think there's some good evidence for it. In any case I'll try to make the argument as forthrightly and convincingly as possible in twenty minutes or less.

Abstract: "Johann Fischart alias Wilhelm Friess? Notes on the Authorship of a Horrible and Shocking Prophecy"

The two prophecies of Wilhelm Friess, first appearing around 1558, were the most popular German prophetic pamphlets of the second half of the sixteenth century, with some fifty total editions. The second prophecy using the same pseudonym is known from booklets printed in Basel beginning in 1577. Despite their popularity, almost no scholarship has addressed these pamphlets, and the connection between the two prophecies has remained obscure.

The first prophecy is a reworking of Johannes de Rupescissa’s 1356 Vademecum, while the second presents a nightmare vision of demonic armies invading Germany from all sides. I argue that this second pamphlet addresses a specific historical, political, and religious context. The text points to an origin not in Basel in 1577, but in Strasbourg in 1574, just as Conrad Dasypodius was completing the Strasbourg cathedral’s astronomical clock. The prophecy’s climactic scene of a cannibalistic perversion of the Eucharist critiques both Catholic and Lutheran sacramental theology from a Calvinist perspective. The prophecy further reflects the particular fears of embattled Strasbourg Calvinists in 1574, who saw enemies on all sides, especially with the coronation of Henry III as king of France. The combination of astrological symbolism and Calvinist outlook in Strasbourg in 1574 is circumstantial evidence for considering as author Johann Fischart, one of the most important German satirists and Reformed propagandists of the time, who understood the at times obscure astrological symbolism found in the prophecy, and who in 1574 wrote an encomium for the new astronomical clock before leaving Strasbourg for Basel.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Jonathan I just ran into this blog and it is outstanding. Congrats on the Wilhelm Friess manuscript. That is great and I'm very interested in the vade mecum connection. I keep running into a Bartholomeus Friso or Bartholomaus Frisch. No connection, I suppose?