Death of a Genre? The Aesopic Fable in Confrontation with Modernity

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper, not in proceeding


Scholars of European fable history over and over again have returned to the question of a possible death of the Aesopic genre. Arguments have been brought forward in accordance with mainly two opposing views. On the one hand, it has been claimed that the fable genre towards the end of the eighteenth century reached a stage of crisis and, more or less, perished. On the other hand, it has been asserted that the Aesopic fable has maintained an important role in literary culture after 1800, thus upholding a generic continuity until today. The paper attempts to elucidate the issue, firstly, by a critical discussion of the category of ’death’ as a conceptual tool in genre history, and, secondly, by an inquiry into four contextual factors of significance to the history of the Aesopic genre: the ethics of virtue, the rhetorics of exemplum, the anthropomorphization in natural history, the poetological principle of delectare & prodesse. All of these factors were fundamental prerequisites for the functioning of the fable in premodern culture. Their confrontation with the paradigm of modernity – that is the conclusion of the paper – drastically changed the conditions for the Aesopic genre around the turn of the century 1700/1800.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • General Literature Studies


  • paradigm of modernity, poetological principle of utile dulci, anthropomorphization, rhetoric of exemplum, fable history, genre change, virtue ethics
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 2015
Publication categoryResearch
EventXXIème Congrès de la Société Internationale Renardienne - Zürich, Schweiz
Duration: 2015 Jul 152015 Jul 19


ConferenceXXIème Congrès de la Société Internationale Renardienne