The doctoral thesis of Nils Schellmann explores spaces of antiquity in early modern novels from 1590 to 1690. The project is based on the hypothesis that novels like John Barclay’s “Argenis” (1621) or Daniel Casper von Lohenstein’s “Arminius” (1689/90) function as implicit encyclopaedias in the process of the historical transformation of ancient spatial knowledge.


The great novels of the early modern period take a prominent position in the generation, preservation, and passing on of knowledge about ancient spaces. Here, poetic imaginative power released from every form of factographic documentation sketches a topography of Antiquity that experiences diverse transformations based on constructions, imaginings, and connotations. Within these processes of transformation, the spaces of Antiquity are dynamized into spaces of movement in which knowledge of these spaces is reordered. Spaces of Antiquity thus appear to us from this viewpoint as spaces of movement and knowledge. Novels like Philip Sidney’s Arcadia (1590), John Barclay’s Argenis (1621), Anton Ulrich’s Aramena< (1669) and Octavia(1677), and Daniel Casper von Lohenstein’s Arminius (1689), with their multifarious poeticizations and fictionalizations of these spaces, play a crucial part in the process of historical transformation of knowledge about ancient spaces. These novels are therefore media for depicting ancient spaces as well as being implicit encyclopedias of knowledge about spaces of Antiquity.

The aim of the dissertation is to reconstruct, from the perspective of the narrative art of early modern times, the period’s orders of knowledge that referred to ancient spaces. The research project thereby takes up the methodology of newer tendencies in literary studies that seek to grasp literature and knowledge as historical factors that refer to each other. This knowledge-aesthetical approach is based on the analysis of the discourses that constitute a specific area of knowledge. For the dissertation project, this initially means taking the poetological discourses of the early modern period as a basis for investigating the poetic strategies and narrative practices upon which the staging of spatial knowledge in the novels is based. Additionally, the research probes the topographical discourses of early modern times that order and regulate knowledge of ancient spaces. Building upon this, the interferences between poetological and topographical discourses are analyzed. At a time when the boundaries between literature and science were still blurred anyway, due to its specific aesthetic procedures, the early modern novel took on a specific function in the spatially-oriented discourses of the time and therefore functions as an implicit encyclopedia of spaces of Antiquity.