Erschienen in: Zeitschrift für Literaturwissenschaft und Linguistik 45. Jg, Nr. 179 (2015), S. 134–164.
Abstract: Rise and fall of the picaresque novel in the 17th century is subject of a long and intense academic debate. This paper attempts to develop a new evolutionary perspective on the genre by analyzing the motif of delinquency and its poetic functions. Three historical types of German picaresque novels shall be identified: (1) Early texts like Albertinus’ Gusman (1615) and Ulenhart’s History von Isaac Winckelfelder vnnd Jobst von der Schneid (1617) use delinquency as a means to gain individuality by moral deviation. (2) The devastations of the Thirty Years’ War lead to a new type of texts. Grimmelshausen’s Simplicissimus (1668) and Moscherosch’s Soldatenleben (1644) address the problem that the political state of emergency legitimizes even extremely violent crimes. Thus, they illustrate the need to enforce moral rules against individual claims. (3) Late 17th century picaresque novels like the anonymous translations Der Abentheurliche Buscon (1671) and Jan Perus (1672) as well as Schielen’s Der Frantzösische Kriegs-Simplicissimus (1682/83) show that the formation of law not solely limits delinquency but also enables new kinds of economically advantageous crimes. At the edge of the 18th century, however, the possibility of individualization via deviation is replaced by the need of inclusion into the legal order.