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Von der Literatur besessen

Petron und Jane Austen

Stefano Dentice di Accadia Ammone

Pages 191 - 210

The narrator and protagonist of Petronius’ ‚Satyricon‘, Encolpius, narrates his banal and ridiculous adventures by interpreting them through the lens of the great literature of the past. Even in the most ordinary situation of everyday life, he manages to find some cues to identify with a great hero of myth, redeeming – at least in his own eyes – his miserable condition as a small-time adventurer. Centuries later, in Jane Austen’s novel, ‚Northanger Abbey‘, we find in the protagonist Catherine a female Encolpius. The girl, influenced and misled by the reading of gothic novels, lives every experience as if she were herself the heroine of one of those novels, and confuses phantasy with everyday reality. In both of these works – despite their distance in time, space, language and spirit – the reader is confronted with the obsessions of a “literary sufferer” who cannot distinguish fiction from reality. In both cases the reader is amused and sympathizes with the “sick” protagonists.


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