Fortunatus and Co.: Translations and Adaptations of a Melancholic Bestseller (1509–1832)
Written in mercantile Augsburg in 1509, the novel Fortunatus represents an early stage in the development of the bourgeois subject. It paints the portrait of a merchant born under the sign of Saturn: a greedy and devious melancholic blessed with foresight and cursed with worry and anxiety, an egoist who will stop at nothing to protect his wealth. By studying select translations and adaptations of the novel, I seek to trace the transformations of cultural knowledge of economics and personality at key moments in the development of a modern political economy in Western Europe. The study focuses primarily on significant historical sites that generated new translations or adaptations of Fortunatus from the Renaissance to the age of Romanticism. Building on the philological study of Fortunatus translations, the project expands the scope of earlier translation studies to consider the history of Fortunatus as a history of cultural re-descriptions of a prototypical homo oeconomicus.
Timothy Attanucci studied German and Comparative Literature at Harvard and Princeton (Ph.D.), as well as in Tübingen, Paris, and Berlin (HU). Since 2014 he has been Assistant Professor of Modern German Literature at the Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz. His research interests include the history and poetics of knowledge; melancholy; literature, environment, and economics; and Hans Blumenberg.
The Restorative Poetics of a Geological Age: Stifter, Viollet-le-Duc, and the Aesthetic Practices of Geohistoricism, Berlin/Boston 2020; co-authored with Ulrich Breuer, “Melancholie,” in: Joseph Vogl, Burkhardt Wolf (eds.), Handbuch Literatur und Ökonomie, Berlin/Boston 2020, pp. 214–17; co-edited with Ulrich Breuer (eds.), Leistungsbeschreibung/Describing Cultural Achievements. Literarische Strategien bei Hans Blumenberg/Hans Blumenberg’s Literary Strategies, Heidelberg 2020.
Recent studies claim that as many as one in five CEOs may be psychopaths. In the early days of capitalism, an anonymous novel painted a portrait of the merchant Fortunatus as clever, cutthroat, anxious, and greedy. His (mis-)adventures became one of the most translated and adapted stories in early modern Europe.