Sebastian Brant Criticism - Essay

Edwin H. Zeydel (essay date 1967)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Zeydel, Edwin H. “Brant's Literary Work Prior to the Narrenschiff” and “Brant, the Writer, Humanist, and Man: A Summary.” In Sebastian Brant, pp. 64-73; 122-33. New York: Twayne, 1967.

[In the following essays, Zeydel examines Brant's poetical exercises and broadsides, which the critic argues reveal similar religious and social concerns as those presented in his Latin prose and The Ship of Fools. He also assesses Brant's place in literary history as he presents the principal aspects of Brant's views and works.]


Perhaps soon after he had secured his baccalaureate in 1477 Brant began...

(The entire section is 9163 words.)

Ulrich Gaier (essay date 1968)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Gaier, Ulrich. “Sebastian Brant's Narrenschiff and the Humanists.” PMLA 83, no. 2 (1968): 266-70.

[In the following essay, Gaier discusses the reception of The Ship of Fools by Brant's contemporaries.]

The place of Sebastian Brant in the intellectual currents of his time is far from settled. Many scholars1 view him as an essentially medieval mind,2 longingly and resignedly looking towards the past, and only accidentally helping to usher in the new age.3 Others, however, stress his desire to act immediately upon his time,4 even though several of his ideas are rooted in the past. Some consider him a...

(The entire section is 3988 words.)

Edwin H. Zeydel (essay date 1968)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Zeydel, Edwin H. “Sebastian Brant and His Public.” In Germanic Studies in Honor of Edward Henry Sehrt, edited by Frithjof Andersen Raven, Wolfram Karl Legner, and James Cecil King, pp. 251-64. Coral Gables, Fla.: University of Miami Press, 1968.

[In the following essay, Zeydel surveys Brant's more important works as a writer and editor before discussing his use of language, both Latin and the vernacular German he used to reach a wider audience.]

We may assume that Sebastian Brant's oldest writings, dating from his early student days in Basel during the late fourteen seventies, consisted of Latin prose and poetry on topics of the day and subjects of interest...

(The entire section is 5574 words.)

Peter Skrine (essay date July 1969)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Skrine, Peter. “The Destination of the Ship of Fools: Religious Allegory in Brant's Narrenschiff.Modern Language Review 64, no. 3 (July 1969): 576-96.

[In the following essay, Skrine analyzes The Ship of Fools as a commentary on the biblical Book of Ecclesiastes.]

In Canto III of the Inferno the souls of the damned gather waiting

                                                            alla riva malvagia
ch'attende ciascun uom che Dio non teme

(l. 107)

to be ferried by Charon across the dark waters of the Acheron


(The entire section is 12345 words.)

J. R. Wilkie (essay date 1973)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Wilkie, J. R. “Brant and The Ship of Fools: An Introduction.” University of Leeds Review 16 (1973): 212-33.

[In the following essay, originally delivered as a lecture in 1973, Wilkie presents the historical context in which Brant lived and wrote, describes the contents of The Ship of Fools, reviews the critical approaches that have been taken to the poem, and offers his own views on its importance.]

It is a great pleasure and honour for me to have in my audience tonight his Excellency the Ambassador of the German Federal Republic. I welcome him and his party on behalf of the German Department—and hasten to assure him that my title, ‘Brant...

(The entire section is 7017 words.)

Gerhard Dünnhaupt (essay date 1977)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Dünnhaupt, Gerhard. “Sebastian Brant: The Ship of Fools.” In The Renaissance and Reformation in Germany: An Introduction, edited by Gerhart Hoffmeister, pp. 69-81. New York: Ungar, 1977.

[In the following essay, Dünnhaupt offers an overview of the composition, influences, content, themes, and literary success of The Ship of Fools.]

No other work of German literature before Goethe can match the resounding popular success and lasting influence both at home and abroad of Sebastian Brant's The Ship of Fools—or, to give it its original name, Das Narrenschiff. The phenomenal speed with which this book became known and popular throughout...

(The entire section is 3949 words.)

Carl Nordenfalk (essay date 1981)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Nordenfalk, Carl. “The Moral Issue in Sebastian Brant's The Ship of Fools.” In The Humanist as Citizen, edited by John Agresto and Peter Riesenberg, pp. 72-93. Chapel Hill, N.C.: National Humanities Center, 1981.

[In the following essay, Nordenfalk explores the liberal humanist ethic of The Ship of Fools, with its focus on the social consequences of human actions.]

It is most unusual for an author to make clear to his readers that he does not care to have his book sold. Yet this is what Sebastian Brant does at the end of his Narren-Schyff:

My fool's book, does it anger you?
I beg of you to pass it by
I ask no one to come...

(The entire section is 6338 words.)

Keith P. F. Moxey (essay date 1982)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Moxey, Keith P. F. “The Ship of Fools and the Idea of Folly in Sixteenth-Century Netherlandish Literature.” In The Early Illustrated Book: Essays in Honor of Lessing J. Rosenwald, edited by Sandra Hindman, pp. 86-102. Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress, 1982.

[In the following excerpt, Moxey examines The Ship of Fools in the context of moralizing, didactic Netherlandish literature, noting its distinctive voice and serious stance compared to other works of its genre.]

Among the books given to the Library of Congress by Lessing J. Rosenwald are two sixteenth-century Flemish translations of The Ship of Fools by Sebastian Brant....

(The entire section is 7479 words.)

Barbara Halporn (essay date 1984)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Halporn, Barbara. “Sebastian Brant as an Editor of Juristic Texts.” Gutenberg-Jahrbuch 59 (1984): 36-51.

[In the following essay, Halporn discusses Brant's work as an editor of texts used by law students, which, the critic asserts, he did in part because he believed in making the law accessible to more people so that citizens could serve their own interests more effectively.]

Sebastian Brant is best known to the modern world as the author of the didactic and satirical work, the Narrenschiff. Although this may be his most enduring and original work, it is only a small part of Brant's published contribution to the intellectual life of the Holy Roman...

(The entire section is 14202 words.)

Edelgard E. DuBruck (essay date 1996)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: DuBruck, Edelgard E. “On Useless Books and Foolish Studies: Sebastian Brant on Accountability in Education.” Fifteenth-Century Studies 22 (1996): 85-95.

[In the following essay, DuBruck examines Brant's attitudes toward books and education.]

In his recent monograph (Sebastian Brant's The Ship of Fools in Critical Perspective. Columbia SC: Camden House, 1993), John Van Cleve asks: “What does The Ship have to offer the modern reader?” (89) and suggests research on its modern relevance. Brant's chapters one and twenty-seven, and even some others, are fraught with significance for those among us who read and study, who teach and have...

(The entire section is 4287 words.)

Albrecht Classen (essay date 2001)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Classen, Albrecht. “‘Von erfahrung aller land’—Sebastian Brant's Narrenschiff: A Document of Social, Intellectual, and Mental History.” Fifteenth-Century Studies 26 (2001): 52-65.

[In the following essay, Classen explores what insights The Ship of Fools provides for understanding the daily mental, social, economic, and political conditions of late medieval life.]

Talking about Sebastian Brant is like discussing one of the many literary giants within the history of German literature, such as Wolfram von Eschenbach, Oswald von Wolkenstein, Martin Luther, and Andreas Gryphius.1 On the one hand, his didactic texts, poems, and...

(The entire section is 6008 words.)