Author's School

Graduate School of Arts & Sciences

Author's Department/Program

Germanic Languages and Literatures


English (en)

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Chair and Committee

Gerhild Williams


Gunpowder technology had been in Europe since the fourteenth century, but it took two hundred years before German authors were aware of its social and aesthetic implications. When early modern people discussed gunpowder warfare in texts of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries they were astonished by its ability to destroy people, places, and things, as well as an aesthetic of warfare upon which war stories had long been based: heroics. While modern historians still debate the quantitative impact of gunpowder technology on society, early modern authors and eyewitnesses were in unanimous agreement: Gunpowder changed the way they thought about war. At the same time, an aesthetic discrepancy between past heroic narratives and a present unheroic reality, made possible by gunpowder weapons, needed to be worked out. Using a theory that I call "aesthetic dissonance," this project explores the impact of technology on aesthetic representation through the case of gunpowder warfare.


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