, Volume 100, Issue 3, pp 419–433 | Cite as

Cuckoo, Cuckoo: Seeing, Hearing, and Singing the Fool in Thomas Murner’s Die Geuchmat



This essay explores how the Franciscan monk Thomas Murner, in his sixteenth century satire Die Geuchmat, concretizes the metaphor of the cuckoo as fool. Paying particular attention to the verb “gucken” and its auditory and visual meanings, the paper suggests that Murner’s work elides the distinction between symbol and symbolized. In addition to the linguistic play of the text, several of the accompanying woodcuts in the 1519 edition also attempt to merge the avian with the human cuckoo, thus reinforcing the concretization of the metaphor of cuckoo as fool. Parallel to the focus on the fool in the text and woodcuts, this paper also considers the ways in which Murner thematizes the problem of the extra-textual fool’s self-recognition, that is to say, how the reader is made to recognize his own foolishness. The various ways in which Die Geuchmat emphasizes and exploits the metaphor of cuckoo as fool ultimately provide a thematic unity to a work which has previously been seen as lacking coherence. Largely ignored by modern scholarship, Die Geuchmat is a rich and fertile work that offers a sophisticated interplay of the sensory experiences of sight and sound, ultimately mirroring the fool in text, picture, and music.


Thomas Murner Die Geuchmat Fool Cuckoo Woodcut Sound 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Classics and Humanities, Dickson Hall 151Montclair State UniversityMontclairUSA

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