BODMER, JOHANN JAKOB (1698–1783), Swiss-German author, was born at Greifensee, near Zürich, on the 19th of July 1698. After first studying theology and then trying a commercial career, he finally found his vocation in letters. In 1725 he was appointed professor of Helvetian history in Zürich, a chair which he held for half a century, and in 1735 became a member of the “Grosser Rat.” He published (1721–1723), in conjunction with J. J. Breitinger (1701–1774) and several others, Die Discourse der Mahlern, a weekly journal after the model of the Spectator. Through his prose translation of Milton’s Paradise Lost (1732) and his successful endeavours to make a knowledge of English literature accessible to Germany, he aroused the hostile criticism of Gottsched (q.v.) and his school, a struggle which ended in the complete discomfiture of the latter. His most important writings are the treatises Von dem Wunderbaren in der Poesie (1740) and Kritische Betrachtungen über die poetischen Gemälde der Dichter (1741), in which he pleaded for the freedom of the imagination from the restriction imposed upon it by French pseudo-classicism. Bodmer’s epics Die Sündfluth (1751) and Noah (1751) are weak imitations of Klopstock’s Messias, and his plays are entirely deficient in dramatic qualities. He did valuable service to German literature by his editions of the Minnesingers and part of the Nibelungenlied. He died at Zürich on the 2nd of January 1783.
See T. W. Danzel, Gottsched und seine Zeit (Leipzig, 1848); J. Crüger, J. C. Gottsched, Bodmer und Breitinger (Stuttgart, 1884); F. Braitmaier, Geschichte der poetischen Theorie und Kritik von den Diskursen der Maler bis auf Lessing (Leipzig, 1888); Denkschrift zu Bodmers 200. Geburtstag (Zürich, 1900).