Voß, Boeckh, Rousseau…

… have probably nothing in common except for the cohabitation they are forced to in my schedule of this August: preparing the Voß volume (e.g. the contributions to the conference I organized together with Josefine Kitzbichler and Enrica Fantino in the Summer 2010, enriched with the Voß-Solger-correspondence), preparing the grant proposal for the edition of Boeckh’s Encyklopädie, and writing the long due paper on Communication for the Rousseau encyclopedia about to be edited in Potsdam by Stefanie Stockhorst and Iwan d’Aprile.

Communication strategies, one of my favorite refrains, certainly are the smallest common denominator between the three projects. Voß communicates – in his own dysfunctional way, bashing his best friends’ publications in newspapers reviews, then writing how much he loves them and appreciates their work in private letters – with the aim of being fully recognized in his scholarly skills (if not by his contemporary readers, then by the next generations: hope keeps alive). No wonder he comes to write about his new colleagues in 1810: “Böckh und Creuzer haben für Freundschaft keinen Sinn, als Gelehrte schäze ich beide außerordentlich” (loose translation: “Böckh and Creuzer have no sense for friendship, I value both a lot as scholars”). When I think of why both would not have wanted to engage into a friendship with Voß, I can only guess they considered  they were better off safe than sorry.

Boeckh didn’t stay long in Heidelberg, he came to Berlin in 1811. This takes us to the second point: Boeckh’ encyclopedia manuscript. It consists mainly of his own notes for a class he gave no less than 26 times within 56 years, every other summer term. The original text, dating back 1809 (given in Heidelberg), was enriched and actualized by Boeckh to reach its final state in 1865. The whole fun of this project is to find a nice (digital) way of representing the 26 text layers. But before we actually reach the fun part, we (Colin King and I, writing the grant application) need to concentrate on the novelty and actuality of this edition for today’s Classics, Hermeneutics and Science History. Finding the right balance between general ideas and convincing details is the whole science of writing applications – and here we are again with the communication strategies.

As for Rousseau… well. I am not a Rousseau specialist. I have just been under the spell of the introductory pages to the Confessions since I am 15 years old and found the idea of working on “communication” in his work interesting. I decided to see how Rousseau sets up communication at the beginning of his works in general. I read several of those, introductory pages to discourses, novels, etc.  – my original idea was that you find there a movement towards the reader at the same time as a movement of withdrawal from the reader, typical for the paradoxical position of Rousseau. Now that I have read more, I am surprised to see that the image that struck me at the beginning of the Confessions, the offering of oneself to a final judgement, is a topos in the introductory parts of his works – almost all of them. I am still not sure what I will do with that.

Two weeks of those, and then you will hear again of Beausobre and Chamisso in preparation for my two September talks, and then of Dorothea Tieck, whose biography I have to write for the NDB.

Although, to be honest, working is more of a fancy right now, since it is so hot that the fan is keeping me, the kids, and Toy Story 2 barely as cool as we can manage to survive.


Anne Baillot

I studied German Studies and Philosophy in Paris where I got my PhD in 2002. I then moved to Berlin, where I have been living & doing research ever since. My areas of specialty include German literature, Digital Humanities, textual scholarship and intellectual history. I am currently working at the Centre Marc Bloch in Berlin as an expert in digital technologies for the humanities.

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