Adelheid Reinbold – eine vergessene Dichterin

Ein Beitrag von Janin Afken vom 9. September 2013, ursprünglich auf dem Caroline-von-Humboldt-Forum veröffentlicht.

“Es ist schwer zu ermessen, was etwa die Literatur an ihr möchte verloren haben.”
(L. Tieck über A. Reinbold im Vorwort zum Roman König Sebastian 1839)

Adelheid Reinbold verstarb zu einem Zeitpunkt, als ein Durchbruch als Schriftsteller (sic!) endlich möglich schien, waren doch ihre Novellen, insbesondere der Irrwisch-Fritzsche, in den Literaturblättern positiv aufgenommen worden. Sie veröffentlichte unter dem männlichen Pseudonym Franz Berthold, wovon nur wenige Eingeweihte wussten. Während sie im Dresdner Zirkel um Ludwig Tieck aufgrund ihres Konversationstalents, ihrer Intelligenz und Schönheit geschätzt wurde, arbeitete sie zuhause in den Morgen- und Abendstunden unbemerkt an ihren Texten. Continue reading “Adelheid Reinbold – eine vergessene Dichterin”

Texts without a genre, automatized translations and a diplomat called Varnhagen von Ense

There are novelties all over the place in our digital edition and I had no idea about it! Yes, I have finally reached the blessed state in which I can’t seem to keep up with the rhythm of new features or texts implemented online. Sabine gets hold of me once in a week or so and sums up all the 15 e-mails that have been exchanged in the mean time, everyone politely still putting me in CC although I have long ceased to be the one to provide for answers. She then sums up the progress and asks for my blessing regarding the 2-3 things only the boss can finalize. Solomon-like, I choose and decide, feeling very much empowered and hoping to be back at the right level some day – the level that would allow me to get the point, really.

So, what have we got today? A nice feature that allows some metadata entries made in German to be automatically translated into English and French for the corresponding interfaces, the possibility to attribute several genres to one single text without having it appear as many times as you have attributed genres to it, and new texts, even some from Krakow (I mentioned the Krakow situation in this blog post).

The manuscripts coming from Krakow are part of the Varnhagen Collection and they appear in two corpora which one could have supposed would not overlap or interface at all in our edition: Helmina von Chézy and August Boeckh.

The first new text we have online is an unpublished fictional text by Helmina von Chézy adressed to Bettina von Arnim, with the title “This book belongs to Bettina”, an unveiled allusion to Bettina von Arnim’s “This book belongs to the King”. Helmina von Chézy’s text has an intricate history, so we publish two versions of it, which are aimed at being collationated at some point in a future that I hope will be close enough: this one and that one. As editor Selma Jahnke notes in her introductory statement, this text shows the deployment of a series of literary strategies aiming at constituting a kind of alliance of women writers in mid-19th century Prussia. Both Helmina von Chézy and Bettina von Arnim were  strongly engaged in social fights, which adds a socio-political dimension to the purely literary aspects. Helmina von Chézy never reached the fame of Bettina von Arnim, although she managed to live from her books and journal productions. She certainly saw herself as a literary persona in 19th century Germany, and conserved her papers accordingly, with a rare meticulousness for a woman of that time. When Varnhagen, who had started collecting papers from intellectuals of the Prussian scenery, inherited her archive, he picked the best pieces and burned the rest. Among these pieces, there was the text addressed to Bettina von Arnim – addressed even as a letter, that turned out never to have reached its addressee in its time, as said addressee mentioned while finding the text lying on a table at Varnhagen’s years later. Intricate transmission, a concurrence situation possibly even harsher than among men, men who intervene and want to be the ones who tell the real story of the text – when reading texts of women writers of the first half of the nineteenth century, the history of the text matters just as much as its literary texture per se.

So really it is not a wonder that it is the women’s texts that seem conceived only to blow up our textual categories (“genres“). Because it is one of the originality of our edition to offer different genres of text under the same roof, it seemed one of the first necessities, when we reconfigured the possible doors leading to the corpora, that we put some order in those different type of texts. “Letters” seemed the less problematical of all, and turns out to be the heart of the problem. Helmina von Chézy, just as Adelheid Reinbold in her “Letter addressed to Ludwig Tieck“, uses some formal aspects of correspondence rhetoric to give her text a certain shape, and, more importantly, an addressee that justifies its existence against all odds.

Frontseite von Adelheid Reinbolds "Literaturbrief" an Ludwig Tieck
Frontseite von Adelheid Reinbolds “Literaturbrief” an Ludwig Tieck
Weiterverwendungsrechte bei der Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin-PK

These texts are no “real” letters in the sense in which actual letters were sometimes re-used, re-written for a later publication. No, they are their own publication end, and they are called letters because they take advantage of the comfort of using a genre that was considered “feminine”. In the case of Adelheid Reinbold, choosing the genre “letter” also has to do with hiding behind a protector, in this case the writer Ludwig Tieck, by then at the climax of his glory. Also, these pseudo-letters live in and of the myth of the one singular addressee good enough to replace the whole public, this topos of a pseudo denial of success and wider recognition that Rousseau had already pushed to its more extreme limits (this is probably the most interesting part of my argument in my paper on “Communication” in the Rousseau Encyclopedia that was published this summer).

The composition of fictional letters is certainly a particularly delicate exercise, since they need to inforce the gullibility of both their main quality as letters – namely, authenticity – and their fictional character.

A problem which our second set of texts from Krakow does not present with. Back to the males, things are amazingly simple. August Boeckh writes to Varnhagen in 1830. They exchange books and book reviews before publication, and Boeckh recommends to suppress some delicate passages of the review. Sometimes, literary life can be so easy to bring to a point: intellectuals exchange books and opinions on books, and with that, they get material to write new books. What I originally thought would be the ultimate refinement of our digital edition, the combination of genesis and reception phenomena, of books as material goods and intellectual inspiration, turns out to be its most obvious feature. Go figure…

(En)gendering texts

The last chapter of D.C Greetham’s Theories of the Text is dedicated to “Gender in the text”. It comes last for a good reason, since it actually allows him to put in perspective all the aspects – including the most intricate deconstructivist or post-modern ones – that are dealt with in a book that keeps pouring out scholarship 480 pages long. I am not knowledgeable enough to judge how relevant Greetham’s considerations on “ovarian” or “feminist” readings are. I don’t think either that an exclusively gendered reading of texts would be pertinent for the type of work I am doing. But I find most interesting what this approach does to the construction of authority in the text.

Editing has been – this is probably the one fact that no one can contradict in any way when considering text constitution, an otherwise highly contradictable topic – a mainly male activity over the centuries, which means that the history of texts has been, not only because most authors were men, but also because most of the editors were men, a patriarchal one. The moral norms reproduced were dominated by men, leading to a kind of self-comfortation of male authority that would leave only little space for women to find an authorial space.

Many of the arguments that Greetham exposes have to do with the fact that gendered readings tend to balance this situation by saying that female writing has developed in reaction, opposition, resistance to the male domination. The female writer is under the influence of the patronizing husband/brother/father, then dealing with a (in most cases) male publisher, and the patriarchal reproduction of text in editorial and literary history is then  pursued in the same logic.

The question of the relationship between author and editor is a central one, that deserves to be asked regardless of either’s sex. What is interesting about the gender perspective, is that the terms of the relationship are being posed in a much more radical way. It is so not only in itself, but also because the sex of the person writing about text/author/editor is also considered a bias. The spiral involves at least three levels of authority, three levels of time, three levels of self-consciousness of one’s role: the writer, the first publisher, the later editor/scholar. The gender perspective at the very least allows to consider the intricacy of the question, and makes it clear (to my eyes at least) that a great deal of historical knowledge is necessary to be able to assess the relevance of many of the aspects involved.

What am I really entitled to write, today, as a woman, about a woman who wrote in 1800 and published either at a male or at a female (there were those in Germany around 1800) publisher? Greetham’s argument (which is pretty much the core of mine as well) that it all comes down to accepting, as an editor or as a scholar, to consider one’s own practice with a certain amount of awareness for the traditions and the epistemological premises one works under, is reaching the limits of its feasibility. Would not, then, if one wanted to really trace back all relevant aspects, the epistemological caveats cover the actual text; would we not risk to lose the sense of proportion between the text speaking for itself and us letting/having it speak? Or, to consider it in a more post-modern light, how is it possible to make understand the misunderstanding?

Yes, one has to be grateful for economical arguments, since the epistemological ones would – obviously – lead mainly to intellectual paralysis.

Having to deliver in due time, we are happy to present Adelheid Reinbold’s “Literaturbrief”, a text dedicated to her mentor Ludwig Tieck and in which she situates him among his peers – writers like Goethe and Jean Paul. I will write more about the way writing about the mentor allows her to take her own position in the literary field in a later post. Before the end of the month, we will also put online Helmina von Chézy’s “Dieses Buch gehört Bettinen”, an unpublished text in which she stages a generational and sexual solidarity among women in literary Germany – a dream that never really came true: the letter did not reach its addressee.

But do they ever?