Corpus Part One: School Exercises and Princess of Persia

A while ago (here), I had promised to present the several corpora of our edition. I will begin today with one of the first we will go online with in the spring: the work manuscript of Ludwig Tieck‘s Roxane.

Although he is one of the major romantic authors in German Literature (he was even crowned “king of romantic”), Ludwig Tieck never benefited from the usual treatment reserved to major literary celebrities: unlike Goethe, Schiller, Friedrich Schlegel and co, he was never granted such a thing as a Ludwig Tieck Historisch-Kritische Ausgabe.

It would be preposterous to track this back to only one cause, but it is sure that the state in which his leftover papers are to be found at the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin-PK does not invite to any kind of systematical and exhaustive approach. A peek in the inventory realized by Lothar Busch shows how all of Tieck’s activities are thrown together. The poet, the drama author, the tale writer, the literary critique, the Shakespeare scholar are likely to be found in all sorts of texts, fragments, letters, sketches… Also, he was the depository of many of his dead friends’ papers (among which Kleist for instance, which he published after his death). Not everything in there is new, not everything is groundbreaking. But we already digged up two treasures.

Treasure number one is the manuscript of a drama called Roxane, which Johanna Preusse is preparing for our edition. It is a youth drama, and although it is undated, it seems to have been written around 1789. By that time, Ludwig Tieck was still a 16-year old schoolboy, and it seems likely that the drama was written as an extension of a school exercise on the theme “Write a variation on the fable of Ino” (on the fable of Ino, see Hygini Fabvlae, fab. II: Ino).

Other thematic influences are perceptible. The most important one is Felix Weiße’s tragedy Mustapha and Zeangir (1763). Especially the place chosen for the plot – an oriental setting in the wake of Montesquieu’s Persian Letters – as well as the main idea of the plot itself show Weiße’s wide influence. I will not tell you here about where Tieck differs from Weiße, because Johanna is about to write a great paper about it. Let me just tell you this: Roxane, the Sultan’s wife, is really mean!

The manuscript itself shows several peculiarities too. The first act is missing, so the reader has to jump in the midst of the action. But obviously, we are not the first ones to read it. There is more than just Tieck’s handwriting to be found on the pages. You can find traces of Rudolf Köpke‘s posthumous work on Tieck’s papers. And closer to the moment when the text was written yet, the margins also contain remarks in another hand. Lothar Busch and others assume it is the one of his youth friend Wackenroder, commenting on the plot, the protagonists, the writing,…

Good news, everyone!

On November, 17th, something great happened. And by that, I do not mean my paper at the Boeckh conference, which left mostly some unease in the room – due, I guess, to the fundamentals it contained: interdisciplinary work, an edition that selects its elements after precise scientific questions and not after the origin of the documents, and digital on top of it all. Once I had past through the surprise of my flop, I found it an interesting (non-)reaction.

No, the really brilliant moment of that day was the meeting between Jutta Weber, Laurent and me in the morning. It was a peculiar situation to sit beneath two great librarian minds who were talking preservation structures – they lost me in technicalities at some point, I must admit. I was fascinated by the vision they developed within this hour and half.

To me, it was a dream getting a little bit closer to coming true. Those of you who know me (and especially those of you who experienced me at the DFG meeting for Emmy Noether junior research group leaders in July 2011 or within the circle of Berlin der Begegnung in February 2011, which were the two occasions where I talked about it as a project particularly dear to my heart) will probably remember that my ideal aim as a scholar is to bring people closer to archives. To give people (more people than actually do know about it as is) a feeling for what an archive is: the place, the reality of the documents, the carnal relationship to the piece of paper. And I am deeply convinced, as paradoxical as it may seem at first, that online editions displaying digitizations are THE way to reach that aim. People who see manuscripts online are more likely to want to see them for real. To wonder where they are, how they landed there, with what other documents they are surrounded, who is interested in them. To get in touch with our paper history.

So the big plan we started to work on on Thursday morning is a structure where we would synchronize our metadata with those of the Staatsbibliothek (and Kalliope at large), in both directions. The Library would be the warrant for archiving a mass of information with an everlasting valid identification number that would make it possible to have for each document a totally stable reference. The users would be able to benefit from the most up to date input given by the researchers. Isn’t it just the best starting point ever??

I will keep you posted on the developments. Actually, there probably is more to say about it already, but, hey, I”m already in my pajamas!