The father’s hand (1)

Our conference “letter around 1800 – on the mediality of generation” was a step towards the modelization of interpersonal relationships within correspondence corpora in German in the early 19th century. It allowed me to experiment with categories like intellectual genealogies and the way they are reflected in the manuscripts of the letters themselves. My contribution dealt with a singular collaboration situation, the one between father and child. It was based on three case studies that showed mainly:

  • that it was considered as a sign of moral weakness for a son to walk in his father’s footsteps;
  • that the “sons of” sometimes turned to “second fathers” – with variable success;
  • that what was the rule for the sons was the exception for the daughters: they had to stick to their father and to evolve as their very shadow. Continue reading “The father’s hand (1)”

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Seldom (maybe never) has it felt such a relief to open as it is tonight. Weeks of forced blogging abstinence, rushing ahead without looking left and right, with the edition seemingly stuck in its rachitic state. But victory, victory at last! We are moving on! What a relief –

I have been obsessed by the single aim to get more text online for months and trying to move mountains to reach that goal – with little success at first. It seems that the fruits of those efforts will finally be harvestable in the days ahead:

– the transcriptions of all letters from Tieck to Raumer already online have been reviewed by Henrike Both; Johanna is now feeding them in the XML files, adding missing xml:ids and enriching the comments (the following letters awaiting her then – she is so good at reading and commenting Tieck and in encoding in general that I think, with the two of us, we will wrap up the corpus before the end of the year) – link to the corpus here!

– Sabine has been actively encoding Boeckh’s reports on the philological seminar and we received yesterday the authorization to publish (online and in print) the scans of the original documents from the University Archive – a first ever. The link to the corpus is here (the scans should be online on Monday)! The director of the Historical Collections of the Grimm-Zentrum is to be thanked greatly for scanning the documents and making this publication possible.

– Julia has almost reached entry 2 000 of Boeckh’s book catalogue (which counts a little less than  6 000 on the whole). This is still not online since the visualization involves a direct link to the work index which requires some tuning, but Alex and I settled on a reasonable solution this morning, and it should be online before the end of the month. I will certainly let you know about it!

– Sophia is almost done preparing the Voß-Solger letters (a print version) and especially the commentary. As soon as this is done (only a few more days), she will get back to unifying some 15 Chamisso letters that are on our internal platform, waiting to be polished. Those should be published in the course of summer.

– Selma has encoded her reference text by Helmina von Chézy (an open letter / fictional text addressed to Bettina von Arnim). This should be online in a month or so.

– Alex and I agreed today on activating the pdf button of the edition by Mid-September. The pdf conversions already works pretty well for letters as it is, but need some re-working to be reasonably clean when applied to the other types of manuscripts we have. Roxane, being the only drama (and the only manuscript with comparatively short lines), always requires specific attention. And will get it for the pdf function as well.

Which means that we will be able to work on the collation from the fall on (sooo looking forward to developing something new!!!), with 2 out of the 3 due volumes in print (one is Voss, in German, and the other one is the “figures of the intellectual”, in French – I had rather not think about who is going to take care of the Solger volume right now, but I see it coming that I will have to pay someone to do the copy editing and translating in order to preserve the time I want to dedicate mainly to writing, e.g. August-October and December-February).

You can count on me to tell you more on the workshop DH Kompetenzzentren and on the Manifesto for young researchers in DH soon, since I spent most of June preparing both. See you soon!

Old flirt

Having had to stay at home for a few sick days, I had the unexpected opportunity to spend some time encoding. It was a relief to finally manage to find time. It was a pleasure to see the edition growing again. It was a delight to approach new themes and enrich the index of persons. It was depressing to open a new topic, that will require some intense reading before I can write good comments on the letters.

We are now in the early 1820s. Tieck has moved to Dresden in 1819 when the father of his mistress died, thus freeing her from her duties towards the family. Change of setting, but no real change of characters: Tieck lives in Dresden with said mistress, but also, still, with his wife Amalia and his daughters Dorothea and Agnes.

Change of activities in comparison to his time in Ziebingen, for sure. After having spent years in an isolation that lead to depression and, in order to escape  the isolation as well as the pressure of the life in the castle of his mistress’ father together with his own family, to travels. In Dresden, Tieck re-discovers life. Water parties, meeting with people, writing again. From the Summer 1819 on, he was so absorbed by this resurrection to social life that he forgot to write letters, even to his best friend Solger, who was trying to get him a job at the Berlin University. And died in October. Tieck felt terribly guilty about not answering Solger’s letters on time, I mentioned that already, and this was a motivation to publish Solger’s leftover papers. This, he did together with their common friend Friedrich von Raumer. It is precisely the letters from Tieck to Raumer in the time when they prepare this edition I am talking about now. That part of the correspondence, I can comment on and assess.

Two things are particularly interesting in that respect in the four letters I have encoded this week. First, it appears that Brockhaus, the publisher, contributed greatly to shaping the book. He modified the order of the texts (Tieck writes: “zu meinem Erstaunen stehen die kleineren Aufsätze und die Correspondenz im Ersten Bande” and “da nachher doch immer, wie ich sehe, meine kleinen Zwischensätze eintreten” in the letter from December 10th, 1825). Second, there is the conflict between Solger and his friend Friedrich Heinrich von der Hagen. This (sometimes pretty rough) exchange of letters from 1819 deals with the question what philology has to be, what its scholarly meaning should be: a debate that can be read as a way of defining two very different “romantic” approaches to cultural history. It seems that Friedrich Heinrich von der Hagen had some reluctance at showing himself under that light after all:  “Aber der lange Brief an Hagen! Er hat damals gesagt, er hätte ihn mir hier gelassen. Das ist aber nicht der Fall. Es scheint, er will ihn nicht drucken lassen.” (Tieck to Raumer, letter from May 14th, 1824). Sure thing is, Tieck found the letter after all, because it is printed in Solgers Nachgelassene Schriften and Briefwechsel, and is frankly polemical. (note to self: check correspondence between Tieck and von der Hagen in that period)(additional note to self: don’t keep hopes too high, since von Raumer and von der Hagen were colleagues at the Berlin University and might have discussed this orally, leaving no trace).

Now to the really new part: the theater. The 50 year-old Tieck seems to have intensified socializing with theater people in Dresden in the early 1820s. The letters deal with young, promising actresses he directs, he teaches, he protects, or sends to his Berlin friends asking them to be nice to them: Rosalie Wagner (sister to Richard), Julie Gley, Auguste Stich. The letters deal with young, promising theater writers Tieck despises when they threaten him (Holtei), supports when they abide by him (Uechtritz). Directing actors the way Tieck did in Dresden seems to have involved a clash of narcissisms – and Tieck was certainly not the one with the smallest ego.

Beyond the gossip, beyond the 50 year-old flirt wanting to experience real life again, there is one passion, though: Shakespeare. Reading through the lines, you realize that it was only Shakespeare Tieck cared about, whether on the stage and in the form of books. I do wonder why, in these letters, he never mentions the real work that was done by then. Because in those 1820s, Dorothea Tieck und Wolf von Baudissin were translating Shakespeare for what would become its most famous translation in German: the Schlegel-Tieck.


As sweet as 517 tif files

It has been the first in a long time: today, I did some actual work. It was interrupted by a run to the accountant, a work lunch at the cafeteria including an interesting mix of ananas and sauerkraut, e-mails, layout questions concerning the collection (Anna sent in volume 2 on Friday and Sabine is working on volume 3), a call to bring my empty bottles to the 5th floor, ok, I will stop the list there. It was obviously objectively more often interrupted than it felt.

I opened the magnificent tif scans of a file (more of a box actually, but the pages are bound together, even though by a thin filament that tends to lacerate the margins) from the University Archive and felt unmixed pleasure at being able to get deeper into these 517 pages of material. The file is called Philosophische Fakultät 210 and it contains all the protocols and debates relative to the first 10 years or so of PhDs in the Humanities at what would later become the Humboldt University. For each applicant, the file contains his “Gesuch” (application), then a page opened by the dean designing 2 reviewers and asking every member of the faculty for their opinion – the answers could lead to opening further pages on that topic. The applicants were then to submit both a Latin and a German paper, which in some cases are also to be found in the file. And each application is closed with the dean and faculty’s decision. The first years of the Berlin University are specially interesting because the final regulations of such things like PhDs were not operative yet. So there was a lot of discussion going on on the subject of what rules and their exceptions are/should be about in an institution like a university.

I have been knowing this file for a long time. In fact, it has been on my top 10 list of favorite manuscripts to be edited for at least 4 years. It contains the German thesis of Fichte’s son. It contains harsh dialogs on such subjects as what do we produce doctors for; what qualifies one as a doctor; what is an original research work. It also sheds light on teacher-student relationships and the way teachers “pushed” their protégés or tried to avoid others to gain traction. From 1818 on, a new professor also intervenes in those debates: the freshly appointed Hegel. What I still don’t know clearly is to what extent his coming induces a clear and sudden shift in the balance of the forces.

I published a first paper on this file (and others), trying to retrace the atmosphere of general experiment (in war times!) in the first years of the University (“Dekanat, Rektorat, Promotionen. Die Gründerjahre der Philosophischen Fakultät am Beispiel von Karl Wilhelm Ferdinand Solger (1780-1819)”, in: Publikationen zur Zeitschrift für Germanistik, Bd. 23, 200 Jahre Berliner Universität, 200 Jahre Berliner Germanistik Bd. III, 2011). Only describing things from Solger’s point of view is always a bit depressing, since he never managed to get influential and died in the middle of everything.

I will be pursuing my transcription of the file looking for material on two topics I am writing papers on for December:

– one paper is for Sabine’s volume on Boeckh and will deal with the way Boeckh supports the former members of his philological seminar when they apply for a PhD;

– one paper is for a volume directed by my 2 colleagues Steffen Martus and Carlos Spoerhase on new sources for philological studies and will deal with the genre “Promotionsgutachten” in general and what can be gained from them for the history of science.

And here’s what I like most about the convolutes you trust in: 4 hours of transcription suffice to give you enough material to back up your work hypothesis and your first intuition. It is the following hours that make you develop new ideas. Manuscripts know they have to establish a confidence relationship with you before they show you their novelty and actual beauty. Manuscripts are clever.

I probably won’t get to it this week though: I will be in Lyon to talk about network visualizations. Meanwhile, Selma will be in Reims to hear about women writers, Anna and Janin will be in Frankfurt to talk about “Musenhöfe”, Janine will be in Leipzig to hear about “Totality and Fragmentations”, e.g. collecting. What a Friday that will be!

Bibliography and other metaphysical questions

So the next Digital Edition meeting finally took place today. A nice thing happened in the first 15 minutes: Alex was asked by Sabine and Johanna to explain XSLT and XQuery. I am always amazed not only at how much technique Alex knows, but also at his ability of making us understand how these things work (not in detail of course, but the general idea). Just as I am amazed at the complexity of the debates we can have during these sessions. Thankfully, we are through arguing about Geminationsstriche. We found a nice replacement for this formerly everlasting discussion though: the bibliography.

As it is, primary sources (first editions and other prints we use for comparison purposes) are to be listed in the header and referred to in our editorial notes if need be (depending on the specifics of the corpus). But the question we had today concerned primary and secondary literature. The first suggestion was to have a general bibliography for each corpus, on the corpus’ presentation page. I was against it for several reasons (maybe I am wrong on that, though), the main one being that if you provide a bibliography, you have to do it in an exhaustive way and we would not realistically manage to do so for each corpus (or to do it in a harmonious way for all corpora). The second suggestion was that we have for each document (in the very convenient < additional > element in the header) a bibliography that would contain first the primary, then the secondary sources. Again, this was not very satisfactory, on the one hand because of the obvious repetitions that would occur between the different documents of one corpus, on the other hand, because there are books or papers that are of major importance to conceive the commentary of a document, while some are only locally of some help (for situating an event for instance). Those two types of references should not be given the same importance, but it would take us too far to conceive a hierarchical systematic in the secondary literature (all of this, again, in the improbable < additional > element). I was surprised that this turned out to be an important issue arising with the edition of the letters from Chamisso to de La Foye (the corpus we are editing in our DH class of this summer). For the Beausobre letters as well as for the Tieck letters, I had given in my editor’s notes all the bibliographical information which I considered relevant. In fact, there is some information I did not quote systematically my references on, because I did not see the point in quoting a common encyclopedia or dictionary, the source of a simple Latin translation or, concerning the many commentaries that have to do with Solger, my own publications of the last 10 years. The more I think about it after this afternoon’s work session, the more I am starting to consider that we should, after all, provide for a corpus bibliography of secondary works, but more in the form of “The main works we have been referring to for this corpus are… ” followed by no more than 5 to 10 titles.

This has to do with how serious we want to look. I have been looking up the Alfred Escher letters and the Alexander von Humboldt letters and I cannot help but wonder at the differences with our own edition. While we aim at not overloading the page and I even hesitate to add a 10 title-bibliography for each corpus, these editions are not afraid of delivering long text passages and thorough bibliographies. I have been annoying my whole team for weeks with my obsession for a NOT white background for the text, because I find it too tiresome for the reading eye, but this is what all those sites go for (also Carl Maria von Weber, even the all-time best Van Gogh letters). Are we doing something so different?

We necessarily are, because we are a small group with limited time and money: we will never reach or even intend the thoroughness of a complete edition. We select representative corpora and the job of our edition is to empower them with this representativeness and show it. I am not saying that we are deliberately doing bad scholarly work. I only mean that we take decisions (in the rendering of the transcription, in the tagging, in the layout) that have to do, for instance, with the tools we want to develop (for the search, for the collation) and that these are still only in germination phase. Many decisions were taken on a small corpus with the aim of being implemented on a somewhat larger one and will need correction at some point. This certainly is an uneasy position, but it is what it is: a work in progress that will stay so for a while…