Can you keep a secret?

OK, I still haven’t posted the link to the edition. Actually, I intend to polish the Tieck letters (and wrap up the few missing ones) tomorrow. The postponing only extends to tomorrow evening. The fact that the University is empty and nobody seems to be around (ever heard about Easter break in Germany? fairly comparable to Christmas break…) has not been a great incentive to hurry up. Anyway.

If you have been following this blog carefully, you will have noticed that there is a corpus I never ever posted on. I mentioned in my last post the difficulties raised by the “canonical” work manuscripts and it seems to be time to introduce the big work manuscripts of the edition now.

It is in many ways a grateful job to dig out in archives papers nobody really knows about. You are being given, as the person who found the jewel, to expose it for the first time, showing what matters most to you, be it its shape, its seize, its reflections, its harmony…  This jeweler job is the encoding. While encoding, you emphasize one aspect or another: the work process, the connection to other works, the connection to other persons, etc. As the first editor, you get to pick the kind of light that has to be shed on the corpus. Everybody can interpret it in their way in a second step, for sure. But the first encoding is a first interpretation: this right you have as an editor is, in today’s world, still something you can take for granted when it comes to secondary authors. When you edit a writer nobody knows, you are expected to explain what its interest lays in.

Things are different when it comes to big authors who have already been interpreted for ages. You can’t edit Goethe in any other way than by scrutinizing each ink mark: not only might it mean something, but it has to be something meaningful. These are corpora with which it is not really possible to experiment around. It is some kind of unspoken rule that you cannot just do whatever you want with Goethe. Especially since there are armies of specialists working on it, big projects it is easy to learn about with the minimal effort of basic googling.

How to situate the pretty-big-but-not-so-great-that-they-have-been-edited-through-and-through authors in the big picture? The difficulty is not just to know what you should feel yourself authorized to do with it, but how to know who else might be working on the corpora and with which research interest. It should not be the job of the archivists to deal with that, but on the other hand, they are the ones that are likely to be confronted with the visits of several researchers wanting to work on the same or on similar corpora. The only thing you can expect from them is to let the different researchers know about each other.

From this point on, the researchers should be able to constitute work groups, to create dynamical and collaborative work environments, where all those who work on a corpus can contribute and share information. Why this only happens in the rarest cases is a mystery to me, and something that makes me at times way too angry.

In that sense, let it be a mystery to nobody that we will edit E.T.A. Hoffmann’s Sandmann (already online), Chamisso’s Peter Schlemihl (this summer) and Fouque’s Undine (over winter) following the manuscripts that can be found in the Hitzig papers at the Stiftung Stadtmuseum Berlin. And that we hope for collaborations.

Patching Part One: This Edition

While migrating my blog to, I seem to have lost some of my original posts  in the meanders of the world wide web. Here are two of them explaining the big idea of this edition:

#1: What’s in there for you?

Dated Oct. 5th, 2011

I intended to present each corpus of the edition in detail, but I have decided to start with an overview.

The digital edition reflects only partly the four big orientations of the project itself. Those four questions are:

1) To what extent did the creation of the University contribute to the representation and understanding the teachers and professors developed of themselves as Intellectuals?

2) To what extent did this self-consciousness of Prussian intellectuals construct itself as a reaction to the French presence in Prussia? (what is meant by that is of course not only the military presence of Napoleonian troops, but also the scholarly and literary domination of Berlin by the French since Frederick II.)

3) Which strategies were developed to establish oneself as a writer? (trying to differentiate here between male and female strategies)

4) How can you gain a political statement from a scholarly or literary work?

I conceived those four focus points before I even hired my team. They brought their own interests and research history: Anna Busch has already written her dissertation on the publisher Julius Eduard Hitzig (see her blog), Selma Jahnke is working on a dissertation on Helmina von Chézy (yes, this is a wikipedia link – in German though) and Sabine Seifert is also working on a dissertation on August Boeckh (and here I am very sorry to have to put the English wikipedia link since it is not accurate: his name is NOT Philipp August, but just August – Sabine will explain that at some point) and Friedrich von Raumer. And there are other people on the team, working on smaller subcorpora for their Bachelor or Master thesis…

Then the digital edition came along, not as a small byproduct, but as our common project. We have divided it in the following subcorpora (which I will present in more detail in further posts):

1) The French in Berlin: this corpus is destined to contain several subcorpora that will (hopefully) shed light on the different aspects of this presence. The first one (planned for the first deliverables) will be an important part of the passive correspondance of Louis de Beausobre which I found at the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin-PK (since I can’t seem to find a wikipedia link on Louis de Beausobre, I will post on him soon, promise).

2) Science and politics: this is Sabine’s corpus, dealing with the way University professors and Academy members took part in politics on an Academical level.

3) Romantic texts: this is Anna’s corpus, mainly work manuscripts she found at the Stiftung Stadtmuseum Berlin in the Hitzig papers. At least one of the texts will be published in March 2012.

4) Friday Society: this corpus contains the correspondence of this literary and scholarly society that met in Berlin between 1802 and 1849.

5) Tieckiana: this subproject contains various works and letters by the Romantic writer Ludwig Tieck that were not published so far or published only in a shortened/censored version. We will publish the youth drama Roxane and the correspondence with his friend Friedrich von Raumer in March 2012, both coming from the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin-PK.

New corpora are intended to be added in a later step: Classics Lecture Notes (lectures given by F.A. Wolf and Solger in the summer 1818 will come first) and unpublished texts and letters by the Romantic writer Adelbert von Chamisso are the ones that should be added next.

You can learn more about those corpora and about the way we connect them to our teaching if you come by our poster (I will be there together with my TEI expert Sabine) at the TEI MM and annual conference in Würzburg next week!


#2: Digital Edition “Das intellektuelle Berlin um 1800”

Dated Sept. 23rd, 2011

The Digital Edition of the junior research group is a work in progress. It is probably bound to stay a work in progress for a long time, but we hope to go online with a first set of texts by the beginning of 2012.

This edition has two main aims. The first one is to make texts available that have not been published so far or have only been partially published. The second aim is to use the newly published corpus to develop methods that can help describe the intellectual networks in Berlin at the beginning of the 19th century in a more accurate way.

The picture on this page shows a screenshot of what the front-end of the edition should roughly look like: the darker orange upper border lists the different corpora; the lighter orange one allows different types of access to the queries. The main window is composed of a digitization of the manuscript on the left side and its transcription on the right side. The transcription can be visualized either in a form that is totally adequate to the manuscript (“diplomatisch”) or in a commented form (“kritisch”) or in the form of the originary XML-file.

I will be posting our specific encoding guidelines soon. They reflect our restless efforts to respect the TEI-Guidelines without getting lost in details…