Academic journal article German Quarterly

Major Minor Form: Marginalia on Rahel Levin Varnhagen's Rahel. ein Buch Des Andenkens Für Ihre Freunde

Academic journal article German Quarterly

Major Minor Form: Marginalia on Rahel Levin Varnhagen's Rahel. ein Buch Des Andenkens Für Ihre Freunde

Article excerpt

Since the "Wiederentdeckung einer Schriftstellerin" within the framework of a conference organized in 1986,1 Rahel Levin Varnhagen, the renowned intellectual and epistolary writer from the time of Goethe, has received renewed attention in literary studies.2 Recently published critical editions produced subsequent to this conference have made a significant contribution to this development-not only by making accessible previously unpublished correspondence from Rahel's literary estate, but also, as a result of the complex structure of this estate (see Landfester, "Nachwort" 625), by raising questions pertaining to literary theory and consequently opening up new paths for research. At the center of this research, as announced in the title of the conference, is the authoressRahel, and thusthequestionof how to conceptualize a productivity that was asserted almost exclusively in the form of correspondence-a genre with "female" connotations that has been marginalized in literary history. The reassessment of the letter as a mode of writing sui generis is hence among the most important outcomes of this research, which has advanced pioneering reflections on the contexts of genre,3 authorship, and work.4 It may be stated that the specific literary experiment of the "Briefschreiberin" Rahel could be rediscovered only when a fundamental "Umdenken in der Kritik der Gattungstypologie" had developed (Feilchenfeldt 261).

In this connection, the concept of a work becomes the productive category of differentiation. In the paradoxical modus of a "große Schriftstellerin [...] ohne Werk"(Hahn,"AntwortenSiemir"11), Rahelappearspreciselyat themoment when her writings are no longer measured against the model of "klassische Autonomieästhetik" and its "Telos eines in sich geschlossenen" type of writing centered on the author's name, and when, instead, the "Verweigerung der 'klassischen' Werknorm" becomes the starting point for a different way of thinking about a work (Landfester, "Durchstreichungen" 53). Consequently, it is worth considering how to publish Rahel's extensive, and, in part, voluminous exchange of letters with nearly three hundred correspondents-preponderantly nameless intellectuals, male and female friends, and family members. More precisely, it must be considered how it would be possible to publish this "Netzwerk" (Hahn, "Rahel" 11), conceived of in terms of a dialogue beyond thefunction oftheauthor and beyond canonizedstrategies of transmission,5 in such a way that the auctorial order of speech is suspended in the work and a different-eccentric-order is created.

Against this backdrop, what interests me is one of Rahel's writing projects that, in contrast to the problematic nature of a work that has been outlined, nonetheless seems to provide a solid "Autor-Standbild" (Schuller, "'Unsere Sprache'" 43). Unlike Rahel's prolific epistolary writings, Rahel. Ein Buch des Andenkens für ihre Freunde presents not an exchange of interrelated voices, but instead Rahel's discourse alone, a selection of her letters to various addressees, as well as notations and accounts that she wrote. Rahel Levin and her husband Karl August Varnhagen had already prepared a first edition of this project during Rahel's lifetime. It was published as a one-volume, private printing in June 1833, shortly after Rahel's death. One year later, Varnhagen had a second, three-volume edition published by the publishing house Duncker und Humblot in Berlin. Afterward, Varnhagen continued his work on the Buch des Andenkens and prepared a third, greatly expanded version, which, however, was not publishedduring his lifetime. After the deathof Ludmilla Assing, hisniece andexecutor oftheestate,themanuscript found its way tothe Königliche Bibliothek in Berlin in 1881, was moved to Silesia in 1941, and was finally brought to the Biblioteka Jagiello^ska in Krakow in 1945. There, in 1984, Barbara Hahn rediscovered the manuscript, which was published as a six-volume edition in 2011 after decades of preparatory work. …

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