Academic journal article Goethe Yearbook

Weibliche Kreativität Um 1800: Women's Creativity around 1800

Academic journal article Goethe Yearbook

Weibliche Kreativität Um 1800: Women's Creativity around 1800

Article excerpt

Linda Dietrick and Birte Giesler, eds. Weibliche Kreativität um 1800: Women's Creativity around 1800. Hamburg: Wehrhahn, 2015. 282 pp.

This exciting collection of essays examines the ways in which women contributed to discussions of creativity around 1800 and posited their own models of feminine creativity distinct from the male model. A search for models of feminine creativity involves reading beyond and/or reading differently traditional, male-dominated discourses of creativity, as well as exploring creative works that do not conform to genre expectations. One of the strengths of this book is its interdisciplinarity: the essays in the collection address a variety of types of creative projects and theoretical approaches. Topics range from music and art to endeavors often overlooked in discussions of creativity, including translation work, editing, event organizing, and networking.

After a brief introduction, the collection offers contributions in both English and German, each with an abstract in the other language. The first group of contributions examines what women around 1800 read and their critical reception of these texts. Linda Dietrick's chapter asks us to read "through the eyes of" eighteenth- and nineteenth-century women in order to identify moments in anthropological, literary, and philosophical texts that could be interpreted as encouraging female creativity. These texts include biographies of extraordinary women, which would have provided models of female creativity as well as theories of epigenesis that women writers could use to justify their contribution to creative production. Waltraud Maierhofer's chapter similarly examines how Angelika Kauffmann's allegories depicting the elements of painting call on contemporary theories of creativity that emphasized divine inspiration over formal training. As a result, Kauffmann constructed a visual theory of the creative process that is more inclusive of women. Both chapters illustrate ways in which women conceptualized their creative powers within mainstream discourses of creativity and reproduction.

Margaretmary Daley's and Gaby Pailer's contributions each address questions of genre and gender, continuing the book's exploration of women as readers and creative innovators. Daley rejects the understanding of Frauenromanen as "trivial." Instead, she identifies the unique aesthetic and narrative elements that made the Frauenroman a productive genre for women. Daley also investigates the intertextual connections between Frauenromanen in order to explore the relationships of female writers. Pailer examines Christiane Karoline Schlegel's creative adaptation of a contemporary high-profile murder-suicide and the conventions of the bürgerliche Trauerspiel to create Düval und Charmille (1778). This Realitätsdrama depicts the potential for violence in women's sexual relationships. Pailer's contribution is especially exciting, as it is the first time the historical source material for Düval und Charmille has been identified and interpreted.

Anja Gerigk's, Birte Giesler's, and Thomas Wortmann's contributions constitute the second thematic group: female authors' engagement with contemporary discourses of masculinity. Gerigk's readings of comedies by Juliana Hayn and Johanna von Weißenthurn explore the use of this genre to mock the male Geniekult. Hayn's Der Dichterling (1781) criticizes the Geniekult by exaggerating the figure of the false Genie and by making him the center of the drama's comedic effect. …

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