Academic journal article German Quarterly

Handbuch zer Kinder-und Jugendliteratur von 1800 bis 1850

Academic journal article German Quarterly

Handbuch zer Kinder-und Jugendliteratur von 1800 bis 1850

Article excerpt

Brunken, Otto, Bettina Hurrelmann, and Klaus-Ulrich Pech, eds. Handbuch zur Kinder- und Jugendliteratur von 1800 bis 1850. Stuttgart: Metzler, 1998. DM 398.00 hardcover.

This massive volume of over a thousand pages is the fourth installment of the project Handbuch zur Kinder- und Jugendliteratur, a series that has provided one of the most impressive reference works in German literary history. These are no mere expansions or updates of previously published encyclopedias or compendia, rather the structure and premise of this "Handbuch" set it apart from and above other scholarly resources on German literature.

In the long, seminal introductory essay in the first volume of the series, Handbuch zur Kinder-und Jugendliteratur von 1750 bis 1800 (1982), Hans-Heino Ewers elaborates on the difficulty and importance of defining juvenile literature, a central issue for a social-historical understanding of children's literature, because each age and culture constructs its own definitions of youth. Jugend in Martin Luther's time meant something very different than it did during the Enlightenment, and such demarcations reflect the collective mentality of a culture. Second, Ewers contested the nearly universal assumption that the history of German children's literature, as we understand it, originated in the second half of the eighteenth century Thus, the next two volumes of the Handbuch went backwards in time to trace the history of juvenile literature from the beginning of printing to 1750, and these two volumes proved that Enlightenment youth culture was indebted to Humanism, the Reformation, Baroque culture, as well as to influences from outside Germany.

The structure of each Handbuch suits the intention of treating juvenile literature as an object of serious scholarship, rather than as a set of pedagogical tools. All four volumes begin with an extensive overview of the theories, historical background, influences, genres, and prominent works of the period. In the volume under review here, the editors take stock of the last twenty years of the project itself, and focus on the neglected aspects of this vital period of German children's literature. Salient distinctions of the period 1800-1850 include the flourishing of illustrated texts, the participation of many authors such as E. T. A. Hoffmann and Clemens Brentano in children's literature, the separation of a branch of juvenile culture from education and catechism, and the emergence of the mass market for children's books. …

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