Academic journal article German Quarterly

Metzler Autorinnen Lexikon

Academic journal article German Quarterly

Metzler Autorinnen Lexikon

Article excerpt

Hechtfischer, Ute, Renate Hof, Inge Stephen, and Flora Veit-Wild, eds. Metzler Autorinnen Lexikon. Stuttgart: Metzler, 1998. 617 pp. 315 illustrations. DM 68.00

The Metzler Autorinnen Lexikon is a very ambitious project as well as an extremely welcome, helpful and long-overdue reference work on female authors. With almost 400 entries, it introduces the works and lives of women writers of all continents and all centuries. Its scope is impressive and the variety of authors presented runs the whole gamut from Greek antiquity (Sappho), to Spanish mysticism (Teresa de Avila), German baroque (Catharina Regina von Greiffenberg), French salonieres (Madeleine and Catherine Des Roches), nineteenth century English authors (the Brontes) to contemporary postmodern authors (Jeanette Winterson). The editors feature canonized authors such as Emily Dickinson and Annette von Droste-Hulshoff along with writers of so-called trivial literature such as Hedwig Courths-Mahler; they include Eastern European authors as well as African, South American and Asian writers; they also represent authors of all literary genres: writers of mystery novels (Agatha Christie), of poetry (Christina Rossetti), of dramas (Luise Adelgunde Gottsched), of novels (Margaret Atwood) and of philosophical texts (Simone de Beauvoir).

Every entry provides brief biographical information, a general overview of the work, and, in some cases, sketches an interpretation of individual texts or, where necessary, situates the author within the literary and cultural context of her respective country. Each entry is one to two pages long. The headline lists name, dates, and nationality; a few bibliographical references are given at the end of each article. The entries are also complemented by a portrait of the specific writer, if available. The authors are selected carefully, and the entries are generally well-written and of high quality.

Even though an encyclopedic endeavor of this scope must necessarily remain incomplete and it must thus seem ungenerous to point out lacunae, a reader might still lament the exclusion of a number of important writers. While one is glad to find an entry on Anna Tieck, one wonders why Caroline de la Motte-Fouque or Benedikte Naubert were not included. …

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