2022-04-30Zeitschriftenartikel DOI: 10.1515/jlt-2022-2017
Ich und mein Dämon. Unfreiwillige Kollaborationen und die Konstitution weiblicher Autorschaft in Bettina von Arnims Goethe’s Briefwechsel mit einem Kinde
Sprach- und literaturwissenschaftliche Fakultät
The paper argues that the ways in which editors shape cultural perceptions of authors, or their works, are only partially evident from theoretical writings and testimonies. Programmes and practices of editing often do not coincide, they can even contradict each other. This is not necessarily due to a lack of consistency, but to the fact that there is an inherent logic to editorial practice that is sometimes not even fully reflected upon by the professionals and experts within the community. What is needed, it is argued, is a praxeological approach that looks at the practices of selecting and editing, framing and medially placing texts, as well as the social, economical and political aspects of editions in concrete historical constellations. Thus, fundamental tensions that characterize the practice of modern editing since the beginning become visible. In the nineteenth century, a notion of editorship as a purely reproductive activity emerged. Editors were not allowed anymore to make any interventions in the texts. However, this concept of editorship contrasted with the idea that the editor should become a second maker, by not only replicating the original creative activity, but claiming to be able to understand the author better than the author understands him- or herself. The collaborative practice of editorship therefore equally works in favour of the author and against the author. Bettina von Arnim’s literary debut Goethe’s Briefwechsel mit einem Kinde (1835) is used as an example to illustrate this basic problem of modern editorship. In Arnim’s work, different functions and programmatics of editorship come together. Goethe’s Briefwechsel mit einem Kinde is situated between a poetic form of appropriation and a poeto-philological practice of editing. It is both an act of memorialization and an attempt by the editor to secure a place for herself in the literary field. Through her editing of the letters and their arrangement, Arnim initially places herself in the role of one of Goethe’s imaginary sister: At the end of the first part of the correspondence, Arnim is asked by Goethe’s mother to write down the story of Karoline von Günderrode. Thus, she composes a female Wertheriade. In the second part, Arnim stages herself as the poet’s muse by putting words into her own mouth in the letters to Goethe that later reappear in his poems. Finally, Arnim repeatedly slips into the role of Goethe’s female characters and continues their stories on her own authority. While the second part of the correspondence ends with Goethe’s death, the third part, the Tagebuch (Diary), becomes the initiation of Arnim’s own authorship. Here the dialogue turns into a monologue. The logic of inspiration is reversed: Arnim becomes a poet kissed and blessed by the muse Goethe. Owing to its fictional elements, Goethe’s Briefwechsel mit einem Kinde has tended to be regarded in German-studies scholarship as an epistolary novel or artistic adaptation rather than as an ›edition‹ in the proper sense of the word. This article, on the contrary, argues that the book illuminates a fundamental contradiction of modern editing precisely because of its intermediate status between philology and poetry. Editorial activities always aim to establish an authentic speech and a specific form of authorship. Even as nineteenth-century editorial philology formed an ethos that prohibited purposeful interference with the text, the editors still claimed to become second creators. This led to self-contradictions that have not been discussed within philology for a long time. Arnim’s poetical edition Goethe’s Briefwechsel mit einem Kinde makes this contradiction visible by exaggerating it: She pursues the hubris of being able to understand the author better than he understands himself in an excessive form.
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