Saturday, December 10, 2011

Migrating towards South

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Friday, December 9, 2011

Corpus Part One: School Exercises and Princess of Persia

A while ago (here and here), I had promised to present the several corpora of our edition. I will begin today with one of the first we will go online with in the spring: the work manuscript of Ludwig Tieck's Roxane.

Although he is one of the major romantic authors in German Literature (he was even crowned "king of romantic"), Ludwig Tieck never benefited from the usual treatment reserved to major literary celebrities: unlike Goethe, Schiller, Friedrich Schlegel and co, he was never granted such a thing as a Ludwig Tieck Historisch-Kritische Ausgabe.

It would be preposterous to track this back to only one cause, but it is sure that the state in which his leftover papers are to be found at the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin-PK does not invite to any kind of systematical and exhaustive approach. A peek in the inventory realized by Lothar Busch shows how all of Tieck's activities are thrown together. The poet, the drama author, the tale writer, the literary critique, the Shakespeare scholar are likely to be found in all sorts of texts, fragments, letters, sketches... Also, he was the depository of many of his dead friends' papers (among which Kleist for instance, which he published after his death). Not everything in there is new, not everything is groundbreaking. But we already digged up two treasures.

Treasure number one is the manuscript of a drama called Roxane, which Johanna Preusse is preparing for our edition. It is a youth drama, and although it is undated, it seems to have been written around 1789. By that time, Ludwig Tieck was still a 16-year old schoolboy, and it is very likely that the drama was written as an extension of a school exercise on the theme "Write a variation on the fable of Ino" (on the fable of Ino, see Ovid, Metamorphoses, Book 4).

Other thematic influences are perceptible. The most important one is Felix Weiße's tragedy Mustapha and Zeangir (1763). Especially the place chosen for the plot - an oriental setting in the wake of Montesquieu's Persian Letters - as well as the main idea of the plot itself show Weiße's wide influence. I will not tell you here about where Tieck differs from Weiße, because Johanna is about to write a great paper about it. Let me just tell you this: the Princess is really mean!

The manuscript itself shows several peculiarities too. The first act is missing, so the reader has to jump in the midst of the action. But obviously, we are not the first ones to read it. There is more than just Tieck's handwriting to be found on the pages: the archivists have contributed too, of course. Closer to Tieck, you can find traces of Rudolf Köpke's posthumous work on Tieck's papers. And closer to the moment when the text was written yet, the margins also contain remarks in another hand. Lothar Busch and others assume it is the one of his youth friend Wackenroder, commenting on the plot, the protagonists, the writing,...

Monday, December 5, 2011

Think big

Today Gudrun Gersmann, director of the German Historical Institute in Paris (IHA in French, DHI in German) came to us to present what I originally thought was an edition project but turned out to be more archive sorting, digitizing and setting up metadata.

The project deals with an awesome archival fund that was made in local archives in Toulon (France) (Btw there is a a French description of the project and here a German one): 7500 letters by a successful French woman writer named Constance de Salm, documenting the literary and political activity in Paris in the Revolutionary and Napoleonian era, but also retracing the singular path of a French woman who married a German nobleman and spent half of her life in France and half of her life in Germany.

Now here's the beauty of the project: when they found the letters, they decided not to invest their money in transcribing and commenting what would have been something like a fifth of them. Their aim is to have in the end - if possible - all those letters registered properly. Each of them is being informed with sender, addressee, date, place as well as a couple of keywords (concepts, names, publications). These metadata are then fed in a repository that is in the end supposed to be merged with the kalliope database.  The information sets that will be thus constituted will be linked to the PND and to the digitization of the letters (which are based on a server at the DHI).

One could say, well, then, by the end of the project, nothing is done. No text, no commentary, no context.

But you, my beloved reader, know better than that, I am sure. Once this is done, a lot is done. First, you can have an overview of the most important correspondence partners, of the amount of letters depending on the periods of her life, etc., and thus choose to work on a part of the corpus that is actually defined by precise scholarly questions - and not as "the first bunch in box one". Second, once you have the metadata and the information related to the persons and the publications evoked in the letter, you can gain a valid overview of the intellectual networks. You can follow the discussion of a precise publication throughout the several parts of the correspondence. You can retrace which persons are evoked in which context. So really, a lot is done.This is the kind of work the whole scholarly community should be endlessly thankful for. (I so wish we would be able to reach something similar with the Boeckh papers in Berlin in the year ahead)!

And finally, if these things are done well - in this case with the help of the FuD in Trier - we should be able, at some point, to put the information gained by the Salm project together with those of our project and those of similar projects and be able to search them all.

And this, my friend, is thinking big.
Only I am not sure which institution will be able to support something that big.