Adele Schopenhauer, Florenz: Ein Reiseführer mit Anekdoten und Erzählungen (1847/48) (review)
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Reviewed by
Waltraud Maierhofer, ed., Adele Schopenhauer, Florenz: Ein Reiseführer mit Anekdoten und Erzählungen (1847/48). Weimar: VDG, 2007. 261 pp.

Although Waltraud Maierhofer chose to transcribe an unfinished and incomplete manuscript in Adele Schopenhauer’s travel guide to Florence, Italy, her work enriches studies of the nineteenth century and travel literature alike. Along with the text about Florence, the publication contains two other short manuscripts, Italienisches Landleben in which she describes the impressions Italian rural culture makes on her, and the three-page Albano, den 1. Juni [1846] describing the burial of Pope Gregory XVI. While these short texts are autobiographical and offer insight into Schopenhauer’s personal experiences, Florenz takes on a more academic tone, even though the author’s intention is not scholarly but rather poetic: “Denn wie einer dieser mosaikartig zusammengefügten Blumensträuße, welche man diesem reichen Boden abgewinnt und die man in ganz Italien, besonders aber in Florenz dem dahin reitenden Reisenden in den Wagen wirft, so möchte ich in gewissem Sinn dem Leser mein Werk bieten: Blüte and Blüte, Krone [End Page 252] and Krone gereiht, in bunter, doch nicht unüberlegter Farbenmischung” (40–41). Although the author shines through her expertness in art history, she does not revel in her knowledge and instead makes sure to point out her own limitations (140–41). Describing her publication as a “Büchlein,” she implies that she does nothing more than offer her layman opinion about antique art and architecture. Hence, she addresses her readers not as their educator but as their equal who shares what facts she has learned along with anecdotes and stories she has come across, which distinguishes her travel guide from other travel publications, especially ones about Italy, around her time.

The focus of this review, however, is not Schopenhauer’s travel guide itself, but Maierhofer’s scholarly investment in making the text available to a potentially diverse readership. The transcription is well researched and annotated in great detail, offering valuable factual and explanatory information that makes the book accessible and interesting to both experts and novices in nineteenth-century studies. Most of all, it puts to the forefront an artistically and culturally important woman whose work is often overlooked and certainly overshadowed by her brother Arthur.

In addition to four hundred eighty-seven footnotes, Maierhofer also provides a thirty-page introduction which she begins by contextualizing Schopenhauer’s book within the genre of the practical travel guide, only to point out the obvious conclusion that it isn’t comparable to the works produced by such publishers as Baedeker and Murray (30): “Als These sei formuliert, daß Schopenhauer mit ihrer Stadtbeschreibung eine weniger ernste, unterhaltsame, vergnügliche Art des Reisens reflektiert und die ‘weibliche’ Tradition des Geschichtenerzählens verbindet mit dem neuen Genre des Reiseführers als einer auf Faktisches beschränkten, am bürgerlichen Bildungspensum orientierten Texgattung” (14). Schopenhauer’s text represents a new style within the literary tradition of travel writing, a style that is clearly ahead of her time, as it blends facts with fiction, and objective information with personal perspective. One might call her style modern, as the blend of style, genre, and perspective is a trademark of contemporary travel writings. Maierhofer points out the contemporary popularity of the “litera-rische Reiseführer” (29), but it would have enriched Maierhofer’s introduction to add an analysis relating Schopenhauer’s text to the contemporary genre of travel literature. Instead, Maierhofer insists on measuring up Florenz to Baedeker and Murray (19), even after having clearly established that the text follows not only completely different criteria but also a different goal, as well as a different readership.

Maierhofer’s perhaps weakest introductory section is “Gender und Reiseführer,” due not only to said superfluous comparison to the practical city travel guide, but also to a lack of true engagement with the announced topic, that is, gendered authorial perspective and gendered audience. This is surprising, since she posits in her thesis that Schopenhauer’s text could and should be read with a gendered perspective. Maierhofer claims that Schopenhauer did not write for a specifically female audience (11, 18), but then points out a...