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  • Geselliges Vergnügen. Kulturelle Praktiken von Unterhaltung im langen 19. Jahrhundert ed. by Anna Ananieva, Dorothea Böck und Hedwig Pompe
  • Robert S. Bledsoe
Geselliges Vergnügen. Kulturelle Praktiken von Unterhaltung im langen 19. Jahrhundert. Herausgegeben von Anna Ananieva, Dorothea Böck und Hedwig Pompe. Bielefeld: Aisthesis, 2011. 353 Seiten + 10 farbige Abbildungen. €34,80.

This volume of scholarly essays traces aspects of transformation of "Unterhaltung" from "Gesprächskultur" to "Freizeitvergnügungen" of all types. It considers both conceptualizations and practices of entertainment and pays special attention to the different [End Page 336] media contexts in which these take place. The volume grew out of a research project at the Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität in Bonn entitled "Von der 'Aufklärung' zur 'Unterhaltung': Literarische und mediale Transformation in Deutschland zwischen 1780-1840," which may account for the potentially misleading subtitle. Although the subtitle mentions the long nineteenth century, most of the essays focus on the first half of the period. Only in the few last essays is material from the second half of the nineteenth century considered.

The volume contains fourteen essays and is divided into three sections: "Räume und Praktiken," "Zwischen den Künsten," and "Erfolgsszenarien." There is only a brief two-page foreword that quickly sketches the scope of the volume. I would have appreciated a lengthier introduction that both established the significance and the range of the meanings attached to concepts such as "Geselligkeit," "Vergnügen," and "Unterhaltung" that are essential to the project, as well as positioned the essays in the current state of research. The lack of a substantial introduction is unfortunate, because the essays—despite working from a common set of assumptions about the practice of literary and cultural studies grounded in historical and sociological discourse about the developments in this period—rarely engage at length with relevant theoretical work from the areas of cultural studies and sociology, etc. A discussion of the elements would help the reader to bring the essays into dialogue with each other and other related work; without this connective tissue, the essays remain individual case studies.

The essays cover a wide range of materials and practices. The first section, "Räume und Praktiken," includes four essays, two each on spaces and on practices of social entertainment. Karin Wurst shows that the types of gardens developed by members of the Bürgertum create a type of topography of Geselligkeit that can be used to map the differentiation of life styles and sociability within the Bürgertum. Burkhard Fuchs examines spas as spaces whose architecture and functions are transformed in response to the influx of visitors from the Bürgertum into spaces that prefigure the culture of tourism and leisure that develops later in the nineteenth century. In the two essays on practices, Anna Ananieva considers the performative and narrative potential of play with the yo-yo, and Christiane Holm looks at the shift of the role and perception of women's needlework and other crafts from necessary handicrafts to leisure activities whose social value is bound more to the process than the object itself.

The second section "Zwischen den Künsten" looks at different aspects of the arts, emphasizing the role that entertainment asserts, in considering the development and multivalent status of the pianoforte (Bettina Schlüter), children's literature (Maren Butte), Kotzebue's melodramas (Irmgard Nickel-Bacon), and Kleist's experiment with the Berliner Abendblätter (Manuela Günter and Michael Homberg). The "Erfolgsszenarien" of the third section of the volume are more closely tied to literary and critical experience. It opens with York-Gothardt Mix's essay arguing that calendars, almanacs, and pocketbooks served as a means to initiate readers into literary culture. It also includes Hedwig Pompe's essay on Knigge and "der gute Ton," which draws out the ambivalent implications of the term, and Olaf Briese's essay distinguising three phases of criticism of the Bürgertum's habits of entertainment in Berlin between 1810 and 1850. The volume closes with an essay by Michael Gamper, who sees Robert Prutz's advocacy for Unterhaltungsliteratur as a productive way out of the [End Page 337] dichotomization of German literature, and a study of...


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