- Sidelights on the State of Sinology in Germany:Two Recent Festschriften with a Focus on Early and Early Imperial China
in memoriam Dorothée Kehren (d. April 19, 2009)
The English word "Festschrift," like "Sitzfleisch" and "Schadenfreude," is a German loan. Unlike the two others, Festschrift is also a German cultural import; even today the genre is thriving in Germany as in almost nowhere else (except, perhaps, in China). While academic publishers in the United States are prone to balk at considering for publication such often incoherent and sometimes academically uneven congeries of opuscula or xiaopin, academic Festschriften continue to appear in Germany in large numbers. The appendix to the present review lists forty-eight specimens in the comparatively small field of East Asian studies, twenty-two of which have appeared since 1990. The list may well be incomplete, and I know of several currently under preparation.1
Festschriften come in various forms. Most but not all of them are, indeed, celebration writs presented to a revered teacher figure—preferably as a surprise—at a festive gathering marking the culmination of his or her academic career. (This festive event, not the celebratory character, is referred to as "Festschrift," as well as in its less frequently used synonym "Festgabe" [celebration gift].) Others, whether by design or due to an intervention of fate, appear only after the dedicatee's death; these should, strictly speaking, be called "memorial volumes" (Gedächtnisschriften), but I consider them part of the Festschrift genre because they share the same bibliographic features.2 [End Page 33]
Second, most Festschriften are collective works, assembled essays by students, friends, and colleagues of the dedicatee. Some, however, are collections of the dedicatee's own writings compiled by his/her students.3 The appendix to this review contains one single-author volume explicitly published as a Festschrift for an admired teacher—a situation I believe is rare but by no means out of keeping with the traditions of the genre.4
Third, some Festschriften are stand-alone volumes (often, but not always, published in one of the innumerable monograph series that exist at German universities). Others appear as regular volumes—more rarely as out-of-series volumes—of an academic journal.5 This difference is relevant from a librarian's and a bibliographer's point of view, given that journals, monograph series, and independently published works are catalogued separately and that journal volumes are far more likely to be included in bibliographies and indexes than the contents of stand-alone collective volumes, whether published as part of a series or independently. Stand-alone Festschriften, on the other hand, have a better chance of being reviewed in a scholarly journal. Festschriften published as journal volumes also differ from stand-alone Festschriften in that they often do not have an explicit title, and the editor or editors in charge often remain anonymous.6
Whereas German Festschriften published as journal volumes can be found at major university libraries in the United States, the monographic Festschriften are sometimes hard to track down. Having read through a good part of the works listed in the appendix, I have, however, come to the conclusion that no serious scholar can afford to ignore them. This is both on account of the intrinsic value of their contents and because of their inestimable usefulness as source materials for the history of the field.
Even though it is certainly true that some scholars use Festschriften as outlets for substandard work shielded from stringent peer review, it should be stressed that their overall scholarly level...