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  • Weibliche Kreativität um 1800/Women's Creativity around 1800 ed. by Linda Dietrick and Birte Giesler
  • Laura Isakov
Linda Dietrick and Birte Giesler, editors. Weibliche Kreativität um 1800/Women's Creativity around 1800. Wehrhahn Verlag, 2015. 282 pp. Paper, €29,50.

Linda Dietrick and Birte Giesler's coedited volume of essays is a collection of well-referenced, engaging research that critically demonstrates how women around 1800 engaged in the discourse of femininity, particularly regarding androcentric beliefs surrounding conceptions of genius and creativity. "Creativity" here refers to contemporary concepts of creation, originality, genius, talent, inventiveness, and authorship. The book's feminist premise is that inquiry into female creativity must examine gender significance within a literary-historical context and academic form analysis.

Following the German-only preface, four of the eleven essays are in English; each essay is introduced with a short abstract in the other language. The first two essays focus on feminine reception and response. Margaretmary Daley observes intertextual influence within women's written works of the period, referencing Caroline Auguste Fischer's novel Die Honigmonathe (1802; The honeymoon) and its intertextual critique [End Page 157] of Karoline von Wobeser's period best-seller Elisa, oder das Weib wie es seyn sollte (1795; Elisa, or The wife as she should be). Daley verifies ways in which critical interplay between women authors influenced their self-perception of the reception of novels and feminine identity. Three types of texts women were likely to have read—biographies, gendered neurology, and organist theories—are identified by Linda Dietrick, who analyzes the Genie in sociocultural terms with examples of reception by women writers, including Charlotte von Stein, Sophie Mereau, Bettina von Arnim, Amalie von Helvig, and Karoline von Günderrode.

Feminine creativity discourse is examined within various genres: bourgeois tragedy, Bildungsroman, and comedy. Gaby Pailer examines Christiane K. Schlegel's Düval und Charmille (1778) as a creative twinned adaptation: in regard to gender coding and aesthetic genre prescriptions of bourgeois tragedy, and by its reality drama adaptation of the actual criminal report of a ménage a trois murder-suicide. Birte Giesler explores the Bildungsroman genre using Lacanian poststructuralism and queer theory to demonstrate that satirical allusions to Goethe's Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre within Friederike Helene Unger's Prinz Bimbam: Ein Mährchen für Alt und Jung (1802; Prince Bimbam: A fairy tale for young and old) actively criticize how the androcentric gender coding of Bildung and aestheticism was only possible at the expense of women. Anja Gerigk investigates comedy: Juliana Hayn's Der Dichterling (1781; The versemonger) ridicules genius as a male counterfeit through witty, morally superior female characters, whereas Johanna von Weißenthurn's Das Manuscript (1826) links conceptions of creativity to comical wit, validating the depicted female genius.

The book concludes by investigating alternative creative forms. Thomas Wortmann contrasts biographer Levin Schückling's use of the masculine to authenticate Annette von Droste-Hülshoff's literary genius with the way Droste-Hülshoff's thematization of women's domestic textile handwork echoes the Philomela myth in connecting both domestic and literary creation to legitimate communication. Christine Lehleiter illustrates Cotta editor and author Therese Huber's contrasting comments on women's creativity and motherhood as a creative public relations strategy to maintain sanctioned professional space for women writers amid increasing conservative restrictions. Similarly, Monika Nenon identifies Sophie von La Roche's social networking as a creative enterprise that both promoted and equaled the artistry of La Roche's literary works. Francien Markx notes the multifaceted roles of the [End Page 158] musically creative Luise Reichardt, whose enthusiastically received translations of Georg Friedrich Händel's oratorios initiated his reception in German-speaking lands. An overview of feminist aesthetic discourse scholarship and romanticism's rejection of Newtonian determinism supports Elena Pnevmonidou's argument that editor Ottilie von Goethe creatively shaped the journal Chaos while providing an exclusive medium for other women's creations, rendering the journal an embodiment of Friedrich Schlegel's notion of Sympoesie. The final essay engages with the book's cover illustration, Angelika Kauffmann's Invention, and three other reprinted allegorical works. Waltraud Maierhofer's biographical analysis links Kauffmann's self-representation as inspired...


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pp. 157-159
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