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Title:"Dann ist und Bleibt eine Korrespondenz lebendig" Romantic Dialogue in the Letters and Works of Rahel Levin Varnhagen, Bettina Brentano von Arnim, and Karoline von Günderrode
Author(s):Fuchs, Renata T
Director of Research:Johnson, Laurie
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Johnson, Laurie
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Hilger, Stephanie M.; Niekerk, Carl; Yildiz, Yasemin
Department / Program:Germanic Languages & Literatures
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Women Authors
Abstract:In this dissertation, I analyze letters and other writing by three women writers during the Romantic period: Rahel Levin Varnhagen, Bettina Brentano von Arnim, and Karoline von Günderrode. I investigate interpersonal communication in the traditional form of the dialogue as it developed between these women authors and their peers. These epistolary projects reflect a different approach of each woman writer to their letters: Levin Varnhagen’s letters were destined to be published from the beginning; Bettina Brentano von Arnim’s letters were used as a material for her fictional epistolary novel; Günderrode’s letters were meant to remain private. Scholarship has often focused on attempts to justify women writers for their choice of the letter genre while I claim that the authors discussed here actively preferred the form of a letter. I argue that due to the form and content of these letters, a new model of interpersonal communication emerges, which borrows creatively from the Romantic concepts of sociability (including salon conversation) and symphilosophy. The letter exchanges analyzed here are in fact collaborative projects that adhere to the ideals of Early Romantic philosophy. These authors’ letters have been described as “life as the process of writing” and represent a high degree romanticization – the reflection of the reflection – where thoughts, questions, and experiences are poured directly, in a seemingly chaotic way, onto paper. The approach of the “life as the process of writing” removes the split between art and literature and enables the authors to answer the Romantic call according to the maxim that “the world must become romanticized” by being potentialized. Although Levin Varnhagen, Brentano von Arnim, and Günderrode address multiple topics, it is love (agape, philia, eros) that is at the center of their creative work. Brentano von Arnim connects the process of creative writing to the act of speaking rooted in a divine model of communication where “love is only gods’ conversation” and “question and sweet answer.” One cannot separate oneself from love – as it encompasses all aspects of our lives – just as one cannot separate oneself from dialogue because such separation would create dialogue interruptions and ultimately crises. The writers I discuss are undeniably all women but all different from one another, and their differences help us see that any essentializing argument about them would be unproductive. I read their letters not relegating them to a private realm as “being too focused on love,” but rather positioning them within Romantic literary movement as they strive to live Romantic philosophy through letters. The relationship of the women authors to salon conversation is reflected and practiced through the genre of the letter on the level of art. The Romantic letter thus should have an established place in Romantic aesthetic theory.
Issue Date:2015-05-01
Rights Information:Copyright 2015 Renata Fuchs
Date Available in IDEALS:2015-09-29
Date Deposited:August 201

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