After working on the medieval mystics, notably Mechthild von Magdeburg, she returned to her original research interests in the Classical Age of German List of contributors literature and for ten years, starting in , organized an annual Day School on Women Writers of the Age of Goethe, the proceedings of which have been published in a series of Occasional Papers. In collaboration with Professor A. Harper Strathclyde University she is author of the study Sappho in the Shadows, dealing mainly with women poets of the Goethe era.
Anna K. She has published a book on the dramatist Frank Wedekind; her book Christa Wolf: From Marxism to Feminism, published by Cambridge University Press, was the first English-language study of this important writer. Her current fields of interest include feminist and gender theory, gender and nationhood, minority discourse, and German cultural studies. Eva Kolinsky and Wilfried van der Will; Walther Killy; Hoffmann, on which subjects she has published numerous articles, in addition to the book Westdeutsche Frauenliteratur in den 70er Jahren 2nd edn Her principal research interests and publications are in medieval German literature, especially fictional literature of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries.
Sabine Werner-Birkenbach studied Germanistik, art history and publishing in Mainz. Kommentare und Analysen zum Briefwechsel, zu autobiographischen Schriften und zu Balls Hesse-Biographie, appeared in She is currently working as a freelance editor. Anthony Vivis is a freelance translator and writer based in Norwich. His translations of contemporary German plays, e.
I am grateful to the University, and my colleagues there, for allowing me the time and space to establish the connections without which such a collaborative volume could not have been produced. I am grateful too to Joyce Crick and to Juliet Wig- [xiv] Acknowledgements more for their active and supportive interest in the project. The US-based WiG Women in German has also been an invaluable source of contacts and information; and I am grateful to Professor Linda Dietrick at the University of Winnipeg, Canada for her interest in the project, and especially for generously making available her list of works in English translation, not all of which were known or accessible to me in the UK.
I should further like to thank Eva Ibbotson of Newcastle, daughter of Anna Gmeyner and well-known author in her own right, for her spontaneous hospitality at our fortuitous meeting in Jesmond, for the books of Exilliteratur, and for putting me in touch with Lisette Buchholz of the Persona-Verlag and thus with Heike Klapdor-Kops, both of whom I should like to thank here for their interest and support. Thanks are also due to Beate Schmeichel-Falkenberg whose acquaintance I owe to a similarly serendipitious meeting with her late mother ; her active engagement in the field of Exilliteratur enabled her to put me in touch with Sonja Hilzinger, for whose swift response I remain extremely grateful.
I am further grateful to the EUR Research Fund, and especially to the British Centre for Literary Translation at UEA, for financial support for the translation of the three German chapters in the book, and particularly to the translator Anthony Vivis for agreeing to undertake it, for his continued interest and support for the project as a whole, and his assistance in tracking down elusive translations especially of contemporary drama for the bibliography.
Thanks also to Serena Inskip for making springtime workspace and other home comforts available; Margot Paterson deserves a special mention here for her continuing support and interest as well as practical help. At Cambridge University Press, I am extremely grateful to Kate Brett and Linda Bree for their initial and continuing enthusiasm for the project, and especially for their patience and perseverance, as well as for their practical and editorial support and many valuable comments and suggestions.
The editor wishes to thank the Deutsches Literaturarchiv, Marbach for the cover picture and Prof. Ines Geipel, Berlin: Aufbau, Margaret Littler wishes to acknowledge the generous support of the DAAD for a grant in support of a visit to Germany for research on chapter Lesley Sharpe is grateful to the British Academy for awarding her a grant under their Small Grants in the Humanities scheme to enable the essential library work for chapter 3.
Chris Weedon wishes to acknowledge the generous support of the Alexander von Humboldt-Stiftung which enabled her to do the primary research and writing for chapter 7. Catling xvii jo catling Introduction Die Frauen lebten lange, ohne zu schreiben, dann begannen sie zu schreiben.
It cannot of course claim to provide an exhaustive analysis; where it breaks new ground for the English-speaking reader is in offering both an introduction to and an overview of the whole field, from the medieval mystic setting down her visions in Latin on the banks of the Rhine, to the immigrant writers of postunification Germany and beyond, whose mother tongue may not necessarily be German, but Turkish or Czech.
This definition, which formed part of the original working title of the project, is intended to cover not only literature from Austria and Switzerland, as well as the former GDR and West Germany, but also writing by women from earlier periods when the  2 jo catling boundaries of the German-speaking world were very different from what they are today.
In the present volume, individual chapters are designed to dovetail in such a way as to provide a chronological overview of writing by women in the German-speaking world, divided into four broad chronological sections. The markers used, for reasons of convenience rather than ideology, as Elizabeth Boa discusses in the postscript to this volume, are landmarks familiar from more conventional German literary history. This has the advantage of providing points of orientation, which coincide with classification systems in most humanities libraries, thus facilitating further research.
Footnotes and references within individual chapters, meanwhile, have been kept to a minimum; all bibliographical material has been grouped together at the end of the volume. This gives details of dates and principal works by individual writers, together with translations where available, and where appropriate references to secondary material; finally, the index provides the necessary cross-referencing.
This was in turn provoked by the notable, even glaring, absence of books by German women writers on the otherwise generously stocked shelves of the college libraries with which I was most familiar. Those eight introductory lectures which rapidly developed into a participatory seminar , spanning the period from the Middle Ages to the present day, are present as a kind of ghost or palimpsest beneath the chronological layout of the present volume.
While the title of the volume and indeed its constituency of contributors have undergone modification, the project has remained faithful to the original aim of providing an introduction to, and survey of, writing by women in German-speaking countries from the Middle Ages to the present day. Was it the case, for example, that women in nineteenth-century Germany did not produce literary works in contrast to their counterparts in, say, nineteenth-century England? The present volume does not seek to produce an alternative, feminist, canon, but rather — as the original project title suggests — to make visible German women of letters to a wider audience.
The foundations for the reclamation or perhaps reconstruction of a female literary tradition have, however, been laid by German women writers themselves. Born in Karlsruhe in , she published a number of poems and dramas under a male pseudonym — Tian — before committing suicide in Winkel am Rhein in There are two interrelated problems here: finding a voice, and finding an appropriate literary form in which to express it. There is, then, a question of genre, as well as of gender, to be addressed here. It will come as no surprise, then, that drama is the hardest sphere for women to penetrate, and, as a number of the contributors to this volume have pointed out, it is the sphere in which the smallest number of women have been active as writers, with fewer still achieving lasting recognition.
The most intimate genre of all, of course, is generally considered to be 7 8 jo catling lyric poetry, although as an essentially personal genre, it is also arguably the most difficult in which to achieve recognition. On the one hand, such unconscious unconventionality may go some way towards accounting for the lack of recognition experienced by many writers — male as well as female — who find themselves excluded or marginalized by the dominant cultural code; on the other hand, however, such cutting across the boundaries of traditional genres may be seen as an opportunity for opening up new, less formal possibilities of expression, some of which may only now be bearing fruit.
In these introductory remarks I have tried to draw attention to some of the obstacles which the women writers whose works will be discussed in this volume have faced, and — to the extent that their works are available for us to read today — overcome. Meine Herren, wir sind im Bilde. Note on translations As this book is aimed not just at GermanistInnen but at non-readers of German, care has been taken to include translations wherever possible. The practice followed in this volume is to provide a translation of every German term or title mentioned in the text. Where a work has been translated into English, this is denoted by italicization of the translated title in the case of poems and short stories, where a title would not normally be italicized, it is shown by the use of inverted commas and upper case.
Where no translation is available, an English equivalent is given, in lower case and without inverted commas. As far as possible, details of available translations are listed in the 9 10 jo catling bibliography under the entry for the writer in question. It must be stressed, however, that this cannot claim to be comprehensive; there is a likelihood that some translations particularly those published in the United States will have slipped through the net. All translations of quotations in the text are by the author of that chapter, or, in rare cases, by the editor, except where otherwise stated.
Wilson in her excellent anthology Medieval Women Writers, for both men and women in the Middle Ages several conditions had to be fulfilled before literary productivity could take place. These included at least a certain level of education, leisure, access to the materials necessary for writing, patronage or other means of financial independence, and — true for writers in every century — something to communicate. It is not therefore surprising that many of the earliest achievements by women of letters in German-speaking countries, whether in Latin or the vernacular, should spring from the ambience of the cloister.
In the convents of the religious orders girls were taught to read the Psalter and to copy passages from the Bible, both of which presupposed instruction in Latin. In the seclusion of her cell or during the silences of the daily office a nun would have ample time to reflect on her own life and the mysteries of religion and, with a little encouragement, might indeed begin to write. In some cases, the convents produced highly trained female scribes, some of whom emerge as rather striking personalities.
Despite the self-deprecating humility, this is a confident statement at a time when most scribes, whether women or men, remained anonymous; Guda is clearly aware of the importance and value of her work, and adds a picture of herself in the illuminated initial D — one of the earliest self-portraits of an artist. On the first folio, one of her contemporaries noted shortly after her death: Istud egregium librum scripsit, illuminavit, notavit, impaginavit, aureis litteris et pulchris imaginibus decoravit venerabilis ac devota virgo Gysela de Kerzenbroeck in sui memoriam Anno Mccc cuius anima requiescat in sancta pace.
The venerable and pious Gisela of Kerssenbrock wrote, illuminated, annotated, paginated this excellent book and decorated it with gold letters and beautiful pictures, so that she might be remembered. AD May her soul rest in holy peace. Gisela of Kerssenbrock and Guda are thus examples of women with sufficient education to be able to produce Latin liturgical manuscripts, but despite the high degree of literacy shown here, women did not normally have access to Latin learned traditions, which were the prerogative of the monasteries and hence equally inaccessible to most lay men.
Nevertheless, there are female writers who defy the general trend. The significance of Latin and a knowledge of the classical canon can be seen in the work of Hrotsvit also known as Roswitha von Gandersheim, who has the distinction of being the first known Christian dramatist. Probably born in the fourth decade of the tenth century, she was a Saxon of noble lineage who entered the religious life at an early age and became a canoness of the abbey of Gandersheim in the Harz mountains.
Then — following, as she tells us, an inner compulsion which she perceived to be a gift of God — she too sought to express herself The Middle Ages in Latin, the language of liturgy, learning and culture, and wrote some eight legends, six plays, two epics and a short poem, all of them inspired by her Christian faith and sense of mission. Her two epics depict Otto the Great —73 as an exemplary Christian ruler and his queens Edith and Adelheid as embodiments of Christian virtue.
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Although she describes herself as a weak woman of little scholarship, she is in all probability adopting here again the traditional medieval modesty topos in such utterances, since her material is wide-ranging and possesses a selfconfident authority. This statement needs elucidation. In one very important aspect these plays — Gallicanus, Dulcitius, Callimachus, Abraham, Pafnutius and Sapientia — can all be regarded as anti-Terentian tirades, not so much in style and structure as in content and message.
Hrotsvit was incensed by the portrayal of women by the Latin dramatist as lewd, lascivious creatures forever seeking the attention of men and certainly no strangers to seduction. Her aim, as she tells us in a preface, is to establish a countermodel, that of the chaste Christian virgin, who can withstand all temptation, preferring martyrdom to the sacrifice of her integrity. Thus, in Dulcitius, three Christian maidens — Agape, Chionia, and Irene — refuse to honour pagan gods at the request of the Emperor Diocletian and foil the advances of their torturer, Dulcitius, who consequently has them put to death.
In Callimachus, Drusiana, a respectable married lady, prays for death when confronted by the lustful Callimachus, and her wish is immediately granted. In Abraham and Pafnutius the theme is varied slightly. Abraham here is not the Biblical patriarch, but a hermit who has brought up a niece, Maria, in the silence and solitude of the desert. Nevertheless, when temptation comes her way, she is deceived and dishonoured and becomes a prostitute. In Pafnutius two harlots are similarly reclaimed for God by two saintly male anchorites. Christian women, then, should aspire to be pure vessels for the reception of the Holy Spirit after the example of the Blessed Virgin, but — failing that — can draw solace from the story of Mary Magdalene, do penance and find salvation.
It must be emphasized that, for Hrotsvit, the figures of Mary and the 15 16 margaret ives and almut suerbaum reformed Mary Magdalene genuinely represented a higher concept of womanhood.
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Although in Abraham and Pafnutius it is acknowledged that men, too, can be chaste, in other plays the male characters are depicted as being at the mercy of their carnal appetites. Dulcitius is so ablaze with passion that, attempting to enter the prison of the virtuous Christian sisters after nightfall, he mistakenly embraces pots, pans and culinary utensils and becomes covered in dirt and grime. Even worse, Callimachus plans to violate the tomb of Drusiana, although — of course — he is prevented from doing so.
A good example is Gallicanus, where the eponymous pagan general is inspired by Constantia, daughter of the Emperor Constantine, to give up his hopes of marrying her and, like her, adopt a vow of chastity. All this may not appeal greatly to modern tastes, but it has to be seen in the context of its time as a powerful campaign for the enhancement of the status of women.
Such a campaign was not without its dangers.
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Hrotsvit tells us that she sometimes had to blush with shame because, in the course of her dramatic dialogues, she occasionally had to depict the distasteful passions of forbidden love and reproduce unseemly conversations. From an inserted introductory letter to her benefactors it is evident that Hrotsvit only completed this collection of plays after she had gained the express approval of her mentors, who praised and encouraged her.
Since there was no established theatre in the tenth century, her plays were probably not performed. That even these moves towards Christian drama were, however, highly controversial is highlighted by remarks included in the Hortus deliciarum Garden of delights by Herrad of Hohenburg in The Middle Ages the late twelfth century. A compendium of reading matter for the education of nuns, compiled by the abbess of a convent in Alsace and famous for the way in which it integrates text, illustration and musical notation into an overall programme of the essentials of Christian doctrine as well as for the many minute details of everyday life contained within its structure, it voices strong reservations against the introduction of religious drama on the grounds that there is potential here for liturgical seriousness to degenerate into frivolous play.
Nevertheless, Hrotsvit may justifiably be seen as a pioneer of German drama. She went on to compose a short history of the convent of Gandersheim, where she had spent most of her life, and a life of Emperor Otto I. This piece of commissioned official biography shows most clearly the esteem in which she must by then have been held, and in dealing with contemporary matters, Hrotsvit had to rely on her own individuality as a writer — an existence which, despite all acknowledged difficulties, she clearly enjoyed.
She may be identical with the highly respected anchoress Ava whose death in is recorded in the annals of the monastery at Melk. If so, this is another example of a woman for whom the seclusion of the religious life offered the freedom to write, although the epilogue also stresses the encouragement and advice received from her sons. Her oeuvre, written for a lay audience interested in devotional reading, but unable to do so in Latin, consists of a group of five narrative poems which together form a history of human salvation through time.
She begins with the life of St John the Baptist, the precursor of Christ, moves on to a vividly narrated life of Christ, and concludes — in short poems on the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, the Anti-Christ and the Last Judgement — with a vista of the end of the world and the possibility of salvation. Her narrative style is vivid, especially when she describes gestures and settings, giving us the first German account of the ox and ass surrounding the manger in the Nativity scene.
At times, the way in which she evokes images appears reminiscent of religious drama. In an Age of Faith such as the Middle Ages, the claim that one had a God-given talent to depict the lives of the saints and martyrs or to proclaim the Gospel had to be respected. Similarly, a woman who claimed to be inspired by the Holy Spirit could not be dismissed out of hand, even if her revelations challenged traditional notions.
Of noble birth, she reports in an autobiographical fragment that she experienced her first visions at the age of three and, clearly a gifted child, she was placed by her parents at the age of eight in a convent of the Benedictine order where she received her education. In she was unanimously chosen as Mother Superior and some five years later, in , took the decisive step of revealing her prophetic insights to the world.
A voice told her to write down what she had seen in her visions: she was reluctant at first to do so, but then fell into a debilitating illness, from which she only recovered when she resolved to follow her inner compulsion. Employing a scholarly monk to help her with Latin grammar, she began work on her first book Scivias Know the ways , and during a visit of Pope Eugene to Trier sent him some extracts from the manuscript, which obtained his blessing.
Armed with this authority, she completed Scivias, which she divided into three parts, the first containing visions of God the Father as creator of the universe, the second concentrating on Christ and His message of salvation, and the third — on the analogy of the Trinity — focusing on the power of the Holy Spirit to shape and transform our lives. After this Hildegard went from strength to strength. Her interest in plants and animals, coupled with her keen The Middle Ages powers of observation, also enabled her to produce two scientific manuals, the first, Physica Physics , being a handbook on nature, while the second and better-known Causae et Curae Causes and cures , a textbook on medicine, contributed to her reputation as a physician and healer.
Recognized in her own lifetime as a person of great spirituality and wisdom, she did not hesitate to comment on contemporary events or to rebuke kings and princes. Hozeski also quotes the opinion of the Dominican theologian Matthew Fox that, had she been a man, Hildegard would have been one of the most famous people in the history of humanity. Be that as it may, Scivias certainly has the authoritative tone of a new Revelation. The visions are followed by detailed commentaries: the finale is apocalyptic in its prophecy.
For all their force and power, however, Hildegard maintains that she received her messages not in a state of ecstasy, but from a deep source within her soul. In this she differed from other religious women who, particularly in the following century, experienced in dreams or trance-like states what they describe as a rapturous union with Divine Love. Foremost among these ecstatic visionaries writing in Germany is Mechthild von Magdeburg, who was probably born sometime between and and who died at Helfta in Unlike Hildegard, she was not formally professed as a member of a religious order, but settled in Magdeburg as a beguine, and wrote not in Latin, but in the vernacular.
Mechthild, too, writes out of a profound conviction that God Himself had chosen her as a new apostle. Like Hildegard, she claims that she was commanded to write her book. It is not, however, an easy book to follow. It has, she says, to be read at least nine times, and always with due reverence and humility. Its central message is that it is natural for the soul to crave God, but God Himself also craves the human soul, and in the highest states of ecstasy a mystic union becomes possible.
Thus, as her title suggests, God is an ever-flowing radiance, an ever-buoyant flood-tide, the Divine illuminates the soul as sunlight shining upon gold or water, the Divine music is a music to which all hearts must dance. This is, even for its time, bold and unconventional language, and it offended a good many people. Different though these two remarkable women were, Hildegard and Mechthild do share certain features. Like Hrotsvit, both denigrate their authorship.
There may, however, be subtle irony at work here. By conceding their weakness, both women acknowledge the structure of the patriarchal society in which they lived, while at the same time evoking scriptural sanction for their activities. It is precisely because, as women, they are of low degree and thus more humble and obedient that the Holy Spirit has deigned to reveal to them new ways of truth and love. Versed as she was The Middle Ages in liturgy and Church tradition, Hildegard seems to have seen some of the topoi of theological debate not as abstract concepts, but as larger-than-life allegorical figures, many of them female.
It is through the purity, humility and obedience of Mary that the Incarnation, and hence the Redemption, is possible. Following on from this it is only through a feminine response to the Divine Nature that Creation itself comes into being. If Hildegard thus draws the attention of her contemporaries to the feminine principle inherent in the Divine mystery, Mechthild von Magdeburg personalizes it in the account of her own relationship with God.
Her God is no stern authoritarian, sitting in judgement. He is, rather, an ardent wooer of the human soul, delighted if the latter reciprocates his feelings. Yet not all human souls surrender to these endearments. Indeed, only the truly humble can be truly receptive, and these are much more likely to be women rather than men. Mechthild is often quite emphatic that it is difficult for men per se to find God. Both Hildegard and Mechthild speak out very strongly against the male-dominated Church establishment of their day, which they condemn as corrupt and anti-Christian.
Yet her face was spattered with dust and her robe torn. Mechthild is no less extreme. Crown of Holy Church, how tarnished you have become! Your precious stones have fallen from you because you are weak and you disgrace the holy Christian faith. Your gold is sullied in the filth of unchastity, for you have become destitute and do not know true love. Another vivid source of controversy is the explicit sexual language. It may well be that medieval times were not as prudish or as squeamish as our own.
Hildegard, in her medical treatises, writes quite openly about menstruation and other gynaecological topics, although admittedly in Latin. Yet her vision of Ecclesia assaulted by Antichrist, again in Latin, verges on the pornographic. And after this ecstasy the soul sighs with all her might, so that the whole body is shaken. Elisabeth also wrote a life of St Ursula which contributed to the widespread veneration of that saint in the Cologne area.
In the convent of Helfta, as already mentioned, Gertrud The Middle Ages von Helfta, Gertrud von Hackeborn, and Mechthild von Hackeborn all wrote treatises on the religious life, stressing in particular the virtues of obedience and humility and initiating the adoration of the Sacred Heart as a special form of Christian devotion. All these works are in Latin. From all this it can be seen that women made a very substantial contribution to religious thought and practice during the medieval period and in doing so explored many forms of literary expression.
History, biography, theology and medicine are among the scholarly topics covered by their works, while the prophetic visions and rhapsodic flights of the soul towards Heaven, whatever their cause or origin, resulted in devotional poetry and meditation of outstanding beauty and eloquence. Yet, as the Age of Faith receded, much was overlooked or forgotten. Even today, their views are not always regarded as acceptable. The attempt, from Hildegard onwards, to work out a theology of the feminine which sees certain aspects of the great drama of Creator and Creation as essentially female is still regarded in some circles as verging on heresy or even blasphemy.
Nevertheless, its presence as an underground current in German mysticism, literature and thought cannot be questioned. It is of course ironic that Faust, in his very masculine goal-orientated striving, fails to understand this as he rushes headlong through life. Apart from the religious houses, the secular courts are the other important sphere in which German literature developed, and again, women play their part, even if not in quite the same way as in France. In the twelfth century, with the rise of secular literature as courtly entertainment in France, it is again female patrons — often French-born wives of German noblemen — who are influential in introducing these new developments into Germany, but whereas in France, noblewomen are writers as well as patrons, there is no evidence for women taking such an active role as writers in Germany.
This is more than the desire of an educated noblewoman for appropriate reading matter, since the genre of the chanson de geste had been used in France as a literary means to justify political power of the ruling family; through her mother, Mathilde was almost certainly aware of the way in which literary patronage could be used thus to enhance the importance of the secular courts.
In the development of French courtly literature, the central concept is that of amour courtois courtly love. The love-relationship is expressed in images and metaphors drawn from the contemporary social structures of feudal service, so that the lady assumes the part of the liege-lord in whose power it lies to grant favours and acknowledge the service of the vassal. Although the theme itself is quickly taken up in German literature, it is adapted only in forms which suppress the potential tension between such an elevated image of the all-powerful feudal lady, and the actual political and social reality of male domination over women.
Whereas in France women could occasionally wield considerable political power in their own right, and were also able, as writers and poets for The Middle Ages example Marie de France or the trobadora Beatriz de Diaz , to comment on the problems of women, or, as rulers and patrons, to feature as the supreme judge in cases of fictional amorous disputes, there is no evidence for parallel developments in Germany. During the same period, she also engaged in literary activity and translated four French chansons de geste into German prose.
These beginnings were developed further by Eleonore of Austria also known as Eleonore of Scotland, since she is the daughter of James I of Scotland. Her achievements were acknowledged by Andreas Silvius Piccolomini, one of the most important German humanists at the time. Pontus und Sidonia, the love-story of the prince of Galicia and his future bride, quickly achieved widespread literary success, and its special appeal lies not so much in the adventures of the chivalrous hero as in the extended and often vivid depictions of courtly ceremony and everyday life.
Pontus is well-bred, courteous and possesses exquisite table manners, and he marks the shift towards a truly modern novel which features an early aristocrat instead of the traditional knight. In a period when only those manuscripts which had a legal, political or bureaucratic relevance were systematically preserved, it is a matter of pure chance if writing by women is preserved in manuscript form. While there are more manuscript letters, diaries and chronicles in court and convent archives than was formerly thought, it is published writing by women which had the greatest chance of survival.
The poetry of Catharina Regina von Greiffenberg was first published thanks to her guardian, step-uncle and later husband Hans Rudolf von Greiffenberg, Sibylle Schwarz was published thanks to her tutor Samuel Gerlach and it was a grandson who published the work of Margaretha Susanna von Kuntsch. In the two latter cases publication was posthumous, so the writers had no control whatever over the published form of their work.
It is at least probable that the male relatives or mentors instrumental in the publication edited and emended the texts, so that the final product does not have the status of the oeuvre of a modern woman writer. We must also assume that these male editors selected which works to publish and that they may have suppressed material which did not conform to the forms and themes considered suitable for women.
Sometimes a male writer gives an intimation of activity by women in an area where it is in general unsuspected.
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Even where women published their work, it can be difficult nowadays to establish its authorship. Women took refuge under pseudonyms, for example Aramena, the still unknown author of the novel Die Durchlauchtigste Margaretha von Oesterreich which appeared in Hamburg in One must in general be aware of the existence of a writer before either looking for or finding work by that writer — the problem of the invisibility of women. Systematic searching will undoubtedly reveal authors hitherto unknown to us.
It can therefore be seen that the printed material actually known to us at present represents only an unknown proportion of what women actually wrote. Social and historical factors Since pregnancy accounted for the high mortality of women between the ages of twenty and fifty when compared to men, female biology must be taken into account when discussing literary production.
Even those women who were childless were fully occupied with the endless tasks of early modern housekeeping. Many women, it is clear, simply did not have the leisure or the conditions in which to write. The early modern period We must also ask whether they were literate in the first place. Around five to ten per cent of the total population in sixteenth- and seventeenthcentury Germany is estimated as being literate, though it is not always easy to define what literate means.
While this percentage varied from region to region and increased as the period progressed, we can assume that literacy was highest among upper-class men and lowest among lower-class women. This was true of girls of all social classes. Girls of the aristocracy and middle class were more likely to be educated at home than sent to school and where girls did go to school — something which was usually only possible in the towns anyway — a few hours a day for a maximum of two years was often considered sufficient.
Knowledge in general, apart from a knowledge of housekeeping, was considered unnecessary, indeed burdensome to girls. There was furthermore the fact that Latin was the learned language of the age, the language of science, of educated discourse, even of literature, and that well into the eighteenth century the majority of all writing published in the German-speaking world was in Latin.
Few women knew Latin and if they tried to learn it were told, as Kuntsch was by her parents in the s, that this was more suitable for a great lady than for a middleclass girl, whereupon they had to give it up again. Since all educated men of the period wrote in Latin, sometimes instead of but virtually always as well as in German, one whole aspect of the literary life of the period was by definition closed to women. Women were also debarred from undertaking the kind of travel which was a standard part of the education of young men who aspired to learning.
But what of the Renaissance? Surely this meant an opening up of learning and a dissemination of it via the printing-press, a new stress on the individual and his or her development and a questioning of timehonoured assumptions? Surely the ideals of learning for its own sake and artistic endeavour embraced both men and women equally? It is well known that the Renaissance in France, Italy, England, Spain and other countries produced numerous learned and cultivated women.
North of the Alps in the German-speaking world, Agrippa of Nettesheim — was the first German Humanist to sum up the debate on women, their abilities and their rights in his De nobilitate et praecellentia foeminei sexus Women are capable of learning and of literary production and Agrippa is able to support this with quotations from the Bible and the Ancients. A scholar of even greater prestige, namely Erasmus of Rotterdam ? Barbara Pirckheimer was the eldest child of Dr Johannes Pirckheimer and the sister of the distinguished Humanist Willibald Pirckheimer.
At the age of twelve she was sent to the convent of the sisters of St Clare in Nuremberg, the so-called Klarakloster, noted for its learning and holiness and as a school for patrician girls. Here she took the veil around and by at the latest she had adopted the name of Caritas.
She was a woman of great learning, adept in Latin, well known to the Humanists of her day, with many of whom she corresponded. In she was elected abbess of the convent. Three of her younger sisters who had also become nuns served their convents in the same capacity. But in the German-speaking world the Renaissance led to the Reformation and Caritas Pirckheimer herself provides an excellent illustration of the negative effects of the Reformation on those women seeking an intellectual life.
The Reformation was indeed a movement intended by Luther and other early Reformers to empower the ordinary person in the pew, to take religion out of the exclusive control of a priestly class and to open it up even to the unlettered believer, to put the Bible in the vernacular into the hands of all and to stress the importance of the laity over the clergy as enunciated in the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers.
Such an apparently democratic movement, it seems, must have empowered women. Luther gave marriage such a central importance in his moral and social teaching that he went so far as to present marriage and childbearing as the only destiny for women in Ein Sermon von dem ehlichen Stand A sermon on the married estate; ; and Vom ehelichen Leben On married life; , though he was well aware that child-bearing could lead to the death of the mother, as the Predigt vom Ehestand Sermon on the married estate shows.
The celibate life of clerics and nuns was frowned upon and the convents were to be thrown open. If we bear in mind that the convent was the only space available to women where they could be completely free of their biology and where they were not just allowed but encouraged to read, write, study and pray, we can see what a retrograde step this was for them. By the Klarakloster was fighting for its existence in Reformation Nuremberg.
Through the agency of Melanchthon in the convent was allowed to continue in existence but was doomed to extinction because of a prohibition against the admission of novices. Nor could the nuns receive the sacraments according to the old rites. Caritas died there in aged sixty-six, a woman whose learning was made possible by her life as a nun. He therefore was to be the sole fount of knowledge for his wife, should she need instruction. In consequence only those women who came from an intellectual family, in whose discussions and reading they were allowed to participate, had a chance of acquiring learning.
But were there not important women Reformers? Certainly there were women who worked and fought to further the cause of the Reformation. As the sixteenth century progressed, however, the formation of theological faculties in the new Protestant universities meant that religious interpretation was taken back into professional and therefore male hands and was carried on in an institution to which women by definition were not admitted.
One of the main complaints of Anna Ovena Hoyers was precisely the exclusion of women from theological debate. The Reformation in the German-speaking world ensured, however, that at least one book in the vernacular was accessible to women — the Bible.
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German women were never forbidden to read the Bible for themselves as English women were in the Act of Parliament promulgated in Women and literature As well as the social and historical factors mentioned above, there were literary constraints on women too. The novel purveyed lies and was furthermore a dangerous foreign import. Secular love poetry, based as it was on Petrarch or on the Latin poets, contravened conventions about the sexual purity of women.
If we put all these factors together, it is obvious what the bulk of writing by women must consist of: predominantly verse and within that, religious verse and occasional poetry; in the realm of prose, non-fiction and autobiographical writing, with novels only making their appearance from the second half of the seventeenth century. Let us now examine each of these areas in turn. As just mentioned, verse is the pre-eminent genre employed by women.
Poems can be small in scale and unpretentious in theme and form; they do not need the long-term concentrated work of a novel or the co-operation of actors and the existence of a theatre before they can be realized. They are complete in themselves, they can be produced in private and even women had familiar models to emulate: Biblical psalms in translation, hymns in the vernacular, satirical verse on broadsheets, didactic verse in emblems and on gravestones, folksongs, as well as the occasional poetry familiar to all at weddings, christenings and in funeral sermons.
Of all forms poetry was the one women could most easily practise in private and without censure. The marriage appears to have been a happy one and she bore her husband at least nine children. He died in and in the course of the next ten years, Hoyers lost a large part of her fortune through law-suits and taxes. It was, however, her deviant religious views which led to her unsettled existence from and her ultimate refuge in Sweden.
The movement towards Reform, itself so revolutionary and anti-orthodox in the early Reformation years, had hardened into two institutionalized churches, Lutheran and Calvinist. The same faculties pronounced on which sects and writings were to be banned as heretical. It is clear that by the s Hoyers was reading a great deal of such banned material which circulated secretly among believers. They were both called to order by the Lutheran authorities and had to flee, first to other towns in Schleswig-Holstein and afterwards to Denmark. Hoyers was able to remain in the area under the protection of the Dowager Duchess Augusta of Schleswig-Holstein-Gottorp and carried on holding private prayer meetings and worship as before.
On the death of her uncle in she lost her last family protector and from seems to have moved around in North Germany. We know that she was in Sweden by , accompanied by five of her children, though the exact date of her arrival there is not certain, and that by now her financial circumstances were straitened. However, in she came under the protection of Maria Eleonora, Queen Mother of Sweden, who allowed her to live on one of her estates until her death in As a life history of a woman and a non-conformist in the early modern period her story would be fascinating in itself.
Even more interesting is that her emergence as a non-conformist in religious matters also marked The early modern period her emergence as a writer. Her second was her verse rendering of the Book of Ruth, which appeared in Sweden in Today she is chiefly known for her Geistliche und weltliche Poemata Religious and secular poems , an anthology which contains the two above-mentioned works as well as twenty-one others and which appeared in Amsterdam in A Stockholm manuscript put together by her sons Caspar and Friedrich Wilhelm after her death contains a further forty-seven poems.
Clearly these were to be used by a congregation as part of their worship and are characterized by a clarity and simplicity of diction, a heartfelt piety and a regularity of form reminiscent of Luther himself. She indeed saw herself as standing in direct descent from Luther, both in her criticism of clerical abuse and in her composition of hymns for actual liturgical use.
She was born in Greifswald as the daughter of a lawyer of standing and education who served at the court of Boguslav XIV in Stettin and later became mayor of Greifswald. The Thirty Years War meant that Schwarz and her siblings spent the years —31 not in Greifswald but in Fretow on the coast. It is clear that in her studies and in her poetry, which she must have begun to write at about the age of ten, she had the full support of her widowed father and of her brother.
By the time of her death at the age of only seventeen, Schwarz had written some eighty poems, a fragment of a drama entitled Susanna and part of a pastoral novel. Her poems, showing skilful use of such forms as the sonnet and the alexandrine, deal with a much wider range of themes than was usual for women, even later in the century. Of course she writes religious verse and occasional poetry but there are many poems on the theme of friendship and, surprisingly for a woman and a young woman at that, at least a quarter of her verse is Petrarchist love poetry. It would appear that when a talent such as that of Schwarz is given the necessary encouragement and education it can vie with the poetry of male contemporaries.
The poetry of Catharina Regina von Greiffenberg makes this point even more forcefully. This Austrian Protestant aristocrat lost her father at the age of seven, whereupon her step-uncle Hans Rudolf von Greiffenberg became her guardian. He was also her first teacher and taught her the classical languages as well as French, Italian and Spanish. She read works on ancient and modern history, law, politics, astronomy, alchemy, theology and philosophy as well as the European literature of her day. Her Protestantism meant that she and her family had to make long journeys to attend services at important religious festivals, usually to Western Hungary.
After the death of her younger sister and only sibling, Greiffenberg had what she considered an important mystical revelation at Easter in Pressburg Bratislava. Among her friends in the educated Protestant aristocracy was Johann Wilhelm von Stubenberg, a notable translator from French and Italian who had widespread connections with the intelligensia of his day. She showed him her poems; he acted as her literary mentor and adviser and put her in contact with the poet and scholar Sigmund von Birken —81 , who had settled in Nuremberg in Meanwhile Hans Rudolf, her step-uncle, had declared his long-standing wish to marry her and put her under great pressure to agree, though he was almost thirty years her senior.
They were too nearly related for this marriage to be lawful in Austria and when Greiffenberg finally gave in, they had to be married in Bayreuth in After their return to their estates at Seisenegg in Austria in , however, Hans Rudolf had to spend a year in prison on a charge of unlawful cohabitation. They bear witness to a deeply religious woman who longed for the solitude and the leisure to pursue her studies, her writing and her devotions, but who was constantly forced to abandon them either to help run the house and estate or to entertain the loud jolly company her husband enjoyed.
Of all women writers in the early modern period Greiffenberg is the only one to be the subject of sustained research and discussion. These poems are remarkable by any standard. The physical world is seen as a set of ciphers which have to be decoded to arrive at the spiritual meaning. To do this she employs such tightly controlled forms as the sonnet and pushes language to its boundaries by creating unexpected compounds and by the use of emphatic prefixes. One is reminded of Gerard Manley Hopkins, who was driven by the same urge to express the unexpressible and who finds himself having to mould and distort language in the same way.
From her own point of view and that of her contemporaries her principal achievement as a writer was not her poems but her four extensive series of religious meditations in prose, interspersed here and there with poems, on the incarnation and early life of Jesus , His suffering and death , His teachings and miracles and His life and prophecies Margaretha Susanna von Kuntsch had no such like-minded associates to encourage her literary endeavours. She explains that though her own inclinations led her to learn Latin and French and other branches of knowledge, her parents were more farsighted than she and decided that such occupation was more suited to a great lady than to a woman of the middle rank and so she had to give up her studies.
At eighteen she married Christoph von Kuntsch, also an official of the Altenburg court. With the exception of a period of three years at the beginning of her married life, she spent the rest of her days in Altenburg where she had grown up. Most of her poetry takes exactly that form we outlined above as virtually pre-determined in the case of a woman writer of the period: it consists either of religious verse on Biblical or other pious topics or of occasional poetry, written for funerals, weddings and birth- The early modern period days or in the form of tributes to acquaintances and friends.
What strikes the reader is the extent to which her mind is preoccupied with the theme of death to a degree unusual even for a Baroque poet. Not only is there a large number of references to death, even in the birthday poems for her husband, and of poems on the topic itself but a heart-rending intensity is revealed in her treatment of the subject. Remarkable in this regard is the series of poems on the deaths of her own children, whose names and precise ages to the day she lists in her curriculum vitae.
She had fourteen pregnancies of which only one child, her daughter Margaretha Elisabeth, lived to adulthood. Two of the pregnancies ended in miscarriages, two were stillbirths, two were premature and no less than five others died at less than a year old. Two others died aged seven and nine respectively. In a skilfully turned poem she compares the courage needed by the warrior Agamemnon in battle with the far greater courage needed to cope with the loss of his child, and then contrasts herself, now the mother of nine dead children, both to Agamemnon and to Timantes, who like herself, is attempting to depict grief in art.
If he was unable to limn the pain of another, how can she present her own heartbreak? It is clear that these women were active in various non-conformist religious groups throughout the seventeenth century, something we have already seen in the case of Hoyers. One of the best-known of these spiritual autobiographies is that of the noblewoman Johanna von Merlau, more commonly known by her married name of Johanna Eleonore Petersen.
For her this outward narrative is the framework for what really concerns her, namely, her spiritual development. She learns to depend absolutely on God and to see His hand in all things and as her spirituality becomes more and more inward and her own inclinations more ascetic, she finds the social role she is required to play, for instance, at court, deeply distasteful. Had either of these women belonged to a different religious grouping, the convent would have been the obvious refuge.
Johanna von Merlau, however, has to marry and her struggle to accomplish this and yet remain true to her religious ideals constitutes a constant thread in her narrative. Once she is married to Petersen and can express her spirituality in sympathetic surroundings, she then develops visionary and prophetic gifts. As an exploration of emotions and spirituality and in its insistence on their primacy over the happenings of daily life, this autobiography anticipates the eighteenth century.
She addresses her memoirs ostensibly to her children but maintains that her intention is not didactic. Rather she is writing in order to commune with herself, to have someone to talk to in the loneliness of her widowhood.
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The sheer length of her account means that the reader is given a full and detailed picture of the customs, religious observance and daily life of the German Jewish community of her day. She displays the same piety, the same trust in God, the same resignation in adversity as her Christian contemporaries, but in contrast to them was clearly treated by her husband as an equal partner in his business with whom he discussed every negotiation, every financial deal, to such an extent that she was able to take over the business on his death.
Prose fiction by women in this period takes second place behind the autobiographical writings just discussed. Julia, for instance, maintains that since the novel is a form of literature which actually purveys lies, women are particularly susceptible to corruption by it. Virtuous books present wise and true precepts in a pleasing and digestible manner. The debate is decided in favour of Angelika. Sibylle Ursula delayed marrying to devote herself to her writing. Among other things she translated one of the Latin writings of the Spanish Humanist Juan de Vives into German and wrote a five-act play and a series of spiritual meditations Geistliches Kleeblatt, but it is for her contribution to the novel that she is chiefly known today.
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