Text and frame – Modes of Presenting Canonical Works

Term: September 2013 – February 2019

The Bible, the Faust, the Classics. The cluster addresses the question: What is it that makes these works canonical? The project works on the hypothesis that an appeal to the senses plays a decisive part. This lies, for example, in the tangible and visible materiality of books, but also in presentations in words, gestures, and song. The research group will analyse how canons are subject to trends and examine the conditions and limitations of the media employed, thus providing a critique of collections in the Enlightenment sense of the term.

Production and Reception of the Psalter (Herzog August Library Wolfenbüttel)

Psalterium cum canticis, Augsburg: Johann Schönsperger, ca. 1480
Signatur: H: Yv 146.1.8° Helmst.

As a widely used canonical text of the Eastern and Western Christian tradition, the Psalter was among the first works ever printed with Gutenberg’s movable-type printing system. Its printing production grew enormously afterwards, especially during and after the explosive years of the Reformation. Because of its importance for shaping Christian liturgical practices the amount of scholarly literature on the Psalter is vast. Through the adoption of the methodological and epistemological approaches developed by paratextual analysis and the history of the book over the past decades, this project will explore the semantic and material interaction between text and frame in some 700 surviving copies of the many editions and reprints of the Psalter which, printed between 1457 and 1700, are now held in the Herzog August Library’s unique collection of rare books.

The subject of Faust and its appearance in different media (Klassik Stiftung Weimar)

Since its appearance in the 16th century, the subject of Faust has been adapted and developed in various ways – before, parallel to and after Goethe’s canonical tragedy of 1790/1832. The resulting texts and their various frameworks are inextricably linked. Printed versions are framed by paratexts that are primarily of a sensual and visual nature, e.g. book covers, print layouts, illustrations. However, the liaison between text and framework goes further. It encompasses a broad spectrum of mediatisation: the contexts in which the traditional tale has been placed. Printed editions and illustrations contribute as much to the media-myth of Faust as literary adaptations, musical scores, theatre productions, film versions, exhibitions and cultural and scientific debates. It is only because of its broad mediatisation that the character of Faust could become a central role model of the early modern semantics of individuality. The investigation of the history of the mediatisation of Faust is based on the Faust collection in Weimar. With its approx. 20,000 objects the collection forms a unique corpus worldwide.

Classical Works Published by the Insel-Verlag c. 1900-1930 (German Literature Archive Marbach)

The German Literature Archive Marbach recently acquired the archive of the "Insel" publishing house. Using this resource I will explore the role classic texts played in publishing houses and in society as a whole at the turn of the century. This research draws on the correspondence relating with the publication of these works, and examines the materiality of the books themselves together with the editors’ framing texts. Finally, documents about their reception, such as reviews, lectures and essays, are used to provide a full contextualisation. This will examine the historical framework in which canonical works by, for example, Immanuel Kant or Friedrich Schiller were published during the first third of the twentieth century.