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Nicole Pohl

In search of a German Identity: Mme de Staël, Anna Amalia of Saxe-Weimar, Sophie von Grotthuss, Frederick II, Caroline de la Motte-Fouqué and Rahel Varnhagen in Dialogue.


This paper will identify a debate that has taken place since 1780 with the publication of Frederick II’s pamphlet De la littérature allemande about German culture and identity. This debate was particularly facilitated by women in a variety of public forums challenging the hitherto assumed gender-division between public and private. What is interesting about this conversation that spans about 35 years is that it evolved against a significantly changing political and cultural backdrop that moved from an admiration of French classical literature and culture (emulated at the Prussian Court of Frederick II) to a reclaiming of German literature and sociability. Particularly active in the defense of German culture were Anna Amalia of Saxe Weimar at her Weimar Musenhof and with her publication, Journal von Tiefurth, Rahel Varnhagen in her enlightened Berlin salon, De la Motte Fouqué at the Musenhof of Nennhausen, Sophie von Grotthuss and of course Madame de Staël. What I would like to indicate in this paper is how women writers and salonnières engaged in a public debate about how to write about Germany in a period where a German national identity was just coming into existence during the pre-and post Napoleonic era.

AsK, September 2012

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