Literature by German Women—Now on CD!

Review by Corinna Heipcke

Mark Lehmstedt Mark (Hg.):

Deutsche Literatur von Frauen.

Von Catharina von Greiffenberg bis Franziska von Reventlow.

Berlin: Directmedia Publishing 2001.

CD-ROM, ISBN 3–89853–145–7, € 52,60

The Software Programme

The software of the Digital Library is easy to use once if one follows the instruction manual, which can only be found from volume 58 on. However, should one need to consult the manual prior to accessing volume 58, one can download it from the homepage or request it by the Digital Library’s notably kind and helpful customer service representatives. The manual is easy to read and focuses only on relevant information and procedures. Visual aids further assist the user in understanding the programme. One can search all texts by using key words and using Boolean searches. One can also cite texts, with the programme automatically supplying the correct source. Furthermore, the CDs contain portraits and biographies of the authors, some of which can be edited by the user.

The CD German Literature by Women

One certainly could have chosen a more appropriate title for this CD. First off, it is the title of Gisela Brinker-Gabler’s Aufsatzsammlung. When inquiring about this matter, the editor emphasised that this dual use of the title was purely coincidental – and that he was not even aware of who Brinker-Gabler is. Instead, the title, says Lehmstedt, was intended as a complimentary volume to the first edition of the Digital Library, German Literature from Lessing to Kafka. It would have been an obvious choice to use the same title for the second CD, and simply name it German Literature from Catharina von Greiffenberg to Franziska von Reventlow. However, the editors apparently did not think that the women authors compiled in this volume could possibly represent German literature to the extent to which the male writers from Lessing to Kafka could.

Commenting on the selection of texts, the editor explains that he aims to provide a representative overview over the literary process as well as a representative selection of the works of the invididual authors, and that the resulting selection, like any other, is “in the end a subjective selection.” The result of this subjective selection is impressive in terms of the number of works included, but is highly problematic in terms of the actual works included and excluded.

The users of the Digital Library are offered a compilation of the best-known works of the best-known authors of four centuries of literature. Readers well-acquainted with the literary canon will not have any problems finding well-known authors like Luise Gottschedt and Louise Otto, but will also be slightly overwhelmed by the amount of material compiled by each author. However, one will quickly realise that the selection of works focuses mostly on those pieces which have already entered popular literature, omitting important other pieces of the collected works of any of the authors. Letters and diaries are not included in the collection, either, as the editors decided that they would be “impossible to understand without detailed comments.” This line of argument might be acceptable if the editors aimed to reach a wide audience. But it is evident that the clients of a software programme that enables its users to cite poems from the baroque period and insert it into other documents are using this programme mainly for research purposes. The “scholarly” nature of the programme, however, is called into question by the fact that the selection of works by Marianne Ehrmann, who is best known as an editor, does not include any of the journals edited and published by her, but solely three of her novels and one essay.

Who, then, will benefit from this CD, aside from its publisher? It remains to be seen whether the publisher’s goal to make up for the under-representation of women in their first volume by creating this second volume will pay off—financially.

URN urn:nbn:de:0114-qn032031

Dr. des. Corinna Heipcke

Guildford, University of Surrey


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