Text and Frame

The research project “Text and Frames: The Presentation of Canonical Works” comprised three subprojects: The Production and Reception of the Psalter (Herzog August Bibliothek Wolfenbüttel), Faust Material and Its Medialisation (Klassik Stiftung Weimar), and the Classics of the Insel-Verlag, ca. 1900-1930, (DLA Marbach). The projects were carried out by Ursula Kundert, Valentina Sebastiani, Carsten Rohde and Philip Ajouri, respectively.

The Bible, Faust, the classics: What makes these works canonical? What is it that makes people want to read them again and again? There are no clear-cut answers to these questions. The texts must constantly adapt to the expectation of new readers and historical circumstances, and consequently they must also be re-evaluated or reframed. How are texts reframed so that they appeal to future generations? This project proposed that the sensual nature of the works plays a decisive role which not only comprises the tangible and visible materiality of the books, but also their presentation in word, gesture and song. The digital possibilities provided by the MWW were exceptionally suited for analysing and presenting these sensual dimensions. The collections of the three participating institutions all contain equally ossified canonical works and provide the historical breadth for analysis that is necessary for such an investigation. The self-assigned task of the project group was to investigate canonical processes and their media-based conditions and limitations, thereby producing an enlightening collection-based critique.

The Production and Reception of the Psalter (Herzog August Bibliothek Wolfenbüttel)

The psalter was not only one of the first works reproduced with Gutenberg’s printing press technique, it was also one of the most widely circulated and used canonical texts of Christianity. The number of printed copies steadily increased after every edition especially during and after the volatile years of the Reformation. Due to the important role the psalter played in the history and development of the Christian liturgy, there is an extensive range of research literature on this subject. With the methodical and epistemological concepts developed in recent years by paratextual researcher and book historians, the project investigated the semantic and material overlap between text and frame based on approximately 700 copies of numerous editions and reprints of the psalter produced between 1475 and 1700, all of which can be found in the rare books collection at the Herzog August Bibliothek.

Ursula Kundert (2014-2017), Valentina Sebastiani (2017-2018)

Faust Material and Its Medialisation (Klassik Stiftung Weimar)

The Faust material has undergone numerous adaptations and sequels since the beginning of the 16th century – prior to, at the time and well after Goethe’s treatment of the canonical tragedy of 1790/1832. This is a case where text and frame are inextricably linked. The widely disseminated printed texts are accompanied by framing paratexts of primarily sensual-visual nature. Book covers, printed images, illustrations and the like. Yet the liaison of text and frame extends beyond that. It encompasses a wide spectrum of medialised forms and their respective contexts in which the Faust legend has been passed down. Literary adaptations, musical scores, theatre productions and films, museum presentations, cultural discourse and academic debates have all contributed to the medial mythos of Faust. Only in this way was it possible for the character of Faust to become such a central role model of the early modern semantics of individuality. The investigation of the medialisation history of the Faust material was based on the Faust collection in Weimar, the world’s largest body of Faust-themed works totalling some 20,000 objects.

Carsten Rohde (2014-2018)

The Classics of the Insel-Verlag, ca. 1900-1930 (DLA Marbach)

The archive of the Insel-Verlag is preserved at the DLA Marbach. Based on this recently acquired collection, researchers wanted to examine the function the classics had for publishing companies and society in general around the turn of the 20th century. They began by studying the correspondence that often preceded their publication and went on to examine the design of the volumes and the accompanying texts by the publishers. The researchers investigated how these volumes were received (e.g. book reviews, lectures and essays) in order to contextualise the findings and provide a historically appropriate understanding of the circumstances in which canonical texts, such as those by Kant and Goethe, were regarded in the first three decades of the 20th century.

Philip Ajouri (2014-2018)