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Luise Gottsched the Translator

Luise Gottsched the Translator

Hilary Brown
Volume: 118
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 256
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7722/j.ctt81pkz
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  • Book Info
    Luise Gottsched the Translator
    Book Description:

    Critics have paid increasing attention to the oeuvre of Luise Gottsched (1713-62), Germany's first prominent woman of letters, but have neglected her lifelong work of translation, which encompassed over fifty volumes and an extraordinary range, from drama and poetry to philosophy, history, archaeology, even theoretical physics. This first comprehensive overview of Gottsched's translations places them in the context of eighteenth-century intellectual, literary, and cultural history, showing that they were part of an ambitious, progressive program undertaken with her famous husband to shape German culture during the Enlightenment. In doing so it casts Gottsched and her work in an entirely new light. Including chapters on all the main subject areas and genres from which Gottsched translated, it also explores the relationship between her translations and her original works, demonstrating that translation was central to her oeuvre. A bibliography of Gottsched's translations and source texts concludes the volume. Not only a major new addition to a growing body of research on the Gottscheds, the book will also be valuable reading for scholars interested more broadly in women's writing, the history of translation, and the literature and culture of the German (and European) Enlightenment. Hilary Brown is Lecturer at the University of Birmingham, UK.

    eISBN: 978-1-57113-821-7
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)

    In October 1757 Frederick the Great of Prussia visited Leipzig, a city occupied by his troops throughout most of the Seven Years’ War (1756–63), and held a series of private audiences with the famous professor Johann Christoph Gottsched. The very first thing the king wanted to know from the professor was whether his wife had really translated Pierre Bayle, presumably referring to Bayle’s landmark Dictionnaire historique et critique. At the second audience the king bombarded him with more questions about Mrs. Gottsched: “Was hat seine Frau sonst geschrieben? Machet sie auch Verse? Kann sie auch Briefe schreiben? Schreibt sie...

  5. 1: Gottsched as Female Translator
    (pp. 9-47)

    Why did Germany’s most famous eighteenth-century woman writer devote most of her life to translation? Was she coerced into it by a domineering husband and forced to sacrifice her literary ambitions to his agenda as many critics would have us believe? Would she have seen translation as a second-rate literary activity more suited to her as a woman than other forms of writing? Here we will attempt to reconstruct the circumstances in which Gottsched produced her translations.

    Studies of Gottsched’s sisters in other countries have usually emphasized a link between translation and the gender of the translator. Through the ages...

  6. 2: Philosophy and Religion
    (pp. 48-83)

    Ever since childhood Gottsched had felt drawn to books on philosophy above all others (or so she claimed, as noted above, in the preface to her Triumph der Weltweisheit). Certainly her library shelves must have bulged under the weight of thinkers ancient and modern, from Plato and Seneca to Hobbes, Pascal, Locke, and Malebranche. Her enduring interest in philosophy has been little explored; her translations in this field are squarely dismissed by Veronica C. Richel as being “executed with competence and [requiring] no further comment.¹ Yet this does not take account of the fact that “philosophy” was transforming Europe during...

  7. 3: Journalism
    (pp. 84-107)

    The eighteenth century has been called “the epoch of the journal.”¹ Throughout Enlightenment Europe, ever-growing numbers of readers were devouring the new forms of journalism now circulating in the clubs, coffeehouses, and drawing-rooms — learned journals, review journals, newspapers, periodicals, calendars, almanacs. One of the most popular and influential types of publication in the Age of Enlightenment was the periodical essay or moral weekly. The models for this new genre had emerged in London in the early years of the century: the Tatler (1709), the Spectator (1711–12, 1714), and the Guardian (1713), edited and written chiefly by Richard Steele and...

  8. 4: Drama
    (pp. 108-135)

    Gottsched is best known as a translator for her work on drama. Of all her publications, critics are most likely to be aware of Die Pietisterey im Fischbein-Rocke, her translation/adaptation of Bougeant’s Femme docteur. They may also have noted that she contributed a number of translations of French plays to her husband’s six-volume compendium Die Deutsche Schaubühne nach den Regeln und Exempeln der Alten (1741–45). But Gottsched has gained a rather dubious reputation for these efforts. Lessing’s famous condemnation of the Gottsched school in the seventeenth Literaturbrief has cast a long shadow. There the Gottscheds are accused of being...

  9. 5: Poetry and Literary Prose
    (pp. 136-158)

    As a literary translator Gottsched did not focus her attention exclusively on drama. She appears to have had a more general interest in literature. She read widely, from the Iliad and poetry by Sappho to Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso and Thomson’s Seasons. She reviewed recent works of literature and literary theory for her husband’s journals Neuer Büchersaal der schönen Wissenschaften und freyen Künste and Das Neueste aus der anmuthigen Gelehrsamkeit. Over the course of her career she in fact turned a substantial body of foreign-language poetry and fiction into German.

    On the whole Gottsched does not seem to have shown the...

  10. 6: Science and Scholarship
    (pp. 159-183)

    Enlightenment Europe was gripped by a fascination for science and for scholarship more generally. The previous century had witnessed a “scientific revolution” — the historic breakthroughs of Galileo, Descartes, Newton — and there was great excitement among the next generation as its members now digested, debated, and advanced new ideas pertaining to the natural world.¹ Indeed there was new enthusiasm for all branches of learning: it was felt that the whole universe should be examined using rational, empirical methods and knowledge collected together as a basis for the future. This was the age in which science — or learning — became absorbed into society....

  11. 7: Translation and “Original” Writing
    (pp. 184-200)

    Let us now return to the popular image of Gottsched as a frustrated writer. She is frequently presented in the secondary literature as a downtrodden assistant to her husband who would have seen her translation work as an onerous and dreary chore and would doubtless rather have been pursuing her own real ambitions as an author. Critics seem to assume that her translations are derivative and uncreative, and hence less interesting than her “proper” literary work. They have a tendency to focus on her so-called “original” plays: Die Pietisterey im Fischbein-Rocke, which is often treated as an original, or the...

  12. Conclusion
    (pp. 201-206)

    This study has sought to demonstrate why Luise Gottsched’s activities as a translator — often deemed less interesting than her achievements as a playwright and frequently neglected by critics — deserve our attention. Taking its lead from the literary and cultural historians who have recently been rethinking translation as a profoundly significant cultural process, the book offers the first comprehensive survey of Gottsched’s translations and places them within the context of eighteenth-century intellectual, literary, and cultural history. We have seen that Gottsched threw herself into this wide-ranging and challenging work, rendering texts from French, English, Latin, and Greek into German across an...

  13. Appendix: Luise Gottsched’s Translations and Adaptations
    (pp. 207-214)
  14. Works Cited
    (pp. 215-240)
  15. Index
    (pp. 241-248)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 249-249)