Hjärtats skrifter : en brevkulturs uttryck i korrespondensen mellan Anna Louisa Karsch och Johann Wilhelm Ludwig Gleim

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (monograph)


This dissertation examines the correspondence of the 18th-century German authors Anna Louisa Karsch and Johann Wilhelm Ludwig Gleim. The main emphasis of the present study is to demonstrate how readings of Karsch's and Gleim's correspondence shed light on epistolary culture. Particular attention is paid to the notion of epistolary culture as a relatively unrestrained ?experimental setting? for bourgeois social roles and models. The correspondence of Karsch and Gleim is seen as particularly relevant, because it displays and highlights a number of significant transitional phenomena concerning aesthetics, ethics and gender-roles in late 18th-century Germany. This involves, among other things, aspects of a pre-romantic aesthetics of expression, which is manifested in the ?natural style? of epistolary culture.

The first chapter contains an analysis of the letter as a specific mode of communication. This includes an examination of the oral legacy of the letter as well as of the classical idea that the letter, more than any other written form, expresses the writer's ?inner self?.

The second chapter focuses on role play as an integral part of epistolary culture. The role play is regarded as an instrument of socialisation, and Karsch's role persona ?Sappho? and this role's function in the correspondence with Gleim are analysed from this perspective.

The following chapter depicts the so-called ?crisis in the code of communication?, a theory developed by German sociologist Niklas Luhmann and often used to describe the semantic difficulties in expressing deep interpersonal feelings around the middle of the 18th century. This frequently qouted and rephrased hypothesis is tested in relation to the expressions of love and friendship found in the letters. These expressions of love and friendship are studied against the backdrop of the so-called ?cult of friendship? of mid 18th-century Germany. The fourth chapter deals with the autobiographical letters of Anna Louisa Karsch. These letters are considered crucial to the contemporary 18th-century reception of Karsch, as the letters formed the basis for Johann Georg Sulzer's biographical introduction to Karsch's Auserlesene Gedichte. The autobiographical letters are scrutinized by means of several dichotomies, such as public/private and construction/authenticity. Special attention has been paid to how Karsch uses the concept of ?nature? as well as biblical modes of reading and of identification, and to how Karsch's use of these value-laden concepts converge towards the idea of a pre-romantic aesthetics of inspiration and genius.


  • Jon Helgason
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Languages and Literature


  • Johann Wilhelm Ludwig Gleim, Anna Louisa Karsch, Niklas Luhmann, Friedrich Kittler, Silvia Bovenschen, epistolary culture, aesthetics, familiar letter, poetics, enlightenment, role play, Sappho, individualism, canon, Sturm und Drang, gender and writing, Humanities, General and comparative literature, Humaniora, Allmän och jämförande litteraturvetenskap, Press and communication sciences, Journalistik, media, kommunikation
Original languageSwedish
Awarding Institution
Supervisors/Assistant supervisor
  • Hættner Aurelius, Eva, Supervisor, External person
Award date2007 May 5
  • Comparative Literature
Print ISBNs978-91-628-7095-9
Publication statusPublished - 2007
Publication categoryResearch

Bibliographic note

Defence details Date: 2007-05-05 Time: 10:15 Place: Språk- och litteraturcentrums hörsal, Helgonabacken 12, Lund External reviewer(s) Name: Wischmann, Antje Title: PD Dr. Affiliation: Nordeuropa-Institut, Humbolt-Universität zu Berlin ---

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