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Of scholars, knights, and table manners: recent German scholarship.

At a time when the colorful new European currency, the aptly named "Euro," is about to be launched, it seems appropriate for the Europeans to reflect on their common heritage. And what better way of doing that than by an international congress dealing with one of the most fascinating chapters of European cultural history: the story of literary and scholarly societies, academies, scholarly circles, salons and related groups. Modern Europe owes its intellectual physiognomy just as much to them as it does to its universities usually credited with producing the European elites. For centuries the formation of Europe's intellectual leaders and their learned discourse also took place in these societies which were open, more so than the established universities, to innovative and often alternative ideas.

Such a congress took place in the fall of 1989 in Paris. The two-volume set Europaische Sozietatsentwicklung und demokratische Tradition is based on the congress papers. I use the word "based" advisedly because most of the articles are so long that their oral delivery would have strained the most patient ears. The work is by all accounts a very ambitious and impressive opus. With 71 articles, 1840 pages, and 4445 footnotes (a testimony to German "Grundlichkeit"), it offers a broad panorama of the numerous attempts of scholars, literary figures, and artists to organize themselves in some form or other. But it is also impressive not only because of its sheer size but also because of its chronological and geographical scope. Chronologically, the articles extend from ancient Greece to the eve of the French revolution. Geographically, they cover Greece, Italy, France, the Holy Roman Empire, Spain, Portugal, England, the Netherlands, Scandinavia, Hungary, Poland, and Russia. Three articles even deal with countries outside of Europe: Brazil and Mexico. While most of the contributors seem to have come from German-speaking countries, there are also articles by Italian, Spanish, Dutch, Hungarian and Russian scholars. (This is a guess since the academic affiliations of the contributors are not indicated in the book.) The length of the articles ranges from a monograph-sized study by Reinhold Kruger to a three-page, embarrassingly brief note on "Die Russische Akademie" by Sergej M. Nekrasov, the inclusion of which into the collection can only be explained by the German editors' reluctance to strain German-Russian diplomatic relations. In spite of its size, the two volumes are not meant to be comprehensive. As one would expect, the inclusion of any particular topic was largely dictated by the availability of competent scholars in a specific field. To conclude this factual summary: All articles but two are written in (or translated into) German.

What is a "Sozietat"? How do the editors define it? As the Dutch scholar Cees Singeling notes in an article on Dutch societies: "One is an individual, two is a couple, three is a crowd, but how many are required to be called a 'society'"? (880) He proceeds to confine the term to those groups which have written rules. This definition, if universally applied, would not only exclude half of the groups discussed in the book, including most of the German humanist "sodalitates" (which did not have statutes, as far as we know), but also, to mention a modern example, the postwar German "Gruppe 47," which, in spite of its informal character and lack of "statutes," had an enormous impact on postwar German culture.

The editors, wisely, refrained from imposing such a (or any other) definition on the contributors, allowing them instead broad latitude. The result is that all sorts of circles, groups, associations, societies and academies - all held together by a common interest in literature, scholarship, science and arts - are dealt with in the work. What emerges is a colorful array of groups widely different in their membership, function, tasks, mandates, and importance. They range from very loose circles of intellectuals to the state-sponsored academies in France, England, Prussia and Russia. Included are, for example, not only the German "Sprachgesellschaften" of the seventeenth century, but also the "salons" of Jewish ladies in Berlin in the eighteenth century. Some of these societies were well established institutions existing for centuries, like the Academie francaise, others were short-lived like the ephemeral "Altdorfer Ceres-Gesellschaft" whose playful statutes read like a parody of those of more serious societies and whose meetings were characterized by a high consumption of beer and production of epitaphs on dogs (cf. Ulrich Seelbach's article, 1361-80). Others existed only on paper, as a visionary utopia, like the "Rosenkreuzergesellschaft" by Johann Valentin Andreae (cf. Wilhelm Kuhlmann's article), or as literary fiction, like the "L'Abbaye de Theleme" in Rabelais's Gargantua et Pantagruel (cf. Horst Heintze's contribution).

Faced with this dazzling multitude of "societies," the editors tried to give the congress an overarching theme. Inspired, on the one hand, by the genius loci, Paris, which at the time of the congress was celebrating the 200th anniversary of the French Revolution, inspired, on the other hand, also by the revolutionary changes taking place in the fall of 1989 in East Germany and Eastern Europe, Garber and Wismann linked the development of the academic societies to the evolution of "a democratic tradition." The idea is not a new one and has to do with the basic humanist tenet that true nobility is not the nobility of birth but that of the mind. Finding its classical expression in Dante's Convivio ("E gentilezza dovunqu'e vertute" - "where there is virtue there is nobility"), it holds that membership in a humanist "sodalitas" depends on individual accomplishment rather than inherited privilege. In that sense scholarly societies played an important role in the formation of a new, bourgeois lay intelligentsia. At first glance, the idea of the inevitable march, aided by scholarly societies, from a feudal, church-dominated society to a "democratic" society looks appealing. But is it true? The Berlin Academie Royale des Sciences et Belles Lettres sponsored by none other than Frederick the Great was exclusive, elitist, and hierarchically structured. German bourgeois intellectuals were seldom admitted, the language of discourse was French. Jews and women were excluded on principle. The same is true for France, if we are to believe Wolfgang Asholt (in his article on "Akademische und gesellschaftliche Gleichheit") who convincingly challenges Chateaubriand's dictum "La Revolution est fille des academies," asserting on the contrary that the academies were conservative forces, stabilizing the existing power structure. There are many other examples that refute Garber's main thesis. For instance, the Accademia dei Costanti in Vicenza excluded non-nobles and suppressed any democratic aspirations (cf. Bodo Guthmuller's article on "Die Akademiebewegung im Cinquecento. Das Beispiel Vicenza"). Nor can the numerous "equestrian academies" in fifteenth-century Italy be cited as blazing a democratic trail through a still largely feudal society. And even the seventeenth-century German "Fruchtbringende Gesellschaft," often praised as a quasi-democratic organization, became in the end a "hofisch-reprasentative Vereinigung" (a courtly-representative association), as Eva Pietrzak demonstrates in her article "Schlesier in den deutschen Sprachgesellschaften des 17. Jahrhunderts."

The editors' attempt, then, to link the development of a "democratic tradition" to the rise of scholarly societies has to be taken with a considerable grain of salt. It seems to me to represent more a bow to the Zeitgeist than to be based on hard scientific evidence. Closer on target is Fred E. Schrader, who, in his article on the "Akademien und esoterische Soziabilitatsformen der Lumieres," argues for the ambivalent character of the academies. Acknowledging on the one hand the conservative, system-stabilizing role of the academies, on the other hand pointing to their important role in disseminating the ideas of the Enlightenment and those of the philosophes, Schrader ascribes to them a proto-revolutionary, proto-democratic role.

Understandably, this reviewer can hardly be expected to assess the originality of each article. Nor is it possible, for obvious space limitations, to deal with each contribution. My few comments should not reflect negatively on those many excellent studies which I cannot even mention. My selection is dictated by my own interests.

The collection starts - how could it be otherwise in a country which has been accused of having succumbed to "The tyranny of Greece over Germany" (so the title of E.M. Butler's well known study of 1935) - with articles on "academies in Greece and Rome" and quickly moves to the Middle Ages with Laetitia Boehm's very informative study on "Organisationsformen der Gelehrsamkeit im Mittelalter."

The first article that deals with what we call the Renaissance is Nikolaus Staubach's comparison of the Devotio Moderna and Humanism. For Staubach these two reform movements are not opposites but motivated by a similar impetus: a rejection of the bustle of daily life and the turning to the philosophy of Christ. Just as the Brethren of the Common Life adopted the gospel for moral purposes, so did the humanists use ancient authors and the church fathers for moral-pedagogical means. Staubach also points to the paradox that both the Devotio Moderna and Humanism are reform movements that sought a moral revival of the entire society, but because of their high demands and standards could win over only individuals and therefore were limited to small circles, the houses of the Brethren and the humanist "sodalitates." In contrast to the Brethren of the Common Life, however, the humanists never succeeded in creating their own social roles corresponding to their accomplishments. For this reason they organized themselves in "sodalitates" in order to give themselves a feeling of belonging to an elite. An interesting, if one-sided explanation for the rise of humanist circles.

Italy was not only the birthplace of humanism but also that of the academies. That only five of the seventy articles deal with Italy might disappoint the Renaissance scholar, but it can be attributed to the existence of Michele Maylender's massive five- volume set called Storia delle Accademie d'Italia (1926-1930). Still, the articles cover important aspects of the academy idea in Italy. Sebastian Neumeister examines the academy visions of the Trecento, while Manfred Lentzen competently discusses the humanist academy movement of the Quattrocento and the Accademia Platonica in Florence. Horst Heintze and Bodo Guthmuller concentrate in their articles on specific academies, Heintze on the Pontaniana and Pomponiana, and Guthmuller on the academy in Vicenza. Francoise Waquet, finally, takes her study up to the early Enlightenment.

Not surprisingly, given the importance of the Holy Roman Empire and the fact that the congress was organized and dominated by German scholars, by far the largest number of articles (24) deals with the German speaking countries, although the majority of these articles discuss societies founded after the Renaissance.

Conrad Celtis, the German "arch humanist," continues to fascinate scholars. As is well known, this vintner's son turned humanist is generally credited with having founded a number of humanist "sodalitates," including an umbrella organization called "sodalitas Celtica," which the German scholar Raimund Kemper once maliciously and quite wrongly called "Reichsschrifttumskammer." Without diminishing the importance of Celtis, both Heinz Entner ("Was steckt hinter dem Wort 'sodalitas litteraria'") and Harald Dickerhof ("Der Deutsche Erzhumanist Conrad Celtis und seine Sodalen") deconstruct the myths and legends that have surrounded Celtis' activities. Entner dissects the various uses of the term "sodalitas," whereas Dickerhof carefully examines the composition of Celtis' "friends." Entner comes to the conclusion that the much-touted "sodalitates" in most cases were nothing more than loose circles of friends that existed before Celtis graced them with his appearance and gave them a name. Somewhat problematical, though, and needing more elaboration is Entner's teasing suggestion about the secret nature of these circles.

Although there are no articles on the important humanist groups in Erfurt, Augsburg, Basel, and Strasbourg, four articles deal with the seventeenth-century "Sprachgesellschaften," those societies that were founded for the purification and promotion of the German language. Modeled after the Florentine Accademia della Crusca, they sought to encourage the use of German in preference of French. While Gunther Hoppe, in his article "Traditions-und Spannungsfelder um die Fruchtbringende Gesellschaft im Spiegel ihres Alltags," discusses the question how the Fruchtbringende Gesellschaft can be placed in the early modern, late humanist academy movement, Martin Bircher demonstrates on the basis of a concrete example its founding and self-presentation. He does this with precision and without resorting to the pretentious jargon that mars some of the other articles. Eva Pietrzak, in her article "Schlesier in den deutschen Sprachgesellschaften des 17. Jahrhunderts," points to the paradox that Silesia, the dominant literary province, played a comparatively minor role in the Sprachgesellschaften. Her conclusions are convincing: admission was purely accidental and depended either on the high social position of the candidate or on personal acquaintance. Presidents usually did not woo important literary personalities. The fact that Silesia was at the geographical margin of the German-speaking lands might also have contributed to its relative isolation.

Just one comment on the eighteenth century. In addition to the official, state-supported academies there existed other, less official literary and scholarly groups. Barbara Becker-Cantarino, for instance, in her article "Die andere 'Akademie.' Juden, Frauen und Berliner literarische Gesellschaften 1770-1806," examines such circles that opened their doors to women, Jews, and those German intellectuals who had been denied admission to the French-dominated and -speaking Prussian academy. Founded by Jewish women such as Henriette Hertz and Rahel Varnhagen von Ense, and open to everyone interested in modern literature and philosophy, these salons, as they were later called, understood themselves as alternatives to the exclusive academies.

Seven articles deal with France, the host country of that conference. Aware that discussion of the influential Academie francaise might overshadow all other discussions of French scholarly societies, the editors decided to invite scholars to discuss earlier forms of scholarly association. Karl Ley, for instance, in his article "Von der Brigade zur Academie du Palais. Zur Institutionalisierung humanistischer Bildungsideale in Frankreich unter den letzten Valois," traces the origins of the Pleijade und Brigade, while Reinhard Kruger, in his substantial article "Der honnete-homme als Akademiker. Nikolas Faret's Projet de l'Academie (1634)," presents a new source for the pre-history of the Academie francaise. Outstanding not only because of its length, but also the thoroughness of its approach, the article explores the ideological background and studies the political context of the work.

In reading the some seventy articles gathered in the two volumes one is again and again struck by the many connections, interdependencies and cross-fertilizations among the various countries. The Italians modeled their academies after the Platonic Academy in Athens; the Germans, in turn, based their "sodalitates" on the Italian academies thanks primarily to Celtis, who is also credited with having founded academies in Cracow and Olmitz. Leibniz fashioned the Royal Academy in Berlin after the Royal Society in London and the Academie des Sciences in Paris, both of which he had visited. Frederick the Great appointed the Frenchman Maupertuis as the first president of the Prussian Academy. On the other hand a number of German scholars were called by Peter the Great to the newly founded Academy of Sciences in St. Petersburg. And many more examples could be cited demonstrating the European character of the societies. The respublica litteraria has always been international. Evidence of its continued internationality was that very Paris congress, the results of which I have been discussing. Organizing such an international conference, persuading scholars (who are not infrequently immune to the nasty habit of procrastination) to submit their contributions in time and getting the often vastly expanded articles ready for publication - all this is evidence not only of the organizational talent of the editors but also of the vitality of the international community of scholars. The collection, however, is not only international in scope, but also multi- and interdisciplinary, drawing on the fields of sociology, philology, literary studies, history, art history and feminist studies.

While the two volumes on the "Europaische Sozietatsbewegung" offer a wide variety of well-focused articles on a specific socio-cultural phenomenon, the articles edited by Hildegrad Kuester in the book Das 16. Jahrhundert. Europaische Renaissance promise a broader view of that period. Expected are articles on the revolutions in the fields of religion, politics, economics, social history, arts, science and humanities. One may look forward to contributions on Luther and Calvin, the peasant war, social developments, and Gutenberg and the media revolution. However, anyone expecting an account integrating cultural and social aspects of the Renaissance will be deeply disappointed. The eleven articles - revised versions of lectures given in the winter semester of 1988 at the Catholic University of Eichstatt - show a very traditional, one-sided orientation towards the humanities and arts. Of the eleven articles six deal with literary themes, two with art-historical topics, another two with philosophical aspects of the Renaissance. Only one treats a scientific topic, and none sociological problems.

A few words about the individual articles. Winfried Wehle discusses the "Wunschland Arkadien." According to him the numerous poetic treatments thematizing Arcadia offer alternative models of life, which deal with the question of love not repressively but openly. In the poetic landscape of "Arcadia" the natural sensuousness of the shepherds is confronted with the artificiality of a hierarchically structured society. Here, in Arcadia, there is "otium" rather than "negotium," the "dolce far niente" rather than urban bustle. In contrast to the planned city of "Utopia," which is based on reason, Arcadia is based on natural piety ("Naturfrommigkeit").

If Wehle discusses an entire genre, Hans Rudolf Picard concentrates on one single work, albeit a very important one: Don Quijote by Cervantes. In his excellent article "Don Quijote oder vom Sinn und Unsinn eines scheiternden Helden" Picard poses the question of the popularity of this novel, which is, according to the author, the most translated work in the world after the Bible. He finds the answer in three "basic anthropological motives": the figure of the unequal pair (Don Quijote and Sancho Panza), the motive of the hero as a starry-eyed idealist (Weltverbesserer), and the celebration of the human imagination. With that gift humans create for themselves myths, religions and art. Disappointing, on the other hand, is the article by Gunther Blaicher who trots out the old cliche of Shakespeare as the dramatist of a "Zeitenwende," of a transitional age.

In his article "Montaigne: Selbsterfahrung und Identitat" Reto Lucius Fetz tries to use the "instruments of philosophical, social-scientific identity theory" to show that the French writer came close to discovering what we consider a modern consciousness of identity ("Identitatsbewusstsein"). How modern Montaigne is Fetz demonstrates with the conception of conscience and his differentiation between role identity and autonomous I-identity.

In his clearly organized contribution "Die Buhne als Kanzel: Das Jesuitentheater des 16.Jahrhunderts," Ruprecht Wimmer enters the border region between literature and theater, sketching the Jesuit drama written and produced in German-speaking countries, a theater that was characterized by its enormous quantity (Wimmer estimates that up to 1600 alone approximately 300 plays were performed) and its diversity of types ranging from conservative passion plays to popular history plays to plays in the manner of humanist drama. This diversity makes it impossible to speak of the Jesuit drama per se. Wimmer's attempt to find the common denominator in the "Jesuitical spirituality" which, on the basis of Thomistic realism, conceives of the world as a reflection of the divine creation, seems to this reviewer too vague to serve any useful purpose.

Convincing, on the other hand, are the two articles dealing with art-historical themes. In his study "Figura serpentinata: Von der Renaissance zur maniera" Emil Maurer investigates the question of that s-shaped, flame-like figure favored so much by the mannerists. Using Parmigiano's "Madonna with the long neck" as an example, he shows in an impressive way the difference between High Renaissance and Mannerism, emphasizing the "Entproportionierung, das Allongement und die Deformation" as the most important formal principles.

Herbert Immenkotter proceeds in a similar way in his study "Glaubensbilder der Renaissance in Deutschland." He demonstrates how the pre-Reformation motive of the "protective mantle" traditionally associated with Mary, was transformed into the "protective mantle motive of Christ" under the influence of Luther's theology. With a further example, the well known Protestant motive of the antithesis of Law and Gospel, Immenkotter attempts to show how a concentration on Biblical images by Reformation artists also meant an enrichment of the traditional iconography.

If the printed essays approximate the oral delivery of the lectures, one has to admire the patience of the listeners, for Benedikt Konrad Vollmann begins his article on the "Renaissance and Humanism" with a tiresome listing of no fewer than forty names of humanists followed by a recapitulation of the well-known differences between the Italian and Northern humanists which he, unfortunately, terms "European" humanism. Is Italian humanism not European?

The late August Buck, one of the experts on European humanism, sketches with customary mastery "Platonism in the Renaissance," concentrating on the impact of the Greek philosopher on Marsilio Ficino, Lorenzo de' Medici, Marguerite de Navarre and Thomas More, all of whose works show significant traces of Plato's ideas.

The return to the writings of ancient authors was, as is well known, not limited to literature and philosophy, but also extended to mathematics, technology, and the natural sciences. It was also the prevalent approach of Copernicus, as Fritz Krafft tells us somewhat surprisingly in an article on the Copernican Revolution; for Copernicus adhered strictly to the data and modes of thinking of the ancient astronomers. With this assertion, however, Krafft challenges Thomas Kuhn who, in his seminal book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions cited precisely the "Copernican Revolution" as an example of the notion of "paradigm change," a concept he introduced and popularized. The opposite was the case, argues Krafft, saying that the Copernican Revolution is the result of absolute faithfulness to the old paradigm.

On the whole, then, the collection offers a number of very traditional articles of varying quality but almost all limited to the arts and humanities. Can a book - and here I return to my initially expressed reservations - claim to present a modern picture of the Renaissance without taking note of the important political, economic and social changes that took place during that exciting time?

If the two previous books deal with broad questions of the early modern age, the third book I would like to discuss is a biography of a political figure of that time. Franz von Sickingen may not be a household word in the Anglo-Saxon world, yet in his native Germany he is well known as an influential Reformation leader. Few men of that period, however, are as controversial as this powerful knight, who for a few years played an important role not only in Germany but also on the European stage. His Catholic opponents denounced him as a robber baron who had dared to challenge the political order, and when he died in 1523, at the age of 42, they rejoiced: "The pseudo-king is dead, soon the pseudo-pope [Luther] will follow him." His followers on the other hand, admired him as a devoted fighter for the Reformation, a friend of scholars, and an unselfish provider of a safe haven for persecuted reformers.

Still, in spite of his relative importance, Sickingen, along with his fellow-knights, has not been the subject of much scholarly research in the last hundred years. The last major study, Heinrich Ulmann's Franz yon Sickingen, appeared in 1872, if we charitably ignore the unpalatable study of the knight by Ernst Kilb, Franz von Sickingen. Das Reich als Schicksal, who interpreted Sickingen as someone whose alleged dream of a German Empire had been happily realized by the National Socialists. Not by accident did this 1944 study appear in the newly annexed city of Metz.

Understandably, anyone interested in the early sixteenth century approaches with excitement the publication of the young German historian Reinhard Scholzen: Franz yon Sickingen. Judiciously working from archival sources and painstakingly documenting his findings - almost half of the book consists of appendices - Scholzen examines the story of this knight. At an age when knights had lost their importance militarily, economically and politically, Sickingen managed to expand his rule in the Palatinate so that at the zenith of his influence, around 1520, he was a power to be reckoned with. He did so not only through shrewd financial dealings but also through a series of well executed feuds. These feuds were by no means small raids on merchants, but major undertakings involving careful planning and the recruiting of large number of soldiers. Although occasionally waged for reasons of honor or even altruistic motives, their goal was always the same, Scholzen argues: to gain the greatest profit with the least possible expenditure. In great detail the author reconstructs the feuds against Worms, Lorraine, the cities of Metz, Frankfurt and Cologne, as well as against Hessen. Scholzen examines Sickingen's role in the service of the French king and his decision in 1518 to align his fate with the Habsburg emperor, downplaying, however, the knight's role in Charles V's election in 1519. The author finally recounts Sickingen's fateful campaign against the Archbishop of Trier in 1522/23, a campaign that doomed his fate.

Scholzen thus takes a new and refreshing look at Sickingen's career. He dispels a few myths about the knight from the Palatinate as the icon of a proto-nationalist champion of a united German Reich. There is then much to recommend the book: it is a sober, factual look at the commercial side of feuding stripped of any romantic notions.

Nevertheless I have serious reservations about the book. In my opinion Scholzen omits a vital aspect of Sickingen's biography, his engagement for the Reformation. There is hardly a word about Hutten, nothing about Sickingen's genuine commitment to Lutheran doctrine and Christian practice. We learn in maddening detail how many florins Sickingen exacted from this village or that as contributions on each of his campaigns, how much he spent on food, horses and cannon balls, but nothing about the man who sheltered on his Ebernburg those who were persecuted by the imperial or papal bans; nothing about the man who, quite unselfishly, rushed to the aid of Johannes Reuchlin; and nothing about the reformer who was the first to introduce a new evangelical church order in his lands and engaged Martin Bucer and Johannes Oecolampadius to implement it. Scholzen counters possible criticism by referring not only to the proverbial space limitations but also arguing that inclusion of those aspects would not have brought any significant "Erklarungsgewinn." In that he is wrong. Unless one dismisses any religion as a pretext for pure Machtpolitik, a view even hard-core Marxists would hesitate to embrace nowadays, one ought at least acknowledge religion as a powerful factor at that time. Sickingen was a religious man who was profoundly moved by Luther's teachings. It is true that he interpreted the Reformer's writings in his own way. But so did the other social groups such as the humanists, the peasants, the urban elites, and the artisans. There were, after all, "Conflicting Visions of Reforms" (so the title of Miriam Usher Chrisman's recent excellent study on German lay propaganda pamphlets in the sixteenth century). Does this mean that we can lightly dismiss the religious motives? Is not any action prompted by a bundle of different motives, including religious ones? Given this emphasis on the economic side, it is hardly surprising that Scholzen basically reduces Sickingen's downfall to a bad business decision, namely his granting the emperor Charles V an unsecured loan of 100,000 florins. With the loss of that sum - he never got it back - Sickingen's power was broken and his influence declined, the author claims. Scholzen, the non-Marxist, outmarxed even Karl Marx.

In the last analysis, then, Scholzen's study leaves the reader deeply dissatisfied. It will remain unsurpassed as a study of the economic aspects of Sickingen's campaign. As a portrait of the man who for a short time captured the attention of the emperor and kings, it remains disappointingly one-dimensional because it fails to integrate economic, political, religious and personal aspects.

While Sickingen was at the zenith of his political power, another German, the quiet and scholarly humanist Sebastian Brant (1457-1521), had just ended a long life of public service and private poetic work. Today he is chiefly remembered as the author of the Narrenschiff (Ship of Fools, 1494). No other German book before Goethe's Die Leiden des jungen Werther (1774) was such a success at home and abroad. Unfortunately, Brant's fame as the author of the Narrenschiff has overshadowed his reputation as the author of numerous Latin and German poems. The edition of Brant's Tischzucht-Thesmophagia (1490), the first in a number of smaller moral-didactic rhymed poetic works, by Silke Umbach must therefore be welcomed as a valuable contribution to a fuller picture of the Alsatian humanist.

Brant's Thesmophagia is a German verse translation of a Latin work on table manners written by a certain Reinerus Alemannicus at the end of the twelfth century. It is in the tradition of the "Tischzucht" literature, a genre that was very popular in German literature and one that has spawned a whole scholarly cottage industry of its own, the "Tischzuchtforschung." Basically dealing with table manners, it also covers such topics as seating arrangements, the right way to make conversation with your male and female table neighbors, the correct way of dressing and drinking, and similar issues.

In contrast to previous editions, Silke Umbach's publication offers Reinerus's original Latin followed, passage by passage, by Brant's vernacular rhymed version. This typographical arrangement is important, Umbach rightfully claims, because it not only corresponds to the 1490 original edition produced by Michael Furter in Basel, but also clearly reveals Brant's intention: it was not primarily meant as a text with literary ambitions but rather as an aid for learning Latin in school.

In addition to the bilingual text, Umbach's book contains a relatively brief but informative introduction with comments on the genre of "Tischzucht" and Brant's translation method, a bibliography, an essay pleading for the increased use of computers in editing older texts, and no fewer than four different indices taking up three times as much space as the text itself. They consist of (a) a word index listing all words with their exact position in the text, (b) an index of the various forms, (c) a reverse form index (Rucklaufiges Formenregister) and (d) an accumulative frequency index (Akkumulatives Haufigkeitsregister). The value of the indices is undisputed. They permit access to the text for different purposes. Meant as building blocks and tools for more extensive studies of Brant's oeuvre, they should be of great use to the cultural and literary historian as well as to those linguists who are interested in early modern German with its numerous regional variants. Umbach's fine edition is presented here briefly as an example of the careful, painstaking editorial work that has been the hallmark of German philology since the days of Beatus Rhenanus.

These then are a few snapshots of of current German scholarship without any claim that they are representative of any trends. The two-volume set on the European scholarly societies, however, seems to me not only the most impressive by its sheer size, but also the most interesting. Employing different approaches, concentrating on micro-structures rather than indulging in sweeping generalizations, international and interdisciplinary in their scope, the seventy essays collected in the two volumes point to new and exciting avenues of research. It is perhaps no coincidence that the Paris congress was co-organized by Klaus Garber, the director of the "Interdisziplinares Institut fur Kulturgeschichte der Fruhen Neuzeit" (Interdisciplinary Institute for the Cultural History of the Early Modern Period) at the University of Osnabruck. Nor is this institute the only one in the German-speaking world that has tried to transcend the traditional, departmentalized university structures. The "Institut fur die Erforschung der Fruhen Neuzeit" (Institute for Research of the Early Modern Period), a private organization in Vienna, established in 1989, also encourages interdisciplinary approaches, stating programmatically, though somewhat awkwardly, that "the demand for interdisciplinarity refers to thematic as well as methodological issues in order to preclude the tacit introduction and perpetuation of tenets entrenched in individual academic disciplines." (Self-description in Scholars of Early Modern Studies 30 [1996]: 9.) Similar aims are pursued by the "Zentrum zur Erforschung der Fruhen Neuzeit" (Center for Research in Early Modern History), associated with the University of Frankfurt and dedicated to the interdisciplinary study of the early modern period. Since its establishment in 1993 it has sponsored symposia on the Counter-Reformation and Nationalism. Mention must finally be made of the "Pirckheimer-Gesellschaft" (founded in 1987), which is not associated with any university. At its annual meetings, the proceedings of which are published in the Pirckheimer-Jahrbuch, scholars seek to break down the traditional barriers between disciplines.

Much exciting work is being done in these various centers. Hopefully they will be the focus of a future essay in this journal.

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Author:Bernstein, Eckhard
Publication:Renaissance Quarterly
Article Type:Bibliography
Date:Sep 22, 1997
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