“The Nineteenth-Century German Recitation Anthology and the Fortunes of Weltliteratur”
Throughout the nineteenth century, a significant portion of the German-language book market was devoted to the publication of “recitation anthologies,” collections of poems meant to be read aloud by amateur performers in schools, in clubs, and in the middle-class home. Such anthologies typically featured “classical” and canonical works of German literature alongside selections of comic and occasional poems, with the balance tipping decisively in favor of the latter as the century wore on. Although largely neglected by literary historians, German-language recitation anthologies offer a wealth of information not only about literary recitation and declamation in the nineteenth century, but also about the ever-shifting role of the literary canon in shaping and negotiating regional, national, and cosmopolitan identities. These complex negotiations are particularly evident in the highly successful Deklamatorium of the author and editor Maximilian Bern, which was first published by Reclam’s Universal-Bibliothek in 1887 and reprinted at least 14 times up until the First World War. Unlike previous anthologies that were centered almost exclusively on works by German-speaking men, Bern’s Deklamatorium was committed to representing a diverse selection of Weltliteratur by featuring works by foreign authors in translation. Following a brief overview of the history of the recitation anthology in the nineteenth century, Professor Dupree’s talk will explore how Bern’s anthology reimagines literary recitation and declamation as acts of engagement with the wider world, as Germany sought to define itself as an imperial and colonial power.
Reception to follow.