Karoline von Günderrode

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Karoline von Günderrode, c. 1800, by an anonymous painter; Historical Museum, Frankfurt am Main

Karoline Friederike Louise Maximiliane von Günderrode (11 February 1780 – 26 July 1806) was a German Romantic poet, born in Karlsruhe. She used the nom-de-plume of Tian.

Life[edit]

Günderrode, the oldest of six siblings, came from an aristocratic but poor family. In 1797 she entered a residence in Frankfurt am Main, run by a charitable foundation, in which poor unmarried noblewomen could live respectably while keeping an eye out for a suitable marriage partner.[1] In Frankfurt her friends included the three siblings Kunigunde Brentano (later von Savigny; 1780-1863), Bettina von Arnim (née Brentano) and Clemens Brentano.[2]

Günderrode was unable to come to terms with the prescribed feminine roles. In a letter to Kunigunde Brentano (de) she wrote: "I've often had the unfeminine desire to throw myself into the wild chaos of battle and die. Why didn't I turn out to be a man! I have no feeling for feminine virtues, for a woman's happiness. Only that which is wild, great, shining appeals to me. There is an unfortunate but unalterable imbalance in my soul; and it will and must remain so, since I am a woman and have desires like a man without a man's strength. That's why I'm so vacillating and so out of harmony with myself…."[3] Karoline suffered from a nervously induced melancholy and had an unpredictable temperament that alienated some.

While attending a social event, Günderrode met the legal scholar Friedrich Carl von Savigny and fell in love with him. Sometime later, she reached the point of hoping for a proposal of marriage, but Savigny decided instead to marry her less intellectual friend Kunigunde Brentano.

After what she saw as Savigny's betrayal, Günderrode worked on her art as a poet, aiming to unite life and writing. She wrote works with strong heroic women in a central role, such as Hildegun und Nikator and Mora. Through her writing she criticized the ideals of the bourgeois society at the time and its traditional gender roles.

In 1804, Günderrode met the philologist and archeologist Georg Friedrich Creuzer. Although he was married, they developed a relationship. Creuzer asked his wife for a divorce, which she agreed to, but Creuzer, who suffered depression from his secret relationship with Günderrode, and anxiety about the public scandal of a divorce, postponed the decision. He sought advice from his friends and colleagues, who suggested he should forget Günderrode, as she would never be a suitable wife. In the midst of the unresolved situation, he became ill; finally, through a friend, he sent a letter to Günderrode ending the relationship. Upon receiving the news, Günderrode killed herself with a dagger on the banks of the river Rhine at Winkel.[1]

Günderrode and Heinrich von Kleist were the two central characters in Kein Ort. Nirgends, a novel by Christa Wolf published in 1979. Kein Ort. This recounts a fictional meeting between Günderrode and Heinrich von Kleist, in which the two escape the empty chatter of a tea party by taking a long walk. Kleist also ended his life by suicide, as he was in love with the dying Henriette Vogel.

Works[edit]

  • Poems and Fantasies (Gedichte und Phantasien, 1804); under pseudonym "Tian"
  • Poetic Fragments (Poetische Fragmente, 1805)
  • Udohla (1805)
  • Magic and Fate (Magie und Schicksal, 1805)
  • Story of a Brahmin (Geschichte eines Braminen, 1805); under pseudonym "Tian"
  • Nikator (1806); under pseudonym "Tian"
  • The Youth who sought the greatest beauty (Der Juengling der das Schoenste sucht, 1806)
  • Melete (1806)

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Duda, Sibylle. "Karoline von Günderrode." FemBio [lexicon/database of women's biographies, from a feminist perspective]. Translated by Joey Horsley. FemBio Frauen-Biographieforschung. Retrieved 2016-04-16.
  2. ^ von Hoff, Dagmar (1995). "Aspects of Censorship in the Work of Karoline von Günderrode." Women in German Yearbook. vol. 11. p. 99–112; here p. 103. Accessible via JSTOR (registration required).
  3. ^ As quoted in Duda, "Karoline von Günderrode," FemBio; translation from the German.

External links[edit]