Download PDF:
For citation:

Chavchanidze J.L. Rahel Vaenhagen and the Culture of Her Time. Studia Litterarum, 2017, vol. 2, no 4, pp. 82–113. (In Russ.) DOI: 10.22455/2500-4247-2017-2-4-82-113

Author: Julietta L. Chavchanidze
Information about the author:

Julietta L. Chavchanidze, DSc in Philology, Professor, Lomonosov Moscow State University, Leninskie gori 1/51, 119991 Moscow, Russia.

E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Received: July 12, 2017
Published: December 25, 2017
Issue: 2017 Vol. 2, №4
Department: World Literature
Pages: 82-113

UDK: 821.112.2
BBK: 83.3(4Гем)5
Keywords: salon, woman, culture, classics, Goethe, Jena Romanticism, epoch, letter.


This essay examines the personality of Rahel Varnhagen, one of the brightest repre- sentatives of the German cultural milieu, owner of a literary salon that brought together prominent authors, artists, philosophers, nobles, and the crème of burgher society in the period between the end of the 18 th Century and the 1830s. Rahel stood out among other female owners of literary salons, due to her deep knowledge of contemporary aesthetic trends, their specificity and perspectives, and in this respect, she was a perfect equal to male intellectuals of the time. Her contacts spread beyond the salon as she correspond- ed with a great number of people both within and outside the country. Rahel’s letters, collected by Varnhagen von Ense, and her diaries reveal outstanding literary gifts. On the example of Rahel’s world and her environment, this article examines the transient decades of European life that signaled the shift in the cultural sensibility as well as the debunking of the Enlightenment social, philosophic, and aesthetic concepts by the gen- erations of Romantics. The diversity of personalities that evoked Rahel’s interest shows the ambiguity of public opinions and tastes reflected in literature. The atmosphere of her salon helps us better understand individual literary figures that either represented certain aesthetic trends or combined the traits of different trends in their work.


1 Kotlyar E.S. Epos narodov Afriki iuzhnee Sakhary [The Epos of African people to the South of Sahara]. Moscow, Nauka Publ., 1985. 288 p. (In Russ.)

2 Kotlyar E.S. Ot bozhestva k chudovishchu: epiko mifologicheskie transformatsii zmeeborcheskogo motiva v afrikanskom fol’klore [From the deity to the monster: epic and mythological transformations of the fighting the serpent motif in African folklore]. 376 Simvolika prirodnykh stikhii v vostochnoi slovesnosti [The symbols of natural elements and Oriental writing]. Moscow, IWL RAS Publ., 2010, pp. 52–64. (In Russ.)

3 Kotlyar E.S. Mifologicheskii trikster Iuzhnoi Afriki [Mythological trickster of Southern Africa]. Moscow, IWL RAS Publ., 2013. 351 p. (In Russ.)

4 [Nian’ D.T.] Mandingskii epos [Mandinka epos]. Moscow, Leningrad, Khudozh. lit. Publ., 1963. 151 p. (In Russ.)

5 Aarne Antti & Thompson Stith. The Types of the Folktale. A Classification and Bibliography. Helsinki, 1964. 588 p. (In English)

6 Adam M.-J. Légendes historiques du Pays de Nioro (Sahel). Paris, A. Challamel, 1904. 121 p. (In French)

7 Barnard Alan. Hunters and Herders of Southern Africa. A comparative Ethnography of the Khoisan Peoples. Cambridge University Press, 1992. 349 p. (In English)

8 Boelaert E. Nsong’a Lianja. L’épopée nationale des Nkundo. De Sikkel, Anvers, 1949. 74 p. (In French) 9 Boubou Hama. L’histoire traditionnelle d’un peuple: les Zarma-Songhay. Paris, Présence africaine, 1967. 280 p. (In French)

10 De Rop Albert. Versions et fragments de l’épopée Mongo. [T.] I. Textes (A). Bruxelles, 1978. 335 p. (In French)

11 Esser Joseph. Légende africaine. Iyanza, héros national Nkundo. Paris, Presses de la Cité, 1957. 228 p. (In French)

12 Frobenius Leo. Dichten und Denken im Sudan. Jena, Diederichs, 1925. 385 S. (In German)

13 Guenther Mathias Georg. Bushman Folktales. Oral Traditions of the Nharo of Botswana and the Xam of the Cape. Stuttgart, Steiner, 1989. 166 p. (In English)

14 Guenther Mathias Georg. Tricksters and Trancers: Bushman Religion and Society. Bloomington, Indiana University Press, 1999. 289 p. (In English)

15 Hahn Johannes Theophilus. Tsuni-II Goam: the Supreme Being of the Khoi-khoi. London, Trübner & Co., 1881. 154 p. (In English)

16 Hallam W.K.R. The Bayajida as a Legend in Hausa Folklore. The Journal of African History. London, 1966, vol. 7, no 1, pp. 47–60. (In English)

17 Innes Gordon. Sunjata. Three Mandinka Versions. London, School of Oriental and African Studies, 1974. 326 p. (In English)

18 Levtzion Nehemia. Ancient Ghana and Mali. London, Methuen, 1973. 283 p. (In English)

19 Meillassoux Claude. Légende de la dispersion des Kusa (Epopée Sonike). Dakar, IFAN, 1967. 133 p. (In French)

20 Namaseb Levi. Language, Environment and Community in Storytelling of Khoekhoe, ≠Khomani, English and Afrikaans in Southern Africa. PhD thesis University of Toronto. Canada, 2006. Unpublished. (In English) 

21 Niane Djibril Tamsir. Soundiata ou l’épopée Mandingue. Paris, Présence Africaine, 1960. 153 p. (In French)

22 [Palmer Herbert Richmond]. Sudanese Memoires, Being Mainly Translations of a Number of Arabic Manuscripts Relating to the Central and Western Sudan by H.R. Palmer. London, Frank Cass, 1967, vol. 1–3. 363 p. (In English)

23 Schmidt Sigrid. Katalog der Khoisan-Volkserzählungen des südlichen Afrikas. Hamburg, Helmut Buske Verlag, 1989, teil 1, 2. 321 S. (Quellen zur Khoisan-Forschung. Band 6: 1, 2). (In German)

24 Schmidt Sigrid. Als die Tiere noch Menschen waren: Urzeit- und Trickstergeschichten der Damara und Nama in Namibia. Köln, Köppe, 1995. 256 S. (Afrika erzählt. Band 3). (In German)

25 Schmidt Sigrid. Tricksters, Monsters and Clever Girls. African Folktales. Texts and Discussions. Köln, Rüdiger Koppe Verlag, 2001. 383 p. (Afrika erzählt. Band 8). (In English)

26 Schmidt Sigrid. A Catalogue of Khoisan Folktales of Southern Africa. Köln, Rüdiger Köppe Verlag, 2013, parts I, II. 291 p. (Quellen zur Khoisan-Forschung / Research in Khoisan Studies). (In English)

27 Sidibé Mambi. Soundiata Keita, héros historique and légendaire, empereur du Manding. Notes africaines, L’Institut Fran ç aise d’Afrique Noire, Dakar, 1959, no 82, pp. 41–50. (In French)

28 Tchicaya U Tam’si Gerald Felix D. Légendes africaines. Paris, Présence africaine, 1968. 262 p. (In French)