Rahel Varnhagen Criticism - Essay

Doris Starr Guilloton (essay 1978)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Guilloton, Doris Starr. “Toward a New Freedom: Rahel Varnhagen and the German Women Writers before 1848.” In Woman as Mediatrix: Essays on Nineteenth-Century European Women Writers, edited by Avriel H. Goldberger, pp. 133-43. New York: Greenwood Press, 1978.

[In the following essay, Guilloton contends that Varnhagen's letters and literary salon promoted women's rights and asserted women's equality.]

Given the restricted status of women in Germany until recently, it is all the more noteworthy that the cause of their emancipation was championed nearly two hundred years ago. Its major spokeswomen—first Rahel Varnhagen and then Luise Mühlbach, Countess...

(The entire section is 4229 words.)

Kay Goodman (essay date fall 1982)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Goodman, Kay. “Poesis and Praxis in Rahel Varnhagen's Letters.” New German Critique: An Interdisciplinary Journal of German Studies 27 (fall 1982): 123-39.

[In the following essay, Goodman focuses on Varnhagen's letters, as well as those of her contemporary and friend Bettina von Arnim.]

When German feminists trace their literary and cultural roots, they usually begin with the romantic women living around 1800. It was the time of the great Berlin salons and the new romantic liaisons, and both of these phenomena challenged a strictly domestic image of women.1 The aura of sexual liberation in the lives of Caroline (Michaelis-Böhmer-Schlegel)...

(The entire section is 7572 words.)

Lynne Tatlock (essay date April 1986)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Tatlock, Lynne. “The Young Germans in Praise of Famous Women: Ambivalent Advocates.” German Life and Letters 39, no. 3 (April 1986): 193-209.

[In the following essay, Tatlock analyzes how Young Germany—a collective of writers who advocated women's emancipation in the 1830s—celebrated Varnhagen and her contemporaries Bettina von Arnim and Charlotte Stieglitz.]

That in the 1830's the group of writers known as Young Germany admired Rahel Varnhagen, Bettina von Arnim, and Charlotte Stieglitz is well known and has long been seen as consonant with their alleged interest in the emancipation of women. Recently Wulf Wülfing has examined the tendency of Young...

(The entire section is 7975 words.)

Deborah Hertz (essay date 1986)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Hertz, Deborah. “Inside Assimilation: Rebecca Friedländer's Rahel Varnhagen.” In German Women in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries: A Social and Literary History, edited by Ruth-Ellen B. Joeres and Mary Jo Maynes, pp. 271-88. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1986.

[In the following essay, Hertz considers the collection of Varnhagen's letters to Rebecca Friedländer as reflective of Varnhagen's desire for personal emancipation and her attempts to assimilate.]

Almost two centuries ago in Germany, Rahel Varnhagen was a much-admired, much-discussed phenomenon. During the last decade of the eighteenth century and again during the third decade of the...

(The entire section is 7807 words.)

Edith Waldstein (essay date 1989)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Waldstein, Edith. “Identity as Conflict and Conversation in Rahel Varnhagen (1771-1833).” In Out of Line/“Ausgefallen”: The Paradox of Marginality in the Writings of Nineteenth-Century German Women, edited by Ruth-Ellen Boetcher Joeres and Marianne Burkhard, pp. 95-113. Amsterdam: Rodopoi, 1989.

[In the following essay, Waldstein notes that Varnhagen's letters reflect a constant renegotiation and reconstruction of Varnhagen's identity. Waldstein claims that these shifting identities reveal Varnhagen's various identities—woman, German, Jew, writer—without depicting a unified, traditional sense of self.]

In German literary history Rahel Varnhagen has...

(The entire section is 6747 words.)

Liliane Weissberg (essay date 1991)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Weissberg, Liliane. “Stepping Out: The Writing of Difference in Rahel Varnhagen's Letters.” In Anti-Semitism in Times of Crisis edited by Sander L. Gilman and Steven T. Katz, pp. 140-53. New York: New York University Press, 1991.

[In the following essay, Weissberg analyzes Varnhagen's letters for their articulations about Judaism and nation in order to explore the connections between anti-Semitism and the concept of a German nation-state.]

Nation f. vor Ende des 14. Jh. entlehnt aus lat. natio(nem), das als Ableitung von natus “geboren” … die blutmässige Einheit des Volkskörpers bezeichnet.


(The entire section is 5765 words.)

Liliane Weissberg (essay date spring 1992)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Weissberg, Liliane. “Turns of Emancipation: On Rahel Varnhagen's Letters.” Cultural Critique 21 (spring 1992): 219-38.

[In the following essay, Weissberg speculates that Varnhagen's letters offer a unique epistolary form that develops around ideas of emancipation and derives from Varnhagen's perspective as a Jewish female.]


Emancipation, the “deliverance from bondage or controlling influence,”1 is a term that has its origin in the Roman family and describes not just the liberation of slaves but also the freeing of children from paternal power. It developed into a political term associated with contracts and laws and...

(The entire section is 7137 words.)

Dagmar Barnouw (essay date 1996)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Barnouw, Dagmar. “Enlightenment, Identity, Transformation: Salomon Maimon and Rahel Varnhagen.” In The German-Jewish Dialogue Reconsidered: A Symposium in Honor of George L. Mosse, edited by Klaus L. Berghahn, pp. 39-58. New York: Peter Lang, 1996.

[In the following essay, Barnouw claims that Varnhagen and Salomon Maiman, as German-Jewish writers, were influenced by both Enlightenment and Romantic concepts of identity and in particular the concepts of transformation, self-knowledge, and experience.]

In the Western world Jews as a group have been perceived as particularly talented for modernity. Socialized into a mixed secular-religious culture that has...

(The entire section is 10608 words.)

Jay Gellar (essay 1997)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Gellar, Jay. “Circumcision and Jewish Women's Identity: Rahel Levin Varnhagen's Failed Assimilation.” In Judaism Since Gender, edited by Miriam Peskowitz and Laura Levitt, pp. 174-87. New York: Routledge, 1997.

[In the following essay, Gellar asserts that Varnhagen's writings demonstrate the obstacles surrounding her identity as a Jewish woman.]


Rahel Levin Varnhagen was born in Berlin in 1771, the eldest daughter of the wealthy jewel dealer Levin Markus and his wife Chaie. Her father was among the select group of Jewish men who possessed the Generalprivileg, which allowed his entire family to...

(The entire section is 6601 words.)

Heidi Thomann Tewarson (essay date 1997)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Tewarson, Heidi Thomann. “1833 Rahel Varnhagen, Salonnière and Epistolary Writer, Publishes Rahel: Ein Buch des Andenkens für ihre Freunde, a Collection of Letters and Diary Entries.” In Yale Companion to Jewish Writing and Thought in German Culture, 1096-1996, edited by Sander L. Gilman and Jack Zipes, pp. 136-42. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1997.

[In the following essay, Tewarson introduces the epistolary tradition in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in Germany, tracing its private and public manifestations and noting its contended status as literature. Tewarson uses this background to examine the style of Rahel's writings and to note her...

(The entire section is 4699 words.)

Lilian R. Furst (essay date 1998)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

Furst, Lilian R. “The Salons of Germain de Staël and Rahel Varnhagen.” In Cultural Interactions in the Romantic Age: Critical Essays in Comparative Literature, edited by Gregory Maertz, pp. 95-103. Albany, N.Y.: State University of New York Press, 1998.

[In the following essay, Furst discusses the literary salons of Varnhagen in Berlin and of Germain de Staël in Coppet to consider the salons' effects on cultural interaction in the Romantic Age.]

In any consideration of cultural interaction in the Romantic Age, one major social institution immediately springs to mind: the salon. The salon was instrumental in bringing together men and women...

(The entire section is 3765 words.)