Tag: university

Desk Sitting

It’s a real pleasure to sit at this desk. First of all, no draught. Second, I look up and see over my room to the (clean) window, which is now hidden behind a very nice orangey courtain that gives a warm light, I’d use the German word anheimelnd for it. On daytime I look out in the landscape and have roughly one-third greenery and two-thirds sky.
The dust is actually fought back, but I know that it is only a temporary ceasefire, the battle will go on. À propos dust, I have my old Röhrenradio now in reach. Tomorrow I will open its back carefully and de-dust the innards. The device is roughly seventy (?) years old, I am not sure whether it was opened before, but tubes tend to become pretty hot. And I want to use this radio and listen to the classic station, without the nagging fear of waking up from the smell of a burning old radio, made from wood, textile and Bakelite …
Oh, regarding music – I finally have the possibility to array my stereo and have it running, I am just unsure where to put the loudspeakers. I wonder whether I can get some of these old-fashioned connectors I need since I bought the thing (twenty years ago ?). In the long run it is not okay to just wriggle the cooper wire into the connecting “ports” or how-its-called. I mean, they are made the way they are made for a purpose. Like making sure that a signal is transmitted the best possible way ; “fixing in” some prickly cooper wire is not what the engineers had in mind. And it may be better for the sound too …
All this musical stuff will lead to the necessary re-location of the lps and cds, what means to shift some case boards, what means that books must be taken out, de-dusted & sorted – it will be an active winter …
A very nice result of helping a friend move a bureau is that I now sit in a very comfy chair that is actually made for people, who sit at desks : Bloody comfortable ! No more backache.
Left are my kitchen and the sleeping room. The kitchen window is a disgrace, when it’s really cold in winter I have to shut the kitchen door to keep the chill out. I will clean the whole thing tomorrow, every nook and cranny, and use any little strip of self-sticking seal I have left, to make it shut. I remember when these windows were put in, by a “Hau-Ruck”-gang of workers, who basically gave a damn whether the things were installed correctly, heck it doesn’t fall out, next … expanding foam is a friend …
The janitor was not very happy, because he had the task of re-adjusting and fine-tuning the thrown in plastic windows. I once could bribe him to make this for the one in my sleeping room, it was really too bad back then. The tenants on the other side of the house are really in a bad position, because it is the windy (and stormy) side (in spring and autumn, still to come), and one must make sure that the outpouring flows are open …
My sleeping room will see some changes too. In the end I decided to get rid of all these papers, materials I once collected to write my thesis. It is non-sense to harbour the belief that I’d write that thing. What for ? An academic degree ? Please … If I’d win the lottery and had all my time at my hands, & would no longer be forced to do actual work for my living and spent precious lifetime on this – would I chain meself to a desk for another two or three years to write this damn thing ?
Surely not.
I would work for another year and carefully plan my exit. I would care for another living space and then I’d go travelling, as long as I am able to do this with a working body and a functional brain, so that I recognise what I see in museums, collections and landscapes I really want to be in, together with the humans I want to know & spend time with.
After all I wrote an article about the topic of this hypothetical thesis, collected all materials necessary and it is published, so who ever (if anybody really wants to take this task) will do it, will have to start where I left. If I had money “wie Heu”, I’d finance this endeavour, set up a nice little foundation and let some young people work their arses off on this. It would result in a digital edition of some remote German texts nobody knows today. But I wrote these articles roughly twenty years ago, the texts in question are nearly four hundred years old, so what – ? We do not seem to be in a rush here …
I need the space, the materials / secondary lit etc. are already outdated and hence obsolete, the discussion has went on as I could follow, & throwing out that garbage will perhaps give me the chance to organise the (little) stuff that is really me, my own, its less enough. So enough of this selfish blab. And just because you stayed with me and read until here, a little blues number by Frank TANNEHILL, another long forgotten bloke who did his own thing, & vanished.
Hope you enjoy it.



Interesting Women : Else von Richthofen

Let us assume that you are a sociologist with an interest in the history of your science. Then you surely have heard the name Max WEBER (1864-1920) (Ger., Eng., SEP). And you surely know that he has a younger brother Alfred (1868-1958) (Ger., Eng.), who is also a sociologist, occasional collaborator and critic of his brother, and there is Marianne WEBER (1870-1954) (Ger., Eng.), the wife of Max. And Else ?
Else is the “woman between” them *, short-time mistress of Max, long-time living partner of Alfred, and a bit more.

Elisabeth Frieda Amélie Sophie Freiin von RICHTHOFEN (1874-1973) (Ger., Eng.) had a sister, Frieda (1879-1956) (Ger., Eng.), who later became the wife of D.H. (“ram-bam”) LAWRENCE. Yes, I invented the “ram-bam”.
Of course they were related to Manfred, the “Red Baron”, but very distantly. Else was the oldest of the Richthofen-sisters. The usual life script for a young noble lady of the late 19th century would be : Get married, become pregnant, and do as your husband tells you. Getting married would involve an endowment – sadly daddy Richthofen (Friedrich Ernst Emil Ludwig Freiherr Praetorius von RICHTHOFEN, 1844–1915) was not only a heavy gambler, but also a lady’s man : One of his mistresses gave birth to his son in 1886 – there went the sisters’ marriage portion.
Nevertheless Else received a good education. She learned early that she would need a material basis of her own. So she becomes a teacher (examination 1891) – and with this first degree, and here she leaves the official trail, “listens” at the university of Heidelberg – matriculation for women is not yet allowed – National Economics, represented by WEBER. He recommends her to Gustav (von) SCHMOLLER (1838-1917) (Ger., Eng.) in Berlin, where she again “listens” for three semesters, and makes contacts that will shape her future life. In the house of WEBER’s mother she meets Alfred WEBER and Edgar JAFFÉ, her later living partner and her husband. Since the 1890s she is good friends with Marianne WEBER – until the end of their lives, and over all that is there to come.
She takes her doctoral degree in Heidelberg in 1900 (WEBER presiding) and then becomes the first academic “Betriebsinspektorin” in Germany. Marianne and Alice SALOMON (Ger., Eng.) introduce her into the women’s movement of the day (what some modern feminists like to describe as “the first wave”, what I personally find pretty silly, because this expression has only military connotations for me).
Her life script seems to be clear : Following the ideal of celibate social worker or female doctor, within the bourgeois social movement of the time, doing professional work, earning her own money, but – as already mentioned – no family, id est no man, no sex, no children is part of this accepted idealistic idea, “motherliness as profession” / Mütterlichkeit als Beruf  (see this, German only, sorry).
Else does not accept this.
In 1902 she marries Edgar JAFFÉ (1866-1921) (Ger., NDB) – a very interesting man who deserves a biography of his own imho. Edgar is not only a businessman & strikingly rich, but very interested and ambitious in the scientific field. He becomes editor of the Archiv für Sozialwissenschaft und Sozialpolitik, together with Max WEBER and Werner SOMBART (Ger., Eng.) – he has bought the whole thing.
Else, as impoverished noble woman, follows an older blueprint, she marries the money and returns to an aristocratic lifestyle. She publishes a bit in the journal, and dutifully gives birth to three legal children between 1903 and 1909, and to one illegal son Peter (1907-1915), fathered by Otto GROSS (1877-1920) (Ger., Eng.).
Edgar adopted the child. She and Edgar stay married until his death in April 1921, albeit separated since 1911. Edgar follows his own scientific and academic path, holds a high position in the economic administration of the Reich through WWI, and, interestingly, becomes secretary of finances under Kurt EISNER (Ger., Eng.), during the Münchner Räterepublik 1918/1919 (Ger.). He barely survives the massacres of the oh-so-noble Freikorps (Ger., Eng.). Since 1900 his house in Schwabing (Ger., Eng.) was a centre of the Bohème – not the Berlin of Wilhelm was the place to be around 1900, München leuchtet before the Great War, and is replaced by Weimar Berlin after 1919.
Otto GROSS is a case of his own – in 1907 not only his mistress Else gives birth to a son Peter, but his legal wife too, and in 1908 his second mistress also comes down with a healthy child. Given his troubles with drugs – he starts to use cocaine in 1900 when he works as doctor on a passenger liner, and remember : Before WWI heroin was used as cure for cocaine addiction – his unsteady life and a lot of troubles, it is amazing that he can keep up writing & working. His case is tragic in as much, as FREUD absolutely dismissed some of his maverick disciple’s ideas and reacted with a kind of damnatio memoriae – father Sigmund kills son Otto – that astoundingly also worked for Otto’s political writings : GROSS was only re-discovered in the 1970s !
Friends found his body in a ramshackle backyard in Berlin, he died in a hospital in April 1920. BTW in the affaire with GROSS Else’s rival was not Otto’s wife, but her own sister Frieda. They had tumultuous rows.
Else started a relationship with Alfred WEBER around 1909/1910 – the relation between the brothers suffered a bit from this. Else would in her long life never speak about her relation with Max WEBER that took place in November 1918, out of respect for her close friend Marianne. When WEBER lay dying from pneumonia in Munich (June 1920) – another victim of the Spanish flu – both women were there and cared for him.
In spring 1921 only the two women, and Alfred WEBER, are left. Marianne takes care of the writings of her husband and stays active in the women’s movement. Else goes with Alfred back to Heidelberg, helps with his work, and takes care of his legacy after his death in 1958. They are all buried in Heidelberg Bergfriedhof.
Else Freiin von Richthofen, verwitwete Jaffé, war sicherlich eine interessante Frau.

* DEMM, Eberhard [Ger.]: Else Jaffé-von Richthofen. Erfülltes Leben zwischen Max und Alfred Weber, Düsseldorf 2014, Rezension by R. Aldenhoff-Hübinger, from which I take a lot.


I’m still a bit … emotional. I spent the better part of this afternoon in very peculiar company, with Cuthswyth and Kylian, Hieronymus and Duns, from Scotland. We will not come together in this form, in this lifetime again, that is for sure. If I weren’t too shy (and had my white gloves with me) I could even have touched them !

Cuthswyth abbatissa was the abbess of a nunnery, possibly Inkberrow (Eng.) near Worcester (Ger., Eng.). She lived between 650 and 700 and can be found in two contemporary documents. She possessed a book from Italy, the comment of St. Hieronymus (Ger., Eng.) about the book of Ecclesiastes (Ger., Eng.) – not the newest edition, it is written about 500 p.Chr.n. For reasons unknown she felt the need to write her name into this book. In fact she wrote “Cuthsuuithae boec thaerae abbatissan”, and repeated the “abbatissan” again in the line below. See for yourself here. Who says that in the early missionary time scribes were only males ? There is evidence for female scribes, see this article by Dr. J. A. KOSTER – who mentions of course Cuthswyth. And if all this “dating” is nearly correct it would make this humble piece of paper one of the oldest existing evidence or proof for written “English”. Beowulf was written down circa 975, but eventually composed in the 8th century.

Kylian’s book is a bit larger, it’s an Evangeliar dating from the 9th century. They showed us M.p.th.f.66, not M.p.th.f.65.

The reason behind all this is that the Dombibliothek is finally digitized and available via the web (list here – enjoy ! ). The work will continue, but it is a milestone for the whole project.
And what we were allowed to see – in this form not again in my lifetime, it is more or less unrepeatable – were some of the cimelia. Access to the books is now possible via the web, the digital representations are state of the art (if your screen is calibrated the colours are true ; it is possible to take measures that are correct – the wizardry behind all this is impressive ; and yes, they made some backups, four to be precise) – and now they are allowed to rest. This evening they will be put back into the safe place and they will stay there. This public show was the last for years to come.
It was a bit emotional for me, when I slowly realised what I was seeing. They had no vitrine. It took place in the manuscript reading room, a place I visit since the early eighties. The books were placed on some higher tables on blue velvet. The head of the departement showed very carefully but full of pride some rare illuminations around – like a priest showing the sanctissimum, a monstranz … I had no idea what I was to see when I went there, so Cuthswyth was a bit of surprise.

On Nothing

I tried to write a post about something historical, something interesting, just something, but as I pressed and shook the cerebellum, nothing came out. So over the last days I stayed in bed longer than usual, dreaming away.
At different times in my life I had very vivid dreams and got the impression that I actually was living an interesting life when I slept. I recall absolutely no content. Sometimes I even thought that the dreams were connected, that it continued where it stopped when I woke up. Maybe this here, what we call real life, is nothing else but a dream ? Floating through different stages of conscience and / or awakening can be a nice and interesting experience. Bits and parts of ongoing conversations, blurred images that fade or simply vanish ; usually surrounding sounds are the first things of the “real world” I observe, like someone working in the woods or clearing a garden, a distant tractor, dogs barking – after all it is a village where I live. Usually I have the blanket over my head and peeping out, I can imagine looking out of a cave into the big white nothing – the sheets, and my stark nearsightedness helps, of course. Floating in and out for some minutes, even falling asleep again, but at some point it’s over and I have fully arrived ; get up, close window, get coffee.
When I go to bed I read a chapter or two in whatever book I am actually interested in. It is normally late in the night and silent, and while concentrating on the text in front of me other parts of the brain seemingly start whatever they have to do ; maybe a tune comes up, snippets of a distant conversation I do not understand, traffic noise – what was that sentence again ? Switch off the light, pull the blanket over head, and gone.
The days are longer now, but it is cold and will get colder. A bloke I met in the lift today told me that he had to brush snow from his car in Nuremberg this morning.
I can not get a person out of my head, a man I knew in the nineties. He was at least twenty years older than me, in his early fifties then, spending his time in the cafeteria of the philosophical building, translating. He told adventurous stories about his life and times. I am pretty sure that he died in 1999, and keep wondering what happened to his Nachlass. He lived in a hole of a flat in the meanest part of town. As I mentioned he translated, and was working on an anthology of poetry. We seriously discussed words over vending-machine coffee and roll-ups, smoking was still allowed inside the building. The room he lived in was stuffed with papers, manuscripts ; under the roof, not insulated, terribly cold ; I visited him there once, January or February ’99. Last thing I heard, but do not know from whom, was that he had died in an hospital in Frankfurt. If the stories are true – or even if they are not – they should be written down ;  and I should ask some people, look for evidence, traces.
It is a strange time of memories, blurring lines, foggy haze.