Rea Köppel

E-Mail: koeppel [at]


Ph.D. Project

"On the relation between print and handwriting; literary „Handexemplare“ with handwritten entries from around 1800"



Used to working with printed books, recent philology often conceives of manuscripts from the perspective of the published text rather than as a phenomenon in itself. The dichotomy of manuscript and printed text, originating along with the invention of the printing press, was since then enforced by the allocation of oppositional characteristics; while anything connected with the manuscript was relegated to the area of the psychological, auratic and private, research concentrated more and more on printed books which were considered to be „valid“ texts. Hermeneutics and  print thus interconnect seamlessly: block letters allow to read fluently towards a lucid meaning, i.e. they initiate a hermeneutical understanding which fades out all material or literal aspects of the text.

Against this general tendency, my project investigates literary „Handexemplare“ from around 1800. These books, former property of the authors of the texts and conserved in archives, contain marginal and interlinear entries next to the printed text. In their singularity and complexity they not only pose a challenge to editors – when print and handwriting meet on the same page, the materiality of the two forms of writing becomes evident too. High-resolution scans enable the handwritten remarks to be deciphered and at first show the pages as pictures, detached from the traditional categories of work and authorship. While prints usually follow manuscripts, these books reverse this order; they are a fulcrum in the contradictory juxtaposition of singularity and mass edition, of writing and writing. In a reflection on that which is not identical with itself, selected literary works shall be read literally from their margins, i.e. with a focus on that which falls out of the hermeneutic and the typeset frame.


Curriculum Vitae

Since 10/2008 Freie Universität Berlin, Graduiertenkolleg „Schriftbildlichkeit“; doctoral thesis on the relation of print and handwriting in „Handexemplaren“ around 1800.
10/2006-12/2007 Nietzsche museum in Sils Maria, Switzerland: curator and stipendiary.
07/2007 MA in German literature and history in Basel (summa cum laude), thesis on questions of rhythm and meter in a manuscript by Klopstock.
2005/2006 Project collaborator for the new manuscript-based Historical-Critical Edition of the works of Robert Walser (KWA) in Basel (first volume „Geschwister Tanner“, 2008).
1999-2001 Assistant director at the theatre lucerne / lucerne festival.


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