Vera Hildenbrandt and Jörg Ritter

Epistolary Networks of Exiles: The Vernetzte Korrespondenzen Project

2013 Seminar Series / Thursday 28 November, 2013

In 1933, when the Nazis came to power, about half a million people escaped from German-speaking countries, amongst them many writers, artists, and publishers. Retrospectively, the dramatist and writer Hermann Kesten summed up this exodus in the words; in exile, ‘one loses people but gains widely scattered friends’. In this situation of dispersion and liquidation, corrosive of established social, cultural, and artistic networks, letters became (in a special way) a central medium of information and exchange, a medium of transfer between countries and cultures, and a medium of establishing new and maintaining old contacts. Thus, in the politically difficult period after 1933, epistolary networking gains a particular importance for existence in a foreign land, demonstrated by the immense number of letters written in exile.

This seminar paper introduced the project Vernetzte Korrespondenzen – a major new interdisciplinary collaboration between the University of Trier, the German Literature Archive in Marbach, and the Martin-Luther-University Halle-Wittenberg – which intends to build an interactive, web-based application for the exploration and visualization of the social, spatial, temporal, and thematic networks in these corpora.

Whilst no podcast is available, the embedded slideshow highlights some key questions Digital Humanities projects must ask of themselves, and the Vernetzte Korrespondenzen project’s initial responses, including links to prototype tools such as that at http://metter.uzi.uni-halle.de/