My Ardinghello: Heinse and the importance of being epistolary

David Gramling

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Wilhelm Heinse's 1787 painter-novel Ardinghello und die gluckseligen Inseln is an unruly and precarious literary-historical artifact, balancing on the thresholds between text and paratext, archive and translation, excess and omission, Renaissance and Sturm und Drang. This article brings recent work on the queer materiality of epistolary exchange (Garlinger 2005) to bear on long-inherited interpretations of Ardinghello, seeing in it an endeavor to imagine a rhetorical space for protogay literature in late eighteenth century German humanism. Since the 1990s, much effort has gone into studying queer structures and traces in Lenz and Goethe, and Simon Richter (2006) has suggested that Heinse's "revolutionary fictions" are perhaps best understood in this light as well. What remains undertheorized, however, is the structural relationship between epistolary disclosure and proscribed desire in Ardinghello, and a century of Heinse research has seen fit to minimize this particular aspect of his work. With its sidelong reference to Willa Cather's 1918 My Antonia, this essay shores up the consequences of upholding a non-epistolary interpretation of an epistolary novel-particularly in the domain of homosocial desire.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)23-36
Number of pages14
JournalGermanic Review
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2011


  • Storm and Stress
  • aesthetics
  • epistolary
  • gender
  • masculinity
  • material culture
  • sexuality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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