Field of Focus III - Funded ProjectsEdition and annotation of Garlieb Merkel’s “Latvian Legend” Wannem Ymanta

Project Leader:

apl. Prof. Dr. Jürgen Joachimsthaler (Department of German as a Foreign Language Philology)

Funding Line:

Text Worlds


Garlieb Merkel’s “Latvian Legend” Wannem Ymanta (Leipzig 1802), a post-colonial narrative avant la lettre, participates in the late-Enlightenment and early-Romantic work on the concept of “Volk” (folk) by projecting it onto the adscript Latvian-speaking peasantry of the Russian Baltic Sea provinces of Livonia and Courland.

Two generations later these concept of a German abolitionist formed part of the charter of the Latvian national movement. A mother-text of national Latvian states of identity and a corresponding historical mythology formed beyond the language borders. The project adopted in the middle of the 19th century of national Latvian literature up to the national epic Lāčplēsis (‘Bear-slayer’, 1888) in many respects also rested on Merkel’s text. This trans-cultural transformation leads to the emancipatory vision of a free people leading to the potential importance of Wannem Ymanta. The text can only be broken down under the complex layered background of the circumstances of its creation, its intertextual references – integrated in the European tradition – and its subsequent Latvian reception. The goal of the project is a new edition of the first edition with detailed annotation, which will allow the breaking down of these references. With consideration of the trans-cultural reception already in the textual commentary itself, the project enters unchartered waters in an edition philology perspective too.