Mensch, Bürger, Weib: Gender and the Limitations of Late 18th-Century Neohumanist Discourse

by William Rasch
Mensch, Bürger, Weib: Gender and the Limitations of Late 18th-Century Neohumanist Discourse
William Rasch
The German Quarterly
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Mensch, Biirger, Weib: Gender and the Limitations of
Late 18th-Century Neohumanist Discourse

Theodor Gottlieb von Hippel wrote his ~ber die biirge~,liclze Verbesserung del- Weiber in 1792, yet his radical call for the full integration ofwomen in society had vir- tually no impact on contemporaiy political debates in Germany. As Ruth Dawson notes, even women who were keenly inter- ested in political reform never dared recom- mend the sweeping changes Hippel advo- cated.l Of course, as Dawson also notes, the risks for women were much greater. Hippel, a career civil servant publishing anon- ymously, had much less to fear than a woman precariously perched on the edge of the public sphere, scandalously betraying her assigned role in life by openly taking pen in hand. But fear is only part of the picture. More importantly, the Enlighten- ment discourse of utility and civic duty that Hippel used to argue for a woman's equal access to education and occupational oppor- tunities was no longer available to women pedagogical reformers at the beginning of the 19th centuly. By the end of the 18th century, neohumanist polemics had carried the day

Scholars have customarily valued the neohumanist pedagogical reform move- ment for its ability to subordinate utilitarian demands, aimed at training the citizen of the state, to a total education of the individual regardless of social and political constraints. The neohumanist at- titude toward higher education is still reflected today in the traditional liberal vir- tues of academic freedom, pure research, and the strivingafter knowledge for its own sake. It is the purpose of this study, however, to show how neohumanist discourse, espe- cially as exemplified in the early writings of Wilhelm von Humboldt on anthropology, education, and gender, foreclosed the pos- sibility of women taking an active part in society. Whereas Hippel's ability to argue for the improvement of conditions for women in society rested on assumptions about the sociohistorical determination of human subjectivity, Humboldt adopted an anthropological discourse which used the prevailing Mensclz 1 Bu~ger conceptual split to stress the autonomous actualization of human nature above and beyond en- vironmental influence. Yet an examination of the latter's naturalized, Rousseauian views of gender difference reveal that women have only a subordinate role in this play of self-actualization.

The effects of the relegation of women to a realm of essential passivity are even more clearly discernible in a neohumanist text explicitly designed to expand the role of education in women's lives, Betty Gleim's Elzielaung und Unterriclzt des weiblichen Gesclzlechts. Gleim feels compelled to reject the fundamentally political and activist solutions of a feminist reformer like Hippel in favor of a gradual, "inner" improvement of the individual who remains true to the "individuality" of her sex. In the final analysis, an examination of Gleim's text reveals that neohumanism made room for a man to participate in life as a fully realized Mensch and as asocially productiveBiirger, but tended to confine women to a third category, one which was neither fully human nor at all civic-that of Weib.

The Gerrrmr~ C2rrn1%~r,ly 20

GG.1 (Winter 1993)


Theodor Gottlieb von Hippel, novelist and Prussian civil servant, published his

i%er die biirgerliche Verbesserung der Wei- ber anonymously (as he published all his books) in 1792F the same year as the pub- lication of Mary Wollstonecraft's Vindication of the Rights of Women. In 1801, addi- tional notes he had made for a planned revised edition were published posthu- mously under the title Nachlap iiber weibliche Bild~ng.~

Though neither text is presented rigorously or systematically, un- derlying assumptions about the univer- sality of reason and the sociohistorical determination of human character allow Hippel to argue that women have a right to be fully integrated in the social world by way of equal educational and occupational opportunities.

That women have been denied a role in the public sphere is not, according to Hippel, because of innate intellectual inferiority, but because of historical structures created and maintained by men. The history of women has been the history of their sub- jugation. Men, he contends, have kept women in domestic prisons ("Bastillen," "hauslich[e] Zwinger und biirgerlich[e] VerlieRe"), have kept them in "cages" and "clipped their wings," have denied them their head and only allowed them their heart, "als ob eins ohne das andere etwas golte" (Verbesserung 19,260, 274).4All this, despite the fact that, according to Hippel, men owe the awakening of their slumbering powers to a woman. Ironically appropriat- ing the traditionally hostile reception of the Biblical account of creation, Hippel main- tains it was Eve's initial curiosity, not "unmiindig" Adam's dullness, that freed us from our animal-like existence. "Sie zerbrach," in Hippel's words, "die Ketten des Instinkts, der die Vernunf't nicht auf- kommen lieR, und triumphirbEva sollte die Vernunft, ihr zum Andenken, heinen" (Verbesserung 30). If for no other reason, then, women should be considered fit for all duties and occupations currently reserved for men.

Yet perhaps because of the failure of the French Revolution to include the rights of women among the rights of "man,"5 Hippel relies not just on principled argumentation and moral harangues, no matter how well justified historically, but also emphasizes the utility of allowing women to become productive members of society. Indeed, this emphasis on social utility is an important element inunderstanding Hippel'sviewson education and on the relationship of the in- dividual to the state. And, ultimately, it is this emphasis on utility which falls prey to the neohumanist critique.

Hippel recognizes that education is the key to social reform as he envisions it. Primarily, education is a tool for social mobility. One is educated to be a morally better and more productive member of society, and in protestant Prussia the two are inextricably related. Noting that the physiocrats in their economic theories con- tend that the "producing" class of citizens is the most useful, "und da fur den Staat der Nutzen das Einzige ist, was die Rang- ordnung der Burger bestimmt," Hippel asks how it is possible to exclude from civic service "eine ganze Halfte des mensch- lichen Geschlechtes, welche an der Her- vorbringung und Fortpflanzung desselben den wesentlichsten Antheil hat." Since education is required for full participation in society, Hippel commands men to throw open the doors of the "Education- und Lehranstalten" to women (Verbesserung 23344).

To exclude women from educational in-

stitutions, or to provide them with a specifi-

cally gendered education, is to diminish

their rational (hence, moral) capabilities

and make them unfit for social action.

'Woher jetzt der Unterschied in der Er-

ziehung beider Geschlechter," he asks, "der

sich bei der Wiege anhebt und beim

Leichenbrette endiget? warum," he con-

tinues, "ein so wesentlicher Unterschied,

als waren beide Geschlechter nicht Eines Herkommens, nicht Eines Stoffs, und nicht zu einerlei Bestimmung geboren?'And then, again, the imperative: "Die Scheide- wand hore auf! man erziehe Burger fur den Staat, ohne Rucksicht auf den Geschlechts- unterschied, und uberlasse das, was Wei- ber als Mutter, als Hausfrauen, wissen mussen, dem besondern Unterricht" (Verbesserung 213-14).

To this end, Hippel recommends a com- mon education for boys and girls (up to the ages of 18 and 16, respectively). Since both men and women, he reminds the reader, "eigentlich nur Ein Mensch sind," that is, since they are both endowed with the capacity to reason, both must be educated "zu den burgerlichen Bestimmungen." Were this to be achieved, then honor, rights, and rewards could no longer be seen merely as "ein Geschlechts-Prarogativ,"but rather as "Folgen des personlichen Verdienstes," and women, "die bisher ein Etwas ohne Namen und Rechte waren, wiirden auf diese Weise Personen und Staatsburger werden" (Verbesselung 230-32).

The emphasis on educating citizens for the state is consistent with the interests of enlightened absolutism. Although Fred- erick the Great's interest in pedagogical reform in Prussia was only minimally an activist one,6 his written utterances on the subject stress that the state should be con- cerned with producing "nutzliche und tugendhafte Biirger," or "nutzliche Unter- tanen," whose morals have been improved, whose souls have been uplifted, and who have been educated "zum FleiV and to the exercising of their 'Verstand, damit sie sich ihre Schritte wohl uberlegen, verstiindig und umsichtig werden, Einfachheit und Maljigkeit 1iebe11."~ Hippel, however, who was aware of the implications of the works of Rousseau and Kant,8 is not thoroughly comfortable with the total identification of the individual with the citizen and, in what amounts to asides, attempts to reassure the reader that equal education of men and women will not neglect the Mensch while emphasizing the virtues of educating productive and happy citizens for the~tate.~ He lacks, however, a fully developed the- oretical apparatus (or lacks a fully under- stood and internalized "critical," i.e., Kant- ian, discourse) that would allow him to articulate the different spheres of Menschheit andBurgerturn. When he does attempt a differentiation, it does not take long for the realm of the Mensch to collapse back into the role of the Burger.

, Hippel's inability to distinguish ade- quately what makes an individual a '%u- man" from what makes an individual a "citizen" implies that human subjectivity is a construct of the public sphere. One derives meaning and substance from one's activity in society. Once this has been asserted, in- dividual activity outside ofthe social sphere becomes meaningless, or worse, demean- ing, as is wonderfully illustrated in a pas- sage on '1Muljiggang" from Hippel's Naclzlap. "Da kein Mensch," he writes,

in so weit er blol3 fur sein Individuum sorgt, behaupten kann, dal3 er beschaftigt sey, indem Geschafte durchaus auf die Staats-Gesellschaft, in der man lebt, und mittelst ihrer auf die noch grofiere, die Sicherheit, sich beziehen; da der Zweck und die Bestimmung der Menschen in der Ausbildung des ganzen menschlichen Geschlechts besteht, welche nur durch die Entwicklung aller Krafte und Fahigkeiten der sinnlichen und geistigen Natur erreichet werden kann; so sind die Weiber so lange miinig, als man sie zu den Trieben der Thiere, zu Tisch und Bett, zur Selbsterhaltung und Fortpflanzung er- niedrigt. (49)

If women are not granted a place in society,
according to Hippel, they have no realm of
activity in which they can develop their
powers and define themselves as humans.
To exclude them from social action is, inother
words, to exclude them from the realm of
humanity and relegate them to the status of
animals. They then become defined biologi-
cally, as tools for self-preservation and
reproduction. But, he insists, humans be-
come humans by virtue of society, not in spite
of it. It is only '%urgerliche Thatigkeit9'which

bestows value ('Werth") on a person. 'Wur durch diese biirgerliche Thatigkeit werden Menschen unsterblich" (49-50).

Hippel's concern was with justifying the rights of women to a hostile audience. He was not engaged in constructing a philosophical anthropology. Yet his focus on 'burgerliche Thatigkeit" as the defining characteristic of humanity might best be described as a particularly 18th-century, enlightened form of an older (Renaissance) humanism that had always stressed civic virtue. If so, it is perhaps the final irony of Hippel's own 'Thatigkeit" that, ashe wrote these words not long before his death (in 1796), this older humanist ideal of civic vir- tue was being replaced by a new humanism which postulated the autonomy of human activity free from all social fetters. Precisely in the same years that Hippel wrote his Verbesserung and the supplementary Naclzla/3, Wilhelm von Humboldt was working, in a fragmentary but influential way, on a definition of human nature that would come to characterize early 19th-cen- tury neohumanist discourse by reversing Hippel's terms. It is not, in Humboldt'sview, the civic which defines the essentially human. For him, an individual only be- comes human in a realm of activity that stands in opposition to merely "burgerlich" concerns. The Mensclz must at all costs be saved from too quick a reduction to the Burger, and must therefore be seen to in- habit a space otlzer than the realm of social actions. The self-actualization of human nature in individual humans must be inde- pendent of the functional roles individuals fill in the social network. Humans, in this view, are free to create humanity above and beyond the social systems which bind them to predetermined actions, and a fully ade- quate educational theory should be attuned to this need for human autonomy. But to create this extra-social space, Humboldt relies on a naturalist anthropology that defines male activity in contrast to female receptivity. In Humboldt's writings, it be- comes clear that the only humans destined

to achieve autonomy through their own ac- tivity are male humans.

Humboldt and the Autonomous

In 1792, the year Hippel's Verbesserung was published, Humboldt was at work on hisIdeenzu einem Versuch, die Granzender Wirksamkeit des Staats zu bestimmen, an unfinished text only published after his life- time, but one in which he first worked out many of his ideas on Bildung and the relationship that should hold between the autonomous individual and the minimal, liberal state.10 Its basic premise is the by now familiar libertarian doctrine that the only function of the state is to secure its subjects from internal and external threats to their safety (96,190). Arguing against the tenets of the absolutist Wolzlfalzrtsstaat, Humboldt asserts that the physical and moral welfare of the individual cannot be positively fostered by laws or direct govern- mental influence, but only arises as a con- sequence of the free and independent ac- tivity of each individual. Therefore, Hum- boldt argues in this early text against state- supported, public education. Although he would soon change his views and in later years work for the Prussian state to reform the educational system, he would always maintain that the aim of education is to form the autonomous individual, not the obedient, or the productive, or the physical- ly contented, or the morally appropriate citizen. Instead, the state should use its power to guarantee a space in which it has no power over the independent develop- ment of the individual. In a paradoxical way, the state is charged with assuring our individual and multifarious growth while shielding us from the fragmenting effects of modernity that began to be felt in the 18th century.

What Humboldt fears is the collapse of the distinction between Mensch and Bur- ger. The realm of the human is the private "Innenraum" that serves both as buffer against state action and as source of critical distance, a moral space from which sorties against the state and the effects of social fragmentation can be launched, at least in- directly.ll Although humans in part define themselves by their social actions, to reduce them to their social roles by making happi- ness and utility their highest aims is, in Humboldt's view, to risk equating humani- ty with machinery. States may strive after 'Wohlstand und Ruhe," but humans re- quire "Mannigfaltigkeit und Thatigkeit. Nur diess," Humboldt contends,

giebt vielseitige und kraftvolle Charak- tere, und gewiss ist noch kein Mensch tief genug gesunken, um Ft sich selbst Wohlstand und Gliik der Grosse vorzuziehen. Wer aber f~ andre so raison- nirt, den hat man, und nicht mit Unrecht, in Verdacht, dass er die Menschheit mis- kennt, und aus Menschen Maschinen machen wolle. (72; see also 86)

It is true, "Mannigfaltigkeit geht gewiss immer in dem Grade der Einmischung des Staats verloren" (71). But precisely because the privatelpublic distinction was designed to give the individual a "free zone" of moral or mental activity which neither threatens the state nor is threatened by it, we are not endangered somuch by direct state action as by the limitations imposed on us by the emerging structures of modern society that have developed even beyond the control of the state. 'TBIei uns," he writes, "[wird] der Mensch selbst unmittelbar weniger beschrankt, als vielmehr die Dinge um ihn her eine einengende Form erhalten." It is there- fore imperative that education provide us with a means of fighting against "diese ausseren Fesseln mit innerer Kraft" (61). The inner development of our powers needs a certain "Mannigfaltigkeit der Situationen" in addition to freedom from external re- straint:

Auch der freieste und unabhangigste

Mensch, in einfdrmige Lagen versezt, bil-

det sich minder aus. Zwar ist nun eines-

theils diese Mannigfaltigkeit allemal Folge der Freiheit, und anderntheils giebt es auch eine Art der Unterdriikkung, die, statt den Menschen einzuschranken, den Dingen urn ihn her eine beliebige Gestalt giebt, so dass beide gewissermaassen Eins und dasselbe sind. (64)

Education, then, should enhance inner diversity in the face of social uniformity so that the individual personality may always be distinguished from the social role. Educa- tion should not concentrate on developing certain socially useful powers to the exclusion of all others. Rather, in the face of the danger that in the absolutist state "der Mensch dem Biirger geopfert wird" (l06), the purpose of education should be defined as "die Ausbildung des Menschen in der htichsten Mannigfaltigkeit" (105). Contrary to the utilitarian view, education should not seek to train the citizen for his future role in society (and Humboldt means his, not her, as will become clear below), but should form the well-rounded person before he ever enters society. To be educated is to have formed the private realm into a region of moral opposition. "Daher miisste," Hum- boldt concludes,

meiner Meinung zufolge, die freieste, so wenig als moglich schon auf die biirger- lichen Verhaltnisse gerichtete Bildung des Menschen iiberall vorangehen. Der so gebildete Mensch miisste dann in den Staat treten, und die Verfassung des Staats sich gleichsam an ihm priifen. (106)

It is not that the individual should avoid society, only that he should enter it properly equipped to judge it and, while in it, shield himself from its fragmentation by way of an extra-social, moral standpoint.

Behind Humboldt's fear of the reduction of the autonomous human to the func- tionally defined social being lies an anthropological definition of human nature that rejects the older Enlightenment as- sumptions Hippel had relied on-utility and the social construction of subjectivity. Each individual, in Humboldt's view, is in- volved in a never-ending, always deferred process of self-generation. Though this in- finite perfectibility does not occur in a vacuum, it is not defined as a quintessen- tially social act. To educate the "Burger fur den Staat," as Hippel had called for, is, in Humboldt's view, to abdicate the realm of moral freedom. It would amount to the frag- mentation of the totality of the human per- sonality Humboldt wished to preserve in the face of the functional differentiation of society that characterizes Europeanmoder- nity.12 However, when we investigate Humboldt's writings on the differences be

tween men and women, it becomes clear that the self-actualizing individual in ques- tion who needs to be shielded from society is invariably male. Women, by their very nature, do not take part in this process.

Humboldt on Women

For Hippel, gender difference was ac- cidental. As Dawson notes, despite occasional lapses into the language of sup- plementarity, Hippel sees women as virtual duplicates of men, not as incomplete halves whose role it is to supplement male virtue in the creation of an ideal human nature.13 Sex difference, or "Geschlechts-Einklei- dung," ashe calls it (Verbesserung 228,229), is merely external. "Giebt es denn etwa auch Geschlechtsunterschiede unter den Seelen?' he asks, "giebt es Seelen, die aus- schlierjlich bestimmt sind, weibliche Kor- per zu bewohnen-? und wer ist der kuhne Argonaut, der dieses unbekannte Meer beschifft hat?' (Verbesserung 52).14 Needless to say, Hippel's question is polemical in in- tent, since he knew quite well that such attempts had been made and were con- tinually being made. Indeed, Humboldt, in his article of 1795, "~ber den Geschlechts- unterschied und dessen Einfluss auf die or- ganische Natur," and in his unfinished Plan einer vergleichenden Anthropologie, takes up the challenge with renewed vigor and presents himself as just such an argonaut in search of the essential 'Weibliches." What Humboldt has to say on this topic can be seen as an elaboration of Schiller's 'Wurde der Frauen," and therefore as an explicit presentation of views implicitly held by the Weimar intelligentsia.15

The single most important fact to con- sider in constructing a comparative anthro- pology, according to Humboldt, is the un- mistakable fact of sexual difference (334- 35).As he had already made explicit in his "Geschlechtsunterschied" essay, the outer form is a type of "Schrift" by which the individual's inner, moral nature can be read, since "die physische Natur nur Ein grosses Ganze mit der moralischen aus- macht, und die Erscheinungen in beiden nur einerlei Gesetzen gehorchen" (271). It is imperative, then, that Humboldt briefly investigate the female anatomy in his Plan. He finds the female smaller, weaker, and more delicate than the male and therefore concludes that women are passive and have a greater tolerance for suffering and abrupt change (364). Due to this inherent passivity, women are not characterized by "Selbst- thatigkeit" (365). Intellectually, they are in- capable of engaging in speculation or the investigation of truth; at least, they are dis- inclined to do so (366). In the aesthetic realm, they are characterized by an espe- cially active "Schonheitssinn" and by their "Empfanglichkeit," but Humboldt is quite reluctant to concede that a woman could ever be a truly creative genius (36&70).16 And in the realm of the emotions, women are contrasted with men in that they are marked by a "grossere Reizbarkeit" and a "grossere Innigkeit," which in turn is marked "mehr von Leichtigkeit und Warme," while a man's inner life is "mehr von Heftigkeit, Feuer und Anstrengung begleitet" (372).

The act of polarizing human charac- teristics (activelpassive, productive/recep- tive) based on physical difference was cer- tainly not peculiar to Humboldt. It is of interest, however, to note how in his essay on "Geschlechtsunterschied" the differen-


tiation of male and female characteristics is based on imagery which owes much to conventional sexual practices. Here, Hum- boldt does not rely merely on physical dif- ferences but on what can only be described asstereotypical notions of the relative roles of sexual partners during the act of procrea- tion. "Die Erzeugung organischer Wesen," he writes, "erfordert daher eine doppelte, eine auf Wirkung und eine andre auf Riickwirkung gerichtete Stimmung, und diese ist in derselben Kraft und zu gleicher Zeit unmoglich." The problem presented is a logical one: the presence of a force which is charged with simultaneously displaying opposing powers. The resolution involves halving the force, and generation becomes the result of a Wechselwirl~ung between complementary powers:

Hier nun beginnt der Unterschied der Geschlechter. Die zeugende Kraft ist mehr zur Einwirkung, die empfangende mehr zur Riickwirkung gestimmt. Was von der erstern belebt wird, nennen wir rnw~nliclz, was die letztere beseelt, weiblich. Alles Mannliche zeigt mehr Selbstthatigkeit, alles Weibliche mehr leidende Empfang- lichkeit. (277-78)

In his fragment, 'Theorie der Bildung des Menxhen," Humboldt states the prob- lem in Fichtean-and ungendered-terms. The non-directed purpose of a human's 'Thatigkeit" is to strengthen and enhance "die Krafte seiner Natur." Since, however, "die blosse Kraft einen Gegenstand braucht, an dem sie sich iiben, und die blosse Form, der reine Gedanke, einen Stoff, in dem sie, sich darin auspragend, fortdauern konne, so bedarf auch der Mensch einer Welt ausser sich." But the necessary external world is not to be under- stood socially. It is the abstract other, the Nicht-Ich essential for all constructions of the Ich. Referring again to the human as human, Humboldt notes:

[Slein Denken [ist] immer nur ein Versuch

seines Geistes, vor sich selbst verstiindlich, sein Handeln ein Versuch seines Willens, in sich frei und unab- hangig zu werden, seine ganze aussre Geschaftigkeit uberhaupt aber nur ein Streben, nicht in sich mussig zu bleiben. Bloss weil beides, sein Denken und sein Handeln nicht anders, als nur vermoge eines Dritten, nur vermoge des Vorstellens und des Bearbeitens von etwas moglich ist, dessen eigentlich unterscheidendes Merkmal es ist, NichtMensch, d.i. Welt zu seyn, sucht er, soviel Welt, als moglich zu ergreifen, und so eng, als er nur kann, mit sich zu verbinden. (235)

In the Mensclz / NiclztMensclz (Welt) duality, Mensch presents itself as autonomous ac- tivity, not caused by nor designed for the sake of Welt, but nonetheless requiring Welt asthe absolute other for its own self-actualization. Welt, in turn, is presented as the "Gegen- stand" or the "Stof£" to which the human gives shape and meaning in the act of defin- ing himself. The opposition serves to impregnate both Mensclz and Welt with meaning, but only Mensclz is seen as an active partner in the mutual construction.

When we turn our attention back to the "Geschlechtsunterschied" essay, we see that the Mensclz / NiclztMensclz opposition has been transformed into a male / female one. Masculine activity is a formative power, anenergy that longs for the receptive resistance of unformed matter. It is there- fore "eine Starke, die, auf Einen Punkt ver- sammelt, von diesem nalz aussen lzin strebt." Femininity, on the other hand, is "eine uppig uberstromende Fiille, zu reich, als dass die eigne Kraft allein ihrer Bele- bung geniigte," a "Fiille des Stoffs, die sich einen fremden Gegenstand in einem Punkt innerhalb ihres Wesens aufzunehmen, und von ihm Einheit zu empfangen sehnt. So," Humboldt concludes, "befriedigt die eine Kraft die Sehnsucht der andren, und beide umschlingen einander zu einem harmoni- schen Ganzen" (279). This thinly veiled characterization of sexual activity trans- lates on the intellectual plane into au- tonomous male activity and a type of female receptivity represented by a lack of self- generating energy.17 "Mannliche Kraft" is "zeugend"; it works "mit selbstthatigerver- nunft" (279); it "sammelt sich von selbst, und durch eigne Bewegung" (282); it is "angestrengte Energie" (285). In short, the male principle is the active soul to the female principle's receptive body. "Der wahre Charakterunterxhied beider Wfte besteht darin, dass den empfangenden mehr Stoff, mehr Kljrper, den zeugenden mehr Seele eigen ist, wenn nemlich Seele jedes selbstthatige Princip bezeichnet"


The cataloguing of polarized traits is meant to show that physical differences represent deeper realities. By themselves, men and women are incomplete, they are in need of supplementation.18 But what the female lacks is far more serious than what the male lacks. "Die weibliche Kraft, zur Riickwirkung bestimmt, sammelt sich auf einen fremden Gegenstand und durch fremden Reiz" (283).It lacks the "Muth . . ., sich eine eigne Richtung zu geben," and is, in fact, "[slich selbst unverstandlich" (284). The term "selbstthatig" is reserved for the province of the male. His is the formative power. All that he lacks is the 'lebendige Fiille des Stoffs" (285)that womanprovides. The feminine is not active, only "empfan- gend" (279). He is "Ehergie," she is inert "Daseyn" that needs to be impregnated, for 'Daseyn, von Energie beseelt, ist Leben"


The naive seriousness of Humboldt's analysis may strike the contemporary reader as humorous, but the consequences of his discourse are anything but. His is not a mystical androgeny. The male and female characteristics delineated are not conven- tional markers for dispositions found in both men and women; they are gender- specific, as is shown by the use of the term Mann for the usualmdnnlich in the citation following. Apparently, biology is destiny. The masculine is equated with the physi- cally male, the feminine with the physically female. The man is the active element, the "selbstthatig" being. The man is driven to find what he needs, while the woman must be content to wait, to receive what is offered, and to be thereby fulfilled. "Der Mann," Humboldt explicitly writes,

dessen Brust ein thatenkiihner Muth begeistert, f ~sich in sich verengt. Vie1

t Erfahrungen hat er mit beobachtendem Geiste auf der Bahn des Lebens gesam- melt, hohe Ideale aus seinem Innren her- vorgeschaffen; mannigfaltige Gefale bewegen ihn, bald die Wiirde der neuen Schopfung, nach der er sich sehnt, bald theilnehmendes Mitgeftihl mit den Wesen, die er zu veredlen strebt. Fur alle diese er- habenen Bilder hat sein Busen nicht Raum genug, und heisser Durst nach Thatigkeit treibt ihn. Er sucht eine Welt, die seiner Sehnsucht entspreche. Unei- gennutzig und fern von jedem Gedanken an eignen Genuss, befruchtet er sie mit der Fiille seiner Kraft. Die neue Schop- fung steht da, und freudig ruht er aus im Anblicke seiner Kinder. (283)

Man has access to both the private and the public realm. As "selbstthatig," he is quint- essentially human, equipped with a moral autonomy that guarantees his inclusion in the species of human beings. At the same time, the male is destined to seek out the social world; his activity drives him to unite his inner and outer experiences in creative endeavors. He is admonished not to sacrifice his humanity for the sake of social success and comfort, but he is nevertheless both Mensch and Burger. Woman, on the other hand, is neither truly human nor acknowl- edged as a citizen. The oppositions that rule her place in the universe, both social and physical, relegate her to the realm of inert matter. She is the soft resistance, the neces- sary material out of which man makes him- self. She has no meaning, cannot understand herself without his help. Nor can it be said that her condition is merely an accidental product of the forces of history, as Hippel would understand it to be. Rather, it is quite natural. To fight against her lot would be to fight against nature itself. Neither Mensch, in the full sense of that word, norBurger, she is condemned to be the sole and immobile inhabitant of a third category-Weib.

Humboldt's view, not Hippel's, is the dominant view of women at the turn of the 19th century. Rousseau successfully exer- cised his influence on later generations through Humboldt aswell as through Kant, Fichte, Goethe, Schiller, and countless others.19 Similarly, Humboldt's neohuman- ism, not Hippel's utilitarian views, domin- ated pedagogical writings at the same time. Education, whatever its reality in all the individual schools and universities, was said to be concerned with the formation of the individual human, not with the training of future citizens and civil servants. The schools, especially the universities (an ex- clusively male domain), were thought of as sanctuaries. It may be that their true func- tion was to legitimate rising, nonaris- tocratic classes for entry into the ranks of the state civil service, yet, according to self- definition, they were engaged in supervis- ing the fruition of hearts and minds un- trammeled by merely social, economic, or political concerns. But if the pedagogy that sought to integrate the individual into society by calling on social utility as its chief category was stigmatized as one that sacrificed human virtues for merely civic ones; if women were in effect categorically excluded from humanity; and if the mode of argumentation represented by the older, Enlightenment discourse used by Hippel was thoroughly discredited-then, what form of argumentation could women peda- gogical reformers use to expand the role of education in women's lives? By examining one such reformer, we will see that the room to maneuver was in fact quite limited.

Betty Gleim

Betty Gleim (1781-1827) had a produc- tive, if short, life. Her many publications include German grammars, readers for children, a cook book, a critique of Madame de Stael's book on Germany, patriotic writ- ings occasioned by the wars against Napoleon, and systematic treatises on education, the most important of which is her Erziehung und Unterriclzt des weib- lichen Geschleclzts, first published in 1810.~~She founded three schools for women in Bremen: an "Anstalt fur die Trchter der hoheren Stiinde" (1806-1815), a "Lithographische Anstalt fur Frauen" in 1819, and another school for higher educa- tion shortly thereafter. Like most of her con- temporaries, she was influenced by Pe- stalozzi and by the polemical writings of the neohumanist reformers.21 As we will see, her Erziehung und Unta.riclzt fits into the anti-utilitarian tradition examined above, which makes it difficult for Gleim to find a place for women in society that is not sanc- tioned by custom or "nature."

Gleim is not an apologist for the status quo. She acknowledges that the world is in need of improvement, but rejects the idea that improvement can come from direct political action. She manipulates the stan- dard innerlouter distinction to promote a moral, not a political revolution. Not through "politische Umwalzungen," not through "zweckmal3ige Regierungsverfas- sungen," can human suffering be alleviated. Rather, "alle wahre Besserung, alle Freiheit und aller Friede" have their roots "in dem Innern des Menschen" (5). The generator of moral improvement is of course education, which she defines, in clas- sic terms, as the "Erregung, Entwicklung und Bildung aller Krafte des Menschen, in und zu einem harmonischenEinklange und fur einen gemeinschaftlichenZweck" (7). To educate a person does not mean to fill an empty vessel with positive knowledge, but rather to stimulate the student to actualize his or her potential humanity. 'Der Er- zieher kann also nichts schaffen, sondern nurdas, wasdaist, enthullen, starken, rich- ten" (9). The educator is not out to change existing structures, but to realize ideal ones.

Gleim's discussion of Bildung (7-17) is, by 1810, thoroughly conventional and derivative, whether taken from Goethean neoclassicism, from Humboldt, or from any of a number of neohumanist pedagogues. So, too, is her tripartite division of Bildung into an intellectual, an aesthetic, and a moral/religiousrealm (17-51). What distin- guishes a woman's education from a man's, however, is yet another tripartite division, or rather the necessity of emphasizing a third term-We&-to complement the con- ventional Mensclz / Biirger distinction. "Je- der Mensch," she writes, "ist nun entweder Mensch, Mann und Erdenburger; oder Mensch, Weib und Erdenbiirger." There- fore: "Jedes Kind, das ein Madchen ist, sol1 also werden, erstlich: Mensch; zweitens: Weib; drittens: Erdenbiirger" (57). In con- formity with the neohumanist reaction against utilitarian demands, Gleim mini- mizes the practical and vocational educa- tion of the future citizen (of the politically defined state or, more nebulously, of the world at large). But Gleim is not merely out to protect the autonomous, self-perfecting individual from the alienating effects of so- cial differentiation. She is out to protect the "individuality" of her gender.

Gleim is not against providinggirls with a limited "Erwerbsbildung." She is, how- ever, adamantly opposed to women's full in- tegration into the work force. Gleim hedges her demands for vocational training for girls by arguing, if not directly against Hip- pel, then at least against the Hippel / Wollstonecraft line of reasoning. "Nicht an diejenigen Vertheidiger der Rechte des Weibes denke man. . . ,"she admonishes,

&e da wollen, das Weib solle Antheil haben an allen offentlichen und burger- lichen Aemtern; es solle also kiinftig weib- liche Aente, Juristen, Prediger ec. geben. Es ist wohl ~ewiR. daB man durch diese Ansicht die %eiberzu ehren geglaubt hat, aber die nur konnten so glauben, die ver- gaRen, daR ein offentliches Leben der Indi- vidualitit der Weiber wenig zusagt, und daB man unmoglich weder etwas leisten noch sich selbst glucklich fuhlen konne, bei einem Geschaft, das unsere Individualitit alle Augenblicke verletzt. (104)

Whereas Hippel saw women's exclusion from the public sphere as a consequence of politi- cal oppression, Gleim sees it in accordance with nature. To open the public sphere to womenis neither desirable norhealthy(l05). It would be to turn the world upside down. "Nein," she insists, "die Plane, die Weiber an allenoffentlichenund biirgerlichen Aemtern der Manner Theil nehmen zu lassen, sind eitelchimarisch, geeignet, dasunterste nach oben zu drehen, und eine vollig verkehrte Welt herbeizufiihren" (105-06). One has to remember, though, that this criticism of the radical feminist demands of a Hippel or a Wollstonecraft is not uttered bya reactionaiy or conservative, but by a reformer intent on expanding educational opportunities for women. Gleim believes that women should be capable of earning a living, but only womenwho find themselves in aparticularly difficult situation should actively exercise these capabilities. Unmarried or widowed women without means should not become a burden on their families, nor should they be forced into an unwanted marriage purely on financial grounds; therefore, they should be able to support themselves (103, 114-116). But the occupations they choose should cor- respond as closely as possible 'knit dem eigentlich weiblichen Berufe und seinen Verhaltnissen" (106). Gleim therefore limits the choice of occupations to those which in- volve the education and care of children (107-12) and, less desirably, the upkeep of a household (112-13) and the care for the sick (113-14). A woman's "Beruf" is domestic. Gleim's restrictions are determined by a woman's nature as a woman, not as a fully autonomous human being. A woman's 'Sn- dividuality," then, translates into a woman's

"natural" limitations.

The restrictions on a woman's maneu- verability can be seen more clearly in the difficulty Gleim has in discussing the im- portance of educating a woman as a human being-that is, as Mensch. The single most important purpose of education, Gleim af- firms, is the "Bildung zur vollendeten idealen Menschheit." In language resonat- ing with Humboldtian pathos, Gleim as- serts:

Der Mensch ist zur Menschheit gekom- men, wenn jede einzelne Kraft zur rein- sten Vortrefflichkeit ausgebildet ist; wenn alle Krafte in lauterer und inniger Harmonie mit einander stehen; wenn alle auf das Eine hochste Gut gerichtet, in ihm leben, weben und sind. (11)

Yet when she comes to discuss the pos- sibilities of a woman developingher humani- ty, Gleim, like Hippel, immediately feels the need to defend her assertions from hostile attacks. Sadly, as was not the case with Hip pel, each defense seems to erode the pos- sibilities of a woman's inclusion in the realm of essential humanity that her notion of humanism prizes, as the category Mensch, when women are discussed, more and more collapses into the category We&.

Gleim lists three likely criticisms that could be leveled against giving a woman a thorough and intellectual education. The first one fears for the woman's femininity: ''Durch die Cultur, besonders durch die in- tellectuelle, gehe die Weiblichkeit des Weibes verloren." The other two are con- cerned with a woman's duties, especially her duties as a "Gattin," a 'Mutter," and a '13ausfraun(58).Gleim answers these fears simply and logically. All people, she reminds her imagined critics, are entitled to an in- tellectual, an aesthetic, and a religious1 moral education; women are people and, therefore, entitled to an intellectual, aes- thetic, and religious/moral education. And to those who seem to think that to provide women with intellectual stimulus will damage their sense of duty, she answers that a moral upbringing is impossible without intellectual content (58-59). But then, in an interesting twist of the Hum- boldtian trope of harmony and diversity (Mannigfaltig?zeit), Gleim tempers her de- mand. In order to avoid misunderstanding, she feels it necessary to remind us "d& unter der hier gemeinten Geistesbildung keine gelehrte, sondern nur eine grund- liche, keine einseitige, sondern eine allseitige . . . verstanden sei" (59). A woman's femininity is lost only when har- mony and proportion are forgotten, even if it is incorrect to fault the overdevelopment of the intellectual faculty for the imbalance. 'Wo die Weiblichkeit verloren geht, sol1 man nicht schlienen, das intellectuelle Vermijgen sei zu vollendet ausgebildet, sondern nur, die ubrigen Anlagen seien in der Entwicklung zu sehr zuruckgeblieben." Therefore she recommends:

Entwickle keine Anlage in dem Menschen auf Unkosten der andern: entwickle und erhebe zwar jede auf den moglich hochsten Grad der Vollendung, dessen sie fahig ist; aber bilde alle Anlagen in einem iibereinstimmenden Verhaltnisse aus, und zu einem hannonischen Ganzen! (61)

The language is humanist, the recommen- dations familiar, but the consequences for women are devastating. Humboldt, among many others, used the Mensch I Biirger dualism as a moral and quasi-political weapon designed to redefine the nonaris- tocratic subject's relation to a state in need of an upwardly striving, well-educated civil servant class. It was never meant to exclude men from the work force. Quite the opposite, it served to legitimize the bourgeoisie, byway of a university education, to fill the functions formerly reserved for the less well-trained and less fully %urnan" aristocracy.22 The '?larmonious development" of a man's 'Cpowers" was not felt as a restriction, but as a liberation. The citizen was subordinate to, but included in, the category human. Women, on the other hand, are advised by Gleim, in accordance with the dominant view of femininity, not to pursue a scholarly C'gelehrte") vocation, for this would be too "one-sided." Unlike a man, a woman edu- cated as a human is effectively excluded from society. Awoman'shumanity andidentity are bound up with her femininity, since, as Hip pel noted, women have been systematically excluded from the world of ''burgerliche Thatigkeit," hence from the world of alterna- tive social identities. Indeed-and this is surely ironic, since Gleim neither married nor raised a family-the only social or human identities ascribed to women are those of wife, mother, and homemaker.

A man's education and training was never challenged on the grounds that it might conflict with his duties as a husband or father, precisely because his duties were associated with his role as provider. An education for a woman, however, might be seen to conflict with her duties because it threatened to take her away from the site of her dutiesthe home. Gleim responds to this genre of criticism not by challenging the assumptions of female domesticity, as Hippel had done, but rather by asserting that a thorough education would make a woman a better wife, a better mother, and a better homemaker, thereby reinforcing the categories that inform the hostile criticism. An educated woman, Gleim as- sures us, is more capable of engaging in the interests of her husband, whether he be educated or not. She is less prone to "egoism," has a greater sense for the needs ofothers, and will know how to satisfy them. "Das gebildete Herz sucht ja nicht sich und sein Interesse, sondern das Wohl des Gegenstandes, den es mit Liebe umfdt" (63-64). Also, an educated woman can do more than just provide for her children's physical needs: she can provide for their spiritual and intellectual needs as well. "Jeder Unpartheiische mu13 einsehen, . . . da13 sich mithin keine Frau besser zur Er- zieherinn eigne, als die allseitig gebildete Frau" (68-69). She becomes her children's advisor and friend, the "Spenderinn" of all joy, the 'Trosterinn" in every sorrow, the "Sonne" that warms and quickens the lives all around her; she becomes, 'hit einem Worte: Priesterinn eines reinen und hei- ligen Feuers auf dem hauslichen Altare" (69). And, finally, an educated woman is less likely to stray from hearth and home be- cause she is less likely to become bored, less likely to fall victim to vanity, temptations, and the deadening influence of bad novels (73-74). To the criticism that an educated

woman would find the daily routine of managing the house too tedious and un- challenging, Gleim once again recommends the virtues of a well-rounded education:

Dieser Einwurf scheint schon dadurch widerlegt, wenn demselben entgegengesetzt wird, darj es gar nicht darauf abgesehen sei: die Weiber blo13 geistig zu cdtiviren, sondern darj zugleich und ne- benher eine solche friihe Gewohnung an die hauslichen Arbeiten Statt finden solle, darj ein Leben und Bewegen in dem stillen Wirkungskreise des Hauses zur andern Natur werde. (77)

Of course, this "second nature" is ultimately indistinguishable from a woman's "first na- ture,"just as Gleim's discussion of a woman as a human being is all but indistinguishable from her discussion of a woman as woman (83-97). By framing her defense of higher education for women as a response to conventional criticism, she cannot evade the categories (wife, mother, homemaker) that define a woman not as a person, but as a woman. More significantly, however, her immersion in the assumptions of neohumanist discourse does not allow her to value the so- cial or public sphere as a realm in which a woman can construct her own identity. For the older tradition that Hippel represented, the ties that bound a woman to her lot in life were constructed by society and therefore capable of being refashioned and reconstructed. If not all his compatriots took Hippel's view of the matter to heart, he could accuse them, as he accused the French Na- tional Assembly, of inconsistency and hy- pocrisy. Social conventions, as conventions, are at least vulnerable to critique. But once these same gender-specific bonds came to be viewed anthropologically, they became "nat- ural," i.e., inviolable. A woman's essence was etched into her very body. Ironically, Gleim's argumentation for the expansion of women's education simultaneously delimit- ed an area beyond which it was not permis- sible for women to go. The boundaries were drawn by the discourse she used.

schlechter einander gegenseitig erganzen" (Hum- boldt 281).

lgThe authoritative work on this 18th-century development is Sylvia Bovenschen, Die irnaginier- te Weiblichkeit: Exemplwische Untersuchungen zu kulturgeschichtlichen und literarischen Prtkenta- tionsformen des Weiblichen (Frankfurt: Suhr- kamp, 19791, esp. 220-56. On Fichte, see also Marianne Weber, Ehefrau und Mutter in der Rechtsentwicklung (Tiibingen: Mohr [Paul Sie- beck]: 1907) 306-12.

U)Betty Gleim, Erziehung und Unterricht des weiblichen Geschlechts: Ein Buch fir Eltern und Erzieher (1810), ed. Ruth Bleckwenn, Quellen und SchriRen zur Geschichte der Frauenbildung4 (Pa- derborn: Hiittemann, 1989).

21For biographical information on Gleim, see Renate Feyl, Der lautlose Aufiruch (Berlin: Neues Leben, 1981) 81-111.

22See Hans-Eberhard Mueller, Bureaucracy, Education, and Monopoly: Civil Service Reforms in Prussia and England (Berkeley:U of California P, 1984, who argues: "In Prussia, it was a bureau- cratic intelligentsia, second in rank to the Junker aristocracy but briefly swept topower by thedefeat of Prussia at the hands of Napoleon, which was most eager to change the rules of the game so as to improve its position vis-84s men of hereditary rank and privilege" (4); and also, that "Humboldt's reform of secondary schools and universities aligned education with the purposes of this profes- sionalized bureaucracy" (231).

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