Vol. 6 | The Modern Challenge to Tradition | Editorial Introduction

Gauss Material. Part I and II

A Book and Lectures — Lectures and a Book

In a letter to Kurt Blumenfeld, written on March 29, 1953, Hannah Arendt remarks that the lectures she would prepare for the Christian Gauss Seminars in Criticism at Princeton University “müssen genau eigentlich bereits in Buchform ausgearbeitet sein.” (ABlf, 82) Half a year later, when it was time to start the seminars, Arendt did not have lectures “in Buchform” that she could present to her audience. She had written four parts of a chapter that she used for the lectures (see First New York Fragment); while she delivered her lectures, she worked on another chapter or chapter section (see Second New York Fragment). Looking back, she states that the lectures were “sehr vorläufig, aber ich bin doch ein bißchen vorangekommen” (letter to Karl Jaspers; Nov. 15, 1953; AJa, 266); and in a letter to Heidegger she writes: “Während dieses Winters habe ich zum ersten Mal versucht, die Sachen experimentierend vorzulegen – in Vorlesungs-Serien in Princeton und Notre Dame” (May 8, 1954; AHei, 146).

Preliminary reflections, presented not as results but rather experimentally, drafts, not texts in “Buchform”: What we find in the archive supports these remarks. It is safe to rule out the hypothesis that Arendt ever wrote the Prince ton lectures as a continuous text. The Gauss material rather shows how Arendt worked at the time: It contains fragments of two different chapters as well as texts prepared for the lectures. From the lectures we have a “Preface,” “II,” “Tradition and past,” “V,” “VI”, and a “Summary.” We see her writing the book and at the same time putting together lectures that helped her to think matters through, sometimes at the very last moment. Arendt did not like to write by hand; she preferred to type. Handwritten addenda, especially in “Tradition and past” and “V,” signal that there was no typewriter at hand. These parts of the convolute were not written in Arendt’s study in New York but rather on the train from Manhattan to Princeton or in Princeton’s Firestone Library before the seminars began. Handwritten passages affixed to typed text—a clear sign that the typescript has been restructured and rewritten for a lecture.

The Gauss seminars took place on six Thursday evenings; they started on October 8 and ended on November 12, 1953. It remains an open question when Arendt presented which part of the typescripts. Obviously, Arendt used pages of the chapters she was working on while she delivered the lectures but she also drafted new passages or pages. Only the “Preface” was produced exclusively for the occasion, even if it bears as title a word that usually starts a book.1 With its explicit oral gesture it introduces the lecture series but only up to the third or fourth meeting. We assume that Arendt started her first se- minar not only with this “Preface” but also with pages taken out of the First New York Fragment. A version of “II” and “Tradition and past” were also part of that chapter, an assumption supported by the fact that a part “III” as it has been filed in the archive has two beginnings; the first one ends — in the middle of a sentence — on the bottom of the fourth page. The first two pages were part of the original chapter; that is where they are presented. The second beginning matches up with the end of “II” and therefore was used for the seminar. Both parts, “II” and “Tradition and past”, show handwritten arrows on the margins, which Arendt used to mark parts of the text to be omitted from her oral presentation. “Tradition and past” includes long handwritten additions on page 2, 3, and 5.

Only part “V” has a handwritten beginning, glued over a typed text and written — again — with an oral gesture (“… in our attempt … we followed …”) while the typed text underneath obviously was meant for the book (“… quoted above”). Here we can be sure that this page was used for the beginning of a seminar. Whether it was the fourth or fifth meeting, we don’t know.

While we can be pretty sure that Arendt presented parts “II,” “Tradition and past,” and “V” to her Princeton audience, a text filed with these pages and starting with “IV” does not match up with these parts. It is by no means a continuation of part “III” of the First New York Fragment, but on closer reading reveals itself to be a reworked and rewritten version of that draft. We assume that Arendt was working on a second chapter while delivering the Princeton lectures, one that we have tried to reconstruct in our Second New York Fragment, the beginning of which did not come down to us. We only have this part “IV” that — rather mysteriously — starts with a page without a page number, while the next page is numbered “2”. We don’t know what the previous parts might have been; we don’t know how Arendt intended to continue. We only know that sometime, probably around the end of October, she wrote the end of this chapter, containing 34 pages. For her lectures she only used the pages following page 14; the handwritten Roman numeral “V”, to be found on this page, marks a rather pragmatic caesura. We decided to present both: A reconstructed version of this chapter — the Second New York Fragment — as well as the version of “V” used for the lectures. These pages are unusual: They were written as part of a chapter but at the same time, Arendt used them for one of her lecture. A mixture of genres, so to speak, in which we encounter an oral gesture — “which I quoted to you in the beginning” — in the middle of a text addressed to an audience of readers. The way we present the Gauss material — two fragments of chapters, four texts used for the lectures — means that many pages play a double role. Both fragments contain pages taken out of the lecture script; the lectures contain pages taken out of the chapters. We hope that the “same” pages set in a different context will turn out not to be the same pages.

Barbara Hahn

Passages of the “Preface” have been integrated — almost verbatim — into “Tradition and the Modern Age”.