Gauss-Telegraph: Retrospection in the “Liebe-Grüße-Gauss“ Project

Gauss-Telegraph: Retrospection in the “Liebe-Grüße-Gauss“ Project

During the past semester, students and other interested people met weekly in the Gauss Library to read together some unique and intimate correspondence between Carl-Friedrich-Gauss and his wife Johanna.

There were in total eleven letters that C. F. Gauss and his wife Johanna wrote to each other about 242 years ago. Although C. F. Gauss was busy with complicated abstract geometrical thoughts, it did not diminish his sense of realities and joys of life. In the first letter, the proposal for engagement, to Johanna, C. F. Gauss, who was otherwise perceived as an analyst, becomes a soulful sentimentalist.

On July 12, 1804, Gauss sent this proposal to his wife, whom he affectionately called “Hanchen”. The other letters showcased the participants few routine chores and everyday lifestyle of the two lovers,  it also sheds some light on  how everything started and how the love relationship had to end. The last letter is a Lamentation of the dead, because Johanna Gauss died as a result of the birth of their third child, Louis. In between, the lovers wrote to each other every day, so that one can have unique insights into the private life, thought, health, worries and joys of the great mathematician, physicist and geodesist.

During the weekly cozy reading meet-up, interesting short texts were read with coffee, tea and sweets. The descriptions by C. F. Gauss and his wife gave the participants unique historical insights into the early 19th century. What was the relationship between child and woman at that time? What were the difficulties with the postal service and travel? How they dealt with diseases? How different was the mentality back then? And how was the political situation?

Of course, not everything written was immediately understandable, because the language has changed continuously over the centuries, so that some formulations are no longer used so often, or not at all anymore. For this reason, a glossary was created during the reading session. In addition, there was the possibility of getting clarified over meaning and ambiguity of the texts by two native speakers. Thereby, linguistic skills could be deepened and applied in a pleasant atmosphere.

When interpreting the texts, the different cultural perspectives were particularly exciting, as the participants of the reading circle came from various regions of the world (Colombia, Brazil, Ukraine, Yemen, Morocco, Germany, Réunion (France), China, Korea and India) to learn more not only about the great thinker, but also language and culture. International understanding and intercultural encounters played an important role in the reading sessions.

It was also advantageous for the participating students as the Gauss reading circle is a part of the Gauss certificate and that at the same time points for obtaining the certificate could be collected.

If you also feel like learning more about C.F. Gauss, improving your language skills, gaining cultural insight or getting to know other students, come along and join us for the second round as soon as the new semester starts!

The reading group is addressed to all those who want to deal with the German language at the University level. Prerequisites are enjoying reading and German language level of at least B2.