It is difficult to think of a figure in the world of musicology whose star has risen so high in such a short period of time as that of Hildegard of Bingen. It is true that music is only one of a number of areas of achievement for which she is the focus of great attention. Just exactly how holistic a view of her may be held, both in and outside of the academy, is another matter. Even though specialist scholars have always understood that she saw herself first and foremost as the mouthpiece of God and gave little regard to all the other things she did, there has been, nevertheless, a tendency to "overdraw" the picture of Hildegard, or to focus on only one aspect of her work: For musicians, she tends naturally to be a "composer," and it is hard for us today to imagine a Hildegard of Bingen without music. Just how much an act of imagination this is, is brought into relief by the recovery of a short story published in New York in 1851, in which Hildegard figures as crucial character. This, an early (and possibly the first) appearance of Hildegard in an American publication, somewhat resituates our understanding of her reception history and reinforces several important points: that she was not entirely a forgotten or ignored figure prior to the late twentieth century, as has sometimes been claimed and more often assumed; that her memory was treated with a certain degree of respect even within a nineteenth-century Puritanical culture; and that a small if literate and intellectual group of American readers could have been introduced to her in the decade prior to the Civil War.
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