Blog

Summer 2017

This has been a busy summer. Some of my work has focused on my book-in-progress on German Colonial Literature (in a comparative context), a topic I'll be treating in a graduate seminar this Fall. A talk I gave at the University of Stuttgart addressed questions about postcolonial theory, giving me a chance to think through some recent ieas about theory in general. I wonder, for example, whether it might not be the case that some texts we've been accustomed to thinking of as "postmodern" actually also have  postcolonial interests as well? Food for thought...

Musil's "Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften"

Along with various writing projects, I'm spending a good deal of time this summer preparing my graduate seminar on Musil. Given the length of his novel Der  Mann ohne Eigenschaften, I'm developing ways in which we can read as much of the  novel as possible while also focusing on key chapters and passages that will highlight current debates about this text. Anyone wishing to get a head start should read the introduction to Inka Mülder-Bach's book on the novel. Our first meeting, however, will deal with a selection  of two or three very short texts from the ...

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Brecht's "Mahagonny"

I'm really looking forward to teaching Brecht's opera "Mahagonny" in my introductory course, "From Kafka to Jelinek." Not only is the text a huge lot of fun, it may also allow us to do some singing in class.

There's just one problem: the class is conducted entirely in German, and the two most famous songs are in English. "Alabama Song" and "Benares Song" were written by Brecht's collaborator, Elisabeth Hauptmann. The English she used is rather bizarre ("Is here no telephone?" runs the first line of the Benares Song). So perhaps we can count the songs as a kind of German, after...

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Reading biographies

I decided to take a "busman's holiday" over the last few days and read or re-read some biographies of Austrian modernists. The first volume of Rainer Stach's biography of Franz Kafka came out this year, and I read around in it as soon as I received my copy. There I discovered, for example, that the German and Czech universities in Prague not only occupied the same building (while using separate entrances), but also shared the same library. Staircases were divided down the middle, one side for students at the German university, the other side for students at...

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Hermann Broch's "Massenwahntheorie"

I'm now moving forward again with my Broch essay. It's just incredible how many different projects Broch was working on after his arrival in America. He was drafting versions of hos theory of mass hysteria, working on new ideas for the League of Nations, and helping many individual Jews to escape Nazism by coming to the US. Many of these people were unknown to him personally, and putting pressure on the government and other bodies to them grant  them visas required a great deal of effort. Broch's correspondence on these...

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Archivexpedition

Ulrich von Bülow, "my" curator at the German Literary Archive in Marbach, has just finished editing a volume that will appear in September. The title is Archivexpedition; it is being published by the Chr. Links Verlag in Berlin. My paper on Grünbein and classical antiquity is one of the contributions, and I'm very pleased to say that three fascinating examples from Grünbein's manuscripts and typscripts/computer printouts are included in the essay. I'll give more information once the volume has appeared.

Recent scholarly projects

What a busy year it has been! Still, I've completed two tasks I had set myself and am now at work on two more.

First, I completed an essay on Rilke's Elegies and Sonnets, to appear in a volume on Literature and Culture in 1922, edited by Jean-Michel Rabatë. It's not always easy to write on a topic that has been written on so much--including by me! I did have some exciting new ideas, however, notably about Rilke's relation to Goethe's poetry and how it informs the Duino Elegies.

Second, I finished the essay on Grünbein and classical antiquity. This essay is in German...

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German Literary Archive, Marbach

I spent last week at the Deutsches Literaturarchiv in Marbach reading books and manuscripts, catching up with other scholars, and discovering new information from the curators. Going to an archive is always a bit of a gamble. Sometimes you find what you're looking for, sometimes you don't. I did a lot of productive work on this visit, but there is one box of manuscripts for which the author's permission is needed before a scholar can work with it. I do expect to receive permission in due course, so that I can work on this material on a later visit. Much of what you discover in an...

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Grünbein continued

Durs Grünbein has given me more information about his learning of Latin, so I'm about to work that into the paper I gave at Marbach in December 2012. The more I explore Grünbein's interest in classical antiquity in general, the more I come to see it as one of his longstanding and significant preoccupations. As for Latin itself, he works hard on it, expanding his range and setting himself new challenges. And of course, translating a text is one way of coming to know it really well.

My colleague, Eric Rentschler, told me recently about Grünbein's collaboration with Klaus Wyborny...

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Grünbein again

We had a lively discussion in Marbach about high-school education in the classical languages in the GDR. Grünbein writes that he took a year and a half of Latin at high school, and he also seems to have taken a course at a Volkshochschule somewhere (though the reference to that is more glancing). Reviews of his translation of Seneca's Thyestes vary considerably in their evaluations of this translation: one reviewer regards its attempt to render Seneca in present-day German is a serious error, while others praise the way in which Grünbein invigorates this text and...

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