There is one in almost every European society, a so-called “national author”. Yet how do national authors develop and how greatly does their work influence the discourse on cultural identity in their respective societies? Why do we assume that national authors are entitled to represent the collective? And under what conditions can we equate his/her person as a guarantor of cultural identity despite diverse epochal upheavals and processes of social transformation? As a rule, there are complex processes of canonisation which determine who ultimately is raised to the rank of a national author. In turn, such processes of canonisation are closely interwoven with cultural-policy goals and media presentations of every kind. Whether it is Racine, Voltaire or Hugo in France, Shakespeare or Byron in Great Britain, Tolstoy or Dostoyevsky in Russia, Goethe or Schiller in Germany, despite their differences, they all have one aspect in common: their works supposedly represent the genuine and inimitable character of their own nation. Such identification with an author, work and national culture can only function when the respective oeuvre is reduced to a few, at best pithy, and thus generally stereotypical characteristics. In the early 20th century, this process of reduction resulted in a remarkably effective attempt to define the “Faustian” character in Goethe’s Faust and claim it as a national character trait of the Germans.
Even as posterity raises important authors to the rank of national authors through cultural- and historical-politically motivated processes of canonisation, we frequently find – especially in the context of classical modernity – that literary figures bestow the authority of a national author to themselves and justify it by associating themselves with writers who have already been canonised as national authors. This was particularly evident with Thomas Mann who wrote the Goethe novel Lotte in Weimar while exiled in the United States during World War II, where he confidently declared: “Wherever I am, so is Germany.”
When and where are classical national authors created? This question, which Goethe himself posed in his famous essay Literary Sansculottism, is the main focus of the 2016 International Summer School of the MWW Research Association. Using the collections in Weimar as a basis, the summer school will examine how Goethe and Schiller became Germany’s national authors. The discussion will focus on the presentation of both poets in contemporary portraits and how their Weimar residences were staged as secular pilgrimage sites. The discourse will also address writers like Thomas Mann and Gerhart Hauptmann who repeatedly drew direct comparisons to Goethe to underscore their claims of being modern national authors. By means of a comparative approach, the summer school will examine selected national authors in other European countries and conduct individual analyses of non-European writers as well. The summer school will conclude with a discussion on whether the “national author” was a specifically European phenomenon closely tied to 19th-century cultural history, or whether it continues to play a significant role as a collective figure of identification in 21st-century societies shaped by intercultural processes of exchange. The seminar sessions will be accompanied by numerous excursions into the collections and historic buildings of the Klassik Stiftung Weimar, including the Rococo Hall at the Herzogin Anna Amalia Bibliothek, and the Goethe und Schiller Residences.
The 2016 International Summer School is organised by the MWW Research Association, founded in 2013, and is made possible with funding provided by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). For an overview of the collections of the Klassik Stiftung Weimar, visit www.klassik-stiftung.de/en/.
International partner universities: University of Tokyo, Japan; University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, USA; University of Oxford, Great Britain.
The summer school is open to twenty junior researchers from around the world. Doctoral candidates and PhD students in the fields of Literature and Cultural Studies may apply to participate. Advanced master’s degree students may also be considered in exceptional cases. The organisers especially encourage doctoral candidates from South America, Africa and Asia to apply.
In their application, candidates are asked to describe to what extent their academic work would benefit from participating in the summer school and visiting Weimar. Good German language skills are required as the language of instruction is German.
International participants, who must travel very far (transcontinentally) and have a concrete interest in the collections, may informally apply in their cover letter for a week-long archival research visit following the summer school. If approved, the MWW Research Association will cover the additional accommodation expenses in Weimar.
The application must include the following documents:
- Completed application form (personal data) available on the online application portal
- Cover letter of no more than two pages detailing your reasons to apply (including your personal interest in summer school topic and relevant archival holdings; if applicable: please include proposal for a stay in the archive subsequent to Summer School and/or an application to be exempted from the participation fee)
- Summary of the dissertation project (5 pages max.)
- Copies of examination certificates and transcripts
- Letter of recommendation from the applicant’s home university
Applications must be submitted online via the application portal by 29 February 2016. You can find the respective link at the end of this site
Applications received via letter post or e-mail will not be considered.
All participants will be notified by the end of April 2016. International participants will receive an invitation which they can present when applying for an entry visa.
There is no legal entitlement to participation.
Accommodation / Travel expenses
All participants receive free accommodation for the duration of their stay in Weimar.
Travel expenses are reimbursed in accordance to the flat-rate allowances of the DAAD.
Each participant will be charged a participation fee of 300 euros. In exceptional, substantiated cases, participants may petition to have the fee waived.
Programme / Lecturers
Specific details about the programme and the participating lecturers will be available shortly on this site.
Coordinator for the MWW Research Association / Klassik Stiftung Weimar
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