Letters to the Editor: May 2013


Robert Dassanowsky strikes the perfect balance of disbelief, disappointment, and disgust in “Un-Happy Austria, or, the Problem of         ‘German Studies’” [TVR March, 2013]. And a ‘German Studies’ that rents Austria a small room in a large ‘German’ house is anything but an ‘academic’ matter abroad because some of the most invigorating and transformative ideas about Austrian history and culture have come precisely from academics abroad.

The most influential book on Austrian literature of the last half century, Il Mito Asburgico Nella letteratura Austriaca Moderna, was written by Claudio Magris, an Italian. And for decades, scholars knew that Paris constituted the epicenter of early modernism, but the American historian Carl Schorske showed that Vienna could take its place next to Paris and was, perhaps, the real “capital of the twentieth century.” The best recent biography of Franz Joseph was written by a Frenchman, Jean-Paul Bled, though I suspect some excellent English biographers of the Austrian Emperor may disagree.

Austria – and anyone who cares about Austrian history and culture – needs a sovereign and flourishing Austrian Studies abroad. Here, Franz Joseph may actually be the correct point of reference. The story goes that when the long-serving ruler finally died, it occurred to those present to tell the Emperor, but no one had the heart to do it, lest they alarm him. Robert Dassanowsky’s article does a service by taking Austrian Studies to heart and by being unafraid to sound an alarm about its place in a ‘German Studies’ world.


Michael Burri, Philadelphia, USA


To the Editor

[Re: “Fear-Based Identity Crisis”, by Margaret Childs, TVR, March, 2013] Good article! Since the argumentation stresses the diffuse ideological and theoretical background of this group, as well as their failure to interpret Austrian history as a history of a specific type of one Austrian culture. For a contemporary historian this is ridiculous.

The argument that multiculturalism evolved in the U.S. is simply unsustainable. One could also claim that multiculturalism evolved during the caliphate of Cordoba (which might be more true if you want to answer the question “who was the first tolerant?”).


Paul Summer, comment on TVR website

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