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HCTS Lecture by Barbara Beßlich

May 22, 2018

On May 24, at 6 pm, the next HCTS lecture took place as part of the Tandem Fellowship "Conceptions of Mitteleuropa in early 20th century German, Austrian and Hungarian literature." Prof. Barbara Beßlich’s talk was titled "Europa als Ersatz. Vielvölkerstaatsverlust und kontinentale Kompensations-Ideen bei Hugo von Hofmannsthal."

At the beginning of the 20th century, Mitteleuropa is a highly disputed concept. It is understood rather differently by the deputy of the German Reichstag, Friedrich Naumann (Mitteleuropa [1915]), than in Austro-Hungarian contexts. When the Habsburg and Wilhelmine Monarchy collapsed at the end of the First World War, the ambiguous idea of Mitteleuropa became a compensation strategy to mediate between a failed multinational-state model and an outdated nation-state model, and was intensely discussed among many Austrian as well as Hungarian authors (e.g. Hugo von Hofmannsthal, Stefan Zweig, Oszkár Jászi).

As the uncertainty of what is actually meant by Mitteleuropa continues in today's research, the HCTS Tandem Fellow project "Conceptions of Mitteleuropa in early 20th century German, Austrian and Hungarian literature" aims to examine how writers who grew up in Wilhelmine Germany and in the Austro-Hungarian Empire conceptualise Mitteleuropa in times of political turmoil.

The main focus lies on authors of Viennese and Budapest Modernism who suit the research design perfectly in terms of their origin and socialisation. These poets are predestined for a transcultural study as they were part of what could be called a "Middle-European Modern Age,", and, even though they all met in the Austrian capital, came from very different parts of the Habsburg Monarchy. Their biographies and social networks dissolve the dividing lines of the Empire’s regional borders. Felix Salten, for instance, came from Budapest in Hungary, and Richard Schaukal from Brno in Moravia.

This first project presentation in the Tandem Fellowship takes a closer look at one of these authors. The center of the lecture is Die Idee Europa by Hugo von Hofmannsthal. Hofmannsthal developed his idea of Europe during the First World War.

Prof. Barbara Beßlich is the director of the Institute of German Studies at Heidelberg University.

Prof. Magdolna Orosz is the professor for German Literary Studies at ELTE Institute of Germanic Studies at the Eötvös-Loránd University in Budapest, Hungary.

Together, they received a HCTS Tandem Fellowship for their research project "Conceptions of Mitteleuropa in early 20th century German, Austrian and Hungarian literature."


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  • Austria-Hungary 1899 © Olahus via Wikimedia Commons

  • Hugo von Hofmannsthal © Wilhelm Willinger via Wikimedia Commons