This year’s summer school, organised by the MWW Research Association in Weimar, explored the topic “The Making of a National Author – Formation and Aspiration” which has an immense significance for my own research. In my doctoral project, I’m investigating Dante references and discourse in German-language literature of the 19th century, in particular, during the age of Realism and Late Realism. In a stimulating working environment, the summer school instructors encouraged me to reflect on and analyse the mechanisms driving the formation of national writers in the 19th century. I was especially impressed by the “staging” of national authorship and its political backgrounds. Where better to explore this subject than in Weimar?
A stroke of luck
Dante’s “Divine Comedy” has relevance for German-language literature, especially during the period of Romanticism and Weimar Classicism, as it was then – in combination with the philosophy of idealism – that it represented one of the starting points of cultural development in the 19th century. I was especially interested in visiting Goethe’s library and the Herzogin Anna-Amalia Bibliothek (HAAB) in order to get an idea of how much and what kind of Italian literature Goethe had read and considered worthy of collecting.
It was a stroke of luck that an exhibition entitled “Dante, an open book” about Dante and the poets of Weimar Classicism had just ended at the HAAB and that the German Dante Society had moved its main headquarters and library to Weimar at the beginning of the year.
Of course, it was impossible to go through all of the volumes in the time I had, but I did find a productive starting point which will certainly take me back to Weimar soon. The staff at the HAAB was simply fantastic – always ready to answer questions, always talking passionately about their work. I had never gained such an intimate view of the operations of an archive and academic library before. Brightly illuminated, modern carrels, extremely well-resourced Romance and German Studies sections – that’s all I really needed. But I received much more – thank you so much!
Jogging along the Ilm
I can’t say how much I enjoyed taking morning runs in the Park on the Ilm – the park grounds began right outside the hotel. There’s something very special about walking past the Goethe Gartenhaus in the early morning haze and fresh air along the little river, thinking about the coming day, taking a relaxing breakfast, and then simply strolling across Frauenplan to the Goethe National Museum and engaging in academic dialogue in the Festsaal where the summer school seminars took place. Not only was I able to work on my research, but also find rest and relaxation in the quiet town of Weimar.
View of the Goethe Residence and garden from the Festsaal of the Goethe National Museum where the seminars of the International Summer School were held (photo: Anne-Kathrin Gitter )
Learning and laughing together
All of the participants who had travelled to Weimar from around the world were simply fantastic! We engaged in intensive dialogue during the seminars – for my part, I learned a lot from these discussions. In the evenings, we always found a cosy restaurant or bar in Weimar where we could relax and have nice conversations, make contacts and laugh together.
I am very thankful for this experience. The impressions and events of these two weeks will leave a lasting impression on me and my work.
Anne-Kathrin Gitter is writing her dissertation at the University of Leipzig on the subject “Dante Alighieri in German-language Realism of the 19th Century”.