Austria Past, Austria Present: Stages of Scholarship in the American University

Frank Trommler


Though focused on Austrian Studies, the essay illuminates a broader question: how Austria fared as a topic of study in the American academy until today. It follows the stages of scholarly analysis since the 1960s that have been set by the disciplines of History and German, thus predetermining what has been called a two-pronged approach: Austrian Studies in the fields of history and political science (with the reference to Central Europe at the center), and Austrian Studies as exploration of the cultural, literary and linguistic features of the country (with constant negotiations of Austrian independence from German culture). American historians were leading in the revision of the self-created concept of a past without Nazism. Austrian-Jewish refugee Germanists knew much about the Nazi past but applied their energies to de-provincializing American Germanistik and reforming the canon with authors like Kafka, Musil, Kraus, and Broch, As the “Waldheim Affair” in 1986/7 overshadowed the happy indulgence with Vienna 1900, American scholars have developed a critical appreciation, in which Habsburg’s multiculturalism attracts new attention. (FT)

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