As part of Fredonia’s spring 2016 Professional Development Day, held on February 5, 2016, Associate Professor of English Dr. Birger Vanwesenbeeck held the inventively titled session “Who’s Afraid of Stefan Zweig? : Stimulating Undergraduate Research Across the Disciplines” in the Williams Center on Fredonia’s campus. The workshop was attended by fifteen faculty members from the departments of Music, English, Political Science, Curriculum & Instruction, World Languages, History and staff from Reed Library and the Archives & Special Collections.
Intended to promote the use of primary source materials from the Stefan Zweig Collection in the Archives & Special Collections at Reed Library to support curricular needs, Dr. Vanwesenbeeck used high-resolution, laminated printouts of select items from the collection that touched upon a variety of themes, including the first page of the handwritten eulogy Zweig composed for Sigmund Freud’s funeral in London (Worte am Sarge Sigmund Freuds, 26 September 1939); the Bescheid über die Judenvermögensabgabe (a special levy imposed by the Nazis upon Jewish assets) sent to Zweig on 20 February 1939; a letter to Zweig from a 30-year-old Erich Maria Remarque expressing his gratitude to Zweig for encouraging him during the creative and existential crisis Remarque had experienced several years earlier; and a telegram sent by Richard Strauss to Stefan Zweig relating the successful Dresden Staatsoper premier of Strauss’ opera, Die schweigsame Frau, for which Zweig had written the libretto – it would be banned by the Nazis after a mere four performances.
Although most of the documents in the collection are written in Zweig’s native tongue, German, Dr. Vanwesenbeeck encouraged attendees, working in small groups, to push the limits of their interpretive skills by concentrating on key words, phrases, names and dates to uncover a document’s hidden meaning. Personal devices (e.g., smartphones, tablets) enabled rudimentary, though surprisingly effective, translation and assisted in providing historical context for the materials, all of which was meant to illustrate the level of engagement that students, particularly those without notable language skills, could establish of their own accord.
Dr. Vanwesenbeeck will continue his use of the Zweig Collection throughout the remainder of his spring 2016 course titled “European Literary Landmarks” (ENGL 300). Fredonia faculty interested in scheduling class visits to use the Zweig Collection, or for their own research, are encouraged to contact the Coordinator of Archives & Special Collections, Kim Taylor.