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An Archival Excursion?
Vanderbilt Graduate Students visit Marbach DLA

By Kaleigh Bangor

The Department of Germanic and Slavic Languages has had the privilege this semester of working with Dr. Jan Bürger, the director of the Siegfried Unseld Archive at the German Literature Archive (Deutsches Literaturarchiv or DLA) in Marbach. In addition to making Prof. Bürger's acquaintance, 2014 ushered in an extensive excursion into the works of the Austrian writer and journalist, Joseph Roth—culminating with his talk on one of Roth's extensive travels and the impact they had on his writing. As insightful as the in-class discussions of Roth's works have been, a complementary excursion to Marbach to work with Roth's manuscripts added a unique perspective to the ongoing rothian discourse.

With the help of Prof. Bürger and Prof. Meike Werner (the chair of the Department of Germanic and Slavic Languages), and the support via the Gisela Mosig Fund for Graduate Research, the seminar expanded to include a weeklong trip to Marbach to work on Roth's manuscripts and correspondences. For many, this trip was the inaugural voyage to the archive, and for others, the program allowed the archive to be seen anew, especially with a "behind-the-scenes" tour lead by Prof. Bürger down into the labyrinth of documents for an exclusive look at archival processes, authors' libraries, and also a few projects still underway. Not only did this extensive introduction allow for intensive work on Roth's manuscripts, it also instilled the encouraging message to make future use of the tremendous tool that is the archive.

The DLA provided an intimate engagement with numerous types of Joseph Roth texts: manuscripts, letters, drafts, and notes, among others, which inspired a broader discussion of the role of the archive within the ever-expanding digital world. How does the archive activate the researcher's mind in such a way that is not reproducible? Over the course of the week, it became clear that working personally with Roth's original texts not only felt in a sense "auratic," especially when compared with the maneuvering through digitalized facsimiles, but also opened up different avenues of thinking in general. Moreover, the group was pleased to meet with Thedel von Wallmoden, co-founder of Wallstein Publishing House, and Dr. Fritz Hackert, co-editor of the six volume edition Joseph Roths Werke (1989-1991), who offered their expertise on the life and work of Roth, Editionswissenschaft, and most interestingly, on the intersection between these fields of study. In a sense, the discussion unfolded like an interactive historical-critical edition, an archival excursion complete with editorial commentary.

Although no scan, transcription, picture or written report can truly capture the essence of our archival work, the attempt was still made, seen below, if only to remember the value of such texts, and the modes of thinking they inspire.


Picture 1: The first page of Joseph Roth's Flucht ohne Ende manuscript.

schiller museum

Picture 2: Vanderbilt Graduate Students inside the Schiller National Museum. Photo courtesy of Kaleigh Bangor.


Picture 3: Memorial for Friedrich Schiller on the Schillerhöhe at the center of the DLA campus.. Photo courtesy of Kaleigh Bangor.

tuebinger stift

Picture 4: Jan Bürger and Meike Werner in front of the Tübinger Stift. Photo courtesy of Curtis Maughan.