Orange Alert

Syracuse Symposium continues "conflict" theme with two-day Ingeborg Bachmann conference

Austrian writer shaped postwar art, ideas

Oct. 13, 2010, by Rob Enslin

Austrian postwar writer Ingeborg Bachmann (left) is the subject of a two-day conference at Syracuse University titled “Lay Down Your Weapons: Writing Against War.” More than 20 scholars from North America, Europe and Asia will come together for a series of panel discussions on Thursday, Nov. 4, in the Peter Graham Scholarly Commons of Bird Library, and on Friday, Nov. 5, in The SU Humanities Center Seminar Room (304) in the Tolley Building. Each day’s program runs from 10 a.m.-7 p.m., and is free and open to the public.

“Lay Down Your Weapons” is part of Syracuse Symposium, whose theme this year is “Conflict: Peace and War.” The conference is co-presented by The SU Humanities Center and the German Program of The College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Languages, Literatures and Linguistics (LLL). For more information, call the SU Humanities Center at (315) 443-7192.

“This conference explores the life, work and legacy of one of Austria’s most influential postwar voices,” says Gregg Lambert, Dean’s Professor of the Humanities and founding director of The SU Humanities Center. “Bachmann’s investigation into the nature and limits of language is virtually unmatched. She is an icon.”

The conference includes a fall exhibition of rare postwar photographs and texts from the Austrian Foreign Ministry, on the first floor of Bird Library; an exhibition catalog; and a publication of the conference proceedings in English and German.

Born in Austria in 1926, Bachmann studied philosophy at the universities of Innsbruck, Graz and Vienna. She shot to fame in 1953, after receiving a poetry prize from “Gruppe 47,” an informal group of German-speaking writers concerned with re-establishing the broken traditions of German literature. “’Gruppe 47’ felt that Nazi propaganda had corrupted their language, so they advocated a style devoid of poetic verbiage,” Lambert adds. “Bachmann’s sparse language resonated with many young writers at the time.”

Until her death in 1973, Bachmann traveled the world, turning out novels, short stories, poetry, essays and opera libretti. Central to her work were dark, powerful images that captured an array of personal and societal ills. Such realism catapulted Bachmann to literary stardom, earning her the prestigious Georg Büchner and Anton Wildgans prizes in 1964 and 1971, respectively. Her work also influenced the writings of many German-speaking compatriots, including Thomas Bernhard, Christa Wolf and Elfriede Jelinek.

Karl Solibakke, who organized the event in collaboration with Karina von Tippelskirch, assistant professor of German, says that part of Bachmann’s appeal rests in her universality. “War and the search for collective peace play a critical role in her work,” he says. “Bachmann used her texts to underscore the relationship between remembering and forgetting what happened in Europe after World War II. As a result, she greatly informed postwar art and ideas, including literature, music, art, religion and philosophy.”

Solibakke, an accomplished German literary scholar, has assembled an ensemble of A-list speakers: Karen Achberger (St. Olaf College), Mark Anderson (Columbia University), Peter Beicken (University of Maryland), Gisela Brinker-Gabler (Binghamton University), Young-Ae Chon (Seoul National University), Stefano Giannini (SU), Peter Gilgen (Cornell University), Sabine Golz (University of Iowa), Hans Höller (University of Salzburg), Kirsten Krick-Aigner (Wofford College), Sara Lennox (University of Massachusetts, Amherst), Vivian Liska (University of Antwerp), Dagmar Lorenz (University of Illinois at Chicago), Robert Pichl (University of Vienna), Karen Remmler (Mount Holyoke College), Helga Schreckenberger (University of Vermont), Karina von Tippelskirch (SU) and Bernd Witte (Heinrich Heine University).

The conference encompasses four major sessions: “War and Peace in Austro-German Literature,” “Bachmann and Jewish Cultural Memory After World War II,” “Sounds and Images of War” and “Theme and Variations”; the mini-seminar “Language: Philosophy, Poetry and Authorship”; and five keynote addresses.

“Our goal is to look at Ingeborg Bachmann through a contemporary lens, taking into account her abhorrence of violence on a global, national, civil, institutional and familial level,” says Solibakke, who also is the college’s assistant dean for finance and long-range planning. “The conference should provoke a dialogue that lasts long after the conference is over.”

“Lay Down Your Weapons” is co-sponsored by The SU Humanities Center; the Austrian Culture Forum New York; Office of the Chancellor; the German Academic Exchange Service; Regional Holocaust and Genocide Initiative: Resistance, Resilience and Responsibility; LLL; and the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies.

Media Contact

Rob Enslin