Isaiah Back-Gaal, a double major in German and CHID, has been awarded a Chester William Fritz Scholarship for the 2018-2019 academic year. The scholarship is designed to provide financial assistance to highly deserving students in the Humanities. Congratulations on this fine achievement, Isaiah!
Isaiah Back-Gaal writes from Vienna:
"Last Spring, Professor Kye Terrasi’s class introduced me to the world of fin-de-siècle Vienna. I was struck by the apocalyptic imagery that permeated the art. Egon Schiele’s paintings of distorted figures, Arthur Schnitzler’s scandalous plays, and Freud’s burgeoning psychoanalysis all reflected the apocalyptic tendencies of the time. The empire was crumbling, WWI was approaching, and the enlightenment bastions of progress and reason were failing. This apocalyptic obsession felt strikingly familiar. In 21st century America, the end of the world doesn’t seem too far off. The language of apocalypse is apparent across issues today, from political uncertainties to environmental disaster.
I wonder, what do apocalyptic anxieties reveal about the greater sociopolitical context? For whom does the world end? How does the end of the world reveal the gendered and racial truths of the idea of the human?
The art of fin-de-siècle Vienna was radical in its depiction of disturbing, psychological, and erotic subjects; however, the anxieties were those of white men whose ideas of self were threatened by the enfranchisement of women and minorities. When critically examined, the Viennese apocalypse reveals that the supposedly universal “human” is gendered and racist.
This Spring, I was lucky enough to explore these ideas while studying abroad in Vienna with the department of Germanics’ Spring in Vienna program. I was awarded a Mary Gates Research Scholarship in order to pursue my research in Vienna beyond the scope of the study abroad program. Next Year, with Professor Terrasi as my mentor, I will continue to explore crises of gender and power in Vienna 1900 and the United States of today."