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Undergraduate Research

German 447

Advanced undergraduate majors and minors can sign up for 1-5 credits of faculty-sponsored research (German 447) for one quarter with a maximum of 15 credits. Five credits can count towards the major as an elective. Regular grades are assigned for research results. To see examples of research projects currently being offered, see the list below.

To register: first, contact the faculty member who sponsors the research project--and do so toward the end of the quarter before you wish to sign up. Then get an entry code from the main office.

Participating students can apply to present their work at the UW's Undergraduate Research Symposium, which takes place each Spring. For details, see Undergraduate Research Program.

Vienna 1900: Interdisciplinary Website for Studies in the Humanities

Contact: Sabine Wilke or Richard Gray

In the wake of such influential studies as Allan Janik and Stephen Toulmin's Wittgenstein's Vienna and Carl Schorske's Fin-de-siècle Vienna, scholars from diverse fields have come to recognize that in the years from about 1870 to 1918 the imperial city of Vienna comprised a unique historico-cultural nexus from which emerged fundamental intellectual and artistic impulses that have decisively shaped the thought and influenced the cultural environment of the modern Western world.

Central developments of the "modernist" movement, which re-mapped the landscape of Western culture, can be traced back to the Vienna of this period. Sigmund Freud's psychoanalytical theories and practices are merely the most prominent example of the intellectual forces unleashed in Vienna at this time. But beyond being the birthplace of psychoanalysis, Vienna also constituted the cultural staging ground for other far-reaching intellectual and cultural innovations: in philosophy, Vienna nourished the logical positivist school that culminated in the thought of Rudolf Carnap and Ludwig Wittgenstein; in music it witnessed the invention of the twelve-tone system, promoted by Arnold Schoenberg and his students Alban Berg and Anton von Webern; in architecture the work of Adolf Loos and Otto Wagner introduced the functionalism and sterile anti-ornamentalism of the international style that would culminate only decades later in the German Bauhaus; in painting the Viennese Secessionist school produced radical departures from artistic tradition in the works of Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, and Oskar Kokoschka; in literature, finally, Vienna was home to such writers as Hugo von Hofmannsthal, Arthur Schnitzler, and Robert Musil, who helped define the high modernist literary style of German-speaking Europe.

This uncommon cultural productivity is just one fascinating dimension of turn-of-the-century Vienna. Another is the multi-ethnic make up of the city itself and of the vast empire whose capital it was. Austro-Germans, Hungarians, Czechs, Slovenians, Ruthenians, Serbians, Croatians, Bosnians: these ethnic and national identities represent just a small cross-section of the diverse groups present in Vienna and in the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

As the major metropolis of the Empire, the seat of government, and the center of commerce, Vienna acted like a magnet that drew people from throughout Central Europe. This made the Vienna of the 1870's into one of the first truly multi-ethnic cities; and as such it experienced not only the productivity of such cultural and ethnic diversity, but also the problems and tensions to which it gives rise. Thus Vienna 1900 is marked by the apparent paradox that it was the birthplace not only of psychoanalysis, twelve-tone music, and modernist architecture, but also of modern political anti-semitism: Adolf Hitler learned the vocabulary, rhetoric, and virulence of his anti-semitic discourse during the years he spent in Vienna, whose mayor, Karl Lueger, was elected on an openly anti-semitic political platform in 1897.

In this sense, Vienna 1900 can be viewed as a crucible of modernism not merely in artistic, cultural, and intellectual domains, but also as a political and sociological harbinger of the problems attendant with the modern multi-ethnic state. As such, Vienna 1900 is uniquely suited as a historical case study that can initiate discussion about the intellectual and sociopolitical roots of our present-day world.

We have begun to construct a website that seeks to establish an interactive electronic framework for the study of the diversity, productivity, and problematics of Viennese culture at the turn of the century. The initial disciplinary subdivisions on the web site are visual art (paintings by Klimt, Schiele, Kokoschka, Gerstl, Makart), architecture (Austrian Baroque, buildings by Otto Wagner, Adolf Loos, Ludwig Wittgenstein), music (scores and compositions by Brahms, Mahler, Schoenberg, Viennese operetta, Johann Strauss waltzes), literature (texts by Hofmannsthal, Schnitzler, Musil), psychoanalysis (texts and images related to Freud's theory of the psyche), theater and opera (texts and librettos, but also digitized versions of theater and opera performances), and philosophy (Machian sensualism, logical positivism, Otto Weininger's idealist typology). Supplementing these disciplinary subdivisions, the web site contains an introductory segment that provides information about the history of Vienna and the Austro-Hungarian monarchy (including visual materials) and the cultural life of the period.

The interactive and interdisciplinary potentials of web-based research and instruction in the humanities have not yet been realized to their fullest. Generally, in fact, web-based humanistic projects have tended to take the form of data bases or virtual archives. To be sure, such electronic archiving of textual, visual, and audio materials is significant, and it represents an important dimension of our site. However, our aim is to trace the thematic affinities, structural homologies, and cross-disciplinary influences evident in these diverse materials and supplement them with interpretive analyses.

We designed a web architecture that facilitates and encourages movement from one disciplinary category to another. For example, the topic of logical positivism is linked and cross-referenced to logical form in Schoenberg's twelve-tone theory, to the structural and pragmatist orientation of Ernst Mach's "empirico-criticism," to the functionalism of modernist architecture in the work of Adolf Loos, and to the logical structure of the world propounded by Wittgenstein in his Tractatus and reflected in the structure and argument of that treatise. In other words, the electronic medium of the web site supplies the necessary virtual environment for multi-layered indexing and cross-referencing, so that visitors to the site will be able to experience the interdisciplinary cross-fertilization that marks the culture of Vienna 1900 in their interaction with the site itself.

Thus, although the general structure of the site will be organized along disciplinary lines, there will be a secondary, electronically embedded organization based on thematic and formal similarities, thereby allowing the site visitor to cut across the disciplinary framework at any time. This multi-layered architecture is supported by a split-screen potential that will permit users to juxtapose diverse materials in virtual space. Instructors who use the site for classroom purposes will be able to draw on a plethora of primary texts (available in both the original German and in English translation), images, video sequences, and music, enhanced by interpretive and contextualizing documents.

Students have the opportunity to try their linguistic competence on English translations of German originals (literary or other), compile bibliographies, write biographies and chronologies, research images and many other activities.