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Cambridge historian and his family members announced as joint winners of one of the biggest cash prizes in world economics

The inaugural IPPR prize was introduced to reward innovative ideas to reinvigorate the UK economy that force a ‘step change in the quality and quantity of the UK’s economic growth’.

Simon Szreter, Professor of History and Public Policy at the University of Cambridge and a Fellow of St John’s College, Hilary Cooper, economics consultant, who is married to Professor Szreter, and their son Ben Szreter, chief executive of Cambridge United Community Trust, worked together on a detailed plan to enable faster UK growth by investing in generous and universal welfare provision.

Professor Szreter said: “The key proposal, emanating directly from history, is that generous and inclusive universal welfare provision should be reconceptualised as an absolutely crucial economic growth promoter, not as merely a ‘tax burden’ on the productive economy.

“It has been proven to perform this function twice before in our history and its abandonment has twice led to faltering and then disastrous declines in national productivity, as is being currently experienced with the much-vaunted ‘productivity puzzle’.”

The trio shared the first prize with the other joint winner - seven co-workers at the London Economics consultancy who argued that a ‘big push’ towards decentralisation would unlock prosperity around the UK.

Stephanie Flanders, head of Bloombery Economics, chaired the panel of judges as they looked for the best answers to the question, “What would be your radical plan to force a step change in the quality and quantity of the UK’s economic growth?” 

Following the financial crisis, the UK economy experienced the slowest recovery in the post-war era. In common with other advanced economies, the UK has had sluggish economic growth over the past decade. In the period since the crash, the UK growth rate has averaged 1.1 per cent compared to the long-run world average of 3.5 per cent: even if the growth rate doubled, it would still be nearly 40 per cent behind the world average. 

The judges praised Szreter, Cooper and Szreter’s ‘radical’ historical, economic and community led policy solutions to the economic challenges faced by the UK.

They said: “The authors draw on a historical analysis of the economy, looking at previous periods of British economic history to identify the enabling conditions for our most successful episodes of economic growth. Prescriptions include a new, equitable social contract alongside an intergenerational contract, incentivised and funded through tax changes, to re-establish the ethical principles on which the economic success of the Golden Age was built. 

“They each brought their different perspectives to bear on their core idea, that economic growth has been historically highest when collective welfare security is greatest – and their radical plan to incentivise altruistic economic behaviour today.” 

The proposals had to ensure fair and sustainable outcomes, including protecting the environment and reducing inequalities. The judges wanted creative thinking on whether the downward trend in the rate of UK economic growth could be reversed, whether it was realistic, desirable and achievable for the UK economy to grow at 3 or 4 per cent in the 2020s. 

The family said: "We’re really pleased that, in a world where economics seems to have increasingly veered towards models and mathematical abstractions, this prize has recognised the value of a different approach. Ours looks at history and how it can be applied to today’s practical challenges and brings the insights of political economy to propose a solution to the problems we face, especially the inequalities that threaten our productivity, our well-being and our democracy.”  

Two further prizes of £25,000 were also awarded. One went to the best under-25 entry, which was won by a Masters degree student who proposed a new way to use the fruits of the digital economy to reduce working time. The other went to the overall runner-up entry, which was authored by two investment professionals who argued for a rebalancing of the UK economy to reverse low investment and productivity. 

All four prizes will be awarded at an event in London today, where each winning entrant or team will present their ideas and discuss them further with judges. Each paper is published in full by IPPR today.

A ‘radical’ plan by three members of the same family to boost UK growth has been named as one of the first winners of the £100,000 Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) Economics Prize, one of the world’s largest prizes in the discipline.

The key proposal, emanating directly from history, is that generous and inclusive universal welfare provision should be reconceptualised as an absolutely crucial economic growth promoter, not as merely a ‘tax burden’ on the productive economySimon SzreterGraham CopeKogaLeft to right: Hilary Cooper, Simon Szreter, Ben Szreter


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What makes a good excuse? A Cambridge philosopher may have the answer

We’ve all done it, offered an excuse for our poor behaviour or rude reactions to others in the heat of the moment, after a long commute or a tough day with the kids. Excuses are commonplace, an attempt to explain and justify behaviours we aren’t proud of, to escape the consequences of our acts and make our undesirable behaviour more socially acceptable.

The things we appeal to when making excuses are myriad: tiredness, stress, a looming work deadline, a wailing infant, poverty, a migraine, ignorance. But what do these various excuses have in common that allows us to recognize them all as plausible? Do they differ from the excuses used in criminal law, like duress or coercion? And what does having an excuse get us – does it really exonerate us?

A researcher from Cambridge University has suggested that the answers lie in what they all tell us about our underlying motivation. When excuses are permissible, it’s because they show that while we acted wrongly, our underlying moral intentions were adequate.

Intentions are plans for action. To say that your intention was morally adequate is to say that your plan for action was morally sound. So when you make an excuse, you plead that your plan for action was morally fine – it’s just that something went awry in putting it into practice. Perhaps you tripped, and that’s why you spilled the shopping you were helping to carry. Or you were stressed or exhausted, which meant you couldn’t execute your well-intentioned plan.

This research presents for the first time a unified account of excuses - the Good Intention Account - that argues our everyday excuses work in much the same way as those offered in a courtroom. When lawyers appeal to duress or provocation in defense of their client, they are claiming that the client may have broken the law but had a morally adequate intention: she was just prevented from acting on it because fear or anger led her to lose self-control.

Until now little light has been shed on what unifies the diverse bunch of everyday reasons we offer when making excuses. Dr Paulina Sliwa’s study from the Faculty of Philosophy, suggests a morally adequate intention is the crucial ingredient.

Recent work in psychology suggests that intentions have a distinctive motivational profile, with philosophers and psychologists both arguing that they are key to understanding how we make choices. Dr Sliwa argues that intentions are the key to making sense of our everyday morality.

Dr Sliwa goes on to explain that appealing to excuses has its limits. “Successful excuses can mitigate our blame but they don’t get us off the hook completely. Saying we were tired or stressed doesn’t absolve us from moral responsibility completely, though they do change others’ perceptions of what we owe to make up for it and how the offended party should feel about our wrongdoing.”

This means that when we make excuses we are trying to haggle, to negotiate whether we deserve anger and resentment, or punishment and how much we need to apologise or compensate. This is why it can be so annoying if someone makes spurious excuses – and also probably why we continue to make excuses in the first place.

Dr Sliwa said, “A successful excuse needs to make plausible that your intention really was morally adequate – but something beyond your control prevented you from translating it into action. That’s why considerations like the following often work: I am sorry for forgetting the appointment – I had a terrible migraine / I haven't slept for the last three nights / I was preoccupied with worries about my mother's health; or I'm sorry I broke your vase – I stumbled over the rug. They all indicate an adequate underlying moral motivation that was thwarted by external circumstances.

“Things that will never work are appeals to weakness of will ‘I just couldn't resist’ or ‘it was too tempting’ don't work. Nor do appeals to things that are obviously immoral.

“The same is true of legal excuses: not every appeal to duress, coercion or provocation will be successful – it will depend on the details of the case.

“Philosophy can give us a better understanding of our mundane, everyday moral phenomena. There are a lot more puzzles to think about in relation with excuses: what's the difference between explaining someone's bad behavior and excusing it?”

The study is published in the ethics journal Philosophy and Public Affairs.

A free version is available at: http://paulinasliwa.weebly.com/uploads/1/9/0/4/19046427/final_submission.pdf

 

Dr Paulina Sliwa argues that intentions are the key to making sense of our everyday morality.

Duncan C


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Sowing seeds for timber skyscrapers can rewind the carbon footprint of the concrete industry

Recent innovations in engineered timber have laid the foundations for the world’s first wooden skyscrapers to appear within a decade, a feat that is not only achievable—according to the Centre for Natural Material Innovation—but one they hope will beckon in an era of sustainable wooden cities, helping reverse historic emissions from the construction industry.

The research team based at the Faculty of Architecture, is interdisciplinary, composed of architects, biochemists, chemists, mathematicians and engineers, who specialise in plant-based material, including cross-laminated timber, arguably the first major structural innovation since the advent of reinforced concrete, 150 years ago.

Principal Investigator Dr Michael Ramage, said “Until cross-laminated timber, there was simply no building material to challenge steel or reinforced concrete. To construct cities and indeed skyscrapers, we just had to accept the good and the bad of existing materials.

“Concrete is about five times heavier than timber, which means more expense for foundations and transport; it’s resource-intensive, and contributes to tremendous carbon dioxide emissions. After water, concrete is the most consumed material by humanity. But now we have an alternative, and it’s plant-based.”

The team envisage trees supplanting concrete as the predominant building material for cities, with buildings sown like seeds and cities harvested as crops, a way of simultaneously addressing climate change and global housing shortages.

Dr Ramage explained: “In England alone, we need to build 340,000 new homes each year over the next 12 years to accommodate our population. Concrete is unsustainable. Timber, however, is the only building material we can grow, and that actually reduces carbon dioxide. Every tonne of timber expunges 1.8 tonnes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Doing the calculations, if all new English homes were constructed from timber, we could capture and offset the carbon footprints of around 850,000 people for 10 years.

“The sustainable forests of Europe take just 7 seconds to grow the volume of timber required for a 3 bedroom apartment, and 4 hours to grow a 300 metre supertall skyscraper. Canada’s sustainable forests alone yield enough timber to house a billion people in perpetuity, with forested trees replenishing faster than their eventual occupants.”

Various teams around the world are hoping to produce the tallest wooden skyscraper, however the team from Cambridge is confident they’ll be the first, having done holistic work on three proposals for timber skyscrapers in London, Chicago, and the Hague, all of which are set to be showcased to the public at the Royal Society’s Summer Science Exhibition 2019, freely open to the public from July 1–7.

The team’s exhibit—Timber towers of tomorrow—will embody their vision, the stand itself modelled after a typical apartment nested within their proposed Oakwood Timber Tower at the Barbican Tower, where visitors can experience life in a treehouse while talking with the team, viewing architectural models of timber towers, learning about the fire performance properties of engineered timber, and hearing about the genetic, cellular, and macroscale innovations which have led to ply in the sky designs becoming a reality.

Beyond tackling climate change and promoting sustainability, the team are eager to outline the branching benefits society stands to gain by embracing timber architecture: the psychological well-being that comes from being surrounded by wood as compared with concrete, as well as the return to an ancient building material, that’s intimate as it is natural.

The Centre for Natural Material Innovation exhibit their proposals for timber skyscrapers at the Royal Society’s Summer Science Exhibition.

River Beech Tower Chicago


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Music inspired by a survivor of the Nazis wins international recognition

BBC Radio 3 have selected a new orchestral composition by the Music Faculty’s Reader in Composition, Richard Causton to represent the UK at the annual International Rostrum of Composers to be broadcast across 27 countries worldwide. The Rostrum is run in association with UNESCO and the International Music Council.

The piece - Ik zeg: NU  - was based on a story of survival. Three quarters of the World War II Jewish population of the Netherlands were killed by the Nazis. One of some 16,000 Dutch Jews to survive the war was a relative of Richard Causton, Salomon Van Son (now 98 years old), who survived Nazi persecution hidden in a hay barn for almost three years. The farmer who hid him was interrogated by the Germans repeatedly but never revealed where he was. This work is based on Salomon Van Son’s memoir about his experience.
 
Richard explained, “The title, Ik zeg: NU (‘I say: Now’) comes from Sal van Son’s ten-year-old great nephew, who remarked philosophically, ‘I say now now, and a moment later it is already history’.  
 
“This child-like observation of how time passes seemed a brilliant description for music and how we experience it; but beyond that, it also describes life itself. We can never hang on to the moment, it is always slipping through our fingers. So my piece is about the passage of time and a homage to my 98-year-old relative, whose book traces the history of his Jewish family through four centuries, including his own years in hiding from the Nazis in occupied Holland during the Second World War.”
 
Richard constructed a new set of specially-tuned tubular bells especially for use in the piece, and together with the sounds of detuned vibraphones, a prepared piano and accordion, their haunting, resonant sound evokes the complex and elusive nature of passing time. The piece was commissioned by the BBC for the BBC Symphony Orchestra and was first performed at the Barbican Hall, London, in January to huge critical acclaim.
 
“Richard Causton's new work for the BBC Symphony Orchestra, Ik zeg: NU, holds two timeframes in play simultaneously, and brilliantly.” (The Guardian)
 
“Now-ness and then-ness move in parallel in this spacious, beautifully constructed work.” (The Times)
 
“It was a fabulously ear-tickling display of compositional skill, which every now and then took on a poetic resonance.” (The Daily Telegraph) 

Image: Richard Causton pencil score of Ik zeg: NU

A new orchestral composition - Ik zeg: NU by Richard Causton - has been chosen by BBC Radio 3 for worldwide broadcast.

BBCSO Credit Sim Canetty-Clark


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Beggarstaffs: William Nicholson & James Pryde

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William Nicholson & James Pryde

New exhibition puts the University's collections of two leading figures in
Modern British Art into context for the first time.

The Beggarstaff Brothers, Drury Lane Cinderella theatre poster, 1895 © Desmond Banks / Image © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The Beggarstaff Brothers, Drury Lane Cinderella theatre poster, 1895 © Desmond Banks / Image © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

"Astonishingly the Beggarstaff's ground-breaking poster designs and their subsequent individual work as painters have never before been gathered together in a single exhibition until now." Stephen Calloway, Historian and Exhibition Curator

Sir William Nicholson by Augustus Edwin John © The Fitzwilliam Museum

Sir William Nicholson by Augustus Edwin John © The Fitzwilliam Museum

The 1890s was the first great age of the pictorial poster. Two leading figures in the development of Modern British art, William Nicholson (1872-1949) and his brother-in-law James Pryde (1866-1941), were at the beginning of their careers, struggling to sell pictures, and saw opportunities to exploit the newly burgeoning market for posters.

They established an avant-garde artistic partnership, and called themselves ‘the Brothers Beggarstaff’. Their startlingly innovative style entirely revolutionised poster design.

Now, several of the largest and finest Beggarstaff posters, rolled- up and unseen for decades, are on loan to the University of Cambridge's Fitzwilliam Museum from the V&A. Alongside other important works from Her Majesty The Queen and other private lenders, they now put the University’s significant individual collections of Pryde and Nicholson's work into context for the first time.

Stephen Calloway, who curated the exhibition, said, "I had long wanted to stage an exhibition that placed Nicholson and Pryde's partnership as the 'Brothers Beggarstaff' in the context of their subsequent, equally influential individual careers as painters.

"Cambridge University’s important collections of their work, populated with key loans, now bring their entwined narrative together for the first time and have enabled me to tell their story."

The Beggarstaffs' posters were created using entirely novel techniques involving collaging cut-paper shapes or stencilling flat colour onto huge sheets of ordinary brown wrapping paper. Their striking simplicity, relying on outline and silhouette to suggest forms, demonstrated the young artists’ idea that a poster must be effective, even when merely glimpsed from a moving horse-bus.

The Beggarstaff Brothers, A Trip to Chinatown musical poster, 1895 © Desmond Banks / © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The Beggarstaff Brothers, A Trip to Chinatown musical poster, 1895 © Desmond Banks / © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The Beggarstaff Brothers, ‘Kassama’ Corn Flour, 1894 © Desmond Banks / © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The Beggarstaff Brothers, ‘Kassama’ Corn Flour, 1894 © Desmond Banks / © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The Beggarstaff Brothers, celebrated Don Quixote poster for Henry Irving’s Lyceum Theatre production, 1895 © Desmond Banks / Image © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The Beggarstaff Brothers, celebrated Don Quixote poster for Henry Irving’s Lyceum Theatre production, 1895 © Desmond Banks / Image © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Their posters were to prove too avant-garde for the advertisers of the day, and Pryde and Nicholson gradually resumed their individual careers as painters.

Nicholson, always the more ambitious, realised that in an era when popular imagery was increasingly prized, design and print-making skills offered another route to success. He turned his hand to wood engraving and had found his new métier. Lucrative deals with the publisher William Heinemann swiftly followed and over several years they created a sequence of popular print volumes including An Alphabet, An Almanac of Sports and London Types.

Sir William Nicholson, An Alphabet, A was an Artist © Desmond Banks / © Fitzwilliam Museum

Sir William Nicholson, An Alphabet, A was an Artist © Desmond Banks / © Fitzwilliam Museum

The Fitzwilliam’s group of later oils by Nicholson further unfold the intriguing narrative of his progression from print maker to one of the greatest of Modern British painters, whose skill lay in capturing the precise play of light on different surfaces in brushstrokes of consummate skill. Many examples from the Fitzwilliam's permanent collection are exhibited in the show.

"Some art-lovers will already think they know a bit about one half of the Beggarstaffs - Sir William Nicholson - as painter of gleaming silver and lushly, luxurious roses, who became a pillar of the artistic establishment, sought out as a portraitist, awarded a knighthood, and quite as grand as he appears in the Fitz’s portrait of him by Augustus John." Luke Syson, Director of the Fitzwilliam Museum

Pryde, on the other hand, like the 17th-century creators of architectural fantasy landscapes, worked essentially from the imagination, inventing dark ‘sinister corners’ and 'death beds' that appear as stage-sets conjured from childhood memories of Edinburgh's Old Town and Mary Queen of Scot's bedchamber at Holyrood Palace. Pryde's productivity would never equal Nicholson’s and gradually he stopped painting altogether as his life became more chaotic.

Watch BBC Fake or Fortune visit the Fitzwilliam Museum below to look at some of the University's permanent collection of Nicholson's work.

Sir William Nicholson, Begonias, © The Fitzwilliam Museum. The painting can be viewed in Gallery 1.

Sir William Nicholson, Begonias, © The Fitzwilliam Museum. The painting can be viewed in Gallery 1.

Flamingoes, 1891, is one of the most interesting of Nicholson’s very early works in the permanent collection of the Fitzwilliam. Young painters in the 1890s were keen to experiment with unconventional subjects and unusual viewpoints. Nicholson made this quirky study of exotic birds in the Jardin d’Acclimatation during his first visit to Paris. However, the detail of the wire-mesh cage and the shadow of the artist’s own head coming into the picture - a favourite conceit of Nicholson’s - were added years later, perhaps following a French trip made with his last companion Marguerite Steen in the autumn of 1937.

Sir William Nicholson, Flamingos, 1891   © Desmond Banks / Image  © The Fitzwilliam Museum  

Sir William Nicholson, Flamingos, 1891   © Desmond Banks / Image  © The Fitzwilliam Museum  

The picture, long retained by the artist himself, was later among several works given to the Fitzwilliam Museum by Nicholson’s friend, the art dealer Lillian Browse in 2006.

The Girl with a Tattered Glove is one of the Fitzwilliam Museum’s most popular pictures. It depicts Marie Laquelle, who worked at the Pheasantry, a famous old house in Chelsea, converted into artists’ studios. She first met Nicholson when he leased a space there in 1909, and shortly afterwards she became his housekeeper and mistress for ten years. Nicholson captures both dignity and pathos in Marie’s pose and expression, underscored by the subtly calibrated details of shabby clothes that characterise her status as a young woman just clinging to respectability.

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Jane Munro, Keeper of Paintings, Drawings and Prints, Fitzwilliam Museum describes Sir William Nicholson's, The girl with a tattered glove, 1909 © Desmond Banks / © The Fitzwilliam Museum

Jane Munro, Keeper of Paintings, Drawings and Prints, Fitzwilliam Museum describes Sir William Nicholson's, The girl with a tattered glove, 1909 © Desmond Banks / © The Fitzwilliam Museum

"Why did Nicholson have such a thing about gloves; whether worn by a worn-out young women or carried reverently in the mouth of a greyhound?" Luke Syson, Director of the Fitzwilliam Museum

Sir William Nicholson, The Greyhound with the Glove © The Fitzwilliam Museum

Sir William Nicholson, The Greyhound with the Glove © The Fitzwilliam Museum

"It is only through the research for exhibitions such as this, that relatively unknown content is brought together and presented into narrative. The Fitzwilliam only very recently acquired James Pryde's masterpiece The Death Bed, and it was that purchase that provoked the idea for a show devoted to this family partnership, to a passionate dialogue and - perhaps - to a kind of parting of the ways."  Luke Syson, Director of the Fitzwilliam Museum

Beggarstaffs is at the University's Fitzwilliam Museum until 4 August. Admission is free.

James Pryde, The Death Bed, 1913 © Desmond Banks / Image © The Fitzwilliam Museum

James Pryde, The Death Bed, 1913 © Desmond Banks / Image © The Fitzwilliam Museum

Top Summary: 

New exhibition puts the University's collections of two leading figures in Modern British Art into context for the first time. 

Affiliation (schools and institutions): Fitzwilliam MuseumDepartment of History of ArtSchool of Arts and HumanitiesPeople (our academics and staff): luke sysonSubject (including Spotlight on ... where applicable): MuseumArt

Cambridge University Library stages first public play in its 600-year history

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Performance marked the launch of digital edition of Arthur Schnitzler's works and archive

Cambridge University Library (UL) hosted its first ever public performance on April 25 when The Great Wurstel, a one-act burlesque comedy using human marionettes by the Modernist writer Arthur Schnitzler (pictured), was performed in the Rare Books Reading Room.

The sell-out performance marked the launch of a major new digital edition of works by Schnitzler – who inspired Freud and Kubrick among many others. The edition, hosted by the UL and resulting from a collaboration of UK scholars with German colleagues (from the Universities of Wuppertal and Trier) is being made freely available online to scholars, historians and the public at large.

Saved from destruction by the Nazis and transported under diplomatic seal to Cambridge University Library in the 1930s, the rescue of Schnitzler’s archive is as dramatic as any fiction he committed to paper.

Now, more than 80 years after they were spirited out of Austria under the noses of Nazis intent on burning and destroying Jewish cultural works, the country’s most famous playwright has been recognised by becoming the first writer to ever have his work staged at Cambridge University Library’s iconic Giles Gilbert Scott building.

He is perhaps best known outside of Austria as the author of his 1926 novella Traumnovelle (Dream Story), which was adapted by the legendary Stanley Kubrick in Eyes Wide Shut. While The Great Wurstel is less well-known, it certainly deserves more attention.

This is believed to be the first time the play has been staged in English.

The producer and co-director of the Library performance was Dr Annja Neumann, a Research Associate of the Schnitzler Digital Edition Project at the Department of German and Dutch, and lead editor for the puppet-play cycle Marionetten of which The Great Wurstel is part.

Neumann’s vision to stage Schnitzler’s dramatic experiment in close proximity to the original papers was enthusiastically supported by an interdisciplinary team of students and professionals, particularly translator and co-director Ada Günther, co-director Ritika Biswas and a dynamic team of student producers and actors, in collaboration with the UL.

"Schnitzler’s human puppet play The Great Wurstel explores what it means to be human in a world which is controlled by machines and mechanistic behaviour.

"Bringing the physicality of Schnitzler’s comedy to the UL, with its 600-year history, not only gave us the unique opportunity to unlock the ways in which we unconsciously play-act in institutions but also enabled us to explore the roots of human comedy and questions which remain highly topical in a digital age when we are engaging with the ‘humanness’ of machines.”


Dr Anna Neumann

Professor Andrew Webber, Professor of Modern German and Comparative Culture in the Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages and Principal Investigator of the Edition Project, said: “Staging The Great Wurstel at the UL is a fantastic example of the potential of combining archival research with public engagement and making the material of scholarship available in an accessible and lively way. Playing a cameo role in the drama (a puppet Death who unveils himself as a Wurstel figure, a kind of Mr Punch) was certainly a learning experience for me as researcher!

“The archive at Cambridge University Library is a treasure of modernist literary culture and the launch of the Digital Critical Edition means that the notes and drafts for many of Schnitzler’s key works are made available to everyone for the very first time. Our project exploits the potential of these archives through the advanced possibilities of the digital.

Professor Andrew Webber speaking at the launch of the Digital Edition at Cambridge University Library on April 25, 2019.

Professor Andrew Webber speaking at the launch of the Digital Edition at Cambridge University Library

"It speaks directly to the work of the Cambridge Digital Humanities Project where colleagues across the University’s Faculties are experimenting with technology to advance scholarship in Cambridge and around the world.”

Despite the adaptations of his work by Kubrick, Tom Stoppard (Dalliance and Undiscovered Country) and David Hare (The Blue Room), the literary achievements of Schnitzler remain relatively under-celebrated outside Austria and Germany.

 “Schnitzler is a really important writer who is not read as much as he should be in the English-speaking world, in comparison to writers of the same period like Kafka or Stefan Zweig, for example,” added Professor Webber. “It’s hard to say why not – he did really important, innovative work and was able to weave together experimental and more traditional modes of writing in a way that was distinctive and of real cultural historical significance.”

Dr Neumann added: “The play we staged is seen as one of the most radical of his dramatic experiments, where he reviewed his own work and parodied it, but also examined the general status of theatre in the early 1900s. The archival research I have been doing has enabled me to put a spotlight on the genesis of his play in a way that has informed the UK premiere of this work in close proximity to the archive.”

Puppets from Paul Brann’s performance of Schnitzler’s Gallant Cassian (Marionetten cycle). Courtesy of the Munich Stadtmuseum.

Puppets from Paul Brann’s performance of Schnitzler’s Gallant Cassian (Marionetten cycle). Courtesy of the Munich Stadtmuseum.

The production of the play was also an experiment with cultural space, transforming the quiet and studious Rare Books Reading Room into the site of physical spectacle that is the Prater, the rumbustious Viennese amusement park ca. 1900. Much of the cultural and textual critical research that is associated with the edition is also focused on questions of space and time in Schnitzler’s work.

Schnitzler has particular status as a critical chronicler of a space (the city of Vienna) in its relation to a particular time – the first decades of the twentieth century, when the city saw a remarkable efflorescence of cultural and intellectual activity. An upcoming special number of the journal, Austrian Studies, with the title Placing Schnitzler, co-edited by Professor Webber and Co-I, Dr Judith Beniston (UCL), explores these questions in the light of the editorial work being undertaken in the UK, Germany and Austria.

The question of cultural space has opened up fascinating avenues of research, often prompted in unanticipated ways by archival finds. One such was the discovery of a version of the orgiastic masked ball scenario in Traumnovelle in manuscript drafts for the earlier drama, Das weite Land, the basis for Stoppard’s Undiscovered Country. Professor Webber has undertaken a new reading of this play, and in particular its relationship to Jewish identity, based upon a drawing found in another part of the manuscript.

Drs Beniston and Neumann have also explored new perspectives on the entanglement of medical ethics with institutional and national politics and the anti-Semitism of early twentieth-century Austria in the play, Professor Bernhardi, with a particular focus on the questions of mise-en-scène (the arrangement of props and scenery on the stage and in film).

Cultural space also provides the focus of an additional, interactive resource developed as part of the UK project by filmmaker Dr Frederick Baker (Cambridge/Vienna).

The Schnitzler:Story:Spheres, which will soon be accessible through the UL’s digital portal for the Schnitzler edition, uses 360-degree photographic technology to explore the associations of spaces that had particular importance for Schnitzler’s life and works.

University Librarian Dr Jessica Gardner speaking at the launch of the Digital Edition.

University Librarian Dr Jessica Gardner speaking at the launch of the Digital Edition.

The panoramic views of such locations of spectacle and performance as the anatomy theatre (Schnitzler trained and initially practised as a doctor), Vienna’s Imperial Burgtheater (where several of Schnitzler’s dramas were premiered) and the puppet-theatre at the Prater (the scene for The Great Wurstel) become spaces of discovery.

By clicking on embedded hotspots, users can explore the spaces in question for Schnitzler’s writing and its cultural context through text, image and film material, including links to pages from the archive and to the rich new resources of the digital edition.

Top Summary: 

Performance marked the launch of digital edition of Arthur Schnitzler's works and archive.

Image: Affiliation (schools and institutions): Cambridge University LibrarySchool of Arts and HumanitiesDepartment of German and DutchCambridge Digital HumanitiesPeople (our academics and staff): Andrew WebberAnnja NeumannSubject (including Spotlight on ... where applicable): Arthur SchnitzlerliteratureperformancePerforming artsplaywrightauthorAustriaSection: ResearchNews type: News