Kluge Center Highlights European Scholars for the European Month of Culture 2016
Jason Steinhauer from The John W. Kluge Center contributed to this story.
This spring the Delegation got together with The John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress to create a new program for the European Month of Culture, which takes place each May in Washington D.C. We highlighted the works of 9 European scholars through specially created blog posts, and also by two lectures given by scholars in residence at the Kluge Center. The Center, working in conjunction with each scholar, created blog posts summarizing the research carried out during their residencies. Joining us in the development of this program were cultural representatives from the 9 embassies representing these European Union Member States. I found the work of these scholars to be both innovative and fascinating. They provided insight on topics I might not have otherwise read about, and think these stories are worth sharing.
It’s well worth knowing about the Kluge Center. This is a great resource both for scholars and for all of us who like to learn what creative people in diverse fields are doing. You can sign up to receive their blog postings, and also attend some interesting lectures held in a stunningly beautiful and otherwise not accessible part of the Library’s Thomas Jefferson building. Lectures are free and it’s easy to get on their mailing list. For the scholars among you, The Kluge Center offers the opportunity to apply for a fellowship, where you can carry out research, write, and interact with Washington leaders. Scholars from all over the world apply. You can read more here.
Before we talk about the featured scholars, I’d like to tell you about the opportunity the European Month of Culture [EUMC] offers to residents and visitors in the DC area. This entire month of diverse and creative cultural events highlights the innovative cultures of the 28 countries that make up the European Union. Events are held in central areas of DC accessible by public transport. Most are free!
Who creates this feast of events? EUMC results from the congenial and collaborative partnership between these 28 embassies, the EU Delegation and leading U.S. cultural and educational partners such as the Library of Congress, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and the National Gallery of Art. The EU Delegation takes the lead in organizing and promoting EUMC. Behind the scenes individuals from every participating embassy and institution meet, plan, organize and offer good hard work. What comes out is a dazzling array of dance, musical and theatrical performances, workshops, language classes, culinary demonstrations, exhibitions, panel discussions, lectures and blogs. Look for its 5th year of offerings next spring to experience for yourself the EU motto “United in Diversity” personified in these events.
Here is what I learned.
Bulgaria: Kluge Fellow Svetlana Kujumdzieva is an expert in Eastern Orthodox music and fascinated with music from the Byzantine era. She came to Washington from the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, Institute of Art studies where she is Chair of the Music Division, to delve into the Library’s collection of microfilm and photographs of manuscripts from St. Catherine’s Monastery. Founded on Mount Sinai in the 6th century, it’s the oldest Christian monastery still in its original use. Her work brings us close to understanding the evolution of this complex and beautiful music still sung in Bulgarian churches today.
Cyprus: More than 52,000 Jews passed through refugee camps on Cyprus after World War II, yet today few people inside or outside of Cyprus are familiar with this history. Arts and Humanities Research Council Fellow Eliana Hadjisavvas — a British-born Cypriot of Greek descent — is a young scholar writing her dissertation on these British-run camps. The camps held Jewish refugees from Europe who were trying to immigrate to Palestine. Hadjisavvas’s work is bringing this story to light. As a scholar at the Kluge Center, she used items in the Library of Congress to supplement the research she has done in Europe. She has also interviewed survivors of the camps and those who helped them escape.
Poland: Kluge Fellow Krzysztof Jaskulowski studies nationalism in Europe. He came to Washington to learn more about Hans Kohn, a Czech scholar and activist who in the early 20th century became the first academic to study nationalism. For that, Kohn is regarded as the founding father of modern academic research on the topic. Nationalism is, of course, a topic that remains at the forefront of news and events in Europe. As a result of his Kluge Fellowship, Jaskulowski published his 2009 book “Nationalism without Nations: Nationalism in Anglophone Social Sciences” and is currently at work on a project on immigration and nationalism in Poland.
Italy: Kluge Fellow Elia Corazza is a gifted musician and scholar. He’s also, it turns out, a detective! For nearly a century, several pages the opera La Serva Padrona — adapted by Italian composer Ottorino Respighi and Russian impresario Serge Diaghilev — were thought to be vanished forever. That is, until Corazza discovered them inside the Library of Congress. With these missing pages, Corazza was able to recreate Diaghilev and Respighi’s version of the famous opera, conducting the first-ever performance of it in Bologna.
Sweden: Kluge Fellow Joel Frykholm studies American film. This makes the Library of Congress an ideal destination: the Library has more than 1.7 million film, television and video items in its collection. It also owns the documents of some of America’s early film pioneers, including silent-movie mogul George Kleine. Frykholm came to Library to look at the Kleine papers, and to understand his rise and fall in early Hollywood. The story of Kleine shows how the industry changed when silent movies became talking pictures, and how some early pioneers got left behind in the shift.
Spain: The Library of Congress holds a collection of Spanish folk music documented by folklorist Alan Lomax during the 1940s-1960s. The Spanish National Research Council also holds a collection of traditional music from that period collected by Lomax. No one has fully compared the two collections to see how they complement each other and how they differ. Alan Lomax Fellow Ascension Mazuela-Anguita will be the first when she arrives at the Kluge Center in 2017. Mazuela-Anguita hopes that after her fellowship, it will be possible to compare and contrast the two collections, and appreciate Lomax’s contribution to preserving Spain’s musical history.
Ireland: Irish musician and scholar Deirdre Ní Chonghaile has a special interest in her subject, the American folklorist Sidney Robertson Cowell. In Ireland, Ní Chonghaile’s uncle Seán Ó Conghaile taught some Irish to Sidney. In fact, a postcard that Seán sent to Sidney is in the Library of Congress! Robertson Cowell spent several years in Ireland collecting the music of the Aran Islands. The folks of Aran called her “The Yank with the Box,” a reference to her recording device. As an Alan Lomax Fellow at the Kluge Center, Ní Chonghaile traced the journey of this music collector through Ireland, using the Sidney Robertson Cowell papers held by the Library.
The Netherlands & Belgium: Kluge Fellow Geert Buelens is a Dutch scholar and poet who has written about the poetry of the First World War. Poetry was a vital part of the propaganda efforts on both sides of the conflict, particularly the Allied nations. After the Belgian city of Liege was attacked, American and Belgian poets used the incident as a way to rally around the war. As the world has collectively reflected on the centennial of World War I these past few years, Buelens’ work compels us to not only remember the incidents on the battleground, but to remember the poetry as well.
In addition to these posts, the Kluge Center and the EU partnered on two splendid lectures. In his 12 May lecture, Bulgarian-American scholar Theo Christov laid out his case for why the Swiss philosopher Emer Vattel may have been the most influential thinker in the creation of the early United States. His theories on international law were read and embraced by George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, and his thinking on international relations laid the groundwork for how America would relate to the rest of the world. This lecture was co-sponsored by the Embassy of Bulgaria; Bulgarian Ambassador to the United States Elena Poptodorova was generous to provide opening remarks to Dr. Christov’s talk.
A week later, Kissinger Chair Bruce Jentleson offered a thought-provoking assessment of which leaders did the most for peace and security in the 20th century. These included Swedish diplomat Dag Hammarskjöld and Gro Harlem Brundtland, three-time Prime Minister of Norway. Jentleson’s research will form the basis for a new book on what qualities transformational leaders must have — such as moral courage — in order to bring about change. This lecture was co-sponsored by the Embassy of Sweden.