Blake Taylor and Dr. Rob McFarland, German and Russian Department
Under the guidance of my ORCA mentor, Professor Rob McFarland, I teamed up this semester with an international working group that is producing the Red Vienna Sourcebook, a reference work that will help North American scholars to supplement their knowledge of German-speaking Europe in the interwar period. I worked with Professor McFarland primarily to search out newspaper articles that demonstrate this time period, write introductions to the articles, and submit the articles for inclusion in the sourcebook.
The dominant narrative in German cultural history tells about the doomed brilliance of the Weimar Republic, a short-lived and chaotic democratic period between the end of World War I and the rise of Adolf Hitler. The problem with this narrative is its focus: while the central government in Berlin was constantly on the brink of disaster, other political entities were able to turn the revolutionary artistic zeal into a much more sustained, prosperous and programmatic government. Prof. McFarland and I will gather texts that will help to create this alternative narrative of European history, helping to bring “Red Vienna” back into the focus of North American scholarship.
At a meeting of international scholars in Vienna in 2014, my mentor Prof. McFarland suggested the creation of a “Red Vienna Sourcebook” that would provide North American Scholars with primary documents from the Red Vienna period, carefully curated and translated into English. His idea received immediate support from his colleagues, and his proposal has been supported by the City of Vienna and by the International Cultural Studies Research Center in Vienna (IFK). I approached Professor McFarland about assisting with this ORCA project while in his German 330 class. He passion for the topic of Red Vienna was contagious and also sparked my interest in the subject. Prof. McFarland is currently still working with the team of international researchers to complete the publication of the Red Vienna Sourcebook.
My role was first to assist Professor McFarland in finding suitable sources from Red Vienna that supported the topics of discussion in the sourcebook. There are 33 topics addressing various facets of life in Red Vienna that will be included in the sourcebook. These topics will include everything from architecture and design, public health and sexuality to anti-Semitism, Austro-Marxism and film and photography. After first receiving instruction on how to read the difficult German Fraktur-style font that was used in most newspapers and magazines in the Red Vienna Period, I set to work searching for articles that could contribute to these topics. I utilized ANNO, the Online Austrian Newspaper Archive, as my primary resource to find newspaper articles that reflected these important movements during the Red Vienna period.
The process for searching for these newspaper articles was very tedious, but also extremely necessary. Unfortunately, there was no efficient way to search for these primary sources. Instead, we simply had to comb through the proverbial mountain of material available. As I began the hunt for relevant articles, I would meet with Professor McFarland frequently to review the articles I had found and further refine our search criteria for new articles. Once the relevant articles I had found were reviewed, they were described briefly in a written summary before being submitted to the team of international scholars for an ultimate decision on their inclusion in the sourcebook.
While working with Professor McFarland I spent a bulk of my time reviewing the Austrian newspaper, Das Wort der Frau, and was able to carefully examine three years’ worth of issues. The issues varied in size from six pages up to as many fifty pages. From these issues, I extracted over 120 articles for further review and possible submission to be included in the sourcebook. I wrote descriptions for several of these articles and submitted them myself to the international scholars. The ultimate outcome of this ORCA project will be the publication of the Red Vienna Sourcebook, which is expected to be completed in December 2019. In addition to the Red Vienna Sourcebook, the articles we found that were written by women will also be added to BYU’s own Sophie Project.
Contributing to the Red Vienna Sourcebook and working with Professor McFarland has been a meaningful experience as it will help bring “Red Vienna” back into the focus of North American scholarship and has enlarged my cultural understanding of the time period. I have also learned important research skills and gained valuable experience in working with a faculty member that I can further leverage in the future as I apply to the Marriott School of Business, internships and future employment.