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Title: From the World of Yesterday to the Europe of Tomorrow: On Commitment, Ethics, and Europe in the Works of Stefan Zweig
Author: Fontanals García, David
Director/Tutor: Andrés González, Rodrigo
Vilar, Loreto
Keywords: Zweig, Stefan, 1881-1942
Compromise (Ethics)
Issue Date: 2-Mar-2020
Publisher: Universitat de Barcelona
Abstract: [eng] In July 1941, Stefan Zweig (1881-1942), finished the first draft of his memoirs, which he titled Blick auf mein Leben. One month later, in August 1941, he and his wife Lotte would leave for Brazil never to return. The last years of Zweig’s life were surrounded by an impending sense of doom. In this context, his autobiography, which was finally published posthumously in 1942 as Die Welt von Gestern, emerged as a farewell from someone—an Austrian, a Jew, a writer, a pacifist, and above all, a European—who wished to leave his testimony for posterity, who believed that he had the duty to bear witness, to pass down to the next generations his hopes and dreams and the story of how these had been shattered twice by the forces of nationalism and war. The current scenario of Zweigian Studies, marked by an incipient Zweig ‘revival’, coincides with a moment in history when the need to rethinking and redefine our common spaces of cohabitation has become an imperative. This dissertation examines the intellectual and committed dimension of Stefan Zweig’s oeuvre as it crystallizes around the idea of Europe. It seeks, above all, to question and problematize the understanding of Stefan Zweig as an ‘uncommitted’, ‘silent’ writer which has dominated a significant part of the critical reception of his works since the nineteen thirties. With Die Welt von Gestern as the point of departure of my reflections, given the text’s unique combination of Zweig’s life-story with the construction of a collective, historical account, the Introduction aims to reconstruct and assess the reception of Stefan Zweig’s works and figure, both from an aesthetic and a political perspectives. Especially, it addresses the question of Zweig’s ‘politics’ and ‘apoliticism’ as it is crucial in the configuration of his committed responses. Chapter I examines a selection of Zweig’s works in order to analyze how his commitment—to Europe, broadly speaking—informed the construction of his public, authorial persona and resulted in the articulation of a narrative of commitment. After considering the textual specificities of Zweig’s personal discourse in Die Welt von Gestern in an attempt to establish the parameters that inform Zweig’s self-writing, this chapter leads us through a succession of Zweigian intellectuals, from Émile Verhaeren, Jeremias and Romain Rolland to Erasmus, Castellio and Michel de Montaigne. In doing so, it aims to provide a critical assessment of the way(s) in which Zweig constructed his figures of intellectuality, that is to say, of how he negotiated through those figures his commitment to a set of values and, above all, to a vision of the world (Weltanschauung). In doing so, Chapter I reveals the difficulties, contradictions and limitations that emerge throughout Zweig’s articulation of his beliefs and ideas in the public sphere. Chapter II examines the construction of Zweig’s ‘European’ project and Weltanschauung as the main goal or enterprise towards which the Austrian writer orients the figures of commitment discussed in the previous chapter, their ‘intellectual’ efforts and responses. More specifically, I focus my analysis on three main valences or functions of Zweig’s ‘Europe’. On the one hand, in its potential to become an ‘identity’ paradigm and affiliation, I distinguish between Europe’s individual and collective dimensions. On the other, I conclude my reflections in Chapter II by considering the possibilities of discussing Zweig’s ‘Europe’ as an ethical program. In my reading, Zweig’s ethical (‘European’) program emerges as the core of Zweig’s commitment, the foundations of his utopian ‘Europe’, allowing us to consider the possibility of expanding the Austrian writer’s engagement beyond the fight for the ‘spiritual’ union of Europe. In this sense, it becomes the link between Zweig’s figures of commitment and his ‘European’ project. In sum, I argue that at the center of Zweig’s commitment lies an ethical program made up of four essential notions—human(ism), peace, freedom, and post-nationalism— that invites us to travel from the Zweig’s world of yesterday to the Europe of tomorrow.
Appears in Collections:Tesis Doctorals - Facultat - Filologia

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