A book proposal

16 Jan

As some of you may remember, I have wanted to expand my writings about “my” German women into a book–their fascinating stories should be told. Recently, the film historian Thomas Elsaesser discovered my blog about Fr. Kern, and was kind enough to send me photographs of her from the 1930s. (Please see Elsaesser’s page about the Martin Elsaesser Foundation at http://www.martin-elsaesser-stiftung.de/.)  This serendipitous correspondence provided the necessary impetus for me to go ahead with this project. Here is the book proposal I have submitted to an interested publisher. I would appreciate any comments.]

Title:  Three German Women: Personal Histories from the Twentieth Century

Author(s): Erika Esau

Publication type:

(Monograph/Series volume/Edited collection/other):  Monograph

Subject:  German Cultural Studies, Women’s Studies

Estimated manuscript delivery date:  January 2019

Number of words:  35,000 maximum

Has the proposed title been published elsewhere in the same, or a similar form?

A small segment of the section on Anna Spitzmüller has been quoted in Hermann Weissgärber, You Can’t Copy Tradition:  A view on the eventful history and bilateral work of the Austro-American Institute of Education from 1926-2016, vol. 1, Vienna 2016 (ISBN 978-3-7412-1906-1).

Rationale for publication:

This project began when I learned of the death of Maria Steinberg, a woman who had worked as a volunteer in my library until she was 86. She had such an interesting and historically significant life story, and I could not find any but the briefest of obituaries for her.  I kept thinking that her story should be told, as an example of the battles and successes faced by intelligent women confronted with the conflicts and explosive events of  20th-century Europe.

The decision to tell her story made me remember the other women in my life whose fascinating stories have also never been recounted. I then realized that other women who had inspired me came from my German-speaking life:  Irmgard Rexroth-Kern, a journalist and Wellesley graduate who I met while on my Fulbright in Darmstadt in 1973-74; and Fr. Dr. Anna von Spitzmüller, my art history teacher in Vienna in 1969-70, who was in the 1930s the first female curator in Vienna.  The lives of these three women serve as emotional mirrors to the amazing changes and tumultuous history of the 20th century.

Their stories tell of the hardships, struggles, and victories of intellectual women in this era. The three women were related to men who played a role in European cultural history, men who received a relatively prominent place in history books and online sites, and at least gained recognition through obituaries that outlined their achievements. These women, in contrast, received very few public accolades for their equally important achievements. All of them (one of them was Jewish) had to endure astonishing hardships during World War II. In focusing on these stories, I hope to place them in the context of the times, in Germany and Austria, and to highlight the way in which traumatic choices were imposed on ordinary people (even well-educated and socially prominent ones) by political and social circumstances over which they had no control.

All of my previous writings have been decidedly academic; the work closest in tone to what I will write here is the biographical sketch of the collector LaVera Pohl in my catalogue, German Expressionism at Lawrence University: The La Vera Pohl Collection (Appleton, Wisconsin 1988). While I want to retain the more personal voice of my blog entries in writing about the women, I will also ground these subjects in an academic framework, with a chapter focusing on some overarching themes: intellectual women’s roles in European society and culture, the fate of Jewish culture in Germany and Austria, and specific historical background describing the incidents affecting the women’s life trajectories (e.g., Irmgard Kern’s escaping Berlin bombings to give birth, Dr. Spitzmüller’s work with the Monuments Men, Maria Steinberg’s father’s position in the Reichstag).

The academic literature of this period is, of course, vast, much of which serves as a scholarly foundation for the book.  Of particular pertinence, I mention the following:

Petra Unger. Frauenspaziergänge:  Entdeckungsreisen durch Wien. Vienna 2012

Tim Bonyhady. Good Living Street: Portrait of a Patron Family, Vienna 1900. New York 2011

Maja Haderlap. Engel des Vergessens. Göttingen 2011

Marjorie Perloff. The Vienna Paradox:  A Memoir. New York 2004

Karen Hagemann, Jean Quataert, Gendering Modern German History, New York 2008

Angela Thompson.  Blackout:  A Woman’s Struggle for Survival in Twentieth Century Germany. 2012

Anonymous. A Woman in Berlin:  Eight Weeks in the Conquered City: A Diary. New York 2006

Edgar Feuchtwanger. Hitler, My Neighbor. New York 2017

Fritz Stern. The Politics of Cultural Despair:  A Study in the Rise of German Ideology. Berkeley, CA 1974.

Anton Gill. Dance Between the Flames: Berlin Between the Wars. 1970

Ehrhard Bahr.  Weimar on the Pacific: German Exile Culture in Los Angeles and the Crisis of Modernism (Weimar and Now: German Cultural Criticism) Berkeley, CA 2008

 Table of contents:

(Please include at least one sample chapter or writing sample as an Appendix to this form)

I. Introduction

II.  Women in the Tumult: Stories of Beauty and Endurance

III. From Berlin to California:  Maria Weber Steinberg (1920-2013)

IV.  Kernel’s Brilliant Career:  Irmgard Maria Rexroth-Kern (1907-1983)

V.  A Child of Empire:  Anna von Spitzmüller (1903-2001)

VI. Appendix:  Translation of Irmgard Kern’s 13-part “Autobiografie eines jungen Mädchens” in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, July 1934.

Who do you feel is the main audience for this work?

Those interested in stories of the Weimar period in Berlin, German women’s biographies, history of Germany 1920-1970, and memoirs of Viennese culture.

 What are the existing competitor titles?

I would say that Angela Thompson’s Blackout (2012) and Marjorie Perloff’s The Vienna Paradox (2004), as well as her recently released Edge of Irony: Modernism in the Shadow of the Hapsburg Empire (Chicago 2018) would be closest in subject matter.

What makes the proposed title different?

These stories encompass a broader range of topics than either memoir, and offer  specific stories about one of the participants in the events that Perloff discusses in her most recent book, as well as women directly connected to historical events in Weimar Berlin and World War II in Germany.

Where the publication might be promoted, when published?

I would imagine that any of the places that promote books on German and Austrian culture would do, as well as ones specializing in women’s studies. Two specific sources also come to mind:

1) Film historian Thomas Elsaesser, whose family knew Rexroth-Kern and her husband in the 1930s and who has just produced a film about his famous relatives, has written to me:  “At some point early in 2019 we will be working on Rexroth’s literary estate, and it would be wonderful, if by then your book/study of Irmgard Kern were also to see the light.”

2) Hermann Weissgaerber, Director of Amerika-Institut in Vienna, where Anna Spitzmüller taught, has already published a small segment of my writing on Fr. Dr. Spitzmüller (see above), and would be overjoyed to have a more comprehensive publication about her to promote.

What networks do you have to support this?

Followers of my blog, my website, Facebook, and connections through my work with the Rifkind Center for German Expressionist Studies at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. I would also consider as “networks” the contacts mentioned above, Thomas Elsaesser and Hermann Weissgaerber.

Author biographies: 

(Please detail (or attach as a separate document, or include a link to a webpage) your main academic credentials, including publication history)

Curriculum vitae sent by email as a separate document.

Appendix:

Links to blog entries already written:

Maria Steinberg:

https://esauboeck.wordpress.com/2014/08/14/maria-and-other-german-speaking-women-of-influence/

https://esauboeck.wordpress.com/2015/10/16/more-on-maria/

Irmgard Rexroth-Kern:

https://esauboeck.wordpress.com/2015/06/08/frau-rexroth-kern/

https://esauboeck.wordpress.com/2015/06/25/frau-kern-part-ii-germany-and-the-war/

https://esauboeck.wordpress.com/2015/10/27/footnote-frau-kerns-obituary/

Anna von Spitzmüller:

https://esauboeck.wordpress.com/2015/11/13/spitzi-part-i-my-memories/

https://esauboeck.wordpress.com/2015/11/30/spitzi-part-ii-her-life/

 

 

 

 

5 Responses to “A book proposal”

  1. Georgia Pope January 16, 2018 at 8:19 pm #

    Erika, Although I am certainly not a scholar I am a woman and someone who is interested in the progress of women throughout our history. I think you have chosen a perfect time to be writing and presenting these women’s lives. Bravo. I hope you receive a book deal….and I wouldn’t rule out presenting this to interested parties for a documentary and/or movie….shoot for the sky.

    • esauboeck January 16, 2018 at 8:39 pm #

      Thanks, Georgia! I would love to make this into a documentary. The filmmaker who contacted me has already made a film about his Berlin family which includes some scenes with Fr. Kern.

  2. Jonathan Gluckman January 16, 2018 at 9:27 pm #

    Probably fly; the history of lesser mortals is now fashionable.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Book proposal accepted! | esauboeck - March 14, 2018

    […] Here’s the blog I wrote about the topic:  https://esauboeck.wordpress.com/2018/01/16/a-book-proposal/ […]

  2. Image-making | esauboeck - April 21, 2018

    […] family, “Sonneninsel”, “Sun Island” in English.  As I have written before (https://esauboeck.wordpress.com/2018/01/16/a-book-proposal/), Elsaesser serendipitously discovered my blog about Irmgard Rexroth-Kern, one of my “Three […]

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