1999 Fall – Personal & Institutional News

WESS Newsletter

Vol. 23, No. 1 (Fall 1999)

Column Editor: Richard Hacken

Judgment. In such a loosely defined manner, we can now delve together into the lives and times of all WESS members and their institutions with impunity. Here goes:

Kathy Hunter Rutter, French-Italian-Romanian Team Leader and Senior Cataloger at the Harvard College Library, first visited Italy in 1966. She returned to the USA… and four months later came The Flood: did she know something about the Arno that the rest of us didn’t know? She’s been an incorrigible and encouragable Italophile ever since, visiting “that place where the lemons blossom” whenever possible. Her interest in Gypsies (Roma) developed gradually. She recalls her grandmother telling of Gypsies visiting the family farm in Southern Illinois circa 1910 while she (her grandmother, not Kathy) hid in a tree. Kathy went to fortunetellers while in junior high school (did they inform her she would be secretary of WESS as the millennium ended?), and she read Jan Yoors’ book, The Gypsies, when it was popular in the 60’s. (Did you know that the name “Gypsy” comes from a false belief that these groups originally came from Egypt?) While living near Florence in 1981 as a part of her masters’ program in Italian Studies with Middlebury College, her daily commute put her amongst Gypsy women and children who lived in camps off the highway between the airport and Prato. Still inclined negatively, though, she didn’t become informed and enlightened until a certain library school assignment came along which required her to compile a comprehensive analytical bibliography on Gypsies in the US from 1945 to the early 1980’s. Not only did she read everything she could get her eyes on, she slowly succumbed to the charms of personal book collecting, which in turn led her to meet some very interesting people (both networking and collecting are difficult because of the interdisciplinary nature of the field). For the past decade she’s been a member of the Gypsy Lore Society and the George Borrow Society (George Borrow was a 19th century British author of Gypsy lore and was also known to “lend” books, despite his family name). A major mentor for her has been Sir Angus Fraser, who is the bibliographer of George Borrow and author of Blackwell’s The Gypsies (first issued in 1992), one of the best books on Gypsies. This year, she’s been an outside evaluator at Marlboro College in Vermont for a senior thesis involving the Gypsies at Auschwitz. On the cyberside of things, Kathy subscribes to RomNet and Rom News which have a more political slant than the societies do, and by doing so she can help siphon URLs to Sam Dunlap for the WESS Social Science page. Though Kathy’s interests are heavily concentrated in Roma studies, there is also a heavy concentration of Sinti Gypsies in Europe, and her studies themselves are, we must say, most Sinti-lating.

Nashville has more culture than just the Grand Ole Opry and the Country Music Hall of Fame. It has a one-to-one replica of the original Parthenon with a 42-foot-high Athena inside, the tallest piece of indoor sculpture in the Western World. It’s a remarkable sight protected by seven-and-a-half ton bronze doors and a security guard named Kirk. Now the Jean and Alexander Heard Library on the beautiful arboretum campus of Vanderbilt University, an easy few minutes’ stroll from that Parthenon-West, has one additional cultural landmark to offer. In May of this year, Chris Germino – bibliographer for German literature at Vanderbilt – reports, the library received a generous gift collection from the family of Dr. Ernst Waldinger. Waldinger was a scholar and poet living in Vienna during the early years of this century, active in the flourishing intellectual life and acquainted with many of the writers of the era. After the 1938 Anschluss he emigrated to New York, chaired the Department of German at Skidmore College until his retirement and continued to write lyric poetry reflecting his beloved Austria. Chris says she was especially interested in this collection because of direct faculty interest. She had hoped the collection would include a significant number of primary works not widely known or held in this country, first editions of original poetry and the like. Once negotiations were complete and the collection had been shipped, she eagerly began to unpack. Her expectations were not only met but exceeded: some drama, some fiction, but primarily volume after slim volume of poetry in unique bindings, unique holdings, early editions, first editions, beautiful Wolff, Zsolnay and Karl Kraus editions. Over a hundred of the titles in this collection include personal inscriptions “in Freundschaft” to Dr. Waldinger from poets and novelists who went on to achieve fame, Oskar Maria Graf to name but one. About forty anthologies of the time period include work by Ernst Waldinger himself. These materials have obviously been well cared for through the years; nevertheless, time has taken its toll: some are fragile and must be handled with the respect and gentility their uniqueness demands. Every time Chris touches one of these early twentieth- century treasures, as she articulates it, she “feels a piece of literary history come alive.” The Vanderbilt library now has the opportunity to serve as a conduit of exceptional German and Austrian works for future scholars, poets and literary historians.

Roberta Astroff, one of our WESSies at Penn State, made good her escape to library school (Indiana University, 1998) after many miserable years as a garden-professorial-variety faculty member teaching and researching in communications and cultural studies. If the “medium was the message,” then she got the message, and she liked it only medium well. Returning to lost loves in foreign literature from undergraduate days (with an emphasis in French) and in Latin American and Caribbean Studies in Mexico and at NYU for the M.A., she proved you can “go home again.” Her job description keeps changing (a quirk no doubt unique to her alone among WESSies, yessy?). She joined Penn State more than one but less than two years ago (July 1998) as a “humanities librarian” with, for, over, under, around and through selection, reference, instruction and… that ubiquitous, pervasive and ever-present “other library duties as assigned.” She started off as selector for Spanish and Portuguese, Religious Studies, Classics, Jewish Studies, and Latin American Studies, then inherited Italian sometime in the fall (a bequeathal devoutly to be wished). Last spring the French librarian left, and she took that on as well. When the open humanities position is filled, her load will be lightened somewhat, but she will also be coordinator of the Digital Resource Center for the Humanities. If you look closely, you’ll notice that the communications collection is nowhere on her agenda. Roberta is very happy at Happy Valley, and, she reports, she loved the cruise on the Mississipp’ at ALA and New Orleans.

Ah, yes, the WESS cruise on the River: a metaphor for life. We went somewhere — with the current, against the current — and got nowhere… or at least back where we started. A more competent column editor than the incumbent would probably give a person-by-person report on who said, did and meant what, but, hey, he was too busy to notice, scarfing down gooey nachos, watching the sun sink over the bayous and chatting with long-time friends. Yes, you are my friends, my friends.