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Margarete Lamb-Faffelberger, associate professor and head of foreign languages and literatures, has been quoted extensively this month in newspapers around the country about the announcement that Elfriede Jelinek, an avant-garde Austrian author, had won the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Major newspapers have included the Washington Post, Baltimore Sun, Seattle Times, Buffalo News, St. Paul (Minn.) Pioneer Press, and Concord (N.H.) Monitor.

General editor of the Austria Culture Series produced by Peter Lang Publishing, New York, Lamb-Faffelberger also has co-edited as well as co-written the introduction for Visions and Visionaries in Contemporary Austrian Literature and Film, a book recently published for the series.

Jelinek, a prolific author whose body of work includes novels, plays, and poetry, is best known in the United States as author of the 1988 novel The Piano Teacher, which was the basis for the acclaimed but controversial film of the same name. It is only the tenth time a woman has won the Nobel Prize for Literature since 1901.

Lamb-Faffelberger authored the book Valie Export und Elfriede Jelinek im Spiegel der Presse. Zur Rezeption der feministischen Avantgarde Österreichs for the Austrian Culture Series in 1992 and has written numerous articles about Jelinek and her work in scholarly journals and other publications. She also conducted a videotaped interview of the reclusive Jelinek in 1990.

The Washington Post article highlights Lamb-Faffelberger’s knowledge of the Nobel Prize winner.

Jelinek is an iconoclastic figure whose works have focused on abuse, domination and subjugation. Those dynamics in the human relationships in her narratives, however, have been representations of the “authoritarian structures” and “social hierarchy” of Austrian society, says Margarete Lamb-Faffelberger, chairwoman of the foreign languages and literatures department at Lafayette College in Easton, Pa. Lamb-Faffelberger, herself Austrian, has written extensively on Jelinek and interviewed the author in 1990 for her doctoral dissertation.

Lamb-Faffelberger calls Jelinek’s writing “creative resistance.”

“She digs down to the bottom and looks at those who are suffering greatly under the anti-Semitism that is still smoldering under the rug, the xenophobia that is still smoldering under the rug, the Catholicism with all its negatives,” said Lamb-Faffelberger.

Jelinek, for instance, dedicated her 1997 play “Stecken, Stab und Stangl” to a group of Gypsies killed in a hate crime….

The Nobel committee described The Piano Teacher, translated into English in 1988, as “autobiographically based.”

Like Erika, Jelinek grew up as a classically trained pianist and organist driven by a dominant mother. And as with Erika, Jelinek’s life changed radically. As a young woman, Jelinek dropped music as her career and took up writing. The break came, says Lamb-Faffelberger, during a year of serious illness about which Jelinek has never written.

Still, Lamb-Faffelberger cautions against finding too many parallels between the fictive character and the author.

“Erika’s a very mediocre woman, and Elfriede never was; never was,” she says.

Lamb-Faffelberger’s articles about Jelinek and her work include “Elfriede Jelinek’s Criticism of the Heimat-Myth” in I Am Too Many People: Peter Turrini: Playwright, Poet, Essayist, published by Ariadne Press (1998); “‘Auf dem ‘Holzweg des modernen Daseins.’ Überlegungen zu Elfriede Jelineks Kritik am Heimat-Mythos in Wolken.Heim. und Totenauberg” in Modern Austrian Literature Vol 32, 3, (1999); and “Elfriede Jelinek’s Anagram: A Powerful Tool to Deconstruct the Canon” in Österreich in amerikanischer Sicht: Das Österreichbild im amerikanischen Schulunterricht. Maria Luise Caputo-Mayr, Herbert Lederer eds. (New York: Austrian Cultural Insitute) vol. 8: (1995).

Visions and Visionaries in Contemporary Austrian Literature and Film is a volume of essays on contemporary Austrian literature and film, offering insightful discussions on a gallery of significant authors and cultural figures. The book investigates important issues of style and genre and portrays questions of Austrian identity and culture in contexts of recent literary and multimedia developments, cross-cultural interactions, and historical forces.

The book encompasses relevant trends and notions from the past — especially the complexities of lingering effects of the Nazi era — along with issues of the future, in particular the present and anticipated interactions of culture and cyberspace. The essays are enhanced by poems by Evelyn Schlag and Gerhard Kofler.

Lamb-Faffelberger regularly includes students in her research and guides them in their own independent research projects. Last school year, for example, she mentored Alyson Gross ’04 (Killingworth, Conn.), a double major in German and international affairs, in her study of the common literary theme of the picaro in three novels for a yearlong honors research project

Lamb-Faffelberger played an instrumental role in securing a grant for Lafayette’s Max Kade Center for German Studies, which was dedicated in 2003. In addition to funding the technologically advanced headquarters for the study of German at Lafayette, the Max Kade Institute awarded $5,000 to help fund a German library and a series of visiting scholars and writers-in-residence hosted by Lafayette’s department of foreign languages and literatures.

In 2002, Lamb-Faffelberger coordinated an internship program for Lafayette students with the University for Applied Sciences in Zittau/Görlitz, Germany. Peter Totev ’04, a civil engineering major from Oberursel, Germany, worked for Bombadier Transport, a company that builds locomotives and trains, while Gretel Raibeck ’03, a chemical engineering major from Albrightsville, Pa., worked for fit GmBH, a soap and detergent manufacturer.

Along with Javad Tavakoli, professor and head of chemical engineering, Lamb-Faffelberger has led Lafayette students to Germany and Austria through a three-week interdisciplinary course, Green Europe, over the May interim session.

The professor accepted an invitation by Austria Secretary of Education Elisabeth Gehrer to join a “think tank” focusing on sweeping reforms of the country’s university system. “The secretary and her ministry are particularly interested in the Lafayette faculty’s strong relationship with students, our advising and mentoring programs, and our EXCEL Scholars program, as well as our special relationship with alumni and our success in raising funds for the institution,” says Lamb-Faffelberger.

She hosted 35 scholars from 11 countries at Lafayette for the sixth Annual Conference of Austrian Literature and Culture, “Visions and Visionaries in Literature and Film of Modern Austria.” She served as one of two co-organizers of the conference.

Lamb-Faffelberger was part of a three-person group that formed an international organization exclusively dedicated to the research and teaching of Austrian literature and culture studies. The trio established the constitution and by-laws for the Modern Austrian Literature and Culture Association.

A member of the Lafayette faculty since 1992, Lamb-Faffelberger holds a Ph.D. from Rice University and master’s from the University of Illinois. Her research interests include 19th and 20th century German literature and culture; modern Austrian literature and film; Austrian theater; feminist and minority discourse; and multi-media for foreign-language teaching.

Lamb-Faffelberger co-edited and wrote an introduction for Postwar Austrian Theater: Text and Performance, published last year by Ariadne Press, as well as Out from the Shadows. A Collection of Articles on Austrian Literature and Film by Women since 1945, published by Ariadne in 1997. She also edited Literature, Film, and Culture Industry in Contemporary Austria, published last year by Peter Lang.

Lamb-Faffelberger has received the Roy and Lura Forrest Jones Faculty Lecture Award, established at Lafayette in 1966 to recognize superior teaching and scholarship, and the Delta Upsilon Award for outstanding teaching and mentoring.

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