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Professor and head of foreign languages & literatures brings insight to the works of Austrian author Elfriede Jelinek

In 2004, Elfriede Jelinek became the tenth woman to win the Nobel Prize in literature. Since then, her writings have been studied around the world and her dramatic works have been a constant on the German stage.

Margarete Lamb-Faffelberger, professor and head of foreign languages & literature, is taking the study of Jelinek’s works to a new level with her publication, Elfriede Jelinek: Writing Woman, Nation, and Identity. A critical anthology.

The idea for the anthology was conceived in 2004 by Matthias Piccolruaz Konzett of Tufts University. Lamb-Faffelberger has edited the full work and has been the main correspondent with Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, who will publish the book this November.

The work by Lamb-Faffelberger will be the first comprehensive anthology of scholarly articles on Jelinek’s works. Lamb-Faffelberger hopes that the book will make Jelinek’s works more accessible and that new English translations of Jelinek’s works will compliment the anthology.

The Nobel Prize committee awarded Jelinek the prize “for her musical flow of voices and counter-voices in novels and plays that with extraordinary linguistic zeal reveal the absurdity of society’s cliches and their subjugating power.”

Lamb-Faffelberger says that she finds Jelinek’s works “tiring, yet exhilarating.” “Her works are strenuous to follow because she is not a storyteller, but truth emerges from between her lines, truths that are normally hidden,” says Lamb-Faffelberger.

Jelinek uses an anagrammatic style in her works. She takes common words and phrases and reworks full paragraphs to create a new meaning. She also uses unique coloring of words that are difficult to translate into English or American, particularly from the German, Austrian, and Viennese dialects that she uses. Lamb-Faffelberger says, “She creates something new, delving into the real truth that is covered by myth.”

“Jelinek is one of the most significant female writers in the world today and this anthology will serve as a readable source for students in the classroom as well as the general public.”

Lamb-Faffelberger’s anthology will also bring scholarship to the classroom in an inter-institutional and international seminar that she is currently teaching. In her course “In the Present: Language, Power and the Body in Contemporary Germany and Austria,” trans-Atlantic communication and video-conferencing will allow students to gain a unique firsthand view of Jelinek’s works. In conjunction with Colgate University and Vassar College in the United States, University of Paderborn in Germany, and the University of Vienna in Austria, Lafayette students will participate in international dialogues and will be able to talk to actors who are currently performing Jelinek’s works on the German stage, as well as other individuals who are involved with Jelinek’s works.

Lamb-Faffelberger has been in contact with Jelinek, who lives as a recluse because of sickness related to her fear of crowds. “She is a kind woman who respects the project,” says Lamb-Faffelberger. “I consider her someone whose friendship I treasure.”

Lamb-Faffelberger is the author of five other books, several of them anthologies dealing with contemporary Austrian literature and film. A member of the Lafayette faculty since 1992, she regularly includes students in her research and guides them in their own independent research projects.

She 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 literature.

Citing her as “one of the world’s experts on contemporary Austrian literature and film,” the University of Calgary hosted Lamb-Faffelberger as she delivered its 2005 Humanities Nobel Lecture. She also discussed the work of Jelinek, for three consecutive evenings at the Austrian Embassy in 2005. In addition, she presented “The Power of Language,” about Jelinek’s latest play, at the 2005 annual meeting of the American Association of Teachers of German in Baltimore. She was quoted extensively about the announcement of the Nobel Prize in newspapers around the country, including the Washington Post, Baltimore Sun, Seattle Times, Buffalo News, St. Paul (Minn.) Pioneer Press, and Concord (N.H.) Monitor.

She is a past recipient of the Roy and Lura Forrest Jones Faculty Lecture Award and the Delta Upsilon Award for outstanding teaching and mentoring. She earned her Ph.D. from Rice University.

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