“Narratives from Rented Rooms” – Bettina Matthias on Hotel Studies in German Literature

 

Bettina Matthias, Professor of German at Middlebury College and Director of the well-known Middlebury summer school, presented her research on hotel studies on February 6th, highlighting an under-analyzed section in travel literatures with a talk entitled “Narratives from Rented Rooms: The Literary Fascination with Hotels and Their Dwellers in Early 20th Century Germany and Austria.” Her work takes a close look at the role of hotels and hotel rooms as transitional spaces for people, especially women, (self-)released from traditional roles in bourgeois society. In stories by Stefan Zweig, Thomas Mann, Arthur Schnitzler or Vicki Baum, around 1900 hotels and their spaces offer new options for people who subscribe to mobility and transportation in a speed-oriented modernity – and whose frequent loneliness and struggles with increasing urbanization George Lukacs called a “transcendental homelessness.” Prof. Matthias is working on her next book in hotel studies and travel literature, expanding on her first study published in 2006.

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