Pardaad explores the author Stefan Zweig’s collection of literary & musical manuscripts.
Pardaad Chamsaz had completed his PGCE in French and German, and taught in two secondary schools, before an advert on a German Studies mailing list changed his career plans. His AHRC CDP, between the University of Bristol and the British Library, explores the Austrian author Stefan Zweig’s collection of literary, musical, and historical manuscripts.
How did you move from teaching at secondary schools to doing a PhD on Stefan Zweig?
During the PGCE, you are encouraged to begin applying for jobs in the springtime. I’d had a couple of interviews with schools when I saw the advert for the CDP on a German Studies mailing list. I decided I would accept the first good offer, whether teaching or study, and it just so happened that the CDP was offered to me straight after the interview.
What attracted you to doing your PhD as part of the CDP scheme?
I would have probably never gone through with the application process for a conventional PhD, despite deep down always wanting to pursue my academic studies. The CDP offered an already well-framed project, which sought a candidate with the skills to develop a theme rather than create one from scratch. I felt I could then approach it like a job. I was also quite intimidated by the idea of a PhD, where you spend a lot of your time in isolation working in a narrow academic area. Knowing that I would be integrated in the European Studies team at the British Library, and that some of my work would directly impact on public-engagement activities, was very appealing.
What is your PhD about?
My research looks at Zweig’s collection of manuscripts, which contains rare drafts and corrected proofs from authors, including Goethe, Balzac and Byron, and historical figures, such as Louis XVI, Robespierre and Marie Antoinette. Zweig’s motivation for collecting drafts and works-in-progress stemmed from his interest in the ‘secret of creation’. My work attempts to reintegrate his collecting practice into a renewed evaluation of Zweig’s own writing and writing process. How does an avid interest in and knowledge of the writing processes of artists in his collection affect the way Zweig approached, revised, and constructed his biographies, essays and novellas? My research also analyses Zweig’s essays on manuscripts and collecting, which have failed to receive much critical attention. By bringing to the fore the themes of process and materiality of drafts and their revisions, I propose a new approach to Zweig. I hope to be able to make wider conclusions about reading manuscripts, taking Zweig’s ideas of a kind of ‘ethics’ of reading through an encounter with an author figure, which will insert Zweig into current theoretical discussions around ethical buy accutane acne reading and authorship.
What aspect of your research do you find most exciting?
I have been most interested in working with Zweig’s own manuscripts, and have had the opportunity to visit the Stefan Zweig Archive at the State University of New York at Fredonia, which has many of his drafts. When you spend this long working on a particular author, reading his work and his notes becomes an intimate and personal experience. Little has been written about Zweig’s working process, despite his preoccupation with the idea. Through the many folders of preserved notes and proofs of Zweig’s last (unfinished) biography of Honoré de Balzac, I have begun to understand the way Zweig revised his portraits of his heroes to emphasise particular attributes. The most surprising thing I’ve found was probably a handwritten list of Zweig’s manuscript viagra collection inserted inside one of the notebooks used to draft the Balzac biography. It linked up my project’s two biggest ideas. It also had a human story behind it, as Zweig looked to sell part of his collection while writing this biography, all during a hectic time when he was in exile in England then America. If not that piece, then it has to be the moment when, going through Zweig’s calendars, I found an excited note with 3 exclamation marks referring to his upcoming wedding day to Lotte Altmann, amongst other, mostly practical, entries.
What other activities have you been involved in?
I’ve had lots of opportunities at the British Library, but without sacrificing any part of the PhD experience at the University of Bristol, where I have taught on a first-year module. I’ve been heavily involved in the digitization, cataloguing and publicity for the Zweig collection, and have written the introduction to the printed catalogue, which brings together years of bibliographical research on the collection. Alongside that, I have presented at three conferences, all with different focuses, allowing me to position my work in discussions devoted to theory, translation and German Studies. Most recently, I co-organised the successful study day ‘All the World’s a Stage: Shakespeare in Europe and the Americas’ . Right now, I’m taking a break from my PhD to do a three-month policy internship organized by RCUK based in the Digital Preservation Team at the BL.
What are your plans for the future?
With nearly a year and a half left of the PhD, I haven’t thought too much about the future. At the moment, I am leaning towards pursuing a career at the British Library or at similar cultural institutions, thanks to the practical experience I have gained. One step at a time…