Academic journal article German Quarterly

In memoriam Susanne Zantop, 1945-2001

Academic journal article German Quarterly

In memoriam Susanne Zantop, 1945-2001

Article excerpt

Susanne Zantop did everything right and was admired and loved for all she achieved. Her career and her life seemed to show that, sometimes, the good guys win-and that makes her brutal murder even harder to comprehend and to bear. From its beginning to its end, her academic career was exemplary. Once her husband Half had accepted a tenure-track job at Dartmouth College, Susanne determined to pursue an academic career herself. She was already in possession ofa master's degree in political science (with special emphasis on Latin American Studies and international relations) from Stanford University, where she had met Half, then a graduate student in geology. Commuting from Hanover, where her supportive husband cared for their two small daughters while she was gone, Susanne now began work towards her master's degree in Comparative Literature at the University of Massachusetts. I first met her in 1978, when she enrolled in a year-long graduate course called "The Politics of Form" that I was teaching in the Comp. Lit. Department. Though I was only a few years older than Susanne, I became something like her "Magistermutter" and first discovered the joy of watching one's students move on to ever higher accomplishments. In the context of a quite exuberant class of students very dedicated, in the spirit of the late seventies, to disrupting all manner of discourses, that was also when I first encountered Susanne's brilliance, her enormous energy, her warmth and humor, her veritably heroic capacity for hard work, the high intellectual and ethical standards against which she measured herself, her tolerance for human weakness and lack of tolerance for pretension, her skepticism about abstruse theoretical edifices, and her great good sense. I was also the beneficiary of the Zantops' fabled hospitality for the first time when she invited the entire class up for a weekend. In the years that followed, my young son, about the same age as her daughters, and I had numerous opportunities to drive to Hanover to cross-country ski or hike or just sit chatting before the warm wood stove in the Zantops' cozy home.

After her UMass M.A., Susanne, still commuting from Hanover, continued on to Harvard to complete her doctorate in Comparative Literature. Perfectly fluent in four languages, English, French, German, and Spanish, Susanne could have chosen to move in many scholarly directions after finishing her graduate work. She had hoped, of course, for a position at Dartmouth, and in fact taught for two years in the Spanish Department before accepting a tenuretrack position in German there. (She might equally as well have continued her career in Spanish, and it is fortunate for our field that the position in German became available first!) By then she had also begun to publish brilliant, rigorous, and innovative works of scholarship, and her foundational work in the language, literature, and culture of several nations allowed her to carry out path-breaking work that moved the field of German Studies into areas that perhaps no other scholar in our field was qualified to address. In her work on Heinrich Heine, the subject of her monograph Zeitbilder: Geschichtsschreibung and Literatur bei Heinrich Heine and Mariano Josh de Lama and of an edited collection, Paintings on the Move: Heinrich Heine and the Visual Arts, she explored the accomplishments of that cosmopolitan figure in under-researched areas: in his connections with Mexico, Latin America, and Southern Europe, in his work in and relevance for the visual arts. Susanne also did ground-breaking work in feminist German Studies: through her critical editorship of a number of out-of-print women's texts-Friederike Unger's Julchen Grunthal, Bekenntnisse einer schonen Seele, and Albert and Albertine-and through Bitter Healing, the two-volume collection of German women's writing she co-edited with Jeannine Blackwell, she made relatively unknown German female texts available to an English-language readership. …

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