The Austrian government has awarded the 2012 Karl von Vogelsang State Prize for History to New York University Professor Larry Wolff for his book The Idea of Galicia: History and Fantasy in Habsburg Political Culture, which explores this Eastern European region that was part of the Habsburg Empire.
The prize will be awarded in Vienna on April 20 by Karlheinz Töchterle, Austria’s minister for science and research.
Galicia, now part of present-day Poland and Ukraine, was created at the first partition of Poland in 1772. It disappeared from the map in 1918 and was eventually annexed by Poland. Despite its relatively short life span, the idea of Galicia came to have meaning for both the peoples who lived there and the Habsburg government that ruled it. Today, its memory continues to fascinate those who live in its former territories and the descendants of those who emigrated out of Galicia.
The idea of Galicia was largely produced by the cultures of two cities, Ukraine’s Lviv and Poland’s Cracow. Making use of travelers’ accounts, newspaper reports, and literary works, Wolff engages such figures as Emperor Joseph II, Metternich, Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, Ivan Franko, Stanislaw Wyspianski, Tadeusz Zelenski, Isaac Babel, Martin Buber, and Bruno Schulz. He shows the significance of provincial space as a site for the evolution of cultural meanings and identities, and analyzes the province as the framework for non-national and multi-national understandings of empire in European history.
Wolff, director of NYU’s Center for European and Mediterranean Studies, has also authored: Venice and the Slavs: The Discovery of Dalmatia in the Age of Enlightenment; Inventing Eastern Europe: The Map of Civilization on the Mind of the Enlightenment; and The Vatican and Poland in the Age of the Partitions: Diplomatic and Cultural Encounters at the Warsaw Nunciature, as well as the forthcoming Paolina’s Innocence: Child Abuse in Casanova’s Venice, among other works. In addition, he wrote the introduction to Leopold von Sacher-Masoch’s Venus in Furs, a Galician novella and the inspiration for the Broadway play of the same name.
A professor in NYU’s Department of History, Wolff, who holds a Ph.D. from Stanford University, was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2003.