The Public Domain Class of 2013
This is a cross-post from The Public Domain Review, a project of the Open Knowledge Foundation.
Top Row (left to right): Stefan Zweig; Bronislaw Malinowski; Francis Younghusband
Middle Row (left to right): L.M. Montgomery; A.E.Waite; Edith Stein; Robert Musil
Bottom Row (left to right): Grant Wood; Bruno Schulz; Franz Boas; Eric Ravilious
Pictured above is The Public Domain Review‘s top pick of artists and writers whose works will, on 1st January 2013, be entering the public domain in those countries with a ‘life plus 70 years’ copyright term (e.g. most European Union members, Brazil, Israel, Nigeria, Russia, Turkey, etc.). An eclectic bunch have assembled for our graduation photo – including the two founding fathers of anthropology from different sides of the Atlantic, an Army officer turned “premature hippy”, the painter of one of America’s most iconic images, and a canonised Catholic saint who studied with Martin Heidegger. The unifying factor bringing them all together is that all died in the year of 1942, many sadly as a result, directly or indirectly, of the Second World War.
Below is a little bit more about each of their lives (with each name linking through to their respective Wikipedia pages, if you would like to find out more). In the new year, when their works shall enter the public domain, links to works shall be included on the original Public Domain Review post.
Bruno Schulz (July 12th 1892 – November 19th 1942) was a Polish writer and artist most famous for his collection of short stories The Street of Crocodiles (1934) which centre on a merchant family from a small town in the Galician region. The book, with its inventive and unique use of metaphor, helped establish Schulz’s reputation as one of the great Polish-language writers of the 20th century. He led a relatvively solitary life, teaching drawing in a Polish school in his hometown of Drohobych from 1924 to 1941. Following the Nazi invasion during the Second World War, being Jewish, Schulz was forced to live in a ghetto but for a while was protected by a Nazi Gestapo officer named Felix Landau who was an admirer of his artwork. During the last weeks of his life, Schulz painted a mural in Landau’s home in Drohobych. Shortly after completing the work, Schulz was walking home through the “Aryan quarter” with a loaf of bread when he was shot and killed by another Gestapo officer, Karl Günther, a rival of Landau’s. Subsequently, Schulz’s mural was painted over and forgotten until its discovery by a German documentary film crew in 2001. At the time of his death Schulz was working on a novel called The Messiah which has subsequently been lost.
Robert Musil (November 6th 1880 – April 15th 1942) was an Austrian writer whose huge tome of an unfinished novel The Man Without Qualities is generally considered to be one of the most important modernist novels. The story, set in Vienna on the eve of World War 1, deals with the moral and intellectual decline of the Austro-Hungarian empire through the eyes of the book’s hero Ulrich, a former mathematician who has failed to engage with the world around him in such a manner that would allow him to possess ‘qualities’. In 1932 Musil’s contemporary Thomas Mann (who had set up the Robert Musil Society that same year), when asked to name an eminent contemporary novel, cited exclusively The Man Without Qualities. Despite this support from high literary circles Musil’s work was far from gaining mass popular appeal in his lifetime. Indeed after his death from a stroke in 1942, incurred while he was on the run from the Nazis with his Jewish wife Martha, his work was largely forgotten in the German speaking world and it was not until the 1950s that it began to garner attention once more. The first translation of The Man Without Qualities in English was published in 1953, 1954 and 1960 – with an updated translation, included previously unpublished drafts, was published in 1995. More recently the philosophical aspect of his writing has come under the spotlight with the philosophy journal The Monist seeking submissions for a special issue on “The Philosophy of Robert Musil” to be published in January 2014.
Franz Boas (July 9th 1858 – December 21st 1942) was a German-American pioneer of modern anthropology and has been called the “Father of American Anthropology”. With his emphasis on research first, followed later by generalizations, a methodology patterned after the natural sciences, Boas went against the British school of “armchair anthropologists” who tended to only do fieldwork to prove or disprove grand generalisations already made. In the early 20th century he would establish anthropology as a discipline in its own right, one orientated around two basic questions: “Why are the tribes and nations of the world different, and how have the present differences developed?” He was pivotal in moving the study of cultures away from racist assumptions surrounding forming a hierarchy of “civilizations” toward a more relativistic approach. In his 1963 book, Race: The History of an Idea in America, Thomas Gossett wrote that “It is possible that Boas did more to combat race prejudice than any other person in history.” He died of a stroke at the Columbia University Faculty Club on December 21, 1942 in the arms of fellow anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss.
Bronisław Malinowski (April 7th 1884 – 16 May 1942), a Polish born British-naturalised citizen, was one of the most important anthropologists of the 20th-century. In 1910, at the age of 26 he moved to England to study exchange and economics at the London School of Economics, analysing patterns of exchange in aboriginal Australia through ethnographic documents. In 1914 he made an expedition to the South Pacific region but was forbidden to return to England as, after the outbreak of WW1, he was considered an enemy of the British commonwealth. The Australian government did, however, allow him to study the locals in Melanesia where he conducted research on the Trobriand people of Papua – the foundations for his groundbreaking ethnography Argonauts of the Western Pacific which he would write in after his return to England following the end of the war. Finally published in 1922 the work which established him as one of the most important anthropologists in Europe of that time. The ethnography described the complex institution of the Kula ring, and became foundational for subsequent theories of reciprocity and exchange. Like his American counterpart Franz Boas, Malinowksi is credited with being the first to bring anthropology “off the verandah”, that is, experiencing the everyday life of his subjects along with them. Malinowski emphasized the importance of detailed participant observation and argued that anthropologists must have daily contact with their informants if they are to adequately record the “imponderabilia of everyday life” that are so important to understanding a different culture. He emphasised that the goal of the anthropologist, or ethnographer, is “to grasp the native’s point of view, his relation to life, to realize his vision of his world”.
Grant Wood (February 13th 1891 – February 12th 1942) was an American painter from Iowa best known for his paintings depicting the rural American Midwest. His most famous work is American Gothic, considered by many to be one of the iconic images of the 20th century. The painting depicts a stern but calm man holding a pitchfork (modelled by Wood’s dentist) and a younger woman, the man’s spinster daughter (modelled by Wood’s sister), stood in front of an unusual house – the classic wooden American farmhouse but with an arch-shaped window reminiscent of a more European Gothic architecture. The painting became popular after it won third prize at big competition at the Art Institute of Chicago. In the guise of many different interpretations the painting went on to capture the imagination of the American public, at the time going through the Great Depression.
Stefan Zweig (November 28th 1881 – February 22th 1942) was an Austrian writer who at the height of his literary career in the 1920s and 30s could lay claim to being one the most famous writers in the world – extremely popular in the USA, South America and Europe, though not so much in Britain. He mixed with the intelligentsia of his time, befriending Sigmund Freud, Arthur Schnitzler, and being a particular favourite of the composer Richard Strauss, for he who’s The Silent Woman he wrote the libretto. Zweig’s style as a writer was simple and easy – his plaudits emphasising its humanity and grace, his critics (mostly in Britain) seeing it as effected and pedestrian. He is best known for his novellas such as, The Royal Game, Amok, Letter from an Unknown Woman); his novels such as, Beware of Pity, Confusion of Feelings, and the posthumously published The Post Office Girl and his biographies, Erasmus of Rotterdam, Conqueror of the Seas: The Story of Magellan, Mary, Queen of Scotland and the Isles and also posthumously published, Balzac. Being Jewish he spent the 30s in exile from the encroachment of the Nazi regime, first to England and then in 1940 to America, a flight which he recounts in his autobiographical The World of Yesterday. On February 23rd 1942 he and his wife were found dead of a barbiturate overdose in their house in the Brazilian city of Petrópolis, holding hands. In despair over the destruction of his beloved Europe he and his wife had taken their own lives. In a suicide note he wrote: “I think it better to conclude in good time and in erect bearing a life in which intellectual labour meant the purest joy and personal freedom the highest good on Earth. I send greetings to all of my friends: May they live to see the dawn after this long night. I, who am most impatient, go before them.”
Edith Stein (October 12th 1891 – August 9th 1942) – also known as Saint Teresia Benedicta of the Cross, informally also known as Saint Edith Stein – was a German Roman Catholic philosopher and nun, regarded as a martyr and saint of the Roman Catholic Church. She was born into an observant Jewish family but by her teenage years was an atheist. At the age of 24, after receiving a doctorate of philosophy from the University of Göttingen with a dissertation under Edmund Husserl, On the Problem of Empathy, she worked as an assistant to Husserl alongside a certain Martin Heidegger. During her summer holidays in Bergzabern in 1921 Stein read the autobiography of the mystic St. Teresa of Ávila and she was subsequently converted to Roman Catholicsm. She became baptised in 1922 and gave up her assistantship with Husserl to teach at the Dominican nuns’ schools school in Speyer from 1923 to 1931. While there, she translated Thomas Aquinas’ De Veritate. In 1932 she became a lecturer at the Institute for Pedagogy at Münster, but antisemitic legislation passed by the Nazi government forced her to resign the post in 1933. She went to a monastery in Cologne where she wrote Finite and Eternal Being which tries to combine the philosophies of Aquinas and Husserl. To avoid the growing Nazi threat she was transferred to the Netherlands where she wrote The Science of the Cross: Studies on John of the Cross. In 1942, following a new decree to round up all previously spared converts from Judaism, Stein and her sister Rosa, also a convert, were captured and shipped to the Auschwitz concentration camp where they are presumed to have been gassed on August 9th 1942.
Arthur Edward Waite (October 2nd 1857 – May 19th 1942) was a scholarly mystic who wrote extensively on occult and esoteric matters, and co-created the widely used Rider-Waite Tarot deck. He was a prolific author with many of his works being well received in academic circles. He wrote occult texts on subjects including divination, esotericism, Rosicrucianism, Freemasonry, and ceremonial magic, Kabbalism and alchemy; he also translated and reissued several important mystical and alchemical works. A number of his volumes remain in print, The Book of Ceremonial Magic (1911), The Holy Kabbalah (1929), A New Encyclopedia of Freemasonry (1921), and his edited translation of Eliphas Levi’s Transcendental Magic, its Doctrine and Ritual (1896). Waite is perhaps best known as the co-creator of the popular and widely used Rider-Waite Tarot deck and author of its companion volume, the Key to the Tarot, republished in expanded form the following year, 1911, as the Pictorial Key to the Tarot, a guide to Tarot reading.
Sir Francis Younghusband (May 31st 1863 – July 31st 1942) was a British Army officer, explorer, and spiritual writer. He is remembered chiefly for his travels in the Far East and Central Asia; especially the 1904 British expedition to Tibet, which he led, during which a massacre of Tibetans occurred. It was on the retreat from this disastrous mission while in the moutains that he had a mystical revelation which suffused him with “love for the whole world” and convinced him that “men at heart are divine.” This conviction led him to regret his invasion of Tibet, and eventually, in 1936, to found the World Congress of Faiths (in imitation of the World Parliament of Religions). He went on to pen a number of fantasictally titled books including Mother World (in Travail for the Christ that is to be) (1924), and Life in the Stars: An Exposition of the View that on some Planets of some Stars exist Beings higher than Ourselves, and on one a World-Leader, the Supreme Embodiment of the Eternal Spirit which animates the Whole (1927). This last was particularly admired by Lord Baden-Powell, the Boy Scouts founder. Key concepts include what would come to be known as the Gaia hypothesis, pantheism, and a Christlike “world leader” living on the planet “Altair” (or “Stellair”), who radiates spiritual guidance by means of telepathy. Younghusband also played a key role in the first ascent of Mount Everest, being elected President of the Royal Geographical Society in 1919, and two years later became Chairman of the Mount Everest Committee which was set up to coordinate the initial 1921 British Reconnaissance Expedition to Mount Everest.
Eric Ravilious (July 22nd 1903 – September 2nd 1942) was an English artist from the county of Sussex reknowned for his watercolours of the South Downs. Apart from a brief experimentation with oils in 1930 – inspired by the works of Johan Zoffany – Ravilious painted almost entirely in watercolour. He was especially inspired by the landscape of the South Downs around Beddingham. He frequently returned to Furlongs, the cottage of Peggy Angus, where some of his most famous works were carried out, such as Tea at Furlongs. As well as watercolours, Ravillous engraved more than four hundred illustrations and drew over forty lithographic designs for books and publications during his lifetime for large publishing houses such as Jonathan Cape, Lanston Corporation and smaller, less commercial publishers, such as the Golden Cockerel Press, the Curwen Press and the Cresset Press. His woodcut of two Victorian gentlemen playing cricket has appeared on the front cover of every edition of Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack since 1938. In 1936 Ravilious was invited by Wedgwood to make designs for ceramics. His work for them included a commemorative mug to mark the coronation of Edward VIII, the “Boat Race” bowl and the “Garden” series of plates, in which each size of plate showed a diffferent plant. In 1940 Ravilious was appointed an official war artist, with the rank of Honorary Captain in the Royal Marines. During that year he painted at the Royal Naval Barracks at Chatham and Sheerness; sailed to Norway and the Arctic on board HMS Highlander, which was carrying out escort duties, and painted submarines at Gosport and coastal defences at Newlyn. In August of 1942 he was transferred to Iceland, where he was killed accompanying a Royal Air Force air sea rescue mission that failed to return to its base.
Lucy Maud Montgomery (November 30th 1874 – April 24th 1942), called “Maud” by family and friends and publicly known as L. M. Montgomery, was a Canadian author best known for a series of novels beginning with Anne of Green Gables, published in 1908. The central character, Anne, an orphaned girl, made Montgomery famous in her lifetime and gave her an international following. Mark Twain said Montgomery’s Anne was “the dearest and most moving and delightful child since the immortal Alice”. She went on to publish 20 novels (8 of which were in the Anne of Green Gables series) as well as more than 500 short stories, an autobiography, and a book of poetry. She was honoured by being the first female in Canada to be named a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts in England and by being invested in the Order of the British Empire in 1935. After struggling with looking after her mentally ill husband for many years in their home “Journey’s End” in Ontario, she died in 1942 in a suspected suicide.
And a few others that didn’t make it to the class photo….
To learn more about Public Domain Day visit publicdomainday.org. Here you can discover what celebratory events might be planned in your area and peruse an in-progress ‘public domain in 2013’ list. If there are some names you would like to add then please do so on this spreadsheet.
You can also keep up to date with issues involving the public domain on the OKFN’s “public domain discuss list” – sign up here.
For more names whose works will be going into the public domain in 2013 see the Wikipedia page on 1942 deaths and also a list being compiled here. Adrian Pohl has also put together this excellent list.