Vienna: Past and Present

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Course Information
Cultural Studies
Terms offered: 
Fall, Spring
Language of instruction: 

A study of the cultural and political importance of Vienna as a 'city' throughout its history, from the strategically important Roman military encampment of Vindobona, through the centuries-long imperial capital of the Habsburg monarchy to the capital city of the two Austrian republics. Special emphasis on present-day patterns of life and the role of Vienna and Austria in the process of European integration by virtue of their geopolitical location and multi-cultural past. Includes tours and site visits.

Attendance policy: 

IES Abroad Vienna requires attendance at all class sessions, including field study excursions, internship meetings, scheduled rehearsals, and exams. Attendance will be monitored and unexcused absences will affect the student’s grade via the “Participation” component of each course’s final grade.

Excused Absences

  • Excused absences are permitted only when a student is ill, when class is held on a recognized religious holiday traditionally observed by the particular student, or in the case of a grave incident affecting family members.
  • To be granted an excused absence, the student must write an email to his/her professor in a timely manner stating the reason for the absence (and, if appropriate, how long they expect to be away) with a cc to Center administrative staff. In an emergency, the student may call Student Services or the Front Desk. If the student is unable to send an email (too sick, no computer), he/she may call the Student Assistant at the front desk (01/512 2601-11) who will then write the email described above and send it to said parties as stated above, with a cc to the student.
  • If a student is absent 3 consecutive days or more, he/she will need to obtain a doctor’s note and then submit this to the Registrar’s office.
Method of presentation: 
  • Lectures
  • Tours
  • Discussions
Required work and form of assessment: 
  • Midterm - 25%
  • Oral report - 20%
  • Term paper - 30%
  • Final exam - 25%


  1. The ethnic and territorial development of Vienna up to the 8th century
    1. The Roman camp of Vindobona as the historical and physical foundation of Vienna
    2. Tribal migrations of the Bavarians, Slavs, and Hungarians
  2. Spiritual and political currents in the Middle Ages
    1. The Theo centric worldview
    2. Position and significance of the Emperor and the Church; the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation
    3. The Babenbergs in Austria (976-1246); art and culture; monasteries as centres of learning; the Viennese court as the centre for Minnesingers and knights
  3. The Habsburgs as German kings and emperors (1273-1806)
    1. The imperial mission of the House of Habsburg; Vienna as the imperial capital (Rudolf IV, University of Vienna)
    2. The Habsburgs as patrons of the arts; Renaissance, Humanism, Reformation (Maximilian I, Vienna Boys’ Choir)
    3. The Baroque Age; defeat of the Turks; Counterreformation; Absolutism; the festive and theatrical lifestyle at court (Leopold I, Karl VI)
    4. Enlightened Absolutism; Maria Theresa’s and Josef’s II reform policies; the first Age of Viennese Classicism (Haydn, Mozart)
    5. The French Revolution and its impact on the Habsburg monarchy

Core of the course

  1. The 19th century as forerunner of the present
    1. The Age of Vormärz and Biedermeier in Vienna; the wealthy middle class as patrons of the arts
    2. The Ringstraße Era, tradition and revolution in art and urban architecture, intellectual life and society; art and culture under Franz-Josef I; the last Golden Age.
    3. Reactions to the art and politics of the Ringstraße Era: Jugendstil, Secession, founding of political parties d. World War I and its aftermath; end of the Habsburg monarchy; division of the empire into national states; founding of the First Republic; Wasserkopf Vienna becomes the capital of a national state
  2. Austria’s First and Second Republics
    1. Class warfare and economic crises hinder the development of the First Republic
    2. Fascism-Austro-Fascism-Corporative State; Hitler’s march into Austria March 1938; Austria ceases to exist, now the eastern territory of Greater Germany; politics, economy, propaganda
    3. Nazi rule, World War II and its aftermath; the founding of the Second Republic in 1945; reconstruction, economic and social problems; Allied Occupation; Vienna as the western-most metropolis at the Iron Curtain; the State Treaty and neutrality
    4. Vienna today: people, politics, culture—heritage of the past or a new beginning? Austria as land of asylum; the path to a United Europe
Required readings: 
  • I. Lehne/ L. Johnson Vienna – The Past in the Present
  • R. Rickett Brief Survey of Austrian History
  • C. Schorske Fin the Siècle Vienna
  • W. Johnston The Austrian Mind