Thursday, 8 December 2011

Q & A with Peter Mario Kreuter, part 1

Ingrid Goldbach
While I was in contact with Peter Mario Kreuter, I proposed an interview for Diary of an amateur vampirologist. Unfortunately, it never transpired due to various distractions on my part, and I simply never got 'round to asking him any questions.

But it was always in the back of my mind, so I messaged him about a month and a half ago, apologising and calling myself a 'right bastard' for not getting round to them. I tried my luck and asked whether he was still willing to participate.1 Thankfully, he was! What a sport.

The following is Kreuter's first crack at answering my questions2, effectively serving as a 'teaser' to the rest of the interview, which remains incomplete as of this writing. He's a busy guy, after all. Nonetheless, it represents a fascinating insight into one of the 21st century's most respected vampire scholars.

You're best known for your thesis, Der Vampirglaube in Südosteuropa. Studien zur Genese, Bedeutung und Funktion. Rumänien und der Balkanraum (2001). What inspired you to write about the specific area of vampirism?

To tell the truth... nothing inspired me. I never intended to write my doctoral thesis about popular folk beliefs or the vampire – my intention has been to take a deeper look onto the history of Danish constitutionalism. Therefore I learned Danish at the University of Bonn, and still today, Danish history fascinates me…

But first things first! I started my studies in October 1989 in Bonn, and my main interest has always been (and still is) cultural history. So I made “Medieval and Premodern History” to my main field of study. In that time, each student of humanities was obliged to choose two main or one main and two secondary fields, so I made my choice for the latter version and took “Romance Philology” and “Slavic Philology” as secondary fields. It is never bad for a historian to read the sources personally.

When starting the studies of Romance philology, I learned that I had to take two Romance languages, and my first choice has been French. But the second one? Maybe Italian, but the idea to end up with 120 other students in one room hasn’t been that intriguing for me. Spanish? Portuguese? Too far away from the countries with Slavic languages. And then I saw that Bonn was one of those few German universities, which offered the opportunity to study Romanian. And so I decided to make Romanian to my second Romance language. It was, finally, a simple choice. My music teacher at the Gymnasium was a Saxon from Transylvania, and he often told me nice stories about Romania and the Romanians and the language and how beautiful this language is and so on. Well, that was my way to Romanian. In addition to that, I had to make a choice for the Slavic languages, too. Russian was obligatory, Old Church Slavonic was obligatory, but the third one was in my own free will. Then I saw that Bonn was one of those few German universities, which offered the opportunity to study Bulgarian. And so I came into a closer contact to Southeastern Europe.

Things became since those choices a bit strange. My Bulgarian teacher told me that learning Albanian would lead me to a deeper understanding for the central area of the so-called “Balkansprachbund” (Balkan linguistic area). The Albanian teacher said that without an understanding for the Ottoman Empire, the cultural area called “Balkans” will forever be closed for me. Guess what I did? But the Turkish teacher pointed out that a lot of the Ottoman state was based on Greek traditions… At the end, Denmark was quite far away, and one nice day I had to think about my M.A. thesis. Something about the Balkans, for sure. But what exactly?

Firstly, I thought about something to combine France with Romania. The reception of French enlightenment in Transylvania – that’s it! At least I thought it. The professor of Premodern history, who already knew me and offered me to hold a presentation of my project in his Oberseminar (special course for exam projects). So I did. It was quite successful, but at the end, the professor said something disturbing to me- Interesting stuff, yes, but there was one revealing moment for him when I spoke about the struggle of the Romanian intellectuals against the popular folk beliefs. By the way, never ever a historian took a look onto the vampire belief with the methods of a historian. Try it, stout yeoman!

And I did. First for the M.A., then for my doctoral thesis. That’s the story.

1. A Hogg, 'Interview', Friday, 28 October 2011 2:22:24 PM.

2. PM Kreuter, 'The first answer', Wednesday, 2 November 2011 5:26:16 AM.

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...