Monday, January 10, 2011

Special Collections Gallery Talk Features Classic German Children’s Book

Dr. Brandt

A gallery talk by Bettina Brandt, lecturer in the Department of Germanic and Slavic Languages and Literatures, will be held on Tuesday, January 18, at 4:30 p.m. in 104 Paterno Library, in conjunction with the exhibition “Highlights from the Allison-Shelley Collection of German Literature in English Translation.” Dr. Brandt’s informal talk will focus on the editions and translations of Struwwelpeter, the popular 19th-century children’s tale by Heinrich Hoffmann, which has delighted children on both sides of the Atlantic since its first publication in 1845. Hoffmann (1809-1894), a German psychiatrist, wrote and illustrated the book for his own children. Stuwwelpeter, whose title character is an unkempt boy who does not groom himself, is a highly exaggerated morality tale in which badly behaved children come to bad ends. In English the title is sometimes known as “Slovenly Peter” or “Shock-Headed Peter.” 

In addition to giving a brief history of the book, Brandt and her 7-year-old daughter, Vera, will read from English translations of Struwwelpeter. While modern audiences sometimes consider the book shocking and inappropriate for children, Brandt says it’s easy to understand why the books have become popular world-wide. “Childhood doesn’t have nationality. The stories are short, they rhyme, they’re easy to get into, and there are some excellent translations. As a kid in Germany I was in awe of the illustrations. I was particularly drawn to the girl who plays with matches and goes up in flames!”

Bettina Brandt earned master’s degrees in French and German from the University of Utrecht and a Ph.D. from Harvard University in Comparative Literature, with a dissertation on Germanophone women associated with the historical avant-garde, particularly Surrealism. She has published numerous essays on modern writers, and her translations of German fiction include contemporary German-Jewish writers into English. She is currently writing a scholarly treatment on transnational literature in the experimental mode and co-editing a collection of essays on the Nobel laureate, Herta Müller.  Before coming to Penn State, she taught as an assistant professor at MIT, Columbia University, and Montclair State University.

The Allison-Shelley Collection of German Literature in Translation, which was bequeathed to the University Libraries in 1972 by the late Professor Philip Allison Shelley, provides opportunities for the study of the literary and cultural influences of the German-speaking nations of Europe on the United States and England. The exhibition features highlights from the collection’s strengths in children’s literature and fairy tales, toys and games made for export, early appearances of the Christmas tree, and documentation of the lives and traditions of Pennsylvania German culture. The exhibition will run through February 11, 2011.

The gallery talk is free and open to the public.

For further information, contact Sandra Stelts, curator of Rare Books and Manuscripts, Phone: 814-863-5388, Email:

1 comment:

  1. To Staff:
    I own a one complete volume of both Goethe and Schiller works that are leather bound and I estimate that they are approximately 100 to 130 years old. They are showing some signs of distress along the bindings, but the pages are in good to excellent condition. The covers and bindings are faded to various degrees due to their age and exposure to light while on display on bookshelves. I would like to donate them to the Penn State. I spoke to the German American Society in Philadelphia and to the Goethe House in both NYC and SF, but neither wanted them due to a glut of such volumes on their shelves. I understand that Penn State may be in the same predicament, but these are available if the Penn State is interested. If you require an exact count of the number of books and dimensions, I'll be glad to provide that in another e-mail or over the phone.


    Steven Sabo -