A message from our new Director

A message from new Wirth Institute Director, Dr. Alexander Carpenter.

05 July 2021


Greetings, and welcome to the Wirth Institute for Austrian and Central European Studies.  My name is Alexander Carpenter, and I am the Institute’s new Director.  I am a professor at the Augustana campus of the University of Alberta, and my scholarly background is in historical musicology, with a focus on the musical and cultural history of fin-de-siècle Vienna, musical modernism, and the intersection of music and psychoanalysis.   I am very excited about my new role at the Wirth Institute, having devoted much of my academic career to the study of Austrian and Central European culture (including a number of years serving on the Academic Advisory Board of the Wirth Institute).  Over the past two decades, I have traveled to Central Europe countless times: for research, for conferences, to undertake visiting professorships, and to lead undergraduate place-based learning courses.  While Austria has become like a second home for me over the years, I am very much looking forward to developing the same warm and deep relationships with all of the Institute’s member countries, and to serving as an ambassador for the U of A and Alberta abroad as well as for Central Europe here in Canada.  

This message of greetings is full of hope and optimism.  I am especially hopeful that, as my term as Director begins, we find ourselves firmly on a path towards normalcy, meaning a return to face-to-face encounters, travel, and the many other “in-person” activities we took for granted in the past but that are so essential to intellectual and cultural exchange, and to the development of professional and personal relationships.  So much of what the Wirth Institute does is about people, and the recent pandemic and public health restrictions have obviously imposed limitations on many of its usual academic undertakings, such as conferences and symposia, concerts, and hosting visiting students and scholars.  It has also limited contact with the broader communities and networks that support and engage with the Institute and its activities.   

Notwithstanding, the Wirth Institute developed and maintained a remarkably robust online presence during the COVID pandemic, hosting lectures by an array of prominent and fascinating guest speakers, presenting many pre-recorded podcasts and performances, and publishing informative online series about Central European culture and history.  Looking to the near future, the Institute is preparing for a dramatic and enthusiastic re-launch in the fall of 2021: we will welcome a new cohort of five doctoral fellows from Central Europe to the Institute, along with two new Visiting Professors from Austria and Hungary; we will offer a fresh roster of scholarly activities and performances; we will have the chance to re-boot some of our most popular and time-honoured activities, including our regular Central European Café events and our annual Christmas market and concert; we will re-connect and re-engage with colleagues, partner institutions and alumni in Central Europe for a wide variety of workshops and conferences; and we will continue to organize and support many other scholarly, cultural and community events, locally, nationally and internationally.  

In the meantime, through the summer of 2021, the Institute will carry on apace with its online programming, offering a weekly series on Central European food, podcasts on Central European popular music, pre-recorded lecture-recitals, and more.  

At the Wirth Institute, our door is always open to ideas for innovative and engaging scholarly and cultural activities, to opportunities for potential friendships, partnerships and collaborations, and to new ways of promoting Central Europe and its rich history and culture.  As Director, my door is also always open, and I would like to welcome you to the Institute and to invite you to get in touch with me—to share ideas, to start conversations, or to just get acquainted (or re-acquainted)!  Please feel free to email me at acarpent@ualberta.ca.