In the form of a personal memoir, this essay outlines the work of the distinguished scholar Ladislao Mittner (1902-75) and the development of German studies at the University of Venice in the second half of the 20th century. Mittner arrived at Ca’ Foscari in 1942 and took charge of German studies in the first Italian Faculty of Foreign Languages and Literatures (established in 1954), and became a point of reference for over thirty years. During these years, he decisively shaped the guidelines of the discipline at Ca’ Foscari. Due to his own plurilingual Hapsburg roots, he considered a good command of languages pivotal. This is why he can also be considered a pioneer of the establishment of German language teaching as an independent subject from literature, which was not a self-evident truth at the time. However, he also underlined the importance of the literary text through very refined critical tools. He was an acute philologist and a broad-minded historian who, from the very beginning, added to the German courses such subjects as Germanic Philology, History of the German Language, Philosophy and Music of the German-speaking countries, transforming German studies in Italy into a modern and open-minded field of studies, far from just technical knowledge. From the beginning his vision of the German world was in a context of comparative cultures. Mittner’s work provided the firm basis for the educational commitment required to meet the daily challenge of a multicultural Europe.
Ladislao Mittner. Germanistics. History of German literature. German Language. Ca’ Foscari.