Obituary: Ilsedore B. Jonas was an influential teacher of German language and culture – News – 71Bait

May 26, 2022

Ilsedore (Barkow) Jonas, known as “Doris”, Professor Emeritus in the Department of Modern Languages ​​at Carnegie Mellon University, died on October 5, 2021 in Munich. She was 101.

Jonas taught German at the CMU from the early 1960s to 1988. In 2020, the Department of Modern Languages ​​created the Ilsedore B. Jonas Award for Outstanding Academic Achievement in German Studies, presented annually to the highest-average German studies student.

“Dori’s exceptional personal warmth and strong professional support were the main reasons my career as a German lecturer at Carnegie Mellon got off to such a good start,” said Christian Hallstein, Emeritus Teaching Professor of German. “The years in which we were colleagues in German were really ‘golden years’ for me.

jonas-obit-900-min.jpegJonas was born on August 31, 1920 in Stettin, Germany, now part of Poland. Here she met her future husband Klaus W. Jonas at a dance in 1937. After graduating from high school, she went to the University of Heidelberg, where she studied German and Romance languages ​​and art history, graduating in 1942 with a degree in translation. During the war, Jonas continued her studies in Berlin, Munich and Würzburg. Jonas and her husband married in 1945 and emigrated to Switzerland soon after. They came to the United States in 1948.

The Jonases directed much of their professional attention to the literature of Thomas Mann, the 1929 Nobel Prize winner in Literature. They were invited to New York for tea with Thomas and Katia Mann in 1952, where they developed a long professional relationship and friendship with the Mann family.

Klaus took a position teaching German and language at the University of Pittsburgh, similar to the position Ilsedore got at CMU shortly thereafter. She was one of the few female faculty members at the university at the time. Ilsedore also received his PhD in German Studies from Pitt University in 1967. The Jonases enjoyed attending the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and the Pittsburgh Opera, and their university schedules enabled them to spend summers in Europe for extensive academic research in the main subject of their professional interest. During this time, Ilsedore worked closely with her husband on the five-volume complete bibliography of Thomas Mann’s works and all secondary works written about him. An English volume was later published under their two names.

In addition to working with her husband, Jonas has found her own direction. Her life’s work was to cultivate an ever-deepening appreciation for literature and art and to share this with her students. Equally important to her was understanding the cultural context of the writers themselves and how their work related to the music, art and dance of their time. Her dissertation “Thomas Mann and Italy” (Carl Winter Universitätsverlag, Heidelberg, 1969), in which she examined the intersections between the writer’s work and Italian culture, was later published in English as “Thomas Mann and Italy” (University of Alabama Press , 1979). . At CMU, one of her outstanding classes, German Romantic Literature, interwoven the works of contemporary painters and composers with the plays and novels that were the subject of the course to provide a more complete, nuanced picture of the culture of the time.

Jonas maintained an academic acquaintance with Thomas Mann and extended members of the Mann family, and with W. Somerset Maugham until the writers’ deaths. She later concentrated her scientific interests on the work of Klaus Mann. Her interest in all arts besides literature led her to study the relationship between the actress Eleonora Duse and the poet and novelist Rainer Maria Rilke, for whom Duse was a muse. Her research work was published in 1993 as “Rilke und die Duse” in the renowned Insel Taschenbuch.

Jonas and her husband amassed an important library of literature, mostly by and about Thomas Mann, but also featuring several other early 20th-century German and English writers. This extensive library was donated to the University of Augsburg and earned the couple a medal of honor from the university. In 2002, the Jonases established a foundation (The Magic Mountain Foundation for the Advancement of Thomas Mann Research) to support the author’s continued scholarly research and to support the Magic Mountain Talks lecture program. This grant is intended to encourage young people to continue the Foundation’s work and enable the publication of this additional work. In 2012, the foundation financed an exhibition in Lübeck entitled “Personal Memories” of Thomas Mann.

At the end of the Olympic Games in Munich in 1972, Ilsedore and her husband bought an apartment in the Olympic Village and, after their mutual retirement in 1988, finally moved from Pittsburgh to Munich. In Munich she was able to take full advantage of the city’s diverse cultural offerings and regularly attended opera performances, museum performances and lectures. As an active member of the Goethe Society, she attended lectures and conferences and traveled with them to places that were important to the writer.

Newspaper articles were published in Munich to mark her 100th birthday, and it is pointed out that she was undoubtedly the oldest living person who personally knew Thomas Mann and the Mann family. Intellectually curious and intellectually sharp to her last day, she enjoyed a wide circle of professional and personal friends, including some students at CMU, whom she had been teaching since the late 1960s. Jonas is buried in Oldenburg, Germany, next to her husband.

Leave a Comment