Sunday, September 15, 2013

Where's There: University of Göttingen

We learn that Mrs. Zimmermann earned a D. Mag. A. degree (Doctor Magicorum Artium) from the University of Göttingen in Germany in back 1922 [The House with a Clock in its Walls; 34].

Wondering why Florence was in Europe in the 1920s? Brad Strickland shares some of the notes and observations that Bellairs had prepared for The Ghost in the Mirror (1993) that might shed some light into her background:
Mrs. Zimmermann was American by birth, she did meet and marry her husband, Honus, before going to Europe, and she was quite the toast of artistic London, attracting many (Platonic) admirers. She was back in the USA shortly after completing her doctorate degree, and sometime after that her husband passed away and she became a schoolteacher. She had only recently retired when the events of House begin. I don't, alas, know her maiden name.
We’ve pointed out some of Bellairs usage of German words and locations in his previous work so perhaps this far-off university fits the trend of presenting something pompous-sounding. But is the University of Göttingen known for this sort of degree?

A few curious fans have visited the university’s website over the years.  Contributor Kalev Hantsoo found nothing about a department of magic arts when he checked a decade ago (he wasn't expecting such a thing either, he said). James Card said he eventually found the home page of a member of a university club devoted to some sort of magic group. “It was very interesting that such a club was at Gottingen; however the person must have left the university because the page is no longer on Gottingen's server.” Best we can tell the group’s site had some interest in nearby Plesse Castle.

Georg-August-Universität Göttingen
was founded in 1734 by George II, King of Great Britain. One notable event in the school’s long history came in 1837 when seven professors were expelled for protesting against the abolition or alteration of the constitution of the Kingdom of Hanover and refusing to swear an oath to the new king of Hanover. Two notable names of the Göttinger Sieben were the brothers Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm, who once taught here and compiled the first German Dictionary.

There is a long-standing tradition of the university that every Ph.D. student sit in a wagon decorated with flowers and ride to the central square of Göttingen and kiss the goose-girl statue at the Gänseliesel fountain. The statue was erected in 1901, meaning Mrs. Zimmermann probably would have seen the fountain statue during her time in Germany.

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