Friday, January 18, 2008

Literature on the streets of Vienna

A last little vacation post.

Central Vienna has a lot of streets named after writers and composers. I'm just glancing at a map - there's Gottfried Keller, Grimmelshausen, Grillparzer, Schiller, Goethe. Over here is a cluster of philosophers - Hegel, Schelling, Fichte, along with Pestalozzi. Vienna is saturated in Mozart and Waltzing Strauss kitsch. But near the opera house, we also see streets named after Schubert, Mahler, Bruckner, Liszt, Lehár. Opera fans will enjoy a stroll down Nibelungengasse and Papagenogasse. The only visual artist I see memorialized with a street name is Canova. I'm probably missing some.

The street named after Mahler (the Bruckner and Keller streets, too) suggest that much of this naming was done, at the earliest, at the beginning of the 20th century. This was around the same time that, in Chicago, ethnic civic groups were installing statues in Lincoln Park honoring Hans Christian Andersen, Shakespeare, and Goethe. The Goethe memorial is actually a statue of the legendary hero Siegfried, along with a big eagle, which as far as I know has nothing specifically to do with Goethe, but that's no matter.

Everything has a history, even the naming of streets. To the extent that I have a point here, that's it. Also, American city planners working on new exurbs near Phoenix or Denver or wherever the new cities are appearing now should name a bunch of streets after Louisa May Alcott and Charles Ives and Henry James.


  1. I've often wondered if the individuals honored for their cultural contributions might like to have a say in the street or square named after them - what if they wanted a better spot? :-)

  2. There should be some sort of signup sheet.

  3. One way or another, naming streets in a newly-developed area after great authors or composers would be far better than naming the streets after the developer of said unnecessary stripmall-cum-retirement village (c.f: DiVilbiss Street, Compton Way) or the developer's children (particularly if the developer and his ghastly, Botoxed wife have given their children trendy names: Tiffani-Ashleigh Way, Cody Lane, Colton Square, Michaela Street, Kaitlyn Boulevard, Tyler Terrace, Aidan Avenue).

  4. While my suburban Denver district named schools mostly after Colorado geography (various creeks and trails, many of which the schools were actually on), Littleton Schools, the next district had scientists for junior highs (Euclid, Newton, Goddard) and American authors for elementary schools, some big names: Sandberg, Twain, some lesser-known Lois Lenski, Damon Runyan and one great local guy, Ralph Moody.