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“In the Penal Colony”, 1974

 File — Box: 7, Folder: 1
Identifier: Folder 1

Scope and Contents

From the Collection:

The Meno Spann Papers fill eight boxes and span the period 1903-1991. The papers are organized into seven categories: biographical materials, education, general correspondence, materials related to Spann's puppet plays, research and teaching files, speeches and papers, and materials relating to Spann's publications.

The biographical materials are diverse. A chronologically-arranged folder of papers relating to Spann's American academic career contains curricula vitae; letters of reference, appointment and promotion; summer school contracts; salary letters; and papers relating to his TIAA-CREF retirement policy. Fragile copies of such German records as certificates of birth, baptism, adoption, and immunization, and some of Spann's parents' papers (notably Adolf Spann's work permit for the 1930s) comprise the largest number of the records in a chronologically-arranged file relating to Spann's personal life; the folder also contains Spann's last German passport, his U.S. naturalization certificate, and four sets of divorce papers. A file of newspapers clippings and news releases and a folder containing papers recording recognition of Spann's teaching talent are both arranged chronologically. Spann's brief notes for an autobiography, focusing on his life in Germany, comprise the contents of a folder; another folder contains his account of his personal exercise program. A file of obituaries and speeches given at Northwestern's memorial service for Spann, and a file of chronologically-arranged announcements of speeches and appearances make up the remaining biographical materials.

The educational materials contain a file of official records of Spann's education and several folders of booklets of notes he took as a student between 1911 and 1928.

Six folders of general correspondence contain letters from Spann's parents, letters and notes from academic colleagues, and many letters and postcards from grateful former students and from friends. Thomas Mann met Spann and wrote to him in 1941 or 1942. Mann's letters are not among the Meno Spann Papers, but Spann's submission of the correspondence for inclusion in the second edition of Mann's letters is the subject of two letters from the publishers dated December 2, 1958, and February 19, 1959 (Box 2 Folder 5), and of a letter from Mann's daughter Erica Mann in May 1963 (Box 2 Folder 6). Letters relating to Spann's individual speeches or publications are arranged in the folders for the relevant works: thus both Lionel Trilling's postcard requesting an off-print and Trilling's later note praising Spann's article “Franz Kafka's Leopard” are in Box 7 Folder 20 with the article itself.

Materials relating to the puppet plays include files of clippings and news releases (Box 3 Folder 2), correspondence (Box 3 Folder 3), and programs and announcements (Box 3 Folder 6). Spann collected newspaper articles, pictures cut from magazines, and other ephemera relating to his interests; such materials have been preserved in a folder of background materials (Box 3 Folder 1) and a folder noting performances of Faust or of Dr. Faustus (Box 3 Folder 5) as a sample of the kinds of materials Spann collected. “Dr. Faustus and Goethe's Faust” (Box 3 Folder 4) reproduces Spann's file of a conglomeration of materials related directly or indirectly to the puppet plays, including performance directions, a lighting plot, and an academic discussion of Mephistopheles. Texts of Spann's puppet plays, Dr. Faustus, Der Rauber Jaromir, and The Robber Jaromir survive; Spann created parts of the texts by taping strips a few lines long to 8 1/2″ x 11″ sheets of scratch paper; the tape has decayed and a page often survives only as two to six loose pieces of text separated from other, similar groupings by tape-scarred backing pages. Each of the texts is in a separate folder (Box 3 Folders 7, 8 and 9).

Spann's teaching and research notes are intermingled; relatively few documents clearly intended only for teaching survive. Many notes are written in Northwestern University bluebooks or on the backs of such papers as committee minutes or university reports. Spann's choice of paper makes it possible to date the composition of some notes with some precision. The overwhelming bulk of the notes concern Kafka and most were probably written between 1966 and the appearance of Spann's Franz Kafka in 1976 or in conjunction with his papers “In the Penal Colony” (1974) and “The Castle in the Fog” (1977), although several additions were made to many files in 1980 or later. Loose bluebooks of notes have been filed as “Kafka: Notes” and “Notes: Kierkegaard et al.

The speeches and papers consist of ten undated papers in more or less finished form. The occasions on which Spann delivered three of the papers are indicated by related correspondence filed in the same folder as the paper in questions (Box 6 Folder 35, Box 7 Folder 1, and Box 7 Folder 4). “Tyrannosaurus Devorans” (Box 7 Folder 5) is an account of dinosaurs in German, illustrated with pictures cut from magazines; it may have been intended for a child or designed for German language instruction.

Spann's publications consist of articles, materials to support courses in German language and culture, books, and other writings. Correspondence and other papers related to any publication are filed with the publication. Thus, for example, the materials accompanying “Wie? Auf Nathan Argwohn?” include a 1984 reprint of Spann's 1941 published debate with another scholar about Lessing's Nathan the Wise (Box 7 Folder 14).

Writings for teaching German language and culture are arranged alphabetically by title or by series title in the cases of the tiny booklets written as parts of series of teaching materials: for example, the reader Der Gorilla Goliath is found with other readers in the series “Hagboldt's Graded German Readers” in Box 8 Folder 4. Materials relating to Spann's published books contain a copy of his dissertation (Box 8 Folder 7), two drafts of Heine, a file of publishers' permissions to quote copyrighted passages in Franz Kafka and a file of correspondence and records related to Franz Kafka (Box 8 Folders 11 and 12).

Correspondence and drafts of English translations of German poems submitted by Spann for publication in a collection brought out by F. Ungar are in Box 8 Folder 13. A chronologically-arranged folder of Spann's professional book reviews, a file of his peer reviews of articles for scholarly journals, an early article for a popular German magazine for youth, and a file of German Department newsletters in which his writing appeared complete the collection.


  • 1974


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is stored off-site and requires two business days advance notice for retrieval. Please contact the McCormick Library at or 847-491-3635 for more information or to schedule an appointment to view the collection.


From the Collection: 8.00 Boxes

Language of Materials

From the Collection: English

Library Details

Part of the Northwestern University Archives Repository

Deering Library, Level 3
1970 Campus Dr.
Evanston IL 60208-2300 US