Creating a New Network in the “International Spirit” of Salzburg





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Feb 27, 2019
by Lucy Browett
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Creating a New Network in the “International Spirit” of Salzburg

A story involving Salzburg Global Seminar and the International Society for Contemporary Literature and Theatre (ISCLT), a network established in 1975 still going strong today Participants of the Salzburg Seminar program, Contemporary American Literature, posing for a group photo in 1973

When Marina Catalano-McVey attended the program Contemporary American Literature at the then Salzburg Seminar in July 1973, it would have been difficult for her to foresee a literature society founded by fellow participants of that program would be holding its annual conference this year, as it has done since 1975.

“I remember that meeting - so many people, all passionate about literature - was a very enriching experience,” said Catalano-McVey of the program. “The lectures were extremely interesting - for me, personally, like opening windows on different realities. In particular, the workshops were inspiring and motivating.

“I remember the beauty of Schloss Leopoldskron and Salzburg and the long, interesting conversations we had in our free time.”

After the program, Catalano-McVey collaborated with other participants, all of whom had the same goal in mind, to create an international society for those who are passionate about literature to meet “according to the international spirit of the Salzburg Seminar.”

The founding members came from a variety of countries, many of whom still regularly attend events. Founders include Professor Agnieska Salska, Gudrun Westing, Luisa-Fernanda Rodriguez, Hartwig Isernhagen, Joanna Cizek, Dr. Gordon Bennett, Dr. Maurice Engelborg, Professor Jessie Ball, Professor Robert Bellflower, Tony Bloomfield, Belma Otus-Baskett, Jerry Parks and Aage Buechner. Catalano-McVey, herself, is the current executive secretary of the society.

The international aspect of the program is something which has inspired Catalano-McVey in her personal life, as well as in the creation and continuation of ISCLT.

She said, “Meeting people from so many different countries helped us understand the differences existing in various cultures, which is still an extremely relevant aspect of my personal world. Friendship among many participants has bloomed and is still a strong bond.”

ISCLT has impacted Catalano-McVey’s career, too. She said, “ISCLT has been a huge support for me in developing my writing skills, and I owe many ISCLTers a lot. Thanks to their encouragement and suggestions, I have finally come to publish several books (novels and short stories).”

The society is still attended today and celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2015. An annual two-week conference is held in a different country every year in the second half of July.

Catalano-McVey detailed the nature of the conferences. She said, “We chose to deal with contemporary Literature and Theatre, limiting the books we present to the past 10 years. We decided moreover to give space to our personal production.

“In the morning, we have lectures on various authors relating to the previously chosen theme. We have workshops in the afternoon - poetry, prose, plays, creative writing, etc. We have readings and performances in the evenings.”

Additionally, excursions take place around the conference location. Locations are often selected based on the locality of a member who is willing to host, who also has good connections with the area and can offer insider knowledge.

This year’s conference will be held in Vicoforte, Italy from July 16 to July 30, with the theme “Memory in Contemporary Literature and Theatre.” ISCLT is on the lookout for new participants “who in our opinion would appreciate what we do.”

Catalano-McVey said, “Unfortunately, time elapses so quickly and most of the founding members and other members passed away. Therefore, it is necessary to find new younger people in order to allow this wonderful society to thrive in the future.

“In the course of the years, many new members joined in and enriched our conferences with fantastic contributions. Quite a lot of the newcomers are alumni from various Salzburg Seminars; others are friends, acquaintances or colleagues of the members.”

Further reflecting on the ways how the program in Salzburg impacted her life, Catalano-McVey said, “I was invited by my university professor Sergio Perosa. I am eternally grateful to him for the invitation, which represented for me an opportunity of personal growth and connected me with all the other founding members with whom a beautiful, long-lasting friendship began.”

For more information on ISCLT, visit or email Marina Catalano-McVey at