Spring 2008 Newsletter

Archived Newsletters: [Current] [Fall 2011] [Summer 2010] [Spring 2009] [Spring 2008]

Welcome to new Faculty and to our new German Studies Center

Volker Kaiser

Dear Friends of the German Department,

It is a great pleasure to address you from the grounds of Mr. Jefferson's University, announcing new initiatives taken by the German Department, among them the presentation of our electronic version of a bi-annual departmental newsletter. The German Department has recently moved from Cocke Hall to its new quarters on the 5th floor in New Cabell Hall, where our offices are now facing east, offering a view of Jefferson’s Monticello mountains. One is tempted to say that the east offers at once a look at the source of the University's legacy and of the rising sun, both indebting us to the past and the future of our academic mission.

Here you will find a variety of newsworthy items, which we offer to establish or re-establish an ongoing relationship with former students, colleagues, alumni and other interested parties. The newsletter will summarize the most significant events of any given semester, and will also provide an outlook of our plans for the enhancement of our programs. We will collect this information from staff, students and colleagues, both here and abroad. We will also provide special features, invite friends and members of the department to contribute and comment on the newsletter items, so as to give you a comprehensive overview of ongoing events. We also encourage alumni to participate in the effort, so that the academic and intellectual community of the German Department can reconstitute itself in this virtual environment.

To name but a few recent events and initiatives which have affected the department: In the past two years the department saw a number of changes in its personnel: our long- time colleague and former chair William Jackson retired in 2005. The dean authorized two searches on the assistant professor level in 2005 and 2006. We were able to hire Laura Heins from Yale University and Chad Wellmon from UC Berkeley in these respective years, and they both have been wonderful colleagues, helping the department to meet its needs and challenges. In addition, we hired Cora Schenberg, one of our own recent Ph.D.s, to teach, promote Outreach for our Department, and to edit this newsletter.

One challenge we faced is the recently taken decision to provide a flexible German Studies major/minor to the undergraduate populations, which should simultaneously increase our level of interdisciplinary and interdepartmental cooperation, give us more visibility on the grounds and increase the number of students who wish to engage in transatlantic and German Studies. We pursued this goal on a different level by creating and launching our new interdisciplinary Center for German Studies, thanks to a donation by one of our alumnae. Another new and successful initiative has been the “J-term in Berlin”, where a group of 17 undergraduate students and one graduate TA joined Gordon Stewart to experience the many faces and facets of this exciting metropolis first hand for more than 3 weeks.

If you wish to respond to an item in this Newsletter, to contribute newsworthy items from your end, or comment on the format and structure of this newsletter as well as the new departmental website, please contact Cora Schenberg. We would be delighted to hear from you.

Mit freundlichen Grüssen,
Volker Kaiser


German Studies Center Launched

Looking out from Cabell Hall

The German Department has received a generous donation from a UVa alumna, who studied Comparative Literature and has been living in Hamburg, Germany, for the past 25 years. The funds have gone toward establishing a Center for German Studies at the University. The Center, designed as a hub for interdisciplinary activity, is composed by the departments of German, History, Sociology, Art History, Religious Studies, Philosophy and the Darden School of Business and the McIntire School of Commerce, among others. The Center will advance and support interdisciplinary projects, such as conferences, seminars, research grant initiatives, and workshops, within our University, as well as with colleagues from other universities in the U.S. and Europe. Moreover, the Center will:

  • Promote the cooperation of scholars at the University of Virginia whose work touches upon the cultural traditions of German-speaking societies, and provide a forum for interdisciplinary research and interdepartmental collaboration.
  • Provide a significant opportunity for enhanced forms of faculty-student cooperation.
  • Generate visibility and recognition for the University of Virginia on a regional, national and international level supporting German Studies.
  • Provide a forum for scholars, writers, artists, journalists and other professionals from the US, Germany and elsewhere who have an interest in German Studies.
  • Support and expand current departmental and inter-departmental programs for study abroad and academic exchange.
  • Provide a platform to develop and support community-centered activities concerned with German Studies.
  • Create a forum and resource for teachers of German throughout the State of Virginia.

We are grateful for this opportunity for us and our colleagues in other departments to establish and foster transatlantic and German-US relations on all levels (academic, cultural, social). The Center, which has already been authorized by the Provost and the Deans, and will kick off its activities with a major event in the Fall of 2008. For a more detailed description of the CGS, its purpose, programs, organizational structure and its members, please consult the CGS website.


Graduate Certificate in Comparative Literature Offered

A comparative literature library

Thanks to a new program recently developed by the German Department Faculty, German Department graduate students may now receive a Graduate Certificate in Comparative Literature. Courses in German or other literatures with a comparative, interdisciplinary, and/or theoretic focus, such as literary theory, narrative theory, or a course involving more than one national tradition may, if approved by the Chair of Comparative Literature, be counted toward the Comparative Literature certificate, as well as toward German. Admission to the new program is highly selective, restricted to U.Va. advanced-degree candidates with excellent records.

At this time, several graduate students have received permission to pursue the Comparative Literature certificate. Rising third-year Ph.D. candidate Kerstin Steitz spoke about her interest in the program. Noting that our graduate students have always read widely and taken courses in other literatures, Kerstin said it is good to have this broader approach officially recognized. Moreover, Kerstin pointed out that having the Comparative Literature certificate on one’s CV gives job candidates a better chance on the market, since it shows they can teach other literatures besides German. Kerstin concluded by saying that she welcomes the opportunity to get to know more of her colleagues by taking courses in other graduate departments.


Faculty News

Professor Chad Wellmon

The 2006–07 academic year was an exciting and rewarding one for Prof. Volker Kaiser, who is serving as Chair for the first time. Conference invitations brought Mr. Kaiser to Cyprus and Israel, as well as to Germany and California. Mr. Kaiser delivered a talk entitled “The Sounds of Music: Nietzsche, Thomas Mann and Kafka,” at a conference called “Die Theorie nach dem Ende der Theorie” at the Goethe-Institut in Jerusalem.

In the fall, Prof. Kaiser attended the annual meeting of the German Studies Association in California, where he presented a lecture on the poet Gottfried Benn and commented on papers given in a session entitled “Aesthetic Theories and Practices in Historical Perspective.”

Mr. Kaiser is currently editing a collection of essays presented at the 2006 UVA conference titled “Perspectives on Europe: Historical, Literary and Cultural Explorations.” He plans to devote the summer of 2008 to his own writing.

Prof. Lorna Martens gave a paper titled “Walter Benjamins Berliner Kindheit um 1900 als antiromantische Kindheitsautobiograpie” at the XII. Germanistentagung, Universidad Complutense,in Madrid, in March 2007. In May of the same year, Prof. Martens presented a paper entitled “Nostalgia and Childhood Autobiography” at Ege University, 11th Annual International Cultural Studies Symposium, Ismir, Turkey. She will soon publish an article entitled “Constructing Interiority in Eighteenth-Century Narrative Fiction: Wieland’s Geschichte des Agathon” in the German Quarterly.

Our newest faculty member, Chad Wellmon joined the Department in the fall of 2007. He studied political theory and German literature at Davidson College (1999) and received his Ph.D. in German Studies at the University of California, Berkeley (2006). Before coming to UVa, he taught at Georgetown University. His research and teaching interests include German literature from the late 18th to early 20th century, modern European intellectual history and Romanticism. His first book, Becoming Human: Romantic Anthropology and the Embodiment of Freedom, considers the emergence of German anthropology around 1800. His second project is entitled Organizing the World: Projects of Universal Knowledge from the Enlightenment to Google Books.

Associate Professor Jeffrey Grossman recently presented a paper titled “The Invention of Love? Or, How Moyshe Leyb Halpern Read Heinrich Heine,” at the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research (a division of the Center for Jewish History) in New York; he presented a revised version of this paper at a conference on “Multilingual Jewish Literature and Multicultural America” at the University of Chicago. Prof. Grossman also has several articles in the works, including “Fractured Histories: Heine’s Responses to Violence and Revolution”, dealing with Heine, theories of Pierre Bourdieu, violence, and love in the 19th century German context, forthcoming in the volume Violence in German Literature, Culture, and Intellectual History, 1789–1938, ed. Carl Niekerk and Stefani Engelstein. Amsterdam: Rodopi.


Graduate Student News

Jennifer Hansen in Berlin

Jennifer Hansen has received a research scholarship from the Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies in Washington, D.C. This is Jennifer’s second such coup; she spent academic year 2007-2008 in Berlin, on a DAAD research grant, for work on her dissertation. Her host institutions were Potsdam Universität and the Zentrum für Literaturforschung. This past winter, Jennifer gave a paper at the MLA conference in Chicago on contemporary German-Jewish literature.

Uli Wilson was assistant-director of the German Academy during last summer’s Governor’s Foreign Language Academies in Richmond, a five-week total immersion language program for a select group of high school students at U.Va.

Barbara Rieger wrote a ten-minute play titled Two Escape to Learn the Truth, which was presented in December at the Helms Theater at U.Va.

On February 16, 2008, Daniel Kollig presented a paper titled “Bringing Nietzsche back into Art - The Inscriptions of Eternal Change in the Works of Matthew Barney,” at a conference on “Translations and Transitions” at the University of Miami, in Coral Gables, Florida. The conference was organized by the University’s Departments of English and Modern Languages and Literatures.

Anna Baker has presented papers at three conferences in the past year. Most recently, on April 24-27, 2008, Anna gave a paper titled “Moral Monstrosity and the [Dis]Membered Body in Shelley's Frankenstein,” at the American Comparative Literature Association's Annual Conference, The Interstices of Life and Death, in Long Beach, CA. On February 21–23, 2008, she presented “Avoiding the Ugly: Lessing, Mendelssohn and Nathan” at the South Central American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies, in New Orleans, LA. October 11–13, 2007 found Anna in Kansas City, MO, where she presented “The Ugly Debate in German Thought: Physiognomy and Judgment,” at the Mid-Western American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies, On the Margins and in the Middle: Centers and Peripheries.

Gabriel Cooper plays violin with the U.Va. Klezmer Ensemble, a class and performing group formed in Fall 2006 by Joel Rubin, the McIntire Department of Music’s Director of Performance. The ensemble, made up of U.Va. undergrads and grad students, faculty and other members of the greater Charlottesville community, is dedicated to exploring klezmer and other Jewish musical traditions from the 18th century to the present. On December 4, 2007, the ensemble gave a concert at UVa with Alicia Svigals, a world-renowned klezmer violinist and founder of Grammy-winning band, The Klezmatics. Their next concert took place on April 6, 2008 at Old Cabell Hall, and the program featured traditional klezmer and hasidic repertoire from late 18th to early 20th century Eastern Europe, as well as klezmer tunes from early 20th century New York and Philadelphia.


Second Annual J-Term in Berlin

J-Termers in Berlin

Under the direction of Dean Gordon Stewart and Graduate T.A. Anna Baker, the Department sponsored its second January Term in Berlin, this time with 17 undergraduates participating. New to this year’s program were a weekend trip to Weimar and Jena, where the Department is considering expansion of its exchange program. As in the previous year, each student completed an individual inquiry that served both to introduce the student to Berlin and to enrich the Berlin experiences of the others in the group. More than half of this year’s group had never studied German, so the J-Term is proving to be another way in which the Department contributes to the broad academic life of the University.

Fourth-year art major Katherine Gar Smith spoke enthusiastically about the program. “My trip to Berlin is an experience that I will carry with me for my entire lifetime,” Katie wrote. “There were so many great activities within the J Term program that contributed to my overall understanding of Berlin not only as a historical center, but also as an entity of change and evolution. Aside from the wonderful and valuable academic aspects, there were many other facets of the trip that are now embedded in my life, such as the great friendships I made with my fellow classmates and the program’s instructors. I am so grateful I had the opportunity to participate in this outstanding program.”

Our German House

This year, the German House continued its bi-weekly Movie Night tradition. Up to twenty students attended the screenings of films featuring German audio, usually with English subtitles. In the spring semester, GAME NIGHTS were added to the German House’s program of activities. Students had the opportunity to play German board, card and social games of many kinds.

Special events in the fall semester included the Oktoberfest, featuring German food, music and games. A Fasching Party was held in the spring. Events for German House residents included dinners they took turns cooking for each other, the faculty brunch, and the Holiday ginger bread house decoration night.

Department Applies for Transcoop Funds

The department is currently in the process of applying for Transatlantic Research Cooperation funds from the Alexander von Humboldt Stiftung. Our partner in Germany is the Ruhr Universitat Bochum. The applications will be submitted by Volker Kaiser (UVA) and Manfred Schneider (RUB), who will both coordinate and direct the project, should it be granted. One not so small condition for the application to the Humboldt Foundation is that American institutions and foundations will have consented to match the Humboldt stipend in the amount of €55000, and hence we are currently approaching US sources for these funds.

Research teams at UVA and RUB have already been formed, and other aspects of the rather detailed descriptions of the project, which will cover a 3 year period, have been successfully addressed as well. If granted, the project will become an integral part of the Center of German Studies. For further news, consult the next newsletter.