Spring 2009 Newsletter

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German Studies Center celebrates fall kick-off

Department Chair Volker Kaiser at Center launch reception
Photo by Cora Schenberg

Greetings once again from the German Department at the University of Virginia. Much has happened since the publication of last year's Newsletter. This past fall saw the launch of the new Center for German Studies at U.Va. 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 advances and supports 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. A generous donation from an anonymous U.Va. alumna went toward establishing the Center.

On September 24, a kick-off reception in celebration of the Center was held at the Colonnade Club, followed, on October 24 and 25, by a series of events featuring Josef Joffe, editor-in-chief of the influential German weekly Die Zeit. Joffe, who earned his Ph.D. in government at Harvard and who has written extensively on international relations, participated in a round-table discussion, titled "Religion and Politics in the United States and Germany" and also spoke on the topic of "The Future of German Studies."

In November, the Center sponsored a workshop at which research proposals were presented by three U.Va. German faculty members: Max Kade Visiting Professor Gabriele Dietze, Dr. Laura Heins and Dr. Manuela Achilles.

This spring, the Center is launching the German Studies Center Forum. Twice each semester, the Forum will feature talks, film screenings, and other German-related activities open to local community members, as well as University students, staff and faculty. Professors Gordon Stewart and Laura Heins are the spring semester's Forum speakers; please see the website for more information.

In the midst of the excitement around the birth of our new Center, our Faculty, graduate and undergraduate students have continued to reach new milestones. You may find their stories within.


Professor Achilles (far right) and her class
Photo by Lila Jividen

Business German Students Do Lunch. Students practice German business lunch etiquette

Although "Ludwig's Schnitzelhaus," formerly one of Charlottesville's few German Restaurants, was taken over by a Korean family and renamed "Arirang," this did not keep Professor Achilles' Business German class (GERM 325: Berufsdeutsch) from having a truly wunderbar business luncheon at the renovated local restaurant. Looking at the glass as half-full rather than half-empty, the class met up at Arirang to practice some of the German etiquette taught to them throughout the semester. Since the interior and exterior decoration of the restaurant remain in traditional German design (it seemed that everything except for the food itself was of German origin), the class easily slipped into the role of a German business luncheon meeting. Only allowed to speak in German, they debated contemporary issues such as globalization, future job searches, and upcoming exams, all of which related to material covered in class. The picture the group took is proof of the fact that they truly enjoyed their visit to the restaurant. The Arts and Sciences Council funded the special lunch.

Third Annual J-Term a Success; Students view "Geography of Modernity" in Berlin

Over the J-Term, Prof. Chad Wellmon and graduate T.A. Kerstin Steitz took 17 undergraduate students from across the College to Berlin for a two-week seminar "Berlin, Geography of Modernity." The course encouraged students to reflect on key moments in the history of modern Berlin by focusing on particular buildings, streets, ruins and places throughout the city. Mr. Wellmon writes: "Over the two weeks, we debated the successes and failures of the glass landscape that Berlin has become, the never-ending process of memorialization that has accompanied the construction of the Holocaust memorial and the glaring blank spaces (like the now erased Palast der Republik) that still mark the city. So, this meant a lot of walking in very cold and snowy weather." The trip was funded in part by the Center for German Studies and a grant from the Mead Foundation. Mr. Wellmon hopes to continue this successful program next year.

Undergrads May Apply for Essay Prizes; Center and German Department sponsor contests

The Center for German Studies is pleased to announce an Essay Contest for all undergraduate students at the University. This year's topic is: "Why Are German Traditions Relevant for us Today?" The undergraduate whose paper supplies the best answer(s) to this question will receive a cash award of $300 (first runner-up $200 and second runner-up $100). Essays should be written in English, 5 to 8 pages long and double-spaced. Deadline: March 1, 2009, to Prof. Beth Bjorklund. For more information on the competition, please visit the Center website: ">http: .

The German Department invites students to apply for the Walter H. Sokel Prize. The prize, made possible by a generous gift from Prof. Emeritus Walter H. Sokel, is awarded each spring for the best essay written by an undergraduate enrolled in a course in the German Department. All students-not just German majors-are eligible to apply. The essays must contain a minimum of 3500 words in length (ca. 12-14 pp). Students may revise essays from courses previously taken. Essays should be submitted to the Director of Undergraduate Programs, Prof. Jeffrey Grossman. The deadline is Thursday, 9 April 2009.

William Callison wins '08 Sokel Prize

In the spring of 2008, William Callison received the Sokel Prize for his paper titled "The Imposition of Moral Concepts and Nietzsche's Move Beyond." Mr. Callison was also awarded a summer scholarship from the Deutscher akademische Austauschdienst (DAAD) to carry out research in Germany on a project entitled: "Nietzsche through Hegel: A Comparative Analysis of Theory and Structure." Mr. Callison visited the Nietzsche Archive in Weimar, and did research in Mannheim and Berlin. By press time, he also had a paper accepted for publication in the graduate philosophy journal Gnosis.

German Department Assistants Receive Awards; U.Va. honors Melody Palmer and Gina Hutton

Our two administrative assistants, Melody Palmer and Gina Hutton, both received awards from the University for their excellent service to the German Department. Ms. Palmer and Ms. Hutton are responsible for fiscal, personnel and student-related administrative duties of the Center for German Studies and the University's Sign Language Program, as well as for the German Department. We thank them for their dedication, humor and patience. Congratulations, Ladies, on a job well done-every day.


German House Traditions Continue to Evolve

German House residents visit Carter Mountain
Photo courtesy of Britta Bojahr

As in previous semesters, the German House, a German-speaking student residence located in Bice Dormitory, continued its German Movie Night tradition in fall 2008, showing eight movies ranging from the suspenseful WWII film "Der Untergang" to the hugely popular comedy-romance "Keinohrhasen." Alternating with the movie nights, the German House game nights gave students an opportunity to practice their German while playing games, listening to German music and eating home-baked Apfelkuchen. The semester's highlight was the Oktoberfest, where 130 guests ate some 100 Bratwürste and 70 Brezeln, followed by games and cheering for the live band, which featured the German House's very own Rebecca Stewart on bass. German House director Britta Bojahr writes that "of course, there is also a life in the German House when we're not hosting official events: apart from our house dinners and tea-and-study sessions in the evenings, we also went apple-picking on Carter Mountain on a beautiful, sunny September Sunday, ice-skating in Charlottesville's Ice Park on a chilly November evening, and held a dinner for new applicants. Our semester in the house ended with two events of a very different nature: first the residents enjoyed a traditional German "Adventsfeier" with German Christmas songs, Stollen, and Lebkuchen, and then they rocked the house at our very first Karaoke Night-and there's more to come!"


Faculty News

Professor Ben Bennett

Prof. Benjamin Bennett has published his ninth book, titled The Dark Side of Literacy: Literature and Learning Not to Read, with Fordham University Press. Other titles by Prof. Bennett include Modern Drama and German Classicism: Renaissance from Lessing to Brecht (1979), Goethe's Theory of Poetry: Faust and the Regeneration of Language (1986), Hugo von Hofmannsthal: The Theaters of Consciousness (1988), Theater As Problem:  Modern Drama and Its Place in Literature (1990), Beyond Theory: Eighteenth-Century German Literature and the Poetics of Irony (1993), Goethe as Woman: The Undoing of Literature (2001), All Theater Is Revolutionary Theater (2005).

This past year, Prof. Gabriel N. Finder co-edited the journal Polin: Studies in Polish Jewry 20. In this issue, devoted to the construction of holocaust memory in Poland, he wrote the introduction and co-authored two articles. Other publications by Prof. Finder include two articles in The YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe;" a condensed Polish translation of his article, "Jewish Prisoner Labour in Warsaw after the Ghetto Uprising, 1943-1944" and an article titled "Yizkor! Commemoration of the Dead by Jewish Displaced Persons in Postwar Germany," in Between Mass Death and Individual Loss: The Place of the Dead in Twentieth-Century Germany, ed. Alon Confino, Paul Betts, and Dirk Schumann. Last November, Prof. Finder gave a presentation at the Max Weinrich Center for Advanced Yiddish Studies, Center for Jewish History in New York; this past January, he presented a paper at "Beyond Camps and Forced Labour, Third International Multidisciplinary Conference, Imperial War Museum London. This past January he presented a paper at "Beyond Camps and Forced Labour, Third International Multidisciplinary Conference," at the Imperial War Museum in London on the film "Undzere Kinder," the last Yiddish feature film produced in Poland in 1948-1949. Mr. Finder is currently working on a book manuscript titled: Aftermath: Jews, Poles, and the Memory of the Holocaust, which he hopes to complete in 2010. 

Prof. Chad Wellmon received an award for teaching excellence from the Mead Endowment, a University fund recognizing and encouraging faculty-student interaction. Mr. Wellmon used his winnings to take 17 students to Berlin for J-Term this winter. (See article on J-Term in "Department News.")

Prof. Lorna Martens gave a lecture on "Gender, Psychoanalysis, and Childhood Autobiography:  Christa Wolf's Kindheitsmuster"at the Conference of University Teachers of German in Great Britain, Nottingham, UK, in March 2008. In the following October she gave the response paper in the panel "Narratology and German Studies: Narrative Performance" at the German Studies Association Conference in Minneapolis.  Her article "Constructing Interiority in Eighteenth-Century Narrative Fiction: Wieland's Geschichte des Agathon," appeared in the German Quarterly 81.1 (2008). 

Gabriele Dietze Held Max Kade Lectureship in ’08

Professor Gabriele Dietze

Each Fall, through funds made available through the Max Kade Foundation, a scholar from Germany or another German-speaking country comes to U.Va. as a visiting professor. This past fall, our Max Kade Prof. was Dr. Gabriele Dietze, from the Institute for Cultural Inquiry, associated with Humboldt University in Berlin. Ms. Dietze holds two doctoral degrees, one in Germanistik and one in American Studies, and has taught widely in both Germany and the United States. Her primary areas of research are in Cultural Studies and Gender Studies. Here at U.Va., she taught an undergraduate course entitled "The Foreigner in German Culture" and a graduate course on Geschlechterfragen, which interrogated the contexts and controversies of sex-gender systems historically and theoretically, as well as politically.


Grad students move forward with degrees, research

Anna Baker, Ph.D.

The Department has another Ph.D. to its credit: Anna Baker successfully defended her dissertation, titled Body Politics: The Aesthetics of Ugliness. Anna is currently teaching at the College of the Holy Cross, in Massachusetts. 

Gerrit Rössler and Dylan Goldblatt passed their master exams this fall, and will receive their degrees during final exercises in spring 2009. 

So far this year, no fewer than five graduate students successfully presented their dissertation proposals to the Department. Barbara Rieger, who works under the direction of Prof. Lorna Martens, made her presentation in September. Jennifer Hansen presented her prospectus, titled "Visual Witnesses: The Shaping of Holocaust Narratives in National Museums" in November. Jennifer is spending the current academic year in DC, where she is a fellow at the Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum. Also presenting in November were Selma Erdogdu and Irina Kuznetzova. Selma, who works under the direction of Prof. Jeffrey Grossman, titled her prospectus: "From home to Heimat: Analyzing German Translations of Cross-cultural US American Literature." Irina Kuznetzova, whose project carries the working title of "Demonization of the Other in Russian and German Literature at the End of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century," works with Prof. Lorna Martens. Irina will present some of her research at the Dostoevsky Festival held at California State University Long Beach this February and has had an article accepted for publication in the German online publication Kafk@online. Finally, Kevin Boyd's dissertation topic, "Goethe's Translation Theory and Practice," was approved. This spring, Kevin will give a talk at the Kentucky Foreign Language Conference on Goethe's idea of translation.

Graduate Students Host Conference

This year's topic: food and drink.

By press time, our graduate students will have presented their 16th annual Interdisciplinary German Studies Conference. This year's conference, titled "Eat, Drink and be Merry: Questions of Consumption and Celebration," is scheduled for February 13-15. This year's organizers tell us that "cook books and etiquette guides are not the only media which explore questions of consumption and celebration. Food and drink, their preparation and consumption, as well as private and communal acts of celebration, ritual and pleasure play important roles in grappling with any culture or its products. Furthermore, the richness of these areas of study comes only properly into focus when one also considers the roles which food, drink and celebration serve as agents of social and political power, at times oppressive, at others liberating. The multivalence of both consumption and celebration as critical categories allow the exploration of myriad perspectives, including questions of literary and filmic representation, inequality in gender and political relationships, philosophies of hedonism and self-denial among many others." Topics range from food in art, film, music, pop-culture and history; the Dionysian and Carnivalesque; magic potions; obesity and beauty-ideals; Heimat, nostalgia and food, among others.