College of Arts and Sciences

Germanic Studies

Our History

Our department with its many teachers and students has a rich history, some of which we try to document in our archives. Quite a few scholars have gone through our department in the one or the other form. Retrospectively, it seems like historical foresight that our department was founded on November 9 in 1885, as one can learn in these documents. Many famous and notorious events have happened on November 9, ranging from the end of the German monarchy in 1918 to the antisemitic pogroms of the Reichskristallnacht in 1938 and more recently the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

Like much in contemporary German-speaking Europe, the Department of Germanic Studies is relatively young and distinctly forward-looking. With the hiring of Marc Weiner academic year 1985/1986, the centennial year of the Department's founding, the great generation of teachers and scholars who built our international reputation in the 1960s through 1980s set the cornerstone of the Department's second century of existence. In addition to continuing the strong inter-arts (especially music and literature) tradition here at Indiana University, Marc also promoted new interest in the work of Adorno and the Frankfurt School. His much-deserved fame rests largely (though not exclusively) on his careful and nuanced research on Richard Wagner and anti-Semitism, culminating in the award-winning Richard Wagner and the Anti-Semitic Imagination. (Mark Roseman, Professor of History and Adjunct Professor of Germanic Studies, also works extensively on German-Jewish history.) Marc has been awarded the prestigious Humboldt Fellowship twice, was the Director of the Institute of German Studies from 1997 to 2004, and editor of The German Quarterly from 1995 to 1997. Marc relishes the task of teaching German poetry, Lied, and opera to interested undergraduate students.

Indiana Student 1893 (pdf) Centennial Celebration 1986 (pdf)

Kari Gade arrived shortly thereafter and has built on the reputation that Frank Banta and Foster Blaisdell forged in Germanic (especially Old Norse) philology. In addition to labeling all office machinery after pagan Nordic gods, Kari is engaged in a monumental, international, multi-volume edition of all extant Old Icelandic skaldic poetry, in which her expertise is supreme and for which her enthusiasm is unmatched. She works closely with the Medieval Studies Program and has an especially close working relationship with Rob Fulk, Professor of English and Adjunct Professor in Germanic Studies. Kari's undergraduate Vikings and Sagas course is a fan favorite.

William Rasch arrived in Bloomington in 1990. He brought with him a passionate interest in Niklas Luhmann and systems theory (and indeed, brought Luhmann himself to Bloomington for two weeks in 1994), which over the years has developed into a more general research program in German social, political, and legal theory, especially the thought of Carl Schmitt. He works closely with William Scheuerman, Professor of Political Science and Adjunct Professor of Germanic Studies. Bill enjoys teaching aspects of the German and European intellectual tradition – Nietzsche, Weber, Freud, for instance, or the Idea of Europe – to undergraduates.

The Department hired Rex Sprouse in 1994, the same year his article "Word order and nominative case in non-native language acquisition: A longitudinal study of (L1 Turkish) German interlanguage" (co-authored with Bonnie Schwartz) changed the paradigm of linguistic research in second-language acquisition. Of the many ways that Rex has distinguished himself over the years not least in importance is the fact that he continually conducts research with his undergraduate and graduate students, often co-authoring significant, peer-reviewed articles with them. He was instrumental in establishing the Department of Second Language Studies and works closely with two Adjunct Professors of Germanic Studies, Laurent Dekydtspotter (French and Italian) and Kathleen Bardovi-Harlig (Second Language Studies). He created the Department's current undergraduate curriculum in German linguistics.

Fritz Breithaupt arrived on the scene next. Internationally recognized as a leader among contemporary Goethe scholars (indeed, his work on Goethe has been compared to Walter Benjamin's), Fritz ranges far and wide in his innovative research to encompass vast areas of 18th to early 20th-century German literary studies. His current research has resulted in books on money and selfhood and on empathy. As Director of Institute for European Studies (formerly, West European Studies) he was largely responsible for bringing to IU one of the US's ten European Union Centers of Excellence. Fritz was also one of the founders of IU's Eighteenth Century Studies Program and has been awarded a prestigious Humboldt Fellowship. A popular teacher at all levels, Fritz frequently teaches an Intensive Freshman Seminar to incoming students in August.

The year 2000 not only ushered in a new millennium (or, to be precise, ended the old one) but also brought two new members to the department.

Michel Chaouli is the other pillar that supports the Department's well-earned fame in Eighteenth Century Studies. His book on Friedrich Schlegel (which was immediately translated into German), his investigations of disgust and the grotesque, and his expertise in Kant and aesthetic theory have won him international recognition and are complemented by academic and public-intellectual articles on virtual reality and the state of the discipline today. His current research has taken him in the direction of literature and science (particularly cognitive science) in his pursuit of the "haptic Enlightenment." He was named a fellow of the prestigious Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin, 2008-2009. He has also served as the Director of the Institute of German Studies since 2005. Michel believes in challenging his students to read German texts intensively by, for instance, conducting undergraduate courses on single authors like Kleist.

Dov-Ber Kerler is the Alice Field Cohn Chair in Yiddish Studies in the Department of Germanic Studies and the Borns Jewish Studies Program. His award-winning The Origins of Modern Literary Yiddish has been followed by years of ethnographic research in Eastern Europe (in collaboration with Jeffrey Veidlinger, History and Jewish Studies), namely the filming of interviews with the few remaining Yiddish speakers in the Ukraine, Romania, Moldavia, Hungary, and elsewhere. Under the penname Boris Karloff he is also the author of books of poetry written in Yiddish. In addition to language instruction, Dov-Ber teaches a fascinating English-language undergraduate course in Yiddish culture every year.

2002 brought us Claudia Breger. As another of the Department's winners of the prestigious Humboldt Fellowship, Claudia quickly made her presence felt upon arrival in the United States. Her research interests – and enormous number of publications – are truly encyclopedic as they range from gender and minority studies to film studies, performance studies, narrative theory, and contemporary fiction. (Julia Roos, Assistant Professor of History and Adjunct Professor of Germanic Studies also works on issues of gender in early 20th-century Germany.) Seemingly indefatigable, Claudia's ubiquitous work is equally well-represented and well-received in North America and Germany. Claudia always has devoted followers among undergraduate and graduate students who appreciate the intellectually stimulating, eye-opening, and alternative materials and perspectives she brings to each course.

In this new millennium we seem to hire mostly by twos and exclusively during the even years. 2004 gave to us two outstanding colleagues.

Tracy Hall worked for over a decade in European research institutions and universities before returning to the US and landing in Bloomington. He brought with him a reputation as one of the world's leading linguistic scholars specializing in Germanic phonology. Author of 2 books and over 50 articles and book chapters, he is also responsible for a much praised introductory textbook that is used in German universities. The organization of the text matches well the clarity one experiences at one of his oral presentations or in a class session.

Ben Robinson's background is as varied as Tracy's, but in a different way. He brings his activist commitments, but more importantly, his intellectual acuteness and rigor to all he does. Author of articles with what have to be the world's most creative and amusing titles, Ben's philosophically informed intelligence bounces off every page he writes. His research focuses on 20th-century literary and cultural history, especially the Weimar period and the GDR. His book The Skin of the System: On Germany's Socialist Modernity focuses on the philosophical challenges of alternative social systems. Despite the difficulty of the material and the level of German proficiency required, his course on the cultural and political history of the German Autobahn was enthusiastically and appreciatively reviewed.

And two more scholars and teachers arrived in 2006.

Susanne Even was hired to take over the duties of Language Coordinator after our former coordinator, Katy Fraser, retired. Katy invented the position of coordinator in the Department and was a tough act to follow. Nevertheless, we could not have asked for a better successor. Susanne has redesigned the entire language proficiency program, is eager to initiate further innovations, and is a tireless trouble-shooter as well as trainer and mentor to our graduate student instructors. Her classroom based research investigates the role drama and performance can play in language instruction.

We were also fortunate to have hired Johannes Türk the same year. Combining studies in the sciences, law, and literature, Johannes has researched the notion of immunity and immunology in Western culture. To everything he teaches and researches he brings a comparative and rich cultural perspective. Johannes has already attracted the attention of colleagues in Germany and the US and he is sought out to participate in scholarly volumes and intellectual events. Among other tasks, he enjoys teaching innovatively themed courses in the Honors College.

In 2008, the department was able to add to its strengths by extending the breadth of expertise into medieval studies and film studies.

Hildegard Keller had been our 2005 Max Kade Distinguished Visiting Professor before joining us as a regular faculty member in January, 2008. A scholar of the medieval and early modern period, she studies the literature of these eras from the perspective of various interests, including the visual arts, musical performance, gender, science, and the Reformation. In addition to publishing books and articles she has headed vast editorial projects, released CDs, staged plays, and has been the curator of museum exhibits. Her dynamic personality and boundless energy make every class she teaches a performance of its own.

In addition to our tenured and tenure-track professors, we have a committed and talented corps of permanent lecturers, some of whom direct departmental programs.

Esther Ham is Senior Lecturer and has been the Director of our Dutch Program since 2001. She took over a small program and has turned it into a wildly popular and successful sequence of language and culture courses; so much so, in fact, that we have had to hire a part-time lecturer (Bieneke Haitjema) to teach the overflow. Esther has designed a variety of English-language Dutch culture courses, including ones on Anne Frank and the Dutch experience during World War II. She was awarded the highly competitive Trustees Teaching Award for clinical and non-tenure-track faculty in 2007.

With a Ph.D. from the University of Washington, Gergana May arrived in Bloomington in fall 2006 to take over the Directorship of the Norwegian Program. Her drive and commitment has considerably raised the profile of this fledgling program. She teaches language and culture courses and the Norwegian film series that she initiated has become a featured component of the Department's extra-curricular activities for undergraduate and graduate students.

Troy Byler was hired fall 2006 to teach German language-proficiency courses and become the Department's first High School Outreach Coordinator. Where he gets his energy is unknown, but in addition to teaching, saving German-language programs in area high schools, organizing student visits to campus, and running the German ACP program, he has also assisted Susanne Even in redesigning facets of the undergraduate language-proficiency curriculum. He was awarded the highly competitive Trustees Teaching Award for clinical and non-tenure-track faculty in 2008.

Nikole Langjahr was also hired 2006 to teach German language-proficiency courses (including the important and popular G375, German conversation) and to run all German House activities. She has put considerable time and effort into making our undergraduate extra-curricular program a central part of the life of the Department. She has organized conversation hours (Kaffeestunde), dinners (Stammtisch), movie series, lectures, museum tours in German (conducted by Helga Keller), and field trips to Indianapolis and Chicago.

Julia Lawson received her Ph.D. from IU Germanic Studies in 1980. After retiring she returned to Bloomington in 2004 and has worked for us as a part-time lecturer ever since. She is responsible for our German-language introduction to literature courses (G305 and G306) and invariably receives outstanding student evaluations. Indeed, she was once described as the "Goddess of German Literature," an terrific honor with which the Department wholeheartedly concurs.

Germanic Studies
Global and International Studies Building 3103
355 North Jordan Ave.
Bloomington, IN 47405-1105
Phone: 812-855-1553
Fax: 812-855-8927