Fritz Breithaupt just completed a new book that will be available in German first: Das narrative Gehirn: Was Neuronen erzählen (Suhrkamp, Berlin, April 2022). In the book, he suggests that we all are storytelling beings and that we love narratives and narrative thinking so much because of specific emotions that we receive as rewards for our engagement. He includes a reading of the Grimm fairly-tales and conducted the largest experiment of story retelling to date with 19,000 participants (like in the telephone game or Stille-Post) with his lab. His lab, the Experimental Humanities Lab www.experimentalhumanities.com, continues to attract a wide range of students from the humanities and from cognitive science. If you want to do weird things, join them! His wife, Leela, connected the dots for him to land in eighteenth-century Germany, as she now leads the Bach-Choir in Bethlehem.
Susanne Even sends her yearly update: "Nothing seems to have changed much during the last year – the email inbox is still as large as ever, time is still as scarce as before, and everyone is thoroughly tired of masks and delta variants and the like. But my promotion has gone through, everybody in the department is vaccinated, and teaching – both online and in person – is going well.
The German Instructor Summer Program had its second year online. While everyone is hoping for a return to the immersion format on campus, this year's topic Alltagskulturen still went very well. Bettina Christner and I thoroughly enjoyed teaching with Die deutsche Seele (2011), whose authors Thea Dorn and Richard Wagner investigate topics from Abendbrot bis Zerrissenheit and most letters in between. To fathom the German soul, we settled on a combination of Fahrvergnügen, Kitsch, Schrebergarten, Fußball, Ordnungsliebe, Narrenfreiheit und Feierabend, regretting that we couldn't also do Wanderlust, Waldeinsamkeit, Winnetou, Wurst and das Weib (just to give you a taste of the letter W). We learned about the dark side of Dr. Schreber who, against common belief, did not found the Schrebergärten, about Bertolt Brecht selling his soul for an Austrian car, and we explored intercultural encounters at the world's largest Heavy Metal Festival in Wacken, Schleswig-Holstein, and its inclusion of religion, senior citizens and people with disabilities. It was a great two weeks.
My 60-student fairy tale class is still online, and this time Brian Donarski who assists me, solves technological problems, and is a steady cheerful presence in the class sessions. Cornelia Funke joined us again on zoom, which was just as, if not more enjoyable as last year. Word has apparently gotten out that I combine fairy tales with Funke's novel Reckless; I was asked to contribute a book chapter to the anthology Teaching with Fairy Tales (expected 2023).
I am now Faculty Advisor for ICAN@IU, a student organization which promotes the work of the Indiana Canine Assistance Network, where I got Oliver from. The service dogs in the making are mostly trained in three high security prisons in Indianapolis, but they are furloughed from time to time in order to get acquainted with the real world too. Trained student volunteers host dogs for a few weeks at a time, taking them to classes, to the library, to football games, and also into local schools where they teach kids about service dogs and how not to distract them when on duty. ICAN@IU have even sponsored their own service dog, a smart black beauty called Hoosier."
Guenther Jikeli reports: "2021 has been an interesting year for me. On the 60th anniversary of the trial of Adolf Eichmann in Jerusalem, I was invited to reflect on the image of Eichmann today and to write about it for a French journal. This has been a fascinating task as I realized that this man was able to put out a powerful lie at his trial and duped some of the most gifted philosophers of the 20th century, Hannah Arendt. Eichmann, who was one of the architects of the logistics of the Holocaust and who boasted in 1957 to friends, "I have no regrets! […] I have to tell you quite honestly that if of the 10.3 million Jews […] we had killed 10.3 million, I would be satisfied, and would say, good, we have destroyed an enemy," presented himself as a dull, "banal" bureaucrat who was just following orders, dutifully doing his job, without harboring any specific hatred against the Jews.
While Hannah Arendt was right that evil can done by banal people, she was as wrong on Eichmann as many others for whom he still is a symbol of a high-ranking "Mitläufer."
The work on Eichmann and today's perceptions of him prompted me to take a hard look on the ways that Germany has dealt with its past from 1945 until today and published a paper entitled "A Model for Coming to Terms with the Past? Holocaust Remembrance and Antisemitism in Germany since 1945." Despite some encouraging signs recently, Germany can hardly be seen as a model for dealing with the past as moral philosopher Susan Neiman has suggested for the U.S. Too much of its history has been suppressed and distorted for too long. Too many false accusations have been made against Jews as a result of the failure to honestly confront the Nazi era and to hold those accountable who were responsible. The idea that America should follow the German example in dealing with its own past becomes almost grotesque. More than 40 percent of the German population believe that Jews talk too much about the Holocaust. Would American society be content with having 40 percent of its population think that its Black citizens talk too much about slavery?"
And from Teresa Kovacs: "Even though the academic year 2020/21 brought numerous challenges due to the ongoing pandemic, I have found a way to stay involved in scholarly debates and academic discourse. Most important, I published my article "Der Ort des Gaffens: Theater als Ruinöse Landschaft" in the journal Cahiers d'Études Germaniques that I have written inspired by a conference dedicated to the relationship between theater and image. Besides, I finished articles on Schlingensief's re-working of Wagner's Gesamtkunstwerk, on political theatre as a non/human theatre, as well as on René Pollesch and his provocative introduction of the network as a 'chorus of capitalism' to the stage (the last one together with Nina Morais) that are currently in the process of review.
Even though traveling to conferences and talks no longer meant to actually leaving my own desk here in Bloomington, which I experienced as a great loss, I have attended several Zoom events to present on different aspects of my current book project on contemporary theatre and the non/human. I presented at IU (Working Papers in Cultural Studies Workshop), in the context of invited talks (Rutgers University), international conferences (e.g. at the Université Sorbonne Nouvelle – Paris 3), and the Modern Language Association conference. In addition, I continued my research for the DFG Forschungsnetzwerk "Kulturtechniken des Versammelns," that is now in its third year.
Besides academic involvements, I fortunately found ways to engage with theatre in more practical terms – even though my work as a dramaturg came to a hold due to the pandemic. I joined a post-screening roundtable organized by the Volkstheater Wien on Jelinek's 'secondary drama' and became part of a larger project organized by Austrian playwright Ferdinand Schmalz dedicated to Neue Dramatik. This project was a delight, given that I had the chance to enter an ongoing conversation with playwright Gerhild Steinbuch about her writings for the theatre. This conversation not just resulted a conference on the question of "Dramatisch lesen," but also in short essays on dramatic writing that will be published in the literature journal Lichtungen.
Otherwise, the editing of the Schlingensief Handbuch (Metzler Verlag) kept me busy as well as my new position as the Vice-President of the Austrian Studies Association (ASA).
This said, I am looking forward to spending the current academic year hidden away in my Schreibstube thanks to my pre-tenure leave and the IU Presidential Arts & Humanities award I was granted."
Professor Kovacs also shepherded an undergraduate class through the preparation and presentation of a paper at The German Studies Association Conference in Indianapolis this year. The title of their talk was "Performing Male Hysteria: Stefanie Sargnagel and Nestbeschmutzung in Austria." Two of the participants, Meghan Looney and Jerrett Alexander, have written a short report of the event for the Newsletter:
"Professor Teresa Kovacs reached out to us at the beginning of 2021 with an opportunity to present at the new Undergraduate Research Panel at the German Studies Association Conference. Our class with Professor Kovacs focused on protest movements in Austria, so the choice of Stefanie Sargnagel and Burschenschaft Hysteria as our research topic coincided with our current Germanic Studies course. Throughout the summer, we met over Zoom to discuss our sources and share our discoveries. Our paper went through multiple revisions, and eventually, we were prepared to present our research at the conference.
The GSA's Undergraduate Research Panel was a wonderful opportunity for us to both convey our research to the audience and learn what other Germanic Studies students in the area are researching. After our own presentation on Stefanie Sargnagel and Burschenschaft Hysteria, we got to hear about a wide variety of topics, ranging from plants to international law to the sexual violence faced by German women at the end of World War II. The audience was so wonderful and supportive, and Professor Heikki Lempa, who served as our moderator, did a marvelous job keeping things running smoothly. We feel as though the Undergraduate Research Panel was a great way for us to engage with Germanic Studies students from across the region and share our research with them, and we sincerely hope that the panel becomes a recurring part of the GSA Conference."
Nikole Langjahr: " I am happy to announce that we have a new semester exchange program with the University of Bayreuth, and as director of undergraduate studies I was involved in the later planning stages and the student interview process. We are looking forward to sending our first cohort over and welcoming German students over here later next year. After all the Covid-related travel cancellations, our undergraduates are very eager to go abroad, as was apparent in our Overseas Information Meeting early this fall - the first time ever held online. It had record attendance as well as a record number of student questions! Zoomtisch is STILL virtual, but we all cannot wait until in spring 2022 we will finally reconvene at Bear's Place. We did have our first in-person undergraduate social events since March 2020 in September and October: two very well-attended (and enjoyable!) game nights."
Gergana May reports on the Norwegian program: "Being away from campus and teaching fully online was exhausting and definitely not enjoyable. "Uff da!" as Norwegians express exasperation. Needless to say, both students and I are excited to be back in the classroom – the energy and enthusiasm is palpable, especially in the third semester class – all of us finally got to meet each other and interact in person! The enrollments in the language classes are, regrettably, down, but this is a trend running across the board for most of the less-commonly taught languages. My speculation is that the Covid crisis created insecurities, which currently prompt students to study "more practical", i.e. commonly spoken languages. In contrast, the courses offered in English – "The Multicultural North" and "Contemporary Scandinavia" have been consistently overenrolled. I am looking forward to teach again a literature course - in spring 2022 we'll delve into several masterpieces of Scandinavian literature."
Julia Roos, Associate Professor of History and Germanic Studies Adjunct, is one of the talking heads in the documentary, Sie nannten sie "Kinder der Schande" (English title, They Called Them "Children of Shame": A Tale of Prejudice and Propaganda); she also helped the producers with the historical research. The film focuses on the biracial children of the 1920s Rhineland occupation and their persecution under the Nazis. ARTE first broadcast the documentary on November 10, 2020. On January 10, 2021, Deutsche Welle broadcast an English-language version: https://www.dw.com/en/they-called-them-the-children-of-shame-a-tale-of-prejudice-and-propaganda/av-56185521
Julia is currently writing an article on biracial German "occupation children" (Besatzungskinder) of the two world wars for a special issue of Aus Politik und Zeitgeschichte entitled "Schwarz und Deutsch." As many of you know, APuZ is edited by the Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung und widely used as a teaching resource in German high schools, so this potentially could reach many young people, which would be great (!).
Bill Rasch keeps it short and sweet: Happily living in retirement and pandemic semi-isolation with family, including our two granddaughters.
Christopher Sapp was happy to emerge (sort of) from the isolation of last year's COVID conditions: "My first year on the faculty was a rewarding one. I was immediately put to work on M.A. and Ph.D. committees, but then again, supervising graduate students' research is what drew me back to IU. In terms of teaching, it is refreshing to be teaching in person again, and I am currently offering Middle High German for the first time in many years. As I was looking through my old notes and preparing the syllabus, I realized that the room (Ballantine 233) is the same room where I first began learning Middle High German with Stephen Wailes, all the way back in Fall 1998!
Over the last two years we have all become experts at online teaching and meetings, and so I co-authored a short article with my wife Dinorah for TESOL Connections on "Best practices for online teaching observations." I also published a study of dialectal variation in the Heliand and the minor Old Saxon texts, co-authored with a former student of mine from Mississippi. As for that book on dating Old Norse poetry that I mentioned in last year's newsletter, I am still revising it for publication— maybe by this time next year I will have some good news about it."
Emeritus Professor William Shetter let us know that he in the "Resident Spotlight" of the newsletter at the Bell Trace, where he and his wife Jeanette have lived since October 2016. We know Bill as professor of linguistics, German and Dutch in Germanic Studies for 30 years and, of course, former editor of this newsletter. The Bell Trace newsletter adds that "Bill has always enjoyed drawing cartoons [some of which have been feature here. ed] , making woodcuts, riding his bike, and writing. Bill participates in the Bell Trace writing group, reviews spiritual books for a Quaker magazinem and tries to ride his bike daily (weather permitting). Bill even participated in can compoetes 23 miles of the local Hilly Hundred bike tour at the age of 88!"
Lane Sorensen hasn't been quite as busy as a bee in 2021, but here's the buzz: on top of his teaching and outreach duties, he has given three guest lectures since March on the topic of 'Old Norse and Runes in the Context of Germanic Languages' for Penn State and the University of Northern Colorado, presented a pedagogical talk at the Indiana Foreign Language Teachers Association (IFLTA) Pam Gemmer Spring Conference, was part of a roundtable early October on university and K-12 collaborations and outreach at the GSA with Prof. Susanne Even and high school German teacher Amanda Beck, and will present a talk on Middle Low German 'liver-rhymes' before also leading a workshop on 'Niederdeutsche Sprache und Kultur im DaF Unterricht' this November at the University of Calgary.
He and a handful of extraordinarily helpful departmental AIs also kept the German Theater Project for High Schools alive last Spring, once again online. Harrison High School won Best Comedy with their wildly creative Rache des Gummibärchens and the award for Best Drama went to Fishers High School for their suspenseful mystery, Der Mord von Alanah May. We are all hoping and planning for the return to an in-person GTP this spring!
And finally this from Johannes Türk: "I have spent a part of the pandemic year in Berlin in isolation, in the spring I taught a hybrid course that allowed me to compare teaching with a mask in person with teaching on zoom. Navigating between Europe and the US proved an interesting case study of how medical facts and political realities are shaped differently. Our recently inaugurated lecture series New Directions in German Studies was moved online, where I had the opportunity to host Rüdiger Campe, Deniz Göktürk, and Johannes von Moltke in a roundtable on the future of German Studies. In the spring, two conversations on forensic methods in Holocaust and Refugee Studies as well as on political affect followed. I am continuing to work at a study on exemption as well as on a second one on political affect; from the latter project a longer chapter on offense has emerged that might stand on its own."