This program offers two months at the German parliament for students who are fluent in German and possess outstanding academic records and personal integrity as well as sufficient knowledge of the German legislative process. Applicants must be advanced undergraduates or graduate students in fields such as political science, international relations, law, history, economics or German.
Deadline for 2015 internships: September 15, 2014
Please visit www.daad.org/emgip for application guidelines.
Jul. 14, 2014 by Iris Bork-Goldfield
Leo Lensing’s review essay discussing a new biography of Ingeborg Bachmann, “Pillar of Fire. How to assess the ‘stations’ of Ingeborg Bachmann’s self-destructive life from childhood constant reader to modernist ‘Fräuleinwunder’,” is the cover article for the latest issue of The Times Literary Supplement (July 11, No. 5806, pp. 3-5).
You can access the article via Olin Library.
Deutschland gewinnt die Fußball-Weltmeisterschaft. Herzlichen Glückwunsch!
Review by Grace Nix’15
In einem der wichtigsten Theater in Berlin spielte man vor kurzem ein neues Stück — Angst essen Seele auf. Es ist gut möglich, dass manche von euch diesen Titel erkennen. Das Maxim Gorki Theater hat einen von Rainer Werner Fassbinders beliebtesten Filmen (Ali: Fear Eats the Soul) für die Bühne bearbeitet. Die Geschichte handelt von einem unwahrscheinlichen Paar–Emmi, einer älteren verwitweten deutschen Frau; und Ali, einem viel jüngeren marokkanischen Gastarbeiter. Die Aufführung war ganz erfolgreich. Das stärkste Element, das man der Geschichte hinzugefügt hat, war ein Erzähler in der Form eines amerikanischen, jüdischen, Jiddisch-sprechenden Klavier-Gitarre-Accordion-Spielers. Er hat die Stimmung der Geschichte ganz verändert. Was bei Fassbinder ein meist ruhiger und grüblerischer Film war, wurde hier in eine zeitlose Volksgeschichte umgesetzt. Durch diese Form der Darstellung bekam Ali nicht nur Geist, sondern auch viel Humor, und neben Emmi noch einen echten Freund in dem Musiker. Wenn man an diesen Film denkt, denkt man an die starke Inszenierung und die Farben der Bilder. Es gab diese schönen Elemente auch im Stück. Das beeindruckendste neue Element war der anhaltende Aschenregen. Er hat niemals aufgehört, wurden nur noch stärker. Am Ende gab es eine echte Wiese aus Aschen am Boden. Ich möchte keinen Spoiler geben und daher nur sagen, dass diese Änderungen einfach das Ende der Geschichte ändern mussten. Es gab im Stück keinen tragischen Epilog, sondern ein kurzes und (für uns, die den Film schon geguckt haben) verfrühtes Ende. Manchmal sind diese großen Änderungen etwas ärgerlich, aber nicht dieses Mal. Das etwas fröhlichere Ende des Theaterstücks war sinnvoll, erwünscht, und voll Sinn fürs Leben. Fassbinder wäre vielleicht nicht völlig zufrieden damit – wegen des viel positiveren Schlusses – aber wir können ihn natürlich nicht dazu fragen. Wenn Ihr Berlin in der Zukunft besucht, würde ich gerne dieses Stück und einen Besuch im Maxim Gorki Theater empfehlen.
Grace has been studying in Berlin since last fall with Duke/Wesleyan in Berlin.
Iris Bork-Goldfield’s documentary, We Wanted do Do Something! is now online. It is the story of her father and his friends who, in 1949-53, secretly wrote and distributed leaflets and other materials against the repressive Communist regime in the GDR. Several of his friends were imprisoned; eight of them were tried by a Soviet military tribunal in 1951, and executed a year later.
Iris Bork-Goldfield edited the film with Peter Cramer ’14. She had the support of the Robert-Havemann-Gesellschaft, and Wesleyan University.
The film is also linked to the website of the Free University of Berlin.
Professor Bork and Wesleyan students enjoying a Middle Eastern dinner in Berlin-Neukölln.
Madeline Smith-Huemer ‘14, a double major in History and GRST, Oscar Takabvirwa ‘14, a double major in Mathematics and GRST, and Mari Jarris ‘14, a double major in COL and German Studies, gave short presentations about their theses.
“New Forum’s Third Way and German Grassroots Organization” is the title of Maddy’s thesis. She explores a political movement that arose during the fall of 1989 in communist East Germany. Amidst the chaos that was the decline of the SED regime, a grassroots organization named “New Forum” began to develop an alternative political program, which it called the Third Way. As can be inferred from the name, this Third Way was intended to be a solution to a problem of two extremes — one being the political oppression of the East German government and the other being the possibility of unification with West Germany. Instead, New Forum advocated for the internal reform of the GDR, which would be achieved through a predominantly apolitical strategy. Within the literature on East German opposition and German reunification, the concept of the Third Way has challenged countless historians, most of whom have chosen to analyze New Forum’s apolitical movement only in the context of the GDR. In order to better understand the apolitical Third Way, this thesis will employ two methods of historical analysis. First, the Third Way will be investigated through its defining features, that is, the central tenets of the alternative movement. Secondly, a historical approach, in which New Forum is related to other Third Way movements throughout German history, will seek to make sense of the greater meaning of public organization as it relates to German political identity.
Oscar introduced the audience to Stories in Transit: An Anthology of Texts by Exiles, Migrants and Émigrés, translated from the German with an introduction and conclusion.
The last 10 years of Oscar’s life have been filled with a lot of travelling and moving around the world. With every stop have come unique challenges: bureaucratic hurdles, language barriers, and the question of integration—whether to fit in, to stick out, or to position himself somewhere in between. His thesis project constitutes a response to those challenges: a collection of both fictional and non-fictional accounts of émigrés, migrants, and exiles at various stages of their journeys; organized around the themes of identity, bureaucracy and migration, and language.
Mari concluded the presentations with her thesis, “Theory, Empirics, Revolution: A Three-Dimensional Approach to Subverting Authority.”
Mari addresses the Frankfurt School’s interdisciplinary critique of authority in the 1930s through the 1970s. She analyzes the dialectical relationship among the Frankfurt School’s three methodological approaches that yield its “social philosophy”: philosophical critique, empirical research, and political practice. Mari explores the question of how economic, social, and political tendencies are internalized in individuals using the Frankfurt School’s social psychoanalytic concept of the “authoritarian character.”
Julian Thereisa, a double major in CSS and German Studies, with a certificate in International Relations, wrote a thesis for the CSS entitled, “Gentle as Jade: Perspectives Upon the Multiple Lives of Lou Tseng-Tsiang.”
Future plans of our GRST majors / minors, and prizes
Julius Bjornson ‘14, a Music and German Studies major received the Fulbright Teaching Assistantship Grant and will be teaching English at a German Gymnasium (high school) in Nordrhein Westphalen. “With his musical talent”, it would not surprise us if he formed a band and led it with his fiddle. He received the Blankenagel Prize for his outstanding work in German Studies.
Katherine Dean ‘14 received the Baden-Württemberg–CT Exchange grant.
Mari Jarris ’14 received a Fulbright Grant and a DAAD Grant and decided to accept the DAAD Grant to continue her research on the Frankfurt School critique’s of Idealist philosophy at the Akademie der Künste in Berlin next year. She hopes to enroll simultaneously in a Master’s program in German literature. She received a scholarship to attend the Middlebury French Language School this summer, which will enable her to expand her study of German to Franco-German history and philosophy. Mari was awarded the Prentice Prize for her outstanding work in German Studies.
Elizabeth Lauffer ’07 received the Gutekunst Translation Prize administered by the Goethe-Institut.
Julian Thereisa ‘14 was awarded a Baden-Württemberg grant and was admitted to the Chinese Studies program at Oxford University and the Masters program in International History program at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva. Julian decided to go to Geneva, and he is looking forward to living and studying in Switzerland, a country he has never visited. While in Geneva, he aims to intern at an international organization or NGO to gain some work experience. He has been awarded the Joan Miller Prize for his outstanding CSS thesis and the Scott Prize for his accomplishments in German. He was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa.
Maddy Smith-Huemer ’14 was awarded the Blankennagel Prize for her excellent work in German and the Robins Memorial Prize for excellence in History.
Oscar Takabvirwa ’14 Oscar started working for Argus Information and Advisory Service, a big data strategic consulting firm in Westchester County, in early June. He received the Blankennagel Prize for his excellent work in German. Oscar was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa.
Apr. 16, 2014 by Iris Bork-Goldfield
First launched in its publicly accessible online verion in the end of 2012, the Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek networks the digitized material of German museums, archives, research institutes, print and multi-media libraries and monument-preservation organizations, thereby providing unrestricted online access to German cultural and scientific heritage at no charge to the users. The result is a single internet platform giving access to millions of books, images, sculptures, archived items, pieces of music and other audio documents, films and scores.
DDB is now bringing its beta phase to a close, and is available at: the www.deutsche-digitale-bibliothek.de portal.
Collaboratively developed by Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) the German Rectors’ Conference (HRK) and DAAD, Research Explorer is an online German research directory that contains over 19,000 institutes at German universities and non-university research institutions, searchable by geographic location, subject and other structural criteria.
To begin using the directory, go to: http://research-explorer.dfg.de/research_explorer.en.html
Leo Lensing on Michael Hofmann’s Ignorance of Karl Kraus and His Indifference to Jonathan Franzen’s The Kraus Project
Jan. 23, 2014 by Iris Bork-Goldfield
Michael Hofmann has a handful of perceptive things to say about Jonathan Franzen’s The Kraus Project [NYR October 24]. Most notably, he recognizes that it represents a unique experiment, “a strange, space-bending, Cubist, not unsimpatico book.” Unfortunately, this and other insights are buried in a misinformed, crudely formulated screed hurled at Karl Kraus, a writer whom Hofmann gives ample evidence of not having read carefully.
Hofmann “supposes” that The Last Days of Humankind is Kraus’s “chef d’oeuvre” even though this firmly established judgment of literary history need not be the object of hunches and maybes. The great anti-war drama, documentary and visionary in equal measure, not only directly influenced Brecht’s theory and practice of Epic Theater, but also set a powerful example of modernist textual collage that helped shape the famous political photomontages of John Heartfield as well as Alfred Döblin’s great city novel Berlin Alexanderplatz. Hofmann seems not to realize that the play consists of more than things “heard or overheard by its author”; it also appropriates posters sighted, advertisements copied, films viewed, and countless newspaper clippings pasted onto the manuscript page before being satirically transformed into self-revealing dialogue. The play is consciously constructed in excess of “the conventional five acts” to which Hofmann reduces its form; it also contains a prologue and an epilogue, which, incidentally, brings the scene count to 220, not “209.” Hofmann thinks that the play is “from 1917,” whereas it was actually published in four special issues of Kraus’s satirical journal Die Fackel (The Torch) in 1918-1919 with the expressionistic epilogue coming first. The red covers and the documentary photograph of Wilhelm II used as the frontispiece of “The Last Night” (the title of the epilogue) gave it the initial impact of a revolutionary pamphlet. Kraus continued to revise and add new scenes based on information suppressed under war-time censorship until the first book edition appeared in 1922.
Hofmann’s notion that the play is “rarely read, much less performed and only translated (thus far) in abridgment” is wrong on all counts. Beginning in the 1960s, a dtv two-volume paperback and, since 1986, the 848-page Suhrkamp edition have, together, sold thousands of copies in Germany.
Even though The Last Days of Humankind—at fifteen hours or ten evenings—has understandably not been a staple of the German-language repertory, productions have not exactly been rare. It might be more accurate to say, intermittent with increasing frequency in times of war. There have been countless staged readings and radio broadcasts since the 1960s. Full-scale productions have occurred less often, but have regularly inspired theatrical experiments of great intensity. In 1983, the Scottish playwright and director Robert David MacDonald staged his own translation of the play with the Citizens Theatre of Glasgow, which became the sensation of the Edinburgh Festival in that year. In 1991, Luca Ronconi, amplifying Kraus’s comments about the mechanization of everyday life accelerated by the war, created a furor by staging the play along the assembly lines of the former Fiat factory in Turin. Johann Kresnik’s 2003 version used an even more spectacular and daunting setting, a massive World-War-II-era submarine bunker in Bremen; this production had to be repeatedly extended and eventually reached a hundred performances.
Although there is thus far only a pair of abridged English versions of The Last Days of Mankind, complete translations exist in French, Italian, Hungarian, Spanish, Portuguese, and Japanese among other languages. Losing wars apparently quickens the appetite for the entire text of the drama.
Hofmann’s jumble of misperceptions about The Last Days of Humankind constitutes more than a refusal to observe philological and literary-historical niceties. It is symptomatic of his failure to understand the drama’s importance for the “Kraus Project.” While the literary essays on Heine and Nestroy may be the focus of the book, Franzen explains that they were originally an auxiliary assignment in a seminar about Kraus’s masterpiece offered at the Free University in Berlin in 1982. His description of the often comic dynamics of this course—a patient, overly indulgent professor jousting and haggling with authoritarian leftist students, many of them all talk and no text; Franzen and his fellow students struggling to prepare a report on the monstrous drama—really does form part of a “bildungsroman about a clever and ambitious young man on a Fulbright in Germany,” just not the “entertainment” version that Hofmann thinks Franzen should have written.
Not content to dismiss Kraus’s dramatic masterpiece, Hofmann also belittles another entire genre in which he produced highly original work. Does Hofmann really believe that the aphorism is “not a robust and jolly English commodity,” but rather “a sort of Franco-Balkan form, La Rochefoucauld meets E. M. Cioran or Lichtenberg”? Leaving aside this mispotted history of the genre, what about Nietzsche, whose influence Kraus denied with suspicious vehemence, and Oscar Wilde, whose work he embraced and published in Die Fackel? Kraus’s aphoristic work has had a more vigorous afterlife in the English-speaking world than Hofmann realizes although he unwittingly explains why when he summarizes: “Just as Shakespeare seems to be full of quotations, so Kraus is full of aphorisms” – one has only to add “and quotations from and allusions to Shakespeare.” Hofmann the poet has also missed W. H. Auden’s energetic championing of Kraus and his inclusion of a disproportionate number of his aphorisms in A Certain World, his “commonplace book.”
For Hofmann the translator, Franzen’s rendering of Kraus’s texts is “overliteral and a little wooden throughout,” a judgment that ignores the sustained scrupulous attention to linguistic nuance, allusion and wordplay for which Franzen enlisted the expert assistance of the Austrian novelist Daniel Kehlmann and the American Kraus scholar Paul Reitter. Rather than dumbing down Kraus’s complex prose, Franzen throws himself into reproducing and explicating its complexities. Surely, this is preferable to flagrant re-writing, for which Hofmann himself has been taken to task in the Times Literary Supplement [March 2, 2001] and in these pages. As J. M. Coetzee remarked of his translations of Joseph Roth, “is it part of the translator’s job to give his author lessons in economy?” [NYR February 28, 2002]
Ultimately, Hofmann thinks it doesn’t matter because Kraus’s writing is “too artificial, too conniving, and above all too squalid” to be considered “brilliant.” He aims to demonstrate this point with four substantial quotations from the essay on Nestroy. Whether these passages actually lack brilliance is at least open to question. But why not choose a quotation from the essay on Heine—Hofmann’s “darling,” whom he is otherwise anxious to defend—for example, this one:
A person who makes fun of his adversary’s sex life is incapable of rising to polemical power. And a person who ridicules his adversary’s poverty can make no better joke than this: Platen’s Oedipus would “not have been so biting if its author had had more to bite on.” Bad opinions can only make bad jokes. The play of wit and word, which compresses whole worlds of contrast onto the tiniest of surfaces and can therefore be the most valuable kind of play, must, in Heine’s hands, as in the hands of the dismal Saphir, become a slack pun, because there are no moral funds to underwrite it.
This is neither artificial nor conniving, and the squalor comes with the homophobia and the misplaced ridicule directed at the poet August von Platen. As it happens, Hofmann does cite a single phrase from the same page where Kraus cites Heine’s text; “two words,” all, he implies, that he has “taken away from Kraus”: “schöne Köchin,” “a crooked female cook” in Franzen’s rendering.
In a long concluding paragraph, Hofmann indulges in a giddy riff about this “skewed cook,” in which he explains that Heine is “protesting his love of women.” He would rather “have” a misshapen lower-class female than “the most aesthetic aesthete,” as Hofmann willfully renders the original “der schönste Schönheitsfreund” (“the most beautiful friend of beauty”). In a footnote, Daniel Kehlmann explains that in this context Heine’s persona is clearly saying that he prefers a coarse woman to the most beautiful “gay aesthete.” Does Hofmann really not know that when he exclaims “Goodness, how I love my ‘schiefe Köchin’!” he is mimicking the homophobic voice of Heine’s narrator, or does he just not care? Perhaps this is simply more evidence of careless reading. As for many other things, Kraus had a solution for this problem, too. “One has to read my pieces twice, in order to acquire a taste for them. I don’t mind, however, if one reads them three times. But I prefer that they not be read at all rather than only once. I would just as soon not take responsibility for the mental congestion of a bonehead who doesn’t have time.”
Tuesday, November 5, 7 PM, Center for Film Studies
A charming comedy focusing on a somewhat naive and geeky teacher Daniel (Moritz Bleibtreu) as he embarks on a wondrous road trip in search of his dream girl. And it all starts at the beginning of his summer holiday, when he buys a ring from the aspiring artist and street vendor Juli (Christiane Paul). The ring bears a Mayan sun symbol, which, according to Juli, has the power to lead him to the woman of his dreams. Will he find her?
Introduction by Iris Bork-Goldfield
Organized by Russell Library