Bridging the Gap with Germany during the Pandemic

By Iris Bork-Goldfield, Adj. Professor of German Studies

In March 2020, students were told to return from their study abroad programs, and we faculty were asked not to leave the U.S. Four of our students had just arrived at our Smith program in Hamburg, Germany, when they received that unwelcome message to pack again and return home. In the summer, I learned that our exchange student from Freiburg would not be coming to Wesleyan because of COVID.  This meant that I would be without a teaching assistant from Germany in 2020/21. I contacted Munich’s Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, my Alma Mater. I had graduated from LMU in German as a Foreign Language (Deutsch als Fremdsprache= DaF) and knew that students were required to do a teaching internship as part of their studies. I had done mine in China, but why not offer an online internship in the U.S., and why not at Wesleyan? I contacted the internship coordinator at the DaF Institut in Munich and sent her a description of our teaching internship, asking if she would announce it to their students.

Already a week later, I had the first response, followed quickly by several others. I interviewed several candidates via Zoom, explaining that they would be responsible for individual Oral Practice sessions (OPS) of 10-15 minutes each, with my Beginning German students. I kept the sessions short as no funding was available. The TAs were only to speak German and reinforce what my students had learned in my classes the week before. The three German tutors and I met once per week, usually on Fridays, to discuss what I had taught and share ideas about how to best practice the material, mainly vocabulary, grammar, and German culture. Later we also discussed what worked and what didn’t. One Wesleyan student, a native German speaker, who is currently attending classes from her hometown, Vienna, also joined us as a TA. She enrolled in a tutorial with me and will receive .5 credit for her work this semester. The students from Munich received an evaluation and an internship certificate from me which Munich University accepts as part of their studies. In early September 2020, my students had to sign up for an OPS and met with their German TA once a week, always at the same time.

My students’ evaluations showed how much they enjoyed these meetings with a student from Germany/Austria. Their only regret was that the sessions were so short. All four TAs agreed to continue working with my students and me this semester, and we agreed that they would meet with two students at a time and extend their sessions to 20-30 minutes each.

Another project bridging the “ocean” is the Tandem project, initiated by the Baden-Württemberg (BW) exchange program, which is administered by the University of Connecticut. They invite students from participating U.S. universities to sign up for a tandem partner from one of the universities in Baden-Württemberg. German students who study English at Heidelberg, Tübingen, Freiburg, Stuttgart, and Konstanz now meet with American students who study German at the intermediate or advanced level in Connecticut. They are meeting 11 times this semester for about 60-90 minutes per session via WebEx, Zoom or Microsoft Teams. Topics that should be covered are, for example:

  1. Everyday life as a student: What does a typical day in their life as a German/American student look like? What are the similarities and differences? What are current topics among students in Germany/the United States that are being discussed?
  2. Academics:  How and when do students select the courses they are planning to take? Which platforms are being used for online instruction and administrative purposes (access to transcripts and grades, course registration, etc.)? Do students need to register for exams? If so, how do they do that?
  3. Baden-Württemberg vs. Connecticut: What are features specific to the region/city/state? What needs to be on every student’s bucket list for BW and CT?

The goal is to practice the language of the host country and divide the meeting time between German and English. Depending on the student’s level of fluency and familiarity with the other language, they may not need to correct each other’s vocabulary or pronunciation very much but should still pay attention to these details.

Students are expected to keep a journal and use the following questions as guidelines for their entries after each meeting with their Tandem partner:

  1. What topics did you talk about?
  2. Which was the dominant language during your conversation?
  3. What did you take away from this meeting?
  4. What did you learn about your host country, state, city, and /or university?

Three of our Wesleyan students signed up and now have a Tandem partner. Just as UConn awards credits to their students, we offer a half-credit group tutorial for our Wesleyan students.

Needless to say, these online meetings do not substitute for in-person meetings and study abroad, but they are a bridge to a world, and to people, that we currently cannot visit in person.

Published in Wes and the World Newsletter (03-04-21)

 

 

 

Contributions to Transatlantic Conversation on Jewish Identity

In the past fall semester, Wesleyan students in the First Year Seminar “Holocaust Remembrance in Germany: The Third Generation” participated in a pilot exchange with the Central Council of Jews in Germany. Made possible by the Departments of German Studies and Jewish Studies and the initiative “Meet a Jew”, these virtual meetings constituted the first of a series of transatlantic connections.

Working on theories of trauma and memory, this FYS focused especially on Jewish life in Germany today. Literary representations and academic texts made visible themes of identity, memory culture, anti-Semitism, homophobia, and xenophobia. A personal note was sounded in the meetings with young members of the Jewish community in Germany. Not only did these visits allow for contextualization of course material, they also covered more in-depth and personal accounts. Dima, one of the German participants reflected that “I have rarely met such an open group. All questions were deep and touched everything from impacts of migration, to denominational distinctions, through to LGBTQI acceptance. This shows how much farther the US is in respect of the normality of Jewish Life than we are in Germany.”

FYS courses at Wesleyan are specifically designed to introduce students to academic writing, reasoning, and arguing, as well as the tools to successfully work at the university level. This initiative added unreserved questions, open discussion, and personal connection to the rigorous academic schedule of the course. Students could reenvisage their paper topics and discuss real-world aspects of their textual analyses. The FYS “Holocaust Remembrance and Jewish Identity in Germany,” part of the FYS Summer 2021 program, will bring these exchanges to a new level. Students will have the chance to not only engage in class discussions but also in regular small group discussions.

Written by Thorsten Wilhelm, published in Wes and the World Newsletter (03-04-21)

Check out the Summer Course program for further information or contact Prof. Thorsten Wilhelm.

Erik Grimmer-Solem, Learning Empire: Globalization and German Quest for World Status, 1875-1919

The German Studies department would like to congratulate Erik Grimmer-Solem, (Professor of History and affiliated with German Studies) on his latest publication, Learning Empire: Globalization and the German Quest for World Status, 1875-1919 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2019). His book–as he tells his readers–“seeks to reshape our understanding of Imperial Germany’s history by reconstructing the complex overseas entanglements of Germans in North and South America, Japan, China, Southeast Asia, Russia, and Ottoman Turkey”  https://egrimmer.faculty.wesleyan.edu/current-projects/research/.

Learning Empire has been widely reviewed in the US, Great Britain, Australia, and Germany. Dirk Bonker (Duke University) calls it an “impressive book” in which “Erik Grimmer-Solem offers a new narrative of the German Empire’s expansionist discourse and pursuit of global power from the 1870s through the 1910s” [German Studies Review, Volume 43, Number 2, May 2020, pp. 405-407]. Edward Ross Dickinson (University of California, Davis) calls Erik’s work “a remarkable undertaking, a hybrid work that is at once an ambitious and sustained synthesis of the massive scholarly literature on German imperial policy (Weltpolitik) and a study, founded on extensive archival research, of the role in shaping that policy of a small network of academic economists interested in the emerging capitalist world economy (Weltwirtschaft) [Journal of World History, December 2020, pp. 820-822]. Matthew P. Fitzpatrick (Flinders University, South Australia) calls the book a “landmark work of scholarship.” Erik “persuasively demonstrates that imperialism in the German Kaiserreich was not the product of the dominance of atavistic feudal remnants, but rather was an expression of the social, geopolitical and economic understanding of the globalizing middle classes of Germany. Beyond this, however, he also demonstrates that Germany’s liberal Weltpolitik was matched and eventually eclipsed by the expression of similar globalizing impulses in other nations, including the United States and Britain” [German History, Oxford University press, pre-publication book review]. And Gerhard Wegner (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung) ends his positive review with: “Learning Empire bietet dem Leser eine höchst anregende Darstellung des Imperalismus aus der Perspektive zeitgenössischer Nationalökonomen” (January 18, 2021).

 

And available at Olin Libray

 

 

 

Thorsten Wilhelm, Holocaust Narratives : Trauma, Memory and Identity Across Generations

This semester, Thorsten Wilhelm, Visiting Professor of German Studies, teaches the Freshmen Seminar, Holocaust Remembrance in Germany: The Third Generation. The German Studies Department congratulates Professor Wilhelm on his recently released book. Holocaust Narratives : Trauma, Memory and Identity Across Generations was published in August 2020 by the Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group.

The publisher states that Professor Wilhelm analyzes “individual multi-generational frameworks of Holocaust trauma to answer one essential question: How do these narratives change to not only transmit the trauma of the Holocaust – and in the process add meaning to what is inherently an event that annihilates meaning – but also construct the trauma as a connector to a past that needs to be continued in the present?”

Professor Emeritus Murray Baumgarten, University of California, Santa Cruz and Founding Director of The Dickens Project comments, “a major achievement, bringing subtle analysis of Holocaust trauma to bear on the narratives that construct the collective discourse of its meanings. Wilhelm’s fine analysis helps us understand the continuing impact of the Shoah on ‘the memories of the future’ generated by second and third generation witnesses.”

The book is now available online at Olin Library.

Source: https://www.routledge.com/Holocaust-Narratives-Trauma-Memory-and-Identity-Across-Generations/Wilhelm/p/book/9780367442972

 

Krishna Winston’s Linden Tree Plaque

On August 20th, at long last, the plaque that was to accompany Krishna’s Linden Tree was installed. We thank Elizabeth Raccio, Assistant Director of Stewardship and Donor Relations, who helped organize this work.

Originally, we had envisioned a festive reception with many colleagues, friends, and alumni to witness this event and to celebrate Krishna’s retirement. But the party has to wait.  Luckily, Krishna is still very active on campus, be it directing the Wasch Center or supervising tutorials, theses, and senior projects focused on German literature or on translation, and more.

The plaque was donated by the College of the Environment and the German Studies Department.

Open Letter to our GRST Seniors

Department of German Studies
Dr. Iris Bork-Goldfield
Adj. Professor of German Studies, Chair

May 18, 2020

Dear Binxin, Scott, Hannah, Thomas, Mathias, Lily, and Charlie,

Before you officially graduate on May 24, 2020, Uli Plass, Martin Bäumel, and I would like to congratulate you on your many wonderful achievements. I count myself as lucky to have had you in one or more classes during your time here at Wesleyan on your way to becoming more proficient in German. The last few weeks were challenging for all of us, but we managed—on some days better than on others. But you did it, you finished all your requirements! Although the future is somewhat uncertain, we have no doubt that you all will move on to many other exciting opportunities. We wish all of you the very best and hope you will stay in touch with us here at Wesleyan.

I would like to put some information about you, your accomplishments, and future plans on our German Studies blog. If you have not done so already, could you please send me a paragraph or two about your future plans, anything that you would like to share, AND a picture of yourself? Here is a link to a previous blog entry: http://german.site.wesleyan.edu/2018/06/17/german-studies-majors-and-minors-summer-2018/.

Vielen Dank im Voraus, alles Gute und nochmals herzlichen Glückwunsch.

Binxin, thank you for having been such a wonderful German Haus manager and dedicated student. I will miss our lively discussions in my office. Congratulations on receiving the well-deserved Blankenagel prize! I am looking forward to reading your senior thesis, “Im Geheimnis der Begegnung – Poetics, Ossification, and Reading in Rilke and Celan,” which discusses, to quote Uli Plass, “the poetry of Rilke and Celan in light of their own poetics, that is, in light of how these poets conceive of their poetry in relation to the poetic tradition and conventions they inherit.” Congratulations on being admitted to Columbia University’s Postbaccalaureate Premedical Program this fall.

Scott, thank you for your enthusiasm and good humor. I especially enjoyed our tutorial on the Bauhaus last fall when we were still allowed to meet face-to-face and traveled to New York and Bethel together with our class to explore Bauhaus art. You received two Reihlen grants to help with your research in Germany for your senior thesis, “Utopian Longing: Space and the Production of Affect in the Work of Toni Schwabe.” Toni Schwabe, as Martin Bäumel wrote, was “a fascinating writer between neoromantic kitsch and explorations of gender norms” who “would probably be forgotten were it not for Thomas Mann’s review of one of her novels.” Congratulations on your thesis which—together with Binxin’s is one of the items on my summer reading list. I hope you will be able to move to Germany soon to start your DAAD fellowship at Konstanz University.

Hannah, thank you for all your insightful and thoughtful discussions throughout the years and for introducing us to the graphic novel Kinderland in our GDR seminar. You received a Reihlen grant that enabled you to return to Hamburg last year and interview my parents and Jutta Gutzeit (director of the Smith in Hamburg program) among others as background for writing the screenplay “On Belongings,” about a German family moving to Arizona in the 1970’s.  I truly enjoyed reading the Drehbuch and working with you on the translations for parts of it. Now, I only hope that one day we will see the story of the Frühlings and the Kaplans on-screen.

Thomas, thank you for your perseverance and thoughtful contributions in class. I still remember you, as freshman, entering the beginning German classroom with your skateboard under your arm.  I enjoyed the times we met during your study abroad in Hamburg and the various discussions in German in my GDR seminar this spring. You mentioned that you might be doing something with Web design this summer, and I hope you will find what you are looking for.

Mathias, thank you for your many superb contributions in our GDR seminar this spring and your final paper on poetry and its role in the former GDR. This fall, you will continue your studies at Columbia University in pursuit of a Master’s degree in European history, politics, and society regarding the development of Europe. I hope the German you learned at Wesleyan will come in handy.

Lily, thank you for sharing the experience you gained while interning at Die Schlumper in Hamburg last year. Die Schlumper, and I quote you, “is a unique organization in that it provides a space for handicapped adults to work every weekday on independent artistic projects which are then displayed in various gallery exhibits and sold to customers.” I was happy to learn that the internship not only helped you with your German and making new friends, but also with furthering your career in Psychology. Congratulations on being admitted to a two-year Post-Baccalaureate Clinical Fellowship Program at the Simches Center of Excellence in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at McLean Hospital.

Charlie, thank you for coming to my office in the fall to declare a GRST minor. I have pleasant recollections of the boat ride from Hamburg harbor to Blankenese, when you interviewed me for a course you were taking at Hamburg University last summer.

Viele Grüße und vor allem—bleiben Sie alle gesund! Das ist jetzt das Wichtigste.

Iris Bork-Goldfield

Winston Named Honorary Fellow of the American Association of Teachers of German

An article by Olivia Drake

The American Association of Teachers of German (AATG) recently named Krishna Winston, Marcus L. Taft Professor of German Language and Literature, Emerita, an honorary fellow of the association. The fellowship is limited to 25 fellows worldwide.

Founded in 1926, the AATG has nearly 3,500 members and “believes that bringing the language, literature, and cultures of the German speaking-world to all Americans is a vital humanistic endeavor, which serves an essential national interest,” according to its website.

To receive this honor, Winston was nominated by 10 colleagues, with the nomination approved by the Honorary Fellows Committee and voted on by the Association membership at its 2019 annual meeting. According to the AATG, honorary fellows are “men and women of letters of international distinction who have contributed to the advancement of German studies in the fields of literary studies, literary criticism, linguistics, creative writing, translation, and second language acquisition.”

Iris Bork-Goldfield, chair and adjunct professor of German studies, made the initial recommendation. She’s known Winston for more than 20 years.

“Krishna has devoted her life to the German language and literature. With her many celebrated translations of works by Golo Mann, Siegfried Lenz, Peter Handke, and of course Günther Grass, just to name a few, she has enabled millions of English speakers to appreciate German literature,” Bork-Goldfield said in her nomination letter. “Apart from being a brilliant translator, Professor Winston has educated generations of American students as a teacher of German. She is a passionate teacher, deeply committed to her students whom she inspires to enjoy German literature, study abroad in Germany, apply for scholarships to teach and /or do research in German-speaking countries, and become engaged citizens.”

Winston, who retired from Wesleyan in 2019, recently published a volume of four film narratives by Werner Herzog, Scenarios III (University of Minnesota Press, 2019), and has just completed translations of a novel and an essay by Peter Handke. Her translation of the address Handke delivered upon receiving the 2019 Nobel Prize can be found on the Swedish Academy’s Nobel Prize website. She is currently working on another Handke essay.

Winston remains actively engaged in campus life. In the fall of 2019, she taught her First-Year Seminar “The Simple Life?”, and she continues to serve as an advisor to the Community Standards Board, support the University’s sustainability efforts, and participate in the nomination process for Fulbright, Watson, and Udall fellowships.

“Krishna Winston has been a great source of motivation and inspiration for everyone around her, in the US and in Germany,” Bork-Goldfield said. “Her lifelong dedication to promoting German, be it as a teacher or a translator, complemented by her and her social activism, makes her an ideal honorary fellow.”

Willkommen Katharina Bueschler, German TA

Katharina Bueschler

The German Department welcomes our Teaching Assistant Katharina Bueschler to the department. She will teach the Oral Practice Sessions for GRST 101 Beginning German and help organize German events on campus.

Katharina comes to us from Hamburg, Germany, where she studies British and American Studies at Hamburg University. She has been a long-time Scout and has travelled to many European countries with her group. We are excited that she brings her group leadership to Wesleyan.

Last summer, she met our five Wesleyan students who were studying at the Smith in Hamburg program and toured Blankenese, a suburb of Hamburg, with them and Professor Bork.

First row from left to right: Ana Alejo, Lily Davis, Grace Lopez, Thomas Donovan, Prof. Bork, Katharina Bueschler

Katharina’s hobbies are, but not limited to, hiking, singing, and traveling. She enjoys eating  Shakshuka, Lasagna, “Rote Grütze”, and “Franzbrötchen”. Some of her favorite musicians include Clueso and First Aid Kit, and Danube’s Banks.

With great sadness we share this news

Our colleague and friend Peter M. Frenzel, Marcus L. Taft Professor of German Studies, Emeritus, passed away on Sunday, May 20, 2018, at the age of 82.

Peter Frenzel playing the Glockenspiel with the pep band during homecoming weekend in 2010.

Peter arrived at Wesleyan in 1966 after receiving his B.A. from Yale, M.A. from Middlebury, and Ph.D. from the University of Michigan. He retired in 2003 after 37 years at Wesleyan. During his time here, Peter served on virtually every major committee, including Advisory and EPC, and he served in a number of administrative roles, including as an Associate Provost, Dean of Arts and Humanities, chair of German Studies, director of the Wesleyan Program in Germany, and as the Commencement Marshal. In his retirement, Peter served on the Advisory Board for the Wasch Center for Retired Faculty and was editor of the Center’s newsletter. He was a carillonneur who oversaw Wesleyan’s carillon bells, and he played the glockenspiel with the pep band during football games.

Peter was one of the foremost experts on the German Minnesang tradition of lyric- and song-writing, with particular expertise in the early forms of Medieval German literature and the connection between poetry and music. His scholarship on medieval music and literature and German music and culture of the 19th century contributed much to our knowledge of the Middle Ages. 

His colleague Herb Arnold said, “Peter loved music in its more modern expression, as well, often sitting down at his piano for an impromptu riff or chasing the perfect Wagner Ring around the globe, visiting what seems like every operatic venue from New York to Sydney.”

Peter is survived by his wife, Laurie Neville Frenzel; grandchildren John Frenzel and Rita Frenzel; daughter Kim Frenzel and partner John Lucey; and his older brother, Robert. A memorial gathering will be held at the Wadsworth Mansion from 1:30 to 4 p.m. on Sunday, June 17, 2018. Memorial contributions can be made to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, P.O. Box 97372, Washington, D.C. 20090-7372, or to the Susan and William Wasch Center for Retired Faculty, c/o Jessie Steele, 51 Lawn Avenue, Middletown, CT 06457.

Bork-Goldfield Elected to American Association of Teachers of German Council

Iris Bork-Goldfield, chair and adjunct professor of German studies, has been elected to serve as the Northeast Region representative to the Executive Council of the American Association of Teachers of German.

The American Association of Teachers of German (AATG) supports the teaching of the German language and German-speaking cultures in elementary, secondary, and post-secondary education in the United States. The AATG promotes the study of the German-speaking world in all its linguistic, cultural and ethnic diversity, and endeavors to prepare students as transnational, transcultural learners and active, multilingual participants in a globalized world.

Bork-Goldfield will act as an as ambassador and advocate for the AATG to both the association’s members and to external constituents; serve on one or more committees as appointed by the president; attend committee meetings; discuss meeting agenda items as necessary with key leaders in her region prior to meetings; and keep abreast of emerging professional issues.

In November, Bork-Goldfield will attend the AATG / American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages Annual Convention and World Languages Expo in Nashville, Tenn. There, she will participate in two days of meetings and participate in the assembly of chapter presidents.

Bork-Goldfield has already served as president of the Connecticut AATG chapter and is a long-time member of the chapter’s executive committee.

“Iris’s election provides evidence of the support and respect she enjoys among AATG members for her many valuable contributions to teaching the German language and culture,” said Wesleyan colleague and Connecticut AATG executive committee member Krishna Winston, the Marcus L. Taft Professor of German Language and Literature.

At Wesleyan, Bork-Goldfield teaches German language, literature, and culture courses at all levels. Born and educated in Germany, Bork-Goldfield has lived and worked in China, England and Israel. She is the recipient of the Rosenbaum-Anderson Award for Teaching in 2009 and has received research grants from the German government, German Embassy and Wesleyan.

by Olivia Drake