Dear friends of the department,

Winter arrived early in Michigan this year, surprising even the heating system of the Modern Languages Building, which took a few days to assume its duties and envelop us in warm air—not that the idiosyncrasies of our building have slowed us down. As the fall term draws to a close, I invite you to peruse our newsletter for a look back at a busy start to the academic year.

This is my first newsletter to you as the new chair of the department. After four years of outstanding leadership, our previous chair, Johannes von Moltke, is on a well-deserved sabbatical. Johannes joins my dear colleague Kerstin Barndt in Freiburg, where she serves as the 2018-19 Academic Director of our year-long study-abroad program (read Barndt's letter from Freiburg). In fact, ever the hosts, Kerstin and Johannes just organized a Thanksgiving dinner for all 30 students in the program! Our Freiburg program received another big boost this summer: thanks to a large gift from our most generous donors, Mr. and Mrs. Sturm, we will now be able to offer a full scholarship to at least one of our students each year. 

Meanwhile, we continue to add new events and projects to our curriculum here in Ann Arbor. In September, we piloted a film series that showed rarely seen German movies selected and introduced by a graduate student or faculty member; and in October, we organized a panel featuring five recent undergraduate alumni of our department who have used their degrees in German Studies to launch professional careers in a variety of industries. On the graduate level, we continue to host nationally and internationally recognized scholars and artists, from Katrin Sieg (Georgetown University) and Claudia Breger (Columbia University) to prize-winning Austrian author and playwright Ferdinand Schmalz, who, in conjunction with students from the U-M School of Theatre, Music and Dance, offered a bilingual reading of his recent play dosenfleisch (canned meat). 

Research continues to be central to our activities. Within the last six months, Kerstin Barndt co-edited a fascinating volume of essays, Object Lessons and the Formation of Knowledge; Elizabeth McNeill, a Ph.D. student in her third year, was awarded the Best Student Essay Award from The German Quarterly; and the Leuphana University in Lüneburg, Germany, hosted a day-long symposium in honor of Andy Markovits’ 70th birthday. Add to this recent talks given by members of our department in France, Spain, Germany, Austria and the U.S., as well as forthcoming books by Tyler Whitney, Julia Hell and myself, all of which are scheduled for publication within the next twelve months, and you get a sense of the vitality of our program.  

And there is much more happening in our department. Have a look at the following pages for updates about our flourishing Dutch and Scandinavian programs and get to know our new graduate students (article). And please follow our department website ( to read about upcoming events. There is much to look forward to in the coming year, and I invite you to stop by and see us. In the meantime, I wish you peaceful holidays and a guten Rutsch (“a good slide”) into the new year.


Andreas Gailus