As we begin the new year in the middle of a characteristically frigid Michigan winter, I send warm greetings from the MLB and invite you to peruse our newsletter for a look back at an eventful Fall Semester.
As most of those reading this are well aware, German at U-M is known for having widened the scope from the more traditional concerns with language and literature to include the full array of German Studies, from history and film to music and politics, from museum studies to media theory. It would be wrong, however, to see in this broadening a displacement of literature, which remains central to much of what we do here in the German Department. Take only the impressive series of events and residencies that we hosted this past semester, anchored by our inaugural Max Kade visiting author, Selim Özdoğan. Thanks to the generous support of the Kade Foundation, we were able to host Özdoğan in Ann Arbor for a 4-month stay, during which he offered public readings from his work, visited classes and taught a seminar of his own (see p. 9), and completed his new novel, the third in a trilogy.
Gegenwartsliteratur—contemporary German literature—emerged, in fact, as something of a theme for our Fall semester, which began with a panel of three renowned German authors reading from their works and debating the state of German letters today: Özdogan, whom we barely gave time to cure his jetlag, was joined by Kerstin Hensel and Ulrich Peltzer, both members of the Akademie der Künste, Germany’s academy of arts. Our lively discussions with the authors ranged from how they write (the importance of the pencil!) to whether it is possible to adequately render today’s media environments and mediated experience in literature. It was exciting for faculty, graduate and undergraduate students alike to have the opportunity to engage at such close range, so to speak, with practicing literary authors from Germany.
A few weeks later, the well-known author Esther Dischereit visited Michigan with a moving reading/performance of her opera, Blumen für Otello. Organized by the transnational German studies group Alamanya, the evening brought together dancers, musicians, and two authors—Dischereit and Özdoğan—reading in German and Turkish from the libretto, a series of Klagelieder (laments) for the victims of crimes committed in recent years by a neo-fascist group in Germany.
And just days before boarding a plane back to Cologne, Özdoğan gave a wonderful reading of excerpts from his own most recent novel, which students in Professor Kristin Dickinson’s translation class had rendered into English. For their translation, they were able to draw on the author’s own insights and suggestions; look for some of the results on the Comparative Literature translation blog at U-M and in the online journal Transit at UC Berkeley in the
All of this is to say nothing of the fascinating research that goes on in this department (see p. 4-6), of the flourishing Dutch and Scandinavian programs (p. 10-13), or of the countless ways in which students can encounter German language and culture—whether translating in seminars on translation, singing in courses on “German Song,” handling bees in “The German Life of Bees,” or… reading and engaging with German literature in all of the above.
I hope you’ll find plenty of interesting news in the following pages and invite you, as ever, to stop by and see us: as much as we like to share what goes on here, we love hearing what goes on in the lives of our friends and alumni beyond Michigan!
Mit herzlichen Grüßen,
Johannes von Moltke