Since joining the Colgate faculty in 2010, I have been teaching an array of courses in German language and culture; German literature, theater and cinema; and Colgate’s Core Curriculum. What connects these activities is the commitment to establishing a community of collaborative learners in the space of the liberal arts classroom. Whether it be the analysis of a contemporary German theater performance (485), working through Kant’s seminal “What is Enlightenment?” essay in the language of its origin (351), interpretative discussions of the enigmatic films of Berlin School cinema (325), grappling with literary manifestations of migration across the catastrophic turbulence of German history in the 20th
century (479), playful experiments with German syntax (201), probing the cultural surplus of ancient Greek literature in search of the good society (Core 151) or framing modernity in terms of 1) philosophical discourse, 2) social, economic, technological, and political fact, and 3) aesthetic phenomena (Core 152), I approach the liberal arts classroom as an opportunity to experience and affirm the value of humanities-based inquiry.
The study of German is the gateway to a fascinating creative and intellectual culture and it remains central to my work. A longstanding interest in German literature and philosophy informs my teaching and research endeavors alike. I believe the rich tradition of critical thought in German can serve as a source of the imagination's continual renewal for individuals and communities in an increasingly complex and confusing world. In the 21st
century, the fabric of our everyday lives and longer term dreams has become increasingly saturated in changing forms of mediation. This situation places a premium on the powerful interpretative strategies that the humanities – and German Studies especially – have developed for understanding self and other; for promoting literacy in the creative arts; for communicating effectively and acting ethically in cross-cultural and multilingual contexts; and for interrogating matrices of power, unmasking their ideological dimensions, and exposing their repercussions: in sum, for the study of the human in its various cultural manifestations in different historical, political, and economic contexts.
German intellectual culture has left a huge, but sometimes unacknowledged imprint on higher education in the United States. Not only does the German concept of Bildung
(cf. the work of Wilhelm von Humboldt) inform the model of the liberal arts education embraced by Colgate. Core courses such as Colgate’s “Legacies of the Ancient World” are unthinkable without the work of (often “Grecophilia-driven”) German scholars excavating and reconstructing Western antiquity, whereas the discourse of modernity would be unrecognizable to us without Kant, Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche, Freud, Benjamin and Adorno … In addition to these local examples of how the history of German thought, literature and culture has shaped academic inquiry, German Studies may continue to help frame inquiries across academic disciplines to grapple with the multiple and unwieldy cultural imaginaries through which we orient ourselves in the world. Germany today, moreover, does not simply figure prominently as Europe’s largest country and most powerful economy; contemporary German-speaking Europe also presents a microcosm of what we have come to describe as the globalizing tendencies of the post-Cold War age. Nor is the increasingly sprawling diversity of newly interconnected populations across nation-states confined to Germany, Austria, or Switzerland (as addressed in the German 201-202 Global Engagements courses). The New Europe presents itself generally as an unprecedented experiment in transnational sovereignty and identity. The Danube river constitutes one fascinating stretch thereof currently being explored by the “Legacies of the Second World” working-group – the first at Colgate to join the Central New York Humanities Corridor
. From its beginnings in the German Black Forest to the Romanian and Ukrainian shores where it meets the Black Sea, the Danube flows through and/or borders ten countries, while its watershed covers four more. The riverine region figures both as a historically contested multilingual, multicultural and multinational space - and an instantiation of our “global present” traversed at “The Black and Blue Danube Symposium”
on March 1-2, 2013 at Colgate.