Rob Leventhal, Associate Professor of German Studies, has received the 2011-2012 PBK John D. Rockefeller Award for the Advancement of Scholarship. The award is given to a faculty member who has excelled in research and scholarship and made a substantial contribution to his or her field. The award was celebrated at the annual PBK Award Dinner on February 19. At the reception, Leventhal gave a short presentation on his research on the Emergence of the Psychological Case History in Germany, 1770-1820, which is the subject of the monograph he is currently completing.
Arthur Schechter (W&M, 2009-2011; Brown University, 2011-Present) has won the American Psychoanalytic Association Prize for the best essay written by an undergraduate. Arthur’s essay, “Wagnerian Volksideologie, Narcissism, and Aesthetics: A Study in the Totalitarian Imaginary,” emerged as the final paper in Rob Leventhal’s Modern German Critical Thought II: Marx to Habermas course in the spring of 2011. Schechter’s essay stood out as having not only fully grasped Freud’s texts – Fragments of a Case History of Hysteria (Dora), Beyond the Pleasure Principle, On Narcissism, Mourning and Melancholia, Civilization and its Discontents – but as having actively and constructively thought Freud further on an important topic: the ideology of Volk. Using Wagner’s Anti-Semitic texts (Das Judentum in der Musik, 1850) as his basis, Schechter not merely applied Freud carefully and effectively, which would be already quite a task for a freshman, he actually mobilized Freudian technique and concepts to provide a highly original, compelling analysis of Volksideologie in the second half of the 19thcentury. The American Psychoanalytic Association’s Best Undergraduate Essay prize is awarded each year to an outstanding essay of 25 pages or less which engages Psychoanalytic ideas in relation to a focused question in any academic discipline.
Lauren Shaw has been going places lately– Slovenia, the Baltic States, Carinthia/Austria — and returning to the DC area.
After finishing a two-year Fulbright ETA in Austria, Lauren (German Studies, ’09) has returned to the United States and taken a job at the German Historical Institute in Washington, D.C. as a paid research assistant. At GHI, she’s working with a team of scholars doing research on Transatlantic Perspectives (http://www.transatlanticperspectives.org/), focused on mid-20th century European immigrants to the US and changing perspectives of Europe. In addition, Lauren was an intern at the Smithsonian Institution Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage the previous summer, where she co-authored an article in the forthcoming volume From Stage to Screen, edited by Massimiliano Sala, Volume xix of the Speculum series, published by Brepols. (http://www.luigiboccherini.org/speculum.html).
Often asked what students can do with a major in German Studies, we refer to students like Lauren who have used their writing, research and language skills and their knowledge of the humanities, German language, literature, and culture in particular, to secure rewarding work in exciting places. Lauren wants to eventually go to grad school, but right now she is building her skill portfolio, enjoys working with her “team,” and loving DC!
The Potsdam, Germany Summer Study Abroad Program 2011 June 8-July 23 was an immense success.
The W&M Potsdam, Germany Summer Study Abroad program is an intensive 7 week German Language and Culture program. Students attend intensive German Language classes in the mornings from 9-12:30 and a GRMN 290/390 German Culture class in the afternoons. This year’s topic was Berliner Moderne 1885-1933 taught by Program Director Rob Leventhal, Associate Professor of German Studies. This year we had 11 students participate in the program, 10 from W&M and one from Kenyon College.
Arrival/Orientation/Our First Days
Students arrived at Tegel Airport in Berlin June 8 and were picked up by their host families. The orientation program provided by the Universität Potsdam beginning the day after arrival and continuing for two days (Thursday, Friday, Saturday) was excellent. On the first day, students received a general orientation on campus at the Neues Palais where the Humanities are housed at the Universität Potsdam. They meet the office staff of the Akademisches Auslandsamt, get their student identification cards, VBB Berlin ABC transport cards which covers all of Berlin and Potsdam for the entire time of their stay, a tour of the facilities, get instructions on how to connect to the Internet on campus, and learn the ropes of the library, the Mensa and the student cafeteria, student activities.
The next day (Friday, June 10) the students had an all-day intercultural seminar that explored the significant differences between German and American culture, living, and etiquette. In this seminar, conducted by AA Tutor Micha Adam, who studied history and politics at the Universität Potsdam, the students learn many things they will not have covered in the 1 credit spring seminar, which is also extremely useful for the students preparing to go to Potsdam. Things like cultural stereotypes, the use of water, Mülltrennung, protocol on buses and trams, market and boutique behavior, and restaurant etiquette are all covered.
On Saturday, we went on a whirlwind tour of Berlin, also conducted by Micha Adam. It begins at Berlin Friedrichstrasse, goes to the Mauermuseum and site in the Bernauer Strasse, Prenzlauer Berg, the Nikolaiviertel, the Museum Insel, Unter den Linden, Brandenberger Tor, Reichstag, Potsdamer Platz, Checkpoint Charlie before it ends in Kreuzberg. This year we were extremely lucky that the festival of cultures was taking place that Saturday and the tour simply segued into this festival in Kreuzberg at the end, with all students electing to remain in Berlin for the evening.
There was excellent coordination between William & Mary and the staff of the AA at the Universität Potsdam. Cooperation between Sabine Reinicke, her staff (Martin Müller, Micha Adam, the tutors Caro, Anna, Sabrina and Marlene) and faculty, and the W&M PD was outstanding. The Potsdam staff took care of a large part of the day-to-day organization of the program, and were responsible for the host families. Sabine Reinicke was the first local on-call contact in case of emergencies. She and her staff were extremely well organized, competent and effective.
The Akademisches Auslandsamt arranges for welcome and departing dinners at a lovely restaurant in Potsdam (“Quendel”) where students, faculty, tutors and host families meet for a nice meal and live music. This year, both events were extremely well-attended and very successful. These dinners are particularly important for continuity in the program and to retain excellent host families. The hope is that, over time, we will develop a reservoir of excellent host families.
This year we undertook three major excursions: the three-day, two-night “bonding” excursion at the beginning of the program, one week after arrival; Lutherstadt-Wittenberg; and the Island of Rügen/Jasmund National Park on the Baltic Sea. Only the first is actually part of the program, the other two were paid for by the students themselves (basic train transport and stay in Youth Hostel in Rügen; Trainfare to Lutherstadt-Wittenberg). The major “bonding” excursion is conducted the second weekend of the summer, around June16-20. The first weekend students are acclimating themselves to their new environment and homestays and it makes little sense to tear them away from that the very first weekend. And they are still a bit jet-lagged. The Potsdam-Berlin orientation program was exactly right for the first weekend. For the bonding excursion, this year we did one night in Weimar and one night in Dresden, which was fabulous. Dresden is a rich cultural city with a complex, fascinating history. The differences between Thuringia, Saxony, and Brandenburg are also quite important historically and become very evident to the students on this trip as we cross borders into all three territories.
We did Lutherstadt-Wittenberg as a separate day-trip. It is easily accessible from Potsdam/Berlin in two hours and the Lutherhaus and Schlosskirche can be seen easily in an afternoon.
This year I was able to arrange a three day, two night excursion to the Island of Ruegen (Ostseebad Binz) and the Nationalpark Jasmund for 100€ per student (40€ R/T trainfare and 60€ for two nights and five meals at the Youth Hostel in Ostseebad Binz, which is directly on the water). This proved to be a wonderful break/excursion, especially because there were no Americans in Binz, and we were able to see the historical National Park Jasmund, the Königsstuhl/Viktoria Sicht and the Wissower Klieke in this Caspar David Friedrich-inspired landscape. This excursion July 8-10 was the perfect closing bonding experience for the group. The Jugendherberge Binz is clean, comfortable and the meals provided are substantial and decent. The excursion to the Baltic Sea provided a completely rural environment, formerly in the GDR, very different from all the other places visited by the students and highly unusual (students can go to Hamburg, Bremen, Lübeck or any other northern German city easily and cheaply by themselves). Swimming in the Baltic Sea proved to be refreshing!
Berlin and Potsdam have extremely rich resources for pedagogical excursions, and our excursions included: two performances of Brecht’s plays (“In the Jungle of the Cities” and the ”Threepennyopera”) at the famous Berliner Ensemble (Theater am Schiffbauerdamm); a visit to the Museum of the expressionist group Die Brücke; a visit to Neue Nationalgalerie on Potsdamer Platz; a lengthy visit to the Jüdisches Museum. One of the real highlights of the trip was a guided tour on July 15th of the “Einstein Tower” (a solar observatory built in 1921 for Albert Einstein), the “Great Refraktor” (the fourth largest optical telescope in the world, built 1898) and the Astrophysical Center of Potsdam (AIP).
Dr. Jürgen Rendtel of the Institut für Astrophysik at Potsdam took us through the “Einstein Tower” and the Great Refraktor (1898). He is a wonderful, knowledgeable man who hit just the right level with our students linguistically, explaining the significance and function of the structures in clear, simple language. The students thought this was one of the great highlights of the summer.
Finally, we took a day trip to Schloss Niederschonhausen in Pankow, a summer residence of the Hohenzollerns, and the site where the GDR was formed and where the 4+2 talks took place to dismantle it in 1990, with Micha Adam. This proved to be one of the most interesting and historically relevant excursions of the entire summer. We traversed the path from the 18th century, the Elector Friedrich Wilhelm, Friedrich I, Friedrich II and the Enlightenment to the formation of the GDR, the Fall of the Wall in 1989, and the unification in 1990!
It was a great summer! Thanks to all of the students who contributed, to the Akademisches Auslandsamt at the Uni Potsdam, and the Reves Center!
Rob Leventhal, Associate Professor of German Studies, Program Director 2011
Graduating senior and Phi Beta Kappa initiate Monica LoBue (German Studies and Biology, ’11) has been awarded the Fulbright Teaching Assistantship to Germany for the academic year 2011–2012. This much sought after Fulbright provides Monica with round-trip airfare to Germany and a substantial monthly stipend to work with students learning English and American Studies at a German Gymnasium, which prepares students for study in the German University System. At the high school, she works intensively with a teacher, participates in the school’s programs, and works with students individually, introducing them to aspects of American Culture while teaching them advanced English. After the Fulbright, Monica hopes to pursue her dream of going to Medical School and becoming a physician. Congratulations, Monica!
The German Studies Section of the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures is extremely pleased to announce that graduating senior Ariana Berger (German Studies and Business, ’11) has been awarded The Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange (CBYX) full-year work-study scholarship for Young Professionals in Germany for 2011-2012. This full-year scholarship will provide Ariana with round-trip airfare, two months of intensive language training, four months of study at a German University or Technical University, and a five-month internship in a German-speaking work environment, chosen specifically in consultation with her to correspond to her career objectives. Ariana is one of 75 students chosen from the United States for this competitive, comprehensive scholarship this year. Congratulations, Ariana!
In 2007-2008, Rob Leventhal, Associate Professor of German Studies, directed a Group Independent Study on the reemergence of the Jewish Community in Munich, Germany and the construction of the new Jewish Synagogue, Jewish Center, and Jewish Museum at St. Jakobsplatz. During the spring break of 2007, Leventhal and then W&M Students Sam Thacker, Olivia Lucas, Daniel Reisch, Benjamin Fontana, and K.C. Tydgat traveled to Munich with financial support of the Charles Center, the Reves Center, the Associate Provost of Research, and the Dean of Arts and Sciences, to study the Jewish Community and the new Jewish Center. Leventhal continued to work on the project, returning to Munich several times to conduct further interviews and do more research, and has now published “Community, Memory, and Shifting Jewish Identities: The Case of Munich, 1989 to the Present” in The Journal of Jewish Identities 4/1 (2011) 13-43.
The “negative symbiosis” of post-war German-Jewish culture took a decisive turn in 1989 with the fall of the Wall and the almost immediate unification of Germany one year later. Based as it was on a specifically German-Jewish perspective and orientation, this prevailing reading of the situation of the Jews in Germany underwent a radical change with the simultaneous dissolution of the Soviet Union, and the Federal Republic’s willingness to serve as a Zufluchtsort – a place of sanctuary – for over a quarter of a million Russian Jews over the next fifteen years. Munich became a destination of choice for many Russian Jewish émigrés, often even preferred to Israel and the United States. The utopistic promise of the reunification, the initial euphoria that followed 1990, the social welfare state of Germany, and the strength of the existing Jewish community in Munich all contributed to a powerful vision of future affluence, citizenship, cultural and social belonging and support that attracted thousands of Russian Jews to Munich.
By 1996-1997, however, this positive image of Germany and the optimistic sense of the Russian Jewish émigrés had changed radically. In a study published in 1999 based on data captured and analyzed in the preceding two years, the team of Julius Schoeps painted a very bleak picture indeed both of the current state of this community as well as its short and longer term prospects unless fundamental changes could be made, both by the Jewish Gemeinde, and the city, state and federal governments. Schoeps and his team pointed out that while fear of anti-Semitism had fallen since 1993-1996 (when it was at its height because of the vicious attacks against foreigners, mostly by Neo-Nazi groups in Mölln, Solingen, Hoyerswerda). There has been a dramatic increase in unemployment among the Russian Jewish émigrés, problems with integration into the work and housing market, insufficient and poor language instruction, increasing isolation and alienation, both from the existing Jewish Community and the German communities in which they were embedded, the sense of loss of both prior status and present perspective, feelings of dependence and hopelessness. Many respondents to the questionnaire the group developed indicated a kind of cultural collective depression.
The situation for Russian Jewish émigrés in the Federal Republic of Germany changed radically since 2000. Most importantly, significant changes in the Federal Law concerning immigration have all but cut off the flow of Jewish émigrés from the former Soviet States. According to the new procedures and regulations of the German Immigration Law, there are essentially three classes of Jewish émigrés from the former Soviet States: there are those who placed an application to enter Germany prior to July 1, 2001, those who placed their immigration application between the July 1, 2001 and December 12, 2004; and those who placed their Einreiseantrag after the 12th of December, 2004.
The possibility of admitting more Russian Jewish émigrés has now been directly linked to ability and willingness of the Länder to support the GemeindeGemeinde. For the period after 2006, while there have been many negotiations among the four parties directly involved – the Auswärtiges Amt, the BAMF, the Zentralrat der Juden in Deutschland, and the Union Progressiver Juden – and supposedly some oral “financial commitments” have been made, as of this writing no actual fundsGemeinde. For the year 2005, no applications or Anträge for entry into the Federal Republic were accepted: “Die deutschen Botschaften und Konsulate in den Ländern der ehemaligen Sovietunion haben nach Auslaufen des ‘Kontingentverfahrens’ am 31. Dezember 2004 schlichtweg keine Auswanderungsanträge mehr angenommen.”
In 2003, on the 65th anniversary of Kristallnacht, then Federal President Johannes Rau helped lay the first stone of Jüdisches Zentrum Jakobsplatz – the Jewish Center at the Jakobsplatz – a massive architectural and cultural event that has now become the location for the new central Synagogue, the Jewish Museum of Munich, a Jewish Community Center, and a Jewish School. A plot to bomb the ceremony by members of a neo-nazi group was successfully thwarted. The Synagogue opened its doors on November 9, 2006, and the Jewish Museum was inaugurated on March 22, 2007. While some observers and critics claim that such physical demonstrations of culture merely “externalize” or “displace” the deeper cultural conflicts, and many German Jews remain highly skeptical of a “reemergence of Jewish culture,” it was necessary to work-through the various readings to arrive at a more objective, more historical, and therefore more encompassing sense of this transformation of Munich’s center.
Leventhal explored this significant reconstruction and reemergence in Munich with his students as a cultural and social event that is saturated with historical meaning and rife with conflicted and conflicting views, both for the German Jews and DPs of the first and second generation and the Russian Jewish émigrés who have arrived since 1989. Through close study of the literature and journalism, close tracking of the history of this emergence, on-site interviews with key literary, historical, and community figures, and real-time interpretive analysis of the structures themselves in their historical, social, and cultural contexts, the GIS (Group Independent Study) GRMN 411 attempted to a understand what was at stake in this reconstruction, how it has been and is still being interpreted and used, how it is functioning as a cultural-discursive event and site.
German Studies and European Studies Film Screening: Night Bus 807 (Nattbus 807) (Swedish, 1997; Directed by David Flamholc)
Thursday, February 24th 7pm, Blair 201
Gang violence, racism, and minority cultures collide in this 1997 Swedish film. Compared to "A Clockwork Orange" and "Trainspotting," the film is based on a true story of the murder of a young racist in the Stockholm suburbs by a group of very young Latino boys during the Stockholm Water Festival. Flamholc uses a "Rashomon" technique to show different accounts of the incident. It has become a cult classic in Sweden.
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