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German Studies and the Challenge of Outreach to Schools and School Teachers: A UK Perspective

November 20, 2020 The global health crisis caused by the covid-19 virus has given rise to unprecedented challenges in all aspects of our lives. Not least of these challenges lies in the realm of teaching. Those of us responsible for bringing German studies to school and university classrooms have been forced to move the bulk of our activities online. Students who might previously have had easy access to libraries and archives are now in many cases dependent solely on electronic sources. Public events that previously brought practitioners and academics face to face have had to be cancelled or moved to Zoom and its equivalents.  As outreach and schools liaison officers for two UK-based Higher Education organisations, the Association for German Studies and the German History Society, we have also struggled in these conditions to develop our outreach programme to school teachers, particular those at the senior ends of teaching (‘A’

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E = MC2; or, Einstein’s Monumental Correspondence

September 23, 2020 I never expected Albert Einstein to figure into my scholarship. Like most people, I suspect, Einstein evoked two images for me. First, E = mc2, the mass-energy equivalence published within his Annus Mirabilis papers of 1905. Second, the iconic Arthur Sasse photo of him sticking out his tongue in 1951. But, much like the clouds that snake through the Maloja Pass in his (and my) beloved Rhaetian Alps, Albert Einstein quietly crept up on me and now occupies a considerable—and delightful— place in my work. I joined the Einstein Papers Project at Caltech in June of 2019. The Collected Papers of Albert Einstein (CPAE) presents the first complete picture of Einstein’s considerable written legacy in printed and digital format, based on a collection of over 100,000 pages housed within the Albert Einstein Archives at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. To date, CPAE covers Einstein’s life from his

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Teaching “German” Film in the 21st Century: Critical Media Literacy

September 17, 2020 Most programs in German Studies or German Language offer some form of “German” survey film courses, often taught in English and with high enrollments. These courses often reinforce a limited understanding of what “counts” as German film production and ignore the transnational realities of filmmakers, film production, and film theory. Occasionally theory is even limited to pieces from the German aesthetic tradition. We suggest a different approach: to consider teaching media and film in part in relationship to critical media literacy. The approach is very much in line with cultural studies’ emphasis on relationships of power, but we borrow this term from research on education, which uses it to refer to “how the print and non-print texts that are part of everyday life help to construct knowledge of the world and the various social, economic, and political positions they occupy with it” (Alvermann, Moon, & Hagood, 1999,

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Towards an Atlas of German Studies

September 8, 2020 My interest in maps goes a long way back. But its most recent incarnation happened more than a decade ago when I realized I didn’t understand a map: ironically the first accurate map of Germany, the “Romeway Map” of Erhard Etzlaub, published in 1500. I didn’t understand its southern orientation—but that was easy to clear up. What caught my eye was that in its colored version, nations were set off from other nations. I had fully accepted the notion that nations were constructions of a later period. Nationalists make nations, not the other way around, Ernest Gellner famously asserted. But Etzlaub was no nationalist and the year was 1500. And yet here nations were being pictured on maps. Clarifying this problem for myself brought me down a path that led to Germany. A Nation in its Time. Before, During, and After Nationalism, 1500-2000. I immersed myself in

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“Not typical news for Wyoming”: A Digital History Project for the COVID-19 Era

August 28, 2020 The global pandemic has placed considerable demands on faculty, graduate, and undergraduate students. Among the most challenging issues are of a curricular and pedagogical nature. From lecturers with extensive instructional experience to those at the start of their careers, we all face steep limitations on what many of us love most about this profession — teaching.   Please, therefore, count me as one of the many grateful academics who celebrates the German Studies Collaboratory (GSC). In rapid fashion, it has evolved into a space where I have found fresh inspiration, as well as new assignments, readings, and interactive classroom practices. Since my time as a graduate student, I have benefited considerably from pedagogical discussions with peers at German Studies Association meetings and during research summers in Berlin. Such reunions are especially important for those of us who serve as the only Germanist or modern Europeanist at an academic

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Why We Need a Teaching Collaboratory

August 19, 2020 The demands on college professors for curricular development are extreme. Having held positions at both a small liberal arts college with a unique instructional plan, as well as a large state university where we have multiple faculty in German Studies who can divide labor, what is clear to me is that university and college administrators underestimate the effort required for quality curricular design.  Over the three years that I held a Visiting Assistant Professor (VAP) position at a small liberal arts college, I designed sixteen courses. These included all levels of the language program as well as eight 300-level courses designed for majors and minors in German Studies. The sheer quantity of new curriculum development pushed me to the breaking point in terms of workload — and required so much input that I began to resent teaching. Thankfully, this emotional experience was short lived. I really enjoy

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Emergency Teaching and the Power of Networks

August 11, 2020 How do we deal with an emergency?  We rely on our networks — family, friends, and neighbors — to see us through.  The same, it turns out, is true in academic life.  What I didn’t understand until this spring and summer is that our professional networks expand when we engage them during a crisis.  I learned this from the German Studies Collaboratory. Like many academics, my semester took an unexpected turn in March of 2020.  The coronavirus hit New York — and the state school where I teach — hard and fast.  One week I was traveling to campus each day to teach three seated classes, sitting in circles with my students discussing texts in crowded classrooms.  Two weeks later I was sitting alone at a desk in our guest room at home, talking to students through a laptop perched on top of several thick cookbooks.  This

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Wir sind dabei!

August 1, 2020 Over the course of the summer, for a couple of hours every Friday afternoon, we came together as a team via Zoom to plan and plot out the Collaboratory. There were many questions. What should it do? Who is our audience? How can we address our disciplinary differences and represent the field of German Studies both broadly and equitably? Most of all, how can we make the Collaboratory of use? It has been a long and winding road! Along the way, we’ve learned about new ways to organize collectively as a group, drawing on some snazzy new digital tools, like Trello. We’ve stared down some difficult questions about sources that might not best represent the times in which we live. We’ve discussed the demands of and differences in our various corners of the discipline, with rich conversations about how our colleagues do their work. Fundamentally, and with

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