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Prof. Inka Mülder-Bach (LMU Munich) to teach two Seminars in Spring Semester 2018

Professor Inka Mülder-Bach, one of the popular Permanent Visiting Professors on the German Department faculty, will be in residence in Princeton for the Spring semester 2018 during which she will teach a graduate seminar (GER 526) entitled “Small Narrative Forms: Anecdote, Case Story, and Novella” and an undergraduate class (GER 307) on “German Literature in the Fin de Siècle.”

Prof. Mülder-Bach’s graduate seminar (GER 526) will take place on Wednesday afternoons from 1:30-4:20pm and will be conducted in both English and German. She describes the class — which will consider works such as Friedrich Schiller’s Der Verbrecher aus verlorener Ehre, Johann Wolfgang Goethe’s Unterhaltungen deutscher Ausgewanderten, Heinrich Kleist’s Anekdote aus dem letzten preußischen Krieg, Georg Büchner’s Lenz, Franz Kafka’s Das Urteil, and Robert Musil’s Die Portugiesin — as follows:

Since the late 18th century small narrative forms such as the novella, the anecdote and the case story have enjoyed increasing popularity among the readership and gained increasing importance for the field of narrative genres and the development of techniques of narration. What is at stake in the poetics of these forms and how can we describe their specific possibilites, functions and achievements? The seminar will explore these questions in readings of texts ranging from the late 18th to the early 20th century.

Prof. Mülder-Bach’s undergraduate class (GER 307) “Between Decadence and Renewal: German Literature in the Fin de siècle,” will take place on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons from 1:30-2:50pm. Her description of the seminar, whose readings will be in German with class discussion in both German and English, reads as follows:

The turn of the 19th to the 20th century, the so-called Fin de siècle, is a formative period for modern German literature. It is marked by radical social and technological transformations, a simultaneity of heterogeneous artistic movements and tendencies and a cultural discourse in which notions of end and beginning, decadence and renewal are paradoxically blended. The course will give an overview over the cultural topographies of this period and study it in exemplary literary and theoretical manifestations.

The reading list for the class includes Friedrich Nietzsche: Vom Nutzen und Nachteil der Historie für das Leben (excerpts), Georg Simmel: Die Großstädte und das Geistesleben, Arthur Schnitzler: Leutnant Gustl, Sigmund Freud: Die Traumdeutung (excerpts), Thomas Mann: Buddenbrooks, and Hugo von Hofmannsthal: Ein Brief.

Prof. Mülder-Bach received her PhD from the University of Tübingen after academic training at Tübingen, Oslo, and Berkeley. Before joining the Institute of German Philology at Ludwig Maximilian Universität (LMU) in Munich in 1998, she held positions at the Freie Universität and the Zentrum für Literaturforschung in Berlin. Mülder-Bach has been a visiting professor at Columbia University (New York), the IFK (International Research Center for Cultural Studies, Vienna), the Heinrich-Heine-Universität (Düsseldorf), and New York University. Her research focuses on German literature from the 18th to the 20th century in a comparative perspective, traditions of aesthetics, narratology, scenes of origins, poetics of the novel and theories of prose. She is editor of the works of Siegfried Kracauer and co-editor of the journal POETICA. Her most recent book publications include a widely acclaimed monograph on Robert Musil’s novel The Man without Qualities (Robert Musil. Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften. Ein Versuch über den Roman, 2013) and a 2015 volume on case stories (Casus und lapsus, coedited with Michael Ott). Mülder-Bach is the speaker of the interdisciplinary research program „Writing prose“ at the Center of Advanced Studies at LMU and a member of the new DFG Research Group “Philologie des Abenteuers” [Philology of Adventure], within which she directs a research project on the “Transformations of Adventure in the Bildungsroman and Novella.” Further information about Prof. Mülder-Bach’s research can be found in an intellectual portrait published in 2016 in the journal Einsichten.

Prof. Mülder-Bach is a Vertrauensdozentin der Studienstiftung des deutschen Volkes. In 2008-09 and 2010-11 she held an Excellence-in-Research professorship at the LMU Munich, and from 2009-2010, served as Vice-President of the LMU. In 2013 she was awarded the Federal Cross of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany.

Four Undergraduate Majors Awarded Munificent Mary Cunningham Humphreys Prize

At the annual German Department Holiday Party on December 6th, the Departmental Representative Prof. Thomas Y. Levin awarded The Mary Cunningham Humphreys Junior German Prize to four members of the Class of 2019 for outstanding academic work in the German Department during their junior year. While the prize is normally bestowed upon the top two German majors, this year the astonishingly strong academic records of the top four members of the Class of 2019 – Marc Decitre, Allison Fleming, Spencer Hadley, Alexander Robinson – were mathematically indistinguishable, resulting in a four-way tie.

The Mary Cunningham Humphreys Junior German Prizes fund was established in March 1898 by former Princeton professor and head of the German Dept. Willard Humphreys with a series of gifts in memory of his mother. The first prizes of $25 and $15 respectively represented the income on $1000, his first gift. Humphreys continued to give $1000 on the first of October during his lifetime, but requested that as long as he was alive the source of the prizes be kept a strict secret. According to the language of the gift (articulated in a letter on March 3rd, 1898), the income was to be “awarded to those members of the Junior Class (Academic) who, having taken the regular German course for at least two years, shall at the close of the second term pass the best examinations on the work of the term and on the life of the author whose works have been the principal subject of the years of study.” Professor Humphreys died in 1902 just months after accidentally taking “an almost fatal dose of choral [a popular late-19th century anesthetic] while trying to allay the pangs of toothache,” according to a front-page story of the New York Times on September 25, 1902.

Over a century later, this early act of departmental philanthropy has resulted in a prize which, even when split four ways, rewards its winners with a magnanimous four-figure sum. A fifth German Department Major, Sang Lee, was awarded a runner-up prize consisting of the renowned six-volume Stuttgart Edition of the works of Friedrich Hölderlin, a handsome set that was previously owned by the father of Dorothea von Moltke, the co-owner of Princeton’s Labyrinth Books, who in turn was the son of the famous Helmut James Graf von Moltke.

The entire German Department faculty extends its most heartfelt congratulations to all of the German Majors of the Class of 2019.

Topic Announced for the 2018 Summer School for Media Studies

Scaling. What happens when we scale things up or down?
Princeton-Weimar Summer School for Media Studies
Internationales Kolleg für Kulturtechnikforschung und Medienphilosophie
(Bauhaus-Universität Weimar)
German Department (Princeton University)
Princeton, New Jersey, June 16–24, 2018

The Princeton-Weimar Summer School for Media Studies -a collaboration between Bauhaus-Universität Weimar (Internationales Kolleg für Kulturtechnikforschung und Medienphilosophie, IKKM) and Princeton University (German Department)-returns to Princeton in 2018 for its eighth installment. The 2018 session will be devoted to the investigation of scale and scaling as operative concepts for the analysis of media. What happens when we scale? Does anything really change? Can scaling ever impact the inner blueprint of an object? Are there laws of scaling? Or does scaling resist any attempt at calculability, such that, to investigate it, we can only ever look at individual events of scaling? As a media practice, scaling is widely used. But, in contrast to the ubiquity of operations, scaling is hardly ever viewed on its own terms as a basic concept of media analysis. The Princeton-Weimar Summer School for Media Studies 2018 will attempt to map out approaches to scaling as a basic media-analytical tool.

The summer school will be directed by Bernhard Siegert (Weimar) and Nikolaus Wegmann (Princeton). The Princeton-Weimar Summer School for Media Studies invites applications from outstanding doctoral students throughout the world in media studies and related fields such as film studies, literary studies, philosophy, art history, architecture, sociology, politics, the history of science and visual culture.

For the most up-to-date information on the program and faculty of the Princeton-Weimar Summer School for Media Studies please visit

All application materials should be sent via email to: and must be received no later than December 22nd, 2017.

Katharina Rein (Weimar), Ron Sadan (Princeton)
Please submit all inquiries to:

Click here for Princeton-Weimar Summer School for Media Studies 2018 PDF.

Jonathan Martin to receive AATG German Quarterly Graduate Student Paper Award

Jonathan S. Martin

Sixth-year graduate student Jonathan Martin’s scholarship has been recognized with the AATG German Quarterly Graduate Student Paper Award for his article “Monopolizing Violence: Gewalt, Self-Control, and the Law in Heinrich von Veldeke’s Eneasroman.” This award is given annually to the best research paper by a graduate student on any topic related to German Studies, to be published in The German Quarterly. Jonathan’s article will appear in print early next year. He will be recognized in a ceremony at the AATG’s annual meeting in Nashville on November 18 this year.

In Memoriam: Michael Curschmann 1936-2017

Michael Curschmann

Michael Curschmann joined the Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures as an Assistant Professor in 1963—soon after the department had been separated in 1958 from the earlier Modern Languages Department. Trained in German, English, and History at the Ludwig-Maximillians-Universität in Munich, Curschmann served in 1962-63 as an Assistant Professor attached to the chair in Munich of the distinguished medievalist Hugo Kuhn.

At Princeton, where he was promoted to Associate Professor in 1966 and Professor in 1969, Curschmann established himself as one of the leading European medievalists of his generation. His central contributions came in the study of German medieval literature. He co-edited the now standard three-volume edition (Deutsche Dichtung der Mittelalters, 1980-81), made signal contributions to the understanding of late medieval German minstrel poetry (Spielmannespik) and, later in his career, produced pioneering work on the relationship between text and image in the medieval manuscript tradition.

His work brought him widespread acclaim. He was one of only three Germanists to be elected to the Medieval Academy of America; he was a member of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences; and was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship. In the course of his career, he served as visiting professor at the universities of Hamburg, Fribourg (Switzerland), Tübingen, Munich, and the University of Pennsylvania.

Curschmann served as chair of the German Department from 1979-1982 and from 1986-1989, as Director of the Program in Medieval Studies from 1976-1982 and 1993-2000, and as Chair of the Committee on the Index of Christian Art (which has just been renamed Index of Medieval Art) from 1982-1988 and sporadically thereafter.

Michael will be remembered by friends and colleagues alike not just for his remarkable intellect but for his warmth, his vision, and his professionalism. He will be greatly missed.

Fall 2017 Film Series to focus on Weimar Cinema

The German Department Film Series for the Fall semester 2017 will be devoted to a program of striking new copies of both classic and lesser-known films from the period of the Weimar Republic. Curated by Prof. Thomas Y. Levin in conjunction with his undergraduate seminar GER308/ECS307 “Regimes of Spectacle in Weimar Cinema,” the Blu-Ray and DVD projections will feature newly restored and digitally remastered prints, many with the period tinting and the original soundtrack composed for the films, along with German text frames or the original German soundtrack and English subtitles. The masterpieces of expressionist, documentary, proletarian, avant-garde, queer, horror, and paranoid-thriller cinema that will be shown range from Robert Reinert’s rarely seen 1919 study of post-war WWI trauma “Nerven” and a reconstruction of “Anders als die Anderen: §175” (Richard Oswald, 1919), effectively the first film about homosexuality co-written by the pioneering sexologist Magnus Hirschfeld (who also appears in the film), to a restoration of Arnold Fank’s 1926 “Der heilige Berg,” a classic of the “mountain film” genre that features the filmic debut of the young dancer Leni Riefenstahl, and the “complete” (148-minute) reconstruction of Fritz Lang’s 1927 “Metropolis.”

All screenings will take place in East Pyne 010 on Tuesday nights at 7pm, are free and open to the public and will be followed by a discussion. A PDF of the semester-long film program can be downloaded by clicking here.

National Humanities Center Fellow Award 2017-2018

The Department of Germanic Languages at Princeton University would like to
congratulate Sara Poor as a fellow of the National Humanities Center Fellow Award for 2017-2018:

Sara Poor
Medieval Studies, Princeton University
Telling Tales of Clever Women: Authorship and the Devotional Book in Late Medieval Germany
NEH Fellowship; Josephus Daniels Fellowship of the Research Triangle Foundation”

Prof. Claus Pias (Leuphana Universität, Lüneburg) will spend Spring Semester 2017 as Visiting Professor in Princeton

Prof. Claus Pias, one of the leading figures in the field of German Media Theory, will be a Visiting Professor in the German Department in the Spring Semester 2017 during which he will teach a graduate seminar (GER517/MOD517) on “Digital Cultures

After studies in Electrical Engineering at RWTH Aachen and in Art History, German Literature, and Philosophy at the Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn, Pias received a PhD from Bauhaus-Universität in 2000 for his study of the pre-history of the computer game, published in 2002 as Computer Spiel Welten, forthcoming in an English translation as Computer Game Worlds, (Amsterdam UP 2016). Before joining the faculty in Leuphana in 2010 as the holder of the chair in the History and Epistemology of Media, Pias was Associate Professor for Media Technology and Media Philosophy at the Ruhr-University Bochum, Professor for Communication and Media Studies at the University of Essen, Professor for Epistemology and Philosophy of Digital Media at the University of Vienna as well as Visiting Professor at the universities of Basel, Berlin, Karlsruhe and St. Gallen. Pias is a member of the prestigious Young Academy of the Berlin-Brandenburgian Academy of Science and the German Academy of Natural Scientists Leopoldina, and the former co-editor of Zeitschrift für Medienwissenschaft and of Kursbuch Medienkultur: Die massgeblichen Theorien von Brecht bis Baudrillard (1999).

A prolific scholar, Pias is the author and editor of over twenty books, a number of which have recently been published in English including the co-edited volumes Social Media – New Masses (Univ. of Chicago Press, 2016) and Cybernetics/Kybernetik. The Macy-Conferences 1946-1953 (Univ. of Chicago Press, 2015). Pias is also the author of a volume of positions on media studies, Was waren Medien? (2010)

One of the most successful academic institution builders in Germany today, Pias founded and directed both the Lüneburg Digital Cultures Research Lab and the Institute for Advanced Study in Media Cultures of Simulation [MECS].

Graduate Students from Brazil and England Join the Department as Visiting Student Research Collaborators

Ana Gabriela Dickstein Roiffe from the Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio de Janeiro (PUC-Rio) and Rafael Dernbach from the German Department at the Cambridge University (UK) have come to Princeton under the Visiting Student Research Collaborator (VSRC) program to work with Prof. Thomas Y. Levin during the 2016-17 academic year.

Ms. Roiffe is a PhD Candidate in Literature, Culture and Contemporaneity at PUC-Rio where she is working with Prof. Frederico Oliveira Coelho on a dissertation researching writings for portable cinemas in contemporary art, including works by Hélio Oiticica, Yoko Ono and Jack Smith. Ms. Roiffe will spend the 2016-2017 academic year affiliated with Princeton’s German Dept., funded by the Fulbright Commission and CAPES, the Brazilian National Research Foundation. Advised by Prof. Thomas Y. Levin, she attended classes by Hal Foster and Levin in the Fall semester, consulted with Prof. Irene V. Small in the Dept. of Art and Archaeology, and worked in archives at NYU and MoMA digging up materials related to experimental and expanded cinema from the 50s to the 70s in USA and Brazil. Happily, her efforts yielded scripts of Jack Smith’s slideshows and performances in many versions as well as a copy of the very rare Brazilian 1971 film “Mangue Bangue” by Neville D’Almeida, which was seminal to the conception of Hélio Oiticica’s 1973-74 expanded cinema project “Cosmococas.” Ms. Roiffe also presented a paper on expanded literature in Brazil and Argentina at the “Brazil Week” at Harvard University.

Rafael Dernbach is a Gates Scholar and PhD candidate at the German Department of Cambridge University where he is writing about constructions of futurity in contemporary documentary practices under the supervision of Prof Andrew Webber. His research combines close readings of works by Harun Farocki, Hito Steyerl and Neil Beloufa with analyses of prognostic media such as predictive policing. During his Fall semester stay at Princeton, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council UK and the Gates Cambridge Scholarship, he was supervised by Prof Thomas Y. Levin and attended his graduate seminar on the rhetorics of surveillance. He also consulted the Jacques Derrida library in Princeton’s Firestone Library, the ACLU archive at Mudd Library and was a regular participant in the activities of the Program in Media and Modernity.

Berlin: A Media Metropolis

Prof. Joel Lande’s seminar Berlin: A Media Metropolis travels to the German capital over Fall Break

The German Department’s 2016 Fall-semester seminar GER307 Berlin: A Media Metropolis undertook an in-depth exploration of one of the most vibrant cities in Europe. Using texts and images focused on Berlin as the basis for discussion, the seminar meetings throughout the semester investigated major historical moments from the eighteenth century to the present. The course began by studying the debates over religious difference in the Enlightenment, with a special focus on the place of the Jews in civil society. It then proceeded to look at major journalistic projects of the nineteenth century, which in turn led to discussions of the major literary and artistic projects of German Modernism. The goal was to uncover the various means by which literature and the visual arts engaged the relationship between the individual, the collective, and the city. The seminar concluded with a discussion of the explosive music, party, and rave scene that has made Berlin a city of unparalleled vitality and excitement —from Tresor and the Love Parade to Berghain.

Visit to the autumnal Weißensee Friedhof in East Berlin, the second largest Jewish cemetery in Europe, where students saw the different phases of Berlin Judaism, from nineteenth- and early twentieth-century cosmopolitanism through National Socialism to the rebirth of Jewish Berlin today.

During the Fall Break Prof. Lande took the group of ten lucky undergraduates to Berlin to explore first-hand the institutions, media, and events that have made Berlin not just the centerpiece of German political and cultural life, but also one of the most influential and fascinating sites of modern history. Naturally, the trip included visits to many of the most well-known sites of modern Germany: the Brandenburg Gate, the Siegessäule, the Tiergarten, Potsdamer Platz, Checkpoint Charlie, the East Side Gallery, the Bundestag, the Jewish cemetery at Weisensee, and much more. One of the highlights was a bicycle tour through the historical town of Potsdam, where the students saw the Sanssouci Palace built by Frederick the Great as well as its elaborate gardens. The seminar participants also visited the extraordinary array of Berlin museums —from the Pergamon Museum, with its singular collection of antiquities, to the modernist collections at the Hamburger Bahnhof and the Neue Nationalgalarie.

Together with longtime Berlin local and Princeton German Department graduate-student and co-guide Cornelius Reiber the class went to Treptower Park, where they saw the massive Soviet Monument and the abandoned Plänterwald amusement park.

Walking tours through East Berlin provided an up-close view of the austere boulevards of the DDR period as well as the rapid processes of modernization and gentrification visible in neighborhoods such as Prenzlauer Berg. The in situ immersion in the exciting streets of Berlin allowed the group to experience first hand the many phases of German political history—from the Prussian monarchy through the unification of the German nation state, from the Nazi rule through the division between east and west.

The students in the class, all of whom had a solid competency in spoken and written German, lived as near-natives for ten days. The group of juniors and seniors included German Department majors Allison Fleming, Charlie Baker, and Alexander Robinson, as well as a handful of certificate students.

Great atmosphere at the group’s final dinner in a funky Italian restaurant on the border between the two neighborhoods of Mitte and Prenzlauer Berg.