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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.

PD Dr. Marcel Lepper visits Princeton’s German Department

PD Dr. Marcel Lepper visits Princeton’s German Department as Short Term Academic Guest during the fall semester. PD Dr. Lepper is Director of Research at the German Literature Archive in Marbach. Since the founding of the American Friends of Marbach by Emeritus Professor Dr. Walter Hinderer and Professor Dr. Ulrich Raulff in 2008, the Princeton German Department has enjoyed a special relationship with the German Literature Archive in Marbach.

Dr Marcel Lepper

Dr Marcel Lepper