Tag Archives: Featured


The German Department Presents:

Film Screening and Discussion

Shot in semi-documentary fashion using non-professional actors, this account of a day in the life of a group of ordinary
Berliners is considered a pivotal example of late “New Objectivity.”
The 2005 restoration by the Netherlands EYE Film Institute, in German with English subtitles and a contemporary score
by Elena Kats-Chernin, will be preceded by the experimental short


Reshaping the Humanities and Sciences: The Berlin Lautabteilung in the 1920s

Princeton University German Department
Fall 2017 Lecture Series

Date: Thursday, November 16, 2016
Time: 4:30pm
Location: 205 East Pyne

Viktoria Tkaczyk (Humboldt U., Berlin; Max Plank Institute for the History of Science, Berlin)
“Reshaping the Humanities and Sciences: The Berlin Lautabteilung in the 1920s”

This talk’s focus is the Lautabteilung (“sound department”) of the Prussian State Library, directed by the language teacher and phonetician Wilhelm Doegen in the 1920s. In terms of academic infrastructures, I trace how the Lautabteilung emerged from the Royal Prussian Phonographic Commission, led by Doegen with the aim of recording prisoners of war interned near Berlin during 1915 and 1918. Doegen’s later Sound Department continued to serve several state authorities in interwar Germany, and attempted to unite the potentials of a scholarly sound collection and an acoustic laboratory. It aimed to establish the gramophone as a novel research technology that could unite multiple disciplines ranging from linguistics and language studies to musicology, ethnology, anthropology, zoology, criminology, medicine, and psychology. I will look more closely at two projects incorporated by the department, in applied psychology (led by psychologist Fritz Giese) and applied linguistics (led by linguist Theodor Siebs), which reveal regulative and future-oriented projections of German labor policy and language use. These two projects marked an important shift from earlier visions of scientific sound archives, motivated by a historicist desire for exhaustiveness and conceived as serving the purposes of analysis, toward an understanding of sound archiving as applied research.

Viktoria Tkaczyk leads the Research Group “Epistemes of Modern Acoustics” at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin, and is a professor at the Institut für Kulturwissenschaft, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. She is currently working on the emergence of new techniques of “thinking with sound” in a range of disciplines around 1900, and on a long history of architectural acoustics.

How Literatures Begin: A Comparative Approach to Problems and Methods

How Literatures Begin:
A Comparative Approach to Problems and Methods

Symposium for Friday, April 13, 2018
Denis Feeney (Department of Classics)
Joel Lande (Department of German)

A Comparative Approach to Problems and Methods

Although we often take it for granted that there are literatures composed in a host of different languages, the emergence of a literature is an improbable and complex historical achievement. In fact, most known languages did not develop writing, let alone a literature. This symposium seeks to discuss the cultural processes that, in a variety of different contexts, brought forth literatures. Our focus shall be not just on concrete historical circumstances, but also on the procedures, structures, and institutions that encouraged the development of distinct literatures. We are particularly interested in considering such issues as the consequences of different varieties of script, the creation of writing and the interaction with oral practices, the rise of print circulation, the passage from sacred to profane writing and reading practices, the use of antecedent cultural models, the distinction between local custom and cultural appropriation, the role of translation, and the participation in nation-building projects.

Our one-day symposium shall bring together scholars from within the Princeton community as well as a small number of external guests. In doing so, we wish to establish a context for discussion among a number of faculty members at Princeton who share an interest in literary beginnings. Our goal is to initiate dialogue among a group of disciplines at Princeton that do not often have the occasion for scholarly exchange. In particular, our symposium shall bring together scholars of East Asian, Ancient European, African, and Modern European literatures. The compact format of the symposium should allow for an intensive discussion.

Introduction: Joel Lande (Princeton University)

Panel 1: Ancient Paradigms
Deborah Steiner (Columbia University)
Sheldon Pollock (Columbia University)
Alberto Rigolio (Princeton University)

Panel 2: East Asian Focus
Ksenia Chizhova (Princeton University)
Wiebke Denecke (Boston University)
Martin Kern (Princeton University)

Panel 3: Modern European/African Focus
Jane Newman (University of California – Irvine)
Michael Wachtel (Princeton University)
Simon Gikandi (Princeton University)
Wrap-Up: Denis Feeney (Princeton University

(Event is organized by Denis Feeney and Joel Lande. Sponsored by the Department of German, Department of Classics, East Asian Studies, The Humanities Council, Comparative Literature, and Slavic)

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.

Weimar Cinema: METROPOLIS

The German Department Presents:

FRITZ LANG, 1927; 148 MINS

A new 4K restoration of the
2010 “complete” reconstruction
of this pioneering expressionist
sci-fi political allegory; German
intertitles with English subtitles
and the original orchestral score
by Gottfried Huppertz.

When: November 7th
Where: East Pyne 010
Time: 7-9pm

Appearance: Fragments of a Political Phenomenology

Princeton University’s Department of German presents:

Appearance: Fragments of a Political Phenomenology

Juliane Rebentisch

Date: October 2nd, 2017
Location: East Pyne 010
Time: 4:30pm –

What does it mean to make a public appearance? If one believes Hannah Arendt, it involves very particular conditions; those of a specific space in which this appearance will be perceived by others. A “space of appearance,” as Arendt calls it, by no means automatically exists in every place where people gather as a crowd. Instead it is constituted wherever “people are together in the manner of speech and action.” It is only in this being together that an intersubjective “interstitial space” is created in which people exist not merely as things that are indifferent to one another but explicitly make their appearance in front of and for one another. The talk will critically develop the aesthetic, ethical and political dimensions of Arendt’s concept of a “space of appearance” in the context of contemporary debates on democracy and media.

Reading the Social: Lenz, Moritz, Karsch

Princeton University’s Department of German presents:
Nacim Ghanbari (jun. Prof., Univ. Siegen; Visiting Prof., Princeton German Dept.)
Reading the Social: Lenz, Moritz, Karsch

Date: September 20, 2017
Location: East Pyne, Room 205
Time: 4:30pm –

Is there a ‘new social’ in the literary and media history of 18th century? And if this is the case, what would the ‘old social’ have been? I will discuss these questions by drawing on current research on collaborative writing and epistolary network cultures. By juxtaposing Karl Philipp Moritz’ highly canonized novel “Anton Reiser” with Anna Louisa Karsch’s letters as well as marginalized works subsumed as ‘prose’ by Jacob Michael Reinhold Lenz, this talk considers the significance of patronage in the history of modern authorship, and comes to the conclusion that the ‘new social’ is much more hierarchical and media-driven than the apologists of the ‘old social’ would imagine.

Nacim Ghanbari is Assistant Professor for German Literature at the University of Siegen and principal investigator in the Collaborative Research Centre “Media of Cooperation”. She has published on German literature and culture from the eighteenth to twentieth century. Her work has been recognized with a Humboldt Foundation Feodor Lynen Fellowship for research at the University of Chicago, and a research fellowship at “IFK Internationales Forschungszentrum Kulturwissenschaften” in Vienna

Weimar Cinema: Nosferatu – Eine Symphonie Des Grauens

The Department of German presents:

Nosferatu – Eine Symphonie Des Grauens

F.W. MURNAU, 1922; 93 MINS
This unauthorized Expressionist adaptation of Bram
Stoker’s Dracula, often described as the first horror film, is here
presented in a restored and tinted print with German intertitles,
English subtitles and the original soundtrack by Hans Erdmann.

Oct 3rd, 7-9pm
East Pyne 010

Open to the Public

Speech Unbound. Prose and the Problem of Form

Princeton University
Department of German

Susanne Lüdemann, Professor of German and Comparative Literature, LMU (Munich)
currently Carlotte M. Craig Distinguished Visiting Professor, Department of German, Rutgers University

Monday April 10, 4:30 pm

205 East Pyne Building

In modernity, and also in the historical narratives of modernity, ‘prose’ has never been a neutral or a purely descriptive concept. On the one hand, the “prosaic state of the world” (Hegel) is part of a narrative of decline and disappointment (or disenchantment), linked to the “end of art“ and to the repression or loss of a “poetic“ state of mind in the instrumental rationality of modern state and society. On the other hand, the concept of ‘prose’ is part of a narrative of hope and freedom, linked to the idea of free or “unbound“ speech, and to polyphony (the plurality of ‘voices’ or ‘votes’) as an aesthetic as well as a political value. The semantics of “unbound speech“ (ungebundene Rede) is thus, across languages and from the beginning of modernity, bound to the question of the social bond, of what binds free speech and modern society, of both linguistic (grammatical, syntactical) and social or genealogical bonding, of the ‘weaving’ of modernity and its representations. Against this semantic background, Prof. Lüdemann’s talk will discuss prose as a problem of form in both literature and historiography. Special emphasis will be placed on Hannah Arendt’s reflections on “thinking without a banister” and on literary modes of writing history after the break with tradition.

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].