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On German Studies Today Author(s): Sander L. Gilman Reviewed work(s): Source: The German Quarterly, Vol. 71, No.

1 (Winter, 1998), pp. 69-71 Published by: Blackwell Publishing on behalf of the American Association of Teachers of German Stable URL: . Accessed: 22/07/2012 18:42
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the New Editors of The German Quarterly."AATG Tobe sure,a critiintensescrutiny. to a relentlessly "theexplorative Newsletter 33.1 (1997): 3. calapproach or,toput it differently, B611: RobertC.Reviewof Heinrich FortyYears of strategies forad- Conard, andexperimental development Criticism (1994), by Reinhard K Zachau. German of related a seriesof questionsor problems" dressing Quarterly 68.1 (1995): 110. to German culture(Weiner vii) arenot onlyneces- Hohendahl, Peter Uwe. "Germanistik in den Vereinigsarybutdesirable-evenat the riskthat thosewho ten Staaten:EineDisziplinim Umbruch." Zeitschrift zeal may are inspired by anti-preservationist fiir Germanistik. N.E 6.3 (1996): 527-35. playintothehandsofthosewhostrive McCarthy,John A., and Katrin Schneider, eds. The Fu(un)wittingly for leanerand meanerinstitutionsthat are ready tureof Germanistik in the USA ChangingOurProsto dispense with departmentsand disciplines pects. Nashville, TN: Department of Germanic and Slavic Languages, Vanderbilt University, 1996. deemednonessential and/or nonproductive. "Parasitische Theorie und die InstitutionalRasch, the exerted on In the face of pressures proisierung von Culture Studies in den USA." Zeitschrift fession by outside forcesas well as those created fiur Germanistik. N.E 6.3 (1996): 575-83. within the discipline by the "competinginterSammons, Jeffrey L. "Die amerikanische Germanistik: ests" in the realm of culture studies and canon Historische Betrachtungen zur gegenwirtigen Situformation-interests that are relatedto "class, ation." Germanistik international: Vortrdgeund gender,politicalprogram,etc." ("Letter")-the Diskussionenauf dem internationalen Symposium search for common groundrather than the in"Germanistik im Ausland"vom23.-25. Mai 1977 in sistence on differing positions would seem to Ed.Richard et al. Tilbingen: Brinkmann Tibingen. be of primeimportance.In recognitionof "GQ's Niemeyer, 1978. 105-25. special responsibility" to all "scholars and Weiner, Marc A. "From the Editor."German Quarterly 68.1 (1995): vi-viii. teachers of Germanin the United States," the new editors have sagely opted for a latitudinal, inclusive policy that provides a non-partisan forumfor colleagueswho wish to participatein the ongoing debate. By doing so, the editors have established the framework for possibly SANDER L. GILMAN achieving the elusive objectiveof a consensus University of Chicago on matters of common concern. In a similar vein, the editors' aspirations to reassert the On German Studies Today function of GQ as "an important link between German literary and cultural studies on this I was quite surprisedat the "letterfromthe continent and worldwide"implies a clear acnew diof the vital international editors," which appeared in the recent knowledgment mension of Germanistik/German Studies and AATGNewsletter.I am perturbed as this is a the avoidanceof parochialism.Without doubt, public statement which will be used to characseveral of the thorny questions raised in the terize a profession in a necessary state of "Letter"such as the role of the canon, which change. GermanStudies in NorthAmericais changis to be revaluated rather than reaffirmed,or that of the relationship between "oppositional ing. It will either change or it will vanish. This discourses" and "mainstream culture" are is equally true of every other aspect of Eurolikely to preoccupyus well into the next mil- pean-languagebased study, with the clear exlennium; despite the likelihood that some of ception of Spanish and English. Germanis not them may defy easy solutions, it is encouraging alone and,indeed,has maderemarkablestrides to have available a publication for the unre- over the past decade in recapturingthe intelstricted discussionof problemsthat concernall lectual high-groundof the humanities which it members of AATG.In this sense, the new edi- held in the past. Yetyou both really don't seem to get it. You tors' aforementioned millennial optimism is complain about the "idiosyncraticreorientaperhaps not entirely unfounded. tions" of GermanStudies as "pos[ing]a problem." The changes are not "idiosyncratic" for WorksCited the developmentsin German Studies are parfrom alleled to every other area of the study of lanFischer, Bernd,andDagmarC.G.Lorenz,"Letter



Winter 1998

guage and culture in the humanities at North American universities. These heterogeneous changes are the only solution. There can be no single model which answers every question. It is the so-called traditional departments that are dying because they have been solely "aesthetically" oriented. The stress on the "beautiful"as the source of truth and knowledge is part of a eighteenth-centuryfantasy of the function of literature. German Studies shouldnot be the placefor such a fantasyexcept as the object of study. "Read Goethe and become a better person!"indeed. If this were the case we would have no need for prisons, only Departments of German! This fantasy fueled Germanistik in West Germany for decades as students of German prepared to teach in the high schools as moral leaders. Even in Germany such a view has been generally abandoned as students no longer aim to teach high school. German Studies and Cultural Studies in Germanyhave become the place of multiple approachesto the complexcultureswithin Germany.And their new model is borrowedfrom our idea of German Studies! The German departments here which are surviving and flourishing know that they are part of the greater university's search for knowledge, not part of the moral rearmamentof the West. Weshould have two coreobligationsin German Studies: * To providestudents on all levels multiple access to multiple aspects of the language and cultures of and in the German-speaking world (howeverunderstood) * To provide the tools for the critical analysis of texts from this world in terms of the culture in which we and our students live and function. Thus your notion of a center-periphery model in which the "good"stuff is at the core and most of the productivescholarsare "atthe margin"is not useful. Certainlythere is always a canon and we should alwaysask how and why it functions. But it is also clear that as critics we constitute the canon. Why do you think it is so vital for living authors that we address their work? Out of vanity? No, it is because when we write about them, they become part of the canon of authors which defines the literary culture of our day.This is not hubris, it is a simple part of what we should be doing as critics. And as critics outside of the German-

language area we have an obligationto constitute the canon from our perspectiveas well as to autopsy the German,Austrianor Swiss construction of their own heritage. The profession is determinedby OUR individualas well as collective desires to read and teach and write not by some abstractnotion of what is at the "core." Certainlynot a "core"taken from the political needs of another culture! Let me make some constructive proposals for the future of German Studies in North America: Undergraduate * Makesure that your languageteachingis the teaching of culture. Aim toward some real life experience with the language in a program abroad,whether it is for a sophomore quarter,a summerinternshipor ajunioryear abroad. * Teaching undergraduates demands diversity. Teach courses in German as well as in English;give lecture courses as well as small seminars; offer courses with senior faculty for freshman;encourageyour faculty to get involved with weekend seminars for high school students. * Offercourseswith and forthe broadestrange of undergraduatesand with colleagues from across the disciplines. Make sure your German courses are cross-listed in other disciplines; make sure you co-teach with colleagues from other departments. * Offer courses that reflect the strengths of your faculty. Don't have any courses "because we have to offer them." * Don't concentrate on the number of majors but on the range of students in your courses. The more diversity your courses offer, the greaterthe numberof goodstudents you will have. Stress joint majors and certificates in Germanas well as traditionaland innovative major programs.Don't put all of your eggs in one basket. Graduate * Articulation.Be awareof what your students will teach and research after they leave you. Don't make them reinvent themselves when they are out in the "real"world.Coverageis not the only model - focused programscan

FORUM be just as effective in articulating graduate studies with post-graduatework experience. * Depth. Figure out what the people in your graduateprogramcan teach; build your program around their academic and research strengths; not around some abstract notion of what "must"be taught. * Numbers. Admit small numbers - no more than 2/3 a year. Be very selective while respecting diversity.Weed seriously after the first year. Offer adequate support so that 5 years is sufficient to complete a program. Limit your expectationsto what can actually be accomplishedin 5 years. * Internships rather than TAs/RAs. Teach graduate students how to teach in all areas, not just in language teaching. Createfurther work experience in other arenas at the University -film series, music series, art museums, as well as (throughalumni) in industry and government (for summers).


to movetogether towardan ever moreinteresting, if contested future.


Ohio State University

A Pluralist Journal for a Pluralist Discipline

The followingstatement by DagmarLorenz appeared earlier in the Women in German Newsletter in response to the controversy involving her and Bernd Fischer's "Letter from the New Editors of The German Quarterly." The text, reprinted with minor editorial changes, is her contribution to the forum debate. E-mail exchanges and the discussion of Bernd Fischer's and my "Letterfrom the New Editors of The German Quarterly"in AATG Newsletter33.1 have promptedme to make the following statement. I first learned about the controversy our letter had stirred when I received an e-mail message from Sander Gilman responding to a fax he had received from an unnamed colleague regarding the "Letter."I wrote a detailed response to Sander Gilman informing him that neither has there been a change in the editorial policies of GQ, nor are the editors considering to change the overall courseof thejournal.Surely,BerndFischerand I do not wish to import any cultural/political agenda from overseas, Germanyor elsewhere. GQ operates within the United States context of German studies, literature, language, culture. In our letter we wanted to convey to our colleaguesin the field that we wouldnot let our own professionaland scholarly biases (different ones for each one of us, to be sure) guide our editorial decisions. Our letter illustrated this view by naming approachesto literature and culture which are quite differentfrom our own. We did so in order to suggest that we do not wish to categorically exclude anyone's work. I would like to underscorethat we are

* Don't count heads in single course; look at the total numbers of students in a program over a year. Languagecourses must be small even on the advanced level to be effective. But lectures don't have to be. * Support programs abroad.Make this a permanent part of why your institution is attractive. Provide leadership for the internationalization of the Americanacademe.Provide exchanges for students and faculty with schools and universities abroad. * Scholarship fuels teaching at ALL institutions. With no original scholarship people quickly revert to teaching their graduate school notes, which palls after a few years. Support original peer reviewed research as part of the mission for teaching. Encourage this with promotions and leaves. * Respect your faculty. Don't hire part-time faculty to replace full-time, committed faculty.In researchuniversities, don'tsee teaching assistantships as relatively inexpensive labor but as internships. Make their assignments flexible and have them adequately paid. All these pragmatic suggestions are based on the present developmentof GermanStudies as an intrinsic part of the new humanities. Let us not flee into an idealizedpast, but continue