Emily Stokes:

Since my arrival in Berlin, I have attended an initial appointment at the Stasi Archive to survey the files made available to me thus far. These files contain information regarding surveillance of suspected homosexual men in the GDR, their contacts, movements, and activities. These files, and in particular, photographs contained within these files, remain a crucial aspect of my PhD project which looks to Stasi surveillance of queer minorities in East Germany in the 1980s. 

I have also visited the Schwules Museum library in Berlin to collect visual material relating to private/artistic queer activities in the GDR, for example to view the collection of Jürgen Wittdorf, an East German artist whose work contained strong homoerotic inflections, and the pornographic albums of Siegmar Piske, a former-GDR resident who collected homoerotic images, sculptures, and mementos which filled his apartment, the entire contents of which was donated to the museum.

In addition, I have made visits to the Staatsbibliothek to collect images from several GDR magazines that could also be argued as homoerotic, as well as several museum collections including the German Historical Museum and Kulturbrauerei to view their GDR collection and search for any mention of the queer movement in East Germany. My research trip is ongoing however I am extremely grateful to the AGS for their contribution, which assists in the collection of material necessary to my PhD project. 

Daniel Fraser:

In addition to giving me a working knowledge of the archive and its practices and regulations etc., my research visit to the Deutsches Literaturarchiv Marbach to examine the papers of Paul Celan was both rich and fruitful for developing my research. 

By inspecting Celan’s original drafts and manuscripts, alongside certain workbooks, I was able to piece together components of Celan’s reading of, and engagement with, Walter Benjamin that I had been hitherto unaware of, giving me a great deal of insight into the theoretical and poetic material precipitated in Celan’s work as a result of his engagement with Benjamin. This adds a significant and explicit personal dimension to my project’s thesis that had been only a very slight peripheral element before these discoveries. 

In addition, I was also able to find several secondary sources, including early English translations in privately printed volumes and small magazines, that I had not previously been able to access. These documents have filled in a great number of gaps in my knowledge regarding the reception of Celan in the English-speaking world, and one or two have provided vital critical insight into the place of time/history in Celan’s work that my project hinges on.

A final, subsidiary, outcome has been that the visit has put me in touch directly with the Celan estate, Bertrand Badiou and the poet’s son Eric, who have already been most helpful in making suggestions and advice for investigating Celan’s papers. 

Solange Manche:

The AGS travel grant contributed to my stay at the Humboldt University (HU) for the 2020-2021 academic year. My thesis explores the link between contemporary French philosophy and the German tradition, in particular Marx and Hegel. I look at how the critique of contemporary capitalism in the works of Catherine Malabou, Bernard Stiegler, and Frédéric Lordon can help us understand the relation between finance and individuation. I attended the HU as a visiting scholar at the German department, on invitation of Prof. Dr. phil. Joseph Vogl whose work on financialisation informs my research.

As a visiting scholar, I got to attend and present one of my chapters at Vogl’s Kolloquium. My presentation sought to argue that Catherine Malabou’s notion of plasticity, which she develops primarily building on Hegel’s Philosophy of Mind, should be taken seriously, and can open new perspectives, in critical finance studies. My presentation was entitled “finance’s Phineas Gage: Thinking Financial Subject Formation with Contemporary French Thought.” Getting feedback from other PhD students from a different context has been invaluable, as well as connecting with other researchers and visiting scholars. Prof. Dr. Philipp Staab’s Kolloquium also gave me a chance to discuss the relation between finance and technology and to familiarise myself with the work of other scholars in Germany.

I was also very pleased to meet another visiting scholar of Vogl’s working on Bernard Stiegler, with whom I hope to be collaborating with for future projects. Overall, my stay in Berlin, despite the pandemic, has been an invaluable experience. My intention is to return to Germany after the PhD, and the AGS’ contribution to my academic year in Berlin has enabled me to build connections and to familiarise myself with local institutions and a vibrant intellectual community that will certainly help me realise this.

Below is a photograph of the newly renovated Staatsbibliothek on Unter den Linden, where I’ve had the pleasure to work. 

Inside the new Staatsbibliothek on Unter den Linden

Emma Buchanan:

Emma Buchanan, PhD student at Bangor University, attended the International Association for Jungian Studies at the Goethe University in Frankfurt with the support of the AGS, since we encourage the study of German-language writers and thinkers, broadly conceived. Emma’s paper explored the series The Walking Dead to show that the archetypal theme of rebirth is essential for survival in a so-called “trans-state” – the overarching theme of the Jungians’ conference.

Doreen Pastor:

The conference “Museums and their publics at sites of conflicted history” took place at the Polin Museum (Museum of Jewish History) from 12th-15th March in Warsaw. It included a variety of papers on the themes of cultural memory, memorial/museum management and visitor management. It provided me with the opportunity to engage with established researchers in my field, e.g. a lecturer from New York currently conducting research at Ground Zero or a current PhD researcher from the Netherlands carrying out visitor research at The Hollandsche Schouwburg (a Jewish deportation centre). The keynote by Professor Eyal Naveh “History Education in a Post-Conflict Area vs History Education in an in-Conflict Area: The Challenges of the Multi-Narrative Approaches” was a fascinating insight into the challenges of teaching history in Israel and Palestine; it assisted me in gaining an understanding of the Israeli background, an issue I encountered during my research at the House of the Wannsee Conference in Berlin.
My own presentation “I would have like to see a barrack – visitor experiences at two concentration camp memorials in Germany” sparked a lively debate about visitors to those sites. The conference was a great opportunity to present (and defend) my research in an international context and to receive constructive feedback about my research outcomes. Video links to my own presentation and other papers can be found here: http://www.polin.pl/en/conference-museums-and-their-publics. I am grateful for the funding from the Association for German Studies enabling me to attend this conference.

Maren Rohe: 

Fieldwork conducted between 18 February and 15 April 2017 in Warsaw:

With the help of the AGS travel grant, I spent two months in Warsaw, Poland, conducting focus groups and individual interviews for my PhD. My research focuses on perceptions of Germany in Poland and Russia, in particular the relation between individual perceptions and media portrayals in both countries. I analyse country perceptions as narratives, looking at how individual and social narratives interact with larger scale societal meta-narratives on national identity and Othering. During this fieldwork period I conducted focus groups and/or individual interviews with 80 study participants. I gained access to my study population, university students from various fields through lecturers at three Warsaw universities, who were very helpful and supportive of my research. I was able to introduce my project in a number of university classes, and many of the students I talked to personally were willing and excited to participate in an academic research project. In this way, I was able to collect crucial data for my PhD, which I am now analysing and comparing to media stories as well as similar data collected in Russia.

Maria Roca Lizarazu:

Supported by the AGS travel scholarship, I paid a visit to the renowned Frankfurt Memory Studies Platform at the Goethe-Universität Frankfurt. The platform provides an international and interdisciplinary forum for memory studies research, bringing together established as well as emerging scholars in the field, with a special focus on issues of transculturality, mediality and narratology.

On the 22nd of November I gave a talk entitled “Thomas Mann in Furs. Remediations of Sadomasochism in Maxim Biller’s Im Kopf von Bruno Schulz”. My paper was based on my PhD research and examined the ways in which Maxim Biller’s latest novella resorts to literary and visual traditions of sadomasochism (Bruno Schulz and Leopold von Sacher-Masoch in particular) to negotiate the problematic German-Jewish symbiosis.

My talk was well-received and the ensuing discussion provided invaluable feedback, which will help with the final revisions of my chapter on Biller. I particularly enjoyed discussing my use of the concept of “remediation” with Prof. Astrid Erll, who is an expert on the topic.

Moreover, the trip to Frankfurt offered excellent opportunities for networking, as it enabled me to speak alongside a colleague from Warwick and meet various Frankfurt-based scholars with a background in memory and postcolonial studies as well as Anglo- and Francophone literatures and cultures. I hope to build on these connections in the future, and would like to express my gratitude to the AGS for its support.

See the conference poster here!

Kira Liebert:

The annual conference of the American Society of Eighteenth Century Studies in 2016 took place from March 30 to April 3 in the impressive William Penn Hotel in Pittsburgh, US. It was not at all surprising to learn that Angela Merkel had stayed there for the G20 Summit meeting in 2009. Not only the venue but also the size of the conference was impressive, with a total of 221 panels and roundtable discussions excluding lectures. Deciding between a dozen of parallel sessions was not always an easy task – many interesting papers were listed and relevant to my research on Karl Philipp Moritz, his Anglophilia and his role as cultural mediator between England and Germany in the late 18th century.

The paper I was presenting was part of the two-part roundtable discussion “On Foot: Walking in the Eighteenth Century” and was entitled “Travelling on Foot – Resentment and Choice in Karl Philipp Moritz’s Travels, chiefly on foot, through several parts of England, in 1782”. For the German Karl Philipp Moritz, travelling through England was never about collecting exact data for publishing a factual travel guide. Rather, he conducted his travels in the manner of Laurence Sterne’s Sentimental Journey — while reading his “Milton” and producing romanticized accounts of his adventures. For Moritz, these travels primarily entailed the possibility to obtain an experience without any boundaries and the freedom to walk wherever he wanted whenever he wished. Not many Germans had travelled to or written about England before, and his journey gives the reader extraordinary impressions of the English people and countryside. His decision to travel on foot did not serve a particular purpose like a pilgrimage might, and it can be seen as a means of self-discovery and self-experience (much like in Jean-Jaques Rousseau’s Les Rêveries du promeneur solitaire). However, Moritz’s decision to walk was accompanied by lots of restrictions and hostility. “[T]hose who rode, or drove, past me, stared at me with astonishment; and made many significant gestures, as if they thought my head deranged” and “when [he] passed through a village, every old woman testified her pity by an exclamation of  – Good God!”; Furthermore, he was often told “without any apology […] that they had no intention of lodging [him], as they had no room for such guests […].” Given such hostility, why was Moritz travelling on foot? Additionally, the network of “turnpike roads” around London was by this time well-developed, and Moritz himself discusses the dangers of “foot pads [who] murder in the most inhuman manner, for the sake of only a few shillings, any unfortunate people who happen to fall in their way”, making travelling on foot seem extremely hazardous. In my paper, I was examining the hostility Moritz received on his journey (emphasized by rude treatment and scornful glances) as well as his compulsion to travel on foot under those hard and dangerous conditions instead of simply using the much faster and comparatively safe coaches.

Although a great number of the papers that were given at this roundtable were focussed on Jane Austen’s works and my paper on Moritz was clearly situated at the earlier end of the panel, similarities between all papers could be found with respect to the individual purposes of the walking travellers – for example in their love of nature, the aesthetic discourse of the picturesque, the act of walking as source of privacy, reflection, contemplation and intellectual resolution, but also in the descriptions and awareness of social rank and the disadvantages that travelling on foot involved. Unfortunately, time for discussion was quite restricted and besides a more general question regarding Moritz’s Anglophilia the focus of the audience was mainly on the papers dealing with Jane Austen’s works.

For my current research on Moritz’s reception of English authors and their literary works the panel on “Milton in the Long Eighteenth Century” was particularly beneficial. Although the papers given were quite specific and also dealt with Milton’s less well-known works they certainly gave me an insight into Moritz’s fascination with this English author. Panels like “The Passions and Eighteenth-Century Aesthetics” by the Cultural Studies Caucus and “News, Media and Information Systems in Eighteenth-Century Europe” provided a rather broad variety of papers from “The Learned Pig” to “Tracking Rumors, Making News” and left me with some new (and slightly bizarre) knowledge.

My two personal highlights were a talk from Gordon Turnbull (Yale University) on “James Boswell and a Theory of ‘Natural’ Quotation” – learning about his connections to Samuel Johnson as well as Thomas Sheridan and about the quotation as the most natural human habitude – and a lecture by John Brewer (California Institute of Technology) with the title “Fire and Ice: Travel and the Natural Sublime in the Age of Enlightenment” which was enriched with illustrations and quotes of travel descriptions concerning volcanoes and mountains. Both speakers certainly knew how to capture the attention of their audience and to spread interest for their research. In general, the most positive aspect of the conference was the variety of research backgrounds the presenters came from, allowing the attendees to discover new interdisciplinary connections and visualize a more accurate picture of the long eighteenth century with regard to their own research.

All in all, it was a great conference that provided me with new insight and inspiration concerning my research as well as helped me gain some experience with presenting my academic work in front of larger groups and therefore definitely made up for the long travel days.

Judith Vonberg:

The AGS travel scholarship enabled me to spend two weeks in Germany carrying out research for my thesis on the fictional depiction of Britons and Germans in British and German popular culture between 1945 and 1965. I spent a week at the national library in Leipzig where I looked at copies of East and West German television and radio schedules, popular magazines such as Revue, Stern and Bunte, lots of East and West German pulp fiction and countless issues of West Germany’s tabloid newspaper, BILD. These were all invaluable in improving my understanding of Germany’s popular engagement with the idea of Britain in both fictional and non-fiction contexts.

I spent my second week in the Berlin film archive watching films that are not available online or on DVD. These included East German films Der junge Engländer and Nebel and the West German films Die Rote and Bezaubernde Arabella. These were very popular films in the post-war period and my understanding of how Britons were depicted has been significantly expanded as a result of viewing them.

Having completed my trip, I am now far better positioned to write the remaining two chapters of my thesis, which examine the depiction of Britons in German popular culture in the immediate post-war period.

Jeannine Jud:

I attended The GDR Today II, a two-day postgraduate colloquium held at the university of Bristol, on the 10th and 11th of September 2015. A follow up to the GDR Today, held at the University of Birmingham in January 2014, this colloquium gave new and returning postgraduate students the opportunity to introduce their research or demonstrate the development of their research since the previous colloquium held eighteen months earlier. This two-day event focused on the history and memory of GDR culture, society and politics, and brought together researchers from the areas of literature, history, sociology, theatre and translation. The interdisciplinary insights and perspectives discussed at this event were particularly valuable for my own research. Furthermore, each participant received feedback from an expert in their area of research. I presented my paper entitled “Re-Evaluating the Literature of Christa Wolf: Patterns of Conformity, Memory and Identity in Kindheitsmuster and Stadt der Engel oder The Overcoat of Dr. Freud” in the panel: “Revisiting GDR Literature”. The feedback I was given in response to my paper is invaluable at this stage of my research and provided me with new insights and challenges regarding my own work. I am immensely grateful for having been given the opportunity to attend and present at this event, to meet other researchers working in the same field and gain new perspectives into this fascinating historical era.

Michael Kranert:

The generous AGS travel scholarship allowed me to travel to the ‘DiscourseNet Congress #1 – Discourse: Language, Society, Critique’ held at the University of Bremen on 24th-26th September 2015.

DiscourseNet (http://www.discourseanalysis.net) is a Research Network that aims to connect European discourse researchers in a multitude of academic fields, from sociology to linguistics, in order to facilitate promote the exchange of ideas in the field of discourse studies across the disciplinary and national traditions. As a discourse linguist who is influenced by the British tradition of critical discourse analysis and the German tradition of polito-linguistics, the DiscourseNet Congress was the ideal event to present ideas from my PhD research to a subject specific audience and to network with other researchers in the field.

My paper ‘The Construction of Leadership and Group Identity in Leader’s Speeches at Party Conferences of Labour Party and the SPD’ was well received, as I was fortunate to be able to present in a panel that included papers thematically very close to my own, such as Naomi Truan’s ‘Addressing the nation, avoiding the confrontation? The third person as a disguised form of address in New Year’s messages of the British Prime Ministers and the German Chancellors (1998-2015)’. This allowed an intensive discussion about the use of personal pronouns in political speeches and the advantages and disadvantages of quantitative methods in discourse linguistics.