Tradition and Innovation in German Studies
Edited By Marc Silberman
In the course of the 1970s, interdisciplinary German studies emerged in North America, breaking with what many in the field saw as a suffocating and politically tainted tradition of canon-based philology by broadening both the corpus of texts and the framing concept of culture. In the meantime the innovative impulses that characterized this response to the legacy of Germanistik have themselves become traditions. The essays in this volume critically examine a selection of those past attempts at renewal to gauge where we are now and how we move into the future: exile and forced migration, race and identity, humanism and utopian thought, solidarity and global inequality. A younger generation of scholars demonstrates how reviving and refining the questions of yore leads to new insights into literary and theatrical texts, fundamental philosophical and political ideas, and the structure of memory in ethnographic performance and photography. Looking back into the future is a self-reflexive gesture that asks how tradition inspires innovation, and it displays compelling evidence for the importance of historically informed cultural research in the field of German studies.
10 Back to the Future of German Studies: Which Future? Which Past? (Frank Trommler)
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10 Back to the Future of German Studies: Which Future? Which Past?
Assessing the transformations in the concept and practice of German Studies since the first Wisconsin Workshop in 1969, this essay highlights the discipline’s expansion beyond the focus on literature and towards German culture, history, politics, science, and other areas. Since the 1980s the field has developed curricula and research practices that center less on canonical literature in favor of psychological, sociological, and philosophical texts, as well as film, media, and popular culture. While enrollment figures have shrunk considerably since the 1960s, the strategies of curricular adaptation have helped keep the discipline attractive both for undergraduate and graduate students, though the lessening of historical and canonical moorings as well as financial cutbacks in the humanities have unfavorably impacted graduate study. With the influx of cultural studies in the 1990s, taught mostly in English, the professionalization of language pedagogy regained its importance for curricula and for the training of prospective PhDs.
When my colleague at Penn, Gerald Prince, published an article about the present state of French Studies in the PMLA, the leading journal of literary criticism in the United States, in October 2016, he spoke a lot about writers and novels, their attention to what is going on in the world, and their reception both on the national and the academic scene in France and the United States.1 In short, when he spoke about French...
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