Home » German


Calendar Customer Code: 

Christopher Kloeble, Author of "Almost Everything Very Fast", Visits Grinnell College

The  Grinnell College German Department presents a book talk with German author Christopher Kloeble on Tuesday, March 8, at 4 pm in Burling Lounge. Kloeble will discuss his latest novel, Almost Everything Very Fast, translated from the German by Aaron Kerner and published by Graywolf Press in February of this year.Christopher Kloeble's book

Kloeble’s novel is set in a Bavarian village and centers on Albert, a 19-year-old who was raised in an orphanage, and Fred, who is an older man but child-like due to brain damage suffered long ago. The two set off together to investigate Albert’s past, and as their journey progresses, his complicated history is revealed. In its November 2015 review of the book, Publisher’s Weekly called the novel “disturbing [and] ultimately moving” and stated that “Kloeble’s cinematic vision and vivid storytelling encompass a range of human emotion and iniquity.” Copies of the novel will be available during the March 8 book talk.

Christopher Kloeble was born in Munich in 1982 and currently lives in Berlin and Dehli. In 2014, he was a Grinnell College Writer-in-Residence, and he most recently served as a guest professor at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire. Kloeble is the author of three novels, a collection of short stories, several plays, and the script for the movie Inklusion. Almost Everything Very Fast is Kloeble’s first book to be published in English.

For more information about the author and his latest novel, please visit his website.

History in the Making

During Grinnell’s week-long fall break, 11 students in the Opera, Politics, and Society in Modern Europe course went to San Francisco with Kelly Maynard, assistant professor of history, to get an up-close look at how politics and culture influence the development of modern opera. Thanks to the generosity and enthusiasm of trustee Craig Henderson ’63, who opened his home and opera connections to the class, students spoke with opera singers, saw orchestral rehearsals, met with opera critics, and got exclusive backstage glimpses into set design and media suites.

“It really helped me put everything that we learned in class into perspective,” says Austin Schilling ’17. “You can read about how people used to make sets or how people designed opera houses 200 years ago, but you can’t get a real feel for it without seeing how everything operates with your own eyes.”

Students saw two live opera productions, The Magic Flute and Lucia di Lammermoor, at the San Francisco Conservatory and the San Francisco Opera House. Some were surprised at how different it was from watching operas on-screen. “Seeing an opera live in front of you and getting to analyze it on the spot with your classmates gives you a completely new perspective,” says Sam Hengst ’18.

What students didn’t expect was the opportunity to meet with the director of the San Francisco Opera, David Gockley, who made time to meet with them during one of their tours. With half a semester of in-class study and a rigorous week of immersion in the world of opera under their belts, students were prepared to ask Gockley questions that helped them to discover the modern parallels to what they learned in class.

Students taking a close look at a wig in a room full of other wigs“We got to see firsthand that the history we’re studying in class is alive and functioning today and is still as rich and complex as it was 200 years ago,” says Elizabeth Allen ’16.

“I think my biggest take-away from this experience is that you need to look at things from many different angles,” says Hengst. “When we do readings, we’re so used to just thinking about things in one way, but on this trip we saw that the world of opera is complex, from the actors and singers to set design and the use of technology. It’s a network, and we couldn’t have gotten such a great understanding of that from just reading about it.”

Through learning about the many complicated components that go into an opera production, these students discovered aspects of opera that they had never expected to be interested in. Allen even discovered an area that may turn into a topic of future research — the way globalization and art collide in modern opera.

“Thinking about The Magic Flute, which is an 18th-century Viennese opera, translated into English in the 21st century by David Gockley, using set design that includes the aesthetics of contemporary Japanese ceramics … it’s something global and contemporary, but still rooted in the past,” Allen says. “Seeing that was a really pivotal experience for me, and I realized that that’s the way I want to look at things in the future.”

For Allen and the other students in the class, learning about the many factors that contribute to opera opened their eyes to viewing things differently and looking beneath the surface of a finished product, a skill that will benefit them no matter what field they go into.

Austin Schilling '17 is a mathematics and German double major from Evanston, Ill.

Sam Hengst '18 is a German major from Madison, Wis.

Elizabeth Allen '16 is from Santa Fe, N.M., and is an art history major.

Reading by Austrian writer, Teresa Präauer

Teresa Praauer photo

Teresa Präauer

The Department of German welcomes Austrian fiction writer, essayist, and visual artist, Teresa Präauer, to campus for a reading on Wednesday, October 7th at 7:30p.m. in the Burling Library Lounge.

Teresa Präauer is the author of the novels Johnny und Jean (2014) and Für den Herrscher aus Übersee [For the Emperor from Overseas], which received the Aspekte prize for best German-language prose debut of 2012, as well as of a book of poetry postcards entitled [Pigeons’ Letters] (2009). In 2015 she received a Droste and a Hölderlin promotion award, and was shortlisted for the Leipzig Book Fair Prize. She regularly publishes on the subjects of poetry, theatre, pop culture and fine arts.

KGB and the Soviet Surveillance State

Cohn EdwardEdward Cohn, assistant professor of history, has won two grants that will support his archival and oral history research on KGB tactics to manage threats to political stability in Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia from the death of Joseph Stalin in 1953 to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. 

He has been awarded a summer stipend from the National Endowment for the Humanities and a Franklin Research Grant from the American Philosophical Society.

Cohn says “My work analyzes how the KGB and its victims defined anti-Soviet activity, highlighting the ways that 20th-century surveillance states sought to prevent crime by collecting information on their citizens, who were forced to adapt to an intrusive and ever-vigilant state."

In recent years, half of all Grinnell applications received NEH funding, compared to 8 percent nationally. Previous winners include Shanna Benjamin, Tammy Nyden, Dan Reynolds, and Ralph Savarese.

About Edward Cohn’s Research

Cohn's research deals with the KGB's efforts to fight political unrest in the Soviet Union's three Baltic republics, which were part of the USSR from 1940 to 1991 and became the center of strong anti-Soviet independence movements. In particular, he focuses on the KGB's efforts to prevent dissent by summoning low-level offenders to supposedly informal meetings with secret police officers, who warned them to change their ways.

Cohn will spend about two months doing research in Vilnius, Lithuania, and Tallinn, Estonia. "KGB archives are almost entirely closed in Russia, but are far more open in the Baltic states," he says.  Cohn will also spend time completing oral history interviews.

The Trauma of War in Weimar Cinema

Tony KaesAnton Kaes, professor of German and film & media, 
University of California-Berkeley, will present
 “The Trauma of War in Weimar Cinema” at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, February 18, in Joe Rosenfield ’25 Center Room 101.

This lecture addresses the invisible, long-term effects of the First World War on German society. Although the lecture will focus on the iconic silent film, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1919), it will make the larger claim that many films today are haunted by the memory of war.

Professor Kaes is the author of several books in English and German that deal with multidisciplinary and comparative aspects of film theory and German film history. His publications include From ‘Hitler’ to ‘Heimat’: The Return of History as Film (Harvard University Press, 1989); M (British Film Institute, 2001), and Shell Shock Cinema: Weimar Culture and the Wounds of War (Princeton University Press, 2009), and the forthcoming co-edited sourcebook, The Promise of Cinema: German Film Theory, 1907-1933 (University of California Press).

Teaching at Berkeley since 1981, he served as Director of Film Studies at UC Berkeley from 1991-1996 and co-director (with Kaja Silverman) 1996-1999; from 2001 to 2006 he was chair of the German Department. In 1985 he co-founded the bi-annual German Film Institute; he has given lectures and workshops in Amsterdam, Berlin, Canberra, Seoul, Tokyo, Beijing, Vienna, and Tel Aviv. Since 1990 he is the co-editor of the book series “Weimar and Now: German Cultural History.” 

This free public lecture is the latest in the Center for the Humanities year-long theme "A Century of War: 1914 and Beyond." Grinnell welcomes and encourages the participation of people with disabilities. You can request accommodations from the Center for the Humanities or Conference Operations.

Cambronero wins Student Research Award

Andres CambroneroAndres Cambronero '15 recently won the 2014 Student Research Award at the North Central Council of Latin Americanists' annual conference for his paper "The Effects of Partisanship on Opinion Formation in the 2007 Referendum on CAFTA in Costa Rica."  

The competitive award is given to a student whose work best contributes to new knowledge of Latin America.

Cambronero is a political science and German double-major.

Wonder, Culture, and the Scientific Method


Panel: 4:15 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 19, Bucksbaum Center Faulconer Gallery
Panel: 4:15 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 21, Bucksbaum Center Faulconer Gallery

A “Wunderkammer,” or room of wonders, was at once a study, a laboratory, and a social space wherein people collected oddities and were inspired to learn more through the cognitive emotion “wonder.” Two panels with Grinnell College faculty investigate the concept of wonder and its manifestations in culture and science.

On November 19 the panel on “Wonder and Culture” will explore how wonder infused and shaped cultural expression in the early modern period.

Speakers are: Vance Byrd, assistant professor of German; Vanessa Lyon, assistant professor of art history; and Catherine Rod, special collections librarian and archivist of the College.

On November 21, “Wonder and the Scientific Method” integrates the seemingly subjective concept of wonder with the development of science as we came to know it. Panelists include: James Lee, assistant professor of English; Tammy Nyden, associate professor of philosophy; and Joshua Sandquist, assistant professor of biology.

Both panels take place in Faulconer Gallery, 641-269-4660.



German Guest Writers Give Public Reading

Reading: 4:15 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 31 Burling Library Lounge


Thomas Pletzinger and Simon Urban will read from their works in English and German. This public is invited to this free event. Refreshments will be served.

In addition to the public reading, both writers will share their insight on the German contemporary writing scene with students and faculty, learn about local farms, and visit the Conard Environmental Research Area.

Thomas Pletzinger's critically acclaimed novel Funeral for a Dog won several awards, including fellowships and teaching positions at the University of Iowa, New York University, and Grinnell College. Pletzinger is currently working on a novel titled Biography of My Left Leg, the story of a man waiting for the amputation of his left leg in a Berlin hospital room. Having already done extensive research in all cities this novel is set in—Prague, Berlin, New York, Hagen, and Paris, the author is in Iowa doing location scouting. He is searching for locations and impressions that will make his story authentic and real. His interest in Iowa stems from a previous stay as the Department of German's 2010 Writer-in-Residence and as a member of the University of Iowa's International Writing Program.

Simon Urban turned to full-time fiction writing after a career in advertising. He is the author of the novel Plan D, which has been translated into eleven languages, and his award-winning short stories have been published in several literary journals. He is currently in residence at the University of Iowa's International Writing Program.

The German Department, the Center for International Studies, the Academic Speakers Fund, and the Center for Prairie Studies are sponsoring Pletzinger and Urban’s visit.

Turkish, German, European

“Germany in the 21st century is decidedly multiethnic and multilingual, reflected particularly in its cinema,” says Berna Gueneli.

First-year students in Gueneli’s Turkish, German, European: Fatih Akin’s Cinema and Multiethnic Germany explore this fact in light of the work of Turkish-German director Fatih Akin. 

They begin the semester studying postwar migration to and from Germany, to understand the demographic shifts and changes that occurred in the course of the 20th century.  “These multidirectional migratory movements are ongoing processes,” says Gueneli.

The students then look at contemporary director Akin’s work. His work “represents a new type of German cinema that reflects Germany’s multiethnic and multilingual diversity,” says Gueneli.  “By the end of this course, we will have learned about one of Germany’s most renowned filmmakers, who happens to be praised as a Turkish director by the Turkish press, as a Turkish-German or German director by the German press, and as a European director at many European film awards.”

Akin and his cinema are all of these: Turkish, German, and European.