Greetings from The College of Charleston, South Carolina, where I have held a tenure-track position since the fall of 2007. The CofC is a public university with 10,000 undergraduate students and several Masters programs, but it has the feel and mission of a liberal arts college. In the German section of the Department of German and Slavic Studies, I have three tenured and two part-time colleagues. We have a very healthy undergraduate program and currently boast 34 majors, 30 minors, and 14 German Studies minors. As an Assistant Professor, I have a 3-3 teaching obligation and teach all levels from beginning German to senior level courses.
Since my arrival, I have been excited to continue the theater work with students that I had the good fortune to explore via the “Performing a German Play” course at UW. Thus far, I have offered three advanced German literature and culture courses that culminated in public theater performances. These courses expanded on my previous experiences at UW in that they combined the theater practicum model with the format of an upper level theme course. Each course explored literary and cultural texts from different time periods via acting exercises, theater strategies, and creative writing. During the final five weeks of the semester, course participants reviewed the insights, improvisations, and sketches they had generated over the initial ten weeks and chose different “numbers” to rehearse and perform in a final, cabaret-style public performance. Thus far I have taught the course in three different iterations: “Laughing Matters,” a course on comedy in German literature and culture (Fall 2007), “Love Matters,” on melodrama and love (Spring 2009), and “Freedom Matters,” on freedom and revolution (Spring 2011).
In the final public performances, my students have done fabulously and have received rave reviews from their fellow German students, my colleagues, and from native speakers from the community. The most recent performance, the “Freedom Happening” on April 22nd, 2011, demonstrates their accomplishments not only as actors but also as authors. The overarching frame for the performance, developed and written by two of the students, was that of a revolutionary Raumbesetzung: in the opening sequence, the seven course participants stormed the lecture hall and declared a sit-in aimed at emancipating the audience.
In what followed, the students performed different scenes, including a group recitation of Goethe’s “Prometheus,” several songs, passages from Heiner Müller’s Hamletmaschine, and a five-minute fairy-tale version of Büchner’s Woyzeck performed with a narrator and sock puppets. As was the case with the frame and the shortened version of Woyzeck, most of the numbers came directly from the students’ written work or were based on ideas developed during in-class improvisation games and acting exercises. Student-written sketches included “Kant besucht das CofC,” in which Kant attempts to present his Aufklärung essay to perpetually distracted, cell phone using college students in 2012; an episode of the ARD Presseclub on freedom with special guests from throughout the ages; and the sketch “Eichinger in der Unterwelt,” in which the film producer Bernd Eichinger descends into the underworld after his death and meets the historical figures portrayed in his film Der Baader Meinhof Komplex. A further scene composed by the students escalated the sit-in frame and highlighted the contradictory interests at the heart of the 1968 student movement: upset by their inability to change the audience through theatrical performance, the ensemble took one of my colleagues hostage and forced him to read a list of demands to the rest of the audience. But as my colleague read the demands, it became clear that they had been written by different troupe members; they were so contradictory that the group began to argue with one another while their hostage escaped.
While experimenting with theater strategies in my courses, I have begun to explore their pedagogical implications in my own research. In the summer of 2010, I received a two-month DAAD summer grant to conduct research at the Universität der Künste Berlin on Theaterpädagogik and creative writing as approaches to foreign language literature. My essay “German Literature and Culture under Revue: Learner Autonomy and Creativity through the Theme-based Theater Practicum” will appear this May in volume 45.1 of Die Unterrichtspraxis / Teaching German. This fall, my book chapter “Literatur liberated from Wissenschaft: Writerly Approaches to Literature Across the German Undergraduate German Curriculum” will appear in Traditions and Transitions. Curricula for German Studies. Eds. John L. Plews and Barbara Schmenk. Wilfrid Laurier University Press.
Heather I. Sullivan has been promoted to full professor of German at Trinity University in San Antonio, TX. She began teaching at Trinity in 1995 after completing the Ph.D. in comparative literature with an emphasis on German at the University of Washington.
Please check out this link to the Trinity website which connects to several recent publications:
Her most recent work is:
“Affinity Studies and Open Systems: A Nonequilibrium, Ecocritical Reading of Goethe’s Faust.” Ecocritical Theory: New European Approaches, eds. Axel Goodbody and Kate Rigby. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2011; 243-255.
Germanics Studies Undergrad, 1979
Robin participated as an ambassador in her company’s international volunteer program in northeastern Ghana November 26-December 10th. As part of their corporate social responsibility commitment, Eli Lilly and Company inaugurated the Connecting Hearts Abroad (CHA) program in 2011 sending 200 employees for 2-week volunteer stints in schools, orphanages, nursing homes, community organizations and health care sites around the world.
Ghana was one of 10 countries that employees were sent to over the course of 2011 including Russia, China, India, Thailand, Costa Rica, Brazil and Tanzania. Lilly paired with Cross-Cultural Solutions (CCS), an international non-profit that operates short-term volunteer programs, in order to tap into their extensive network of community partnerships. CCS set up the 2-week CHA placements and coordinated additional cultural, language and immersion experiences. Robin is a 22-year veteran at Lilly and has found her UW Germanics and REEU Studies degrees invaluable over the course of her international pharmaceutical marketing career.