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Christoph Zeller on Rick Gray

Submitted by Michael Neininger on June 29, 2017 - 10:43am
  • Christoph Zeller, Associate Professor of German and European Studies, Director of Graduate Studies
    Christoph Zeller, Associate Professor of German and European Studies, Director of Graduate Studies, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tenn.,
  • rick gray
    Rick Gray

“They say Seattle is a bit like a European city,” Rick said when we first met at the airport. We never met before. I knew his name, his projects, and his writings – enough to fuel my admiration and curiosity, before arriving in the US as a Humboldt fellow. Seconds later I saw the breathtaking skyline of Seattle and the background with the sound to the left and the Cascade Mountain range to the right. There is nothing quite like this in Europe. I soon learned that understatement is but one of many Rick’s wonderful qualities – a scholar of great reputation who has remained incredibly humble. Much like his students, I understood quickly that he is easy to talk to and has a great sense of humor. In his truly excellent books on Nietzsche, Kafka, physiognomic thought, money and literature, and now on W.G. Sebald, his sharp-witted mind is dedicated to analytic truthfulness, combing hermeneutic method with multiple scholarly perspectives, and a broad knowledge base. What better humanities professor could there be? His subtle challenges forced me to think twice and to sharpen my analytical tools before presenting my ideas, ultimately bringing the best out of me. I was truly fortunate to have met a mentor and advisor like Rick Gray and to have been able to rely on his support throughout my academic career here in the US; but I am happiest to call him a friend. I look forward to read the books Rick will publish during the next years and to have many more conversations in the future – conversations that began in one of the most “European cities.” Thank you, Rick.