Interdisciplinary Graduate Student Conference 2018 -Being a Hedgehog: Isolation, Creativity, and Destruction

Submitted by Michael Neininger on
Interdisciplinary Graduate Student Conference 2018 - Vanessa Hester
Interdisciplinary Graduate Student Conference 2018 - Justin Mohler
Interdisciplinary Graduate Student Conference 2018 (3)

After an enthusiastic response to the previous interdisciplinary graduate student conference in spring of 2016, students from across the humanities again gathered to share their research and present papers in an exciting two-day event, May 11th and 12th. Hosted in the Simpson Center for the Humanities and co-sponsored by the Departments of Germanics, French & Italian, Comparative Literature, Cinema & Media Studies and entitled “Being a Hedgehog: Isolation, Creativity, and Destruction,” the conference was a resounding success! 

Our theme this year was intended to bring together students from a variety of disciplines to focus on the concept of isolation, exploring the tension between its purported value for the creative process and its capacity for destruction on an individual as well as national scale. The event featured a keynote speech entitled “The Solitude Project: Security, Surveillance, and the Destruction Compulsion” by Professor Kata Gellen, Andrew W. Mellon Assistant Professor of German at Duke University. The presentation provided a wonderfully thought-provoking start to the conference; her insights drawn from examples in film and literature shed light on the destructive tendencies of isolation and referenced themes taken up and elaborated on by each of the subsequent conference papers.

The Department of Germanics was well-represented at the event. Lead organizer Justin Mohler was supported by fellow graduate students Aaron Carpenter, Matthew Childs, Vanessa Hester, Jeffrey Jarzomb, and Kristina Pilz. Aaron, Matthew, and Jeffrey all served as panel moderators. In addition, Vanessa and Jeffrey also presented their own papers in the first panel. Vanessa focused on her research concerning the animal-human divide in “Die Wand” (“The Barriers Between Animal and Human Come Down Easily: The Transformation of the Isolated Female in Haushofer’s The Wall”) and Jeffrey investigated the role of isolation in Kleist’s creative process (“Heinrich von Kleist: Isolation as Inspiration?”). The eager responses of attendees to these and other presentations spoke volumes as to the advantage of an interdisciplinary approach. The organizers were so pleased with the results of this year’s conference that planning for a similar event next year is already in the works!

For more information on this year’s conference including a list of papers and presenters please feel free to peruse our website (thanks to Aaron for his work in creating it!):