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Congratulations to Vanessa Hester: Hanauer Fellow 2018-19 and Bansleben Summer Dissertation Stipend

Submitted by Michael Neininger on June 14, 2019 - 1:19pm
Vanessa Hester
Vanessa Hester

In the past academic year, I have been representing the department as a Hanauer Fellow (2018-2019). The Joff Hanauer Fellowship is awarded each year to six graduate students from various departments within the Humanities and beyond. It provides the unique opportunity to discuss the Western cultural tradition from the viewpoints of different disciplines, preparing students for interdisciplinary scholarship. Together with five other graduate students from the departments of English (Emily George, Alex McCauley), Classics (Joshua Zacks), Geography (Robert Anderson), and the UW School of Art, Art History and Design (Heidi Biggs), I attended a bi-weekly seminar led by our very own Prof. Sabine Wilke where we explored the longstanding Western tradition of representing non-human beings and spaces in art, literature, and performance.

In our regular seminars, we discussed numerous works from the German tradition such as excerpts from Alexander von Humboldt’s travel journals, Jacob von Uexhüll’s theory on Umwelt, as well as Yoko Tawada’s contemporary text Etüden im Schnee. Additionally, we also had the opportunity to go on numerous interesting field trips. We visited art exhibitions at the Henry Art Gallery and the Frye Museum, watched a theatre adaptation of Shakespeare’s As you like it at the Centre Theater by the Seattle Shakespeare Company, and walked around Piper Creek, an ecological restoration site in North Seattle.

The theme of this year’s Hanauer seminar has influenced the work on my dissertation tremendously. While my dissertation analyzes the presentation of environmental threats of the Anthropocene (such as nuclear catastrophes and climate change) in contemporary German literature, many of the metaphorical and semiotic concepts that are used to refer to these perils have a longstanding cultural tradition. Besides this significant influence on my academic work, the Hanauer Fellowship also gave me the opportunity to meet inspiring young scholars with similar interests, but from different disciplines.

Additionally, I am elated to receive this year’s Manfred Bansleben Summer Research Stipend with which the department recognizes my research in the field of the Environmental Humanities and contemporary German literature.