Newly Minted PhD: Vanessa Hester

Submitted by Michael Neininger on
Vanessa Hester

This March, I successfully defended my dissertation titled “Invisible Dangers: the Presentation of Modern Environmental Threats and the Anthropocene in Contemporary German Literature.” In my research I analyze how literary narratives depict modern ecological threats such as climate change or nuclear disasters that we as human individuals cannot see with our own eyes. Here, I identify three recurring strategies that these literary texts employ to refer to these hazards. First, these literary works are narrated from the perspective of single human individuals who describe how they envision these threats in their everyday life. Second, the texts themselves are widely hybrid and combine the features of several traditional literary genres such as travel writing, autobiographical writing or science-fiction writing. And third, the significance of the first-person narrators influences the language and influences the repeated use of metaphors and allegories that compare these invisible dangers to familiar phenomenon in our everyday life.

Over the past three years the relevance of my research in my own life has continued to motivate me. Especially during the last year during the COVID-19 pandemic I have encountered several complications that have given me sleepless nights: from not being able to work anymore at my favorite coffeeshops in Greenwood to closed libraries. But in the end, I was very thrilled that I was able to finish the project (for now), and complete a significant milestone in my life.

I would like to thank the department for their continued support and without whom the realization of this project would have not been possible. Sabine Wilke was an excellent advisor, or “Doktormutter”, and her extensive feedback and her unique ideas impacted my work significantly. I am also very grateful for the support of my fellow graduate students in our colloquium sessions. And my special thanks go to our very own Stephanie Welch, our administrator, for her repeated words of encouragement and her work as editor.

After completing my PhD, I am currently taking some time off to explore some new career opportunities and work on my professional profile.