From Goethe to Elfriede Jelinek: Hebrew University and Freie Universität Berlin launch joint English-language lecture series on German literature


Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, oil on canvas, by Joseph Karl Stieler (Public domain via Wikimedia Commons)February 23, 2014: A new two-semester lecture series on German literature was launched last week at the Hebrew University in cooperation with Freie Universität Berlin. The series is intended to give a new impetus to German studies at the Hebrew University. The lectures are being given in English and will deal with the most important German-speaking writers. They are being given by prominent German studies professors from Freie Universität Berlin and other German and international universities. The Axel Springer Lecture Series on German Literature is being sponsored by the Axel Springer Foundation.

The lecture series includes 25 events and cover German literature from the Middle Ages to the 21st century. The opening lecture was held on Mount Scopus by Hans-Jürgen Schings, one of the preeminent experts on literature and drama of the Enlightenment and the Classical Period in German literature. Schings, a professor of German literature at Freie Universität Berlin, will give a lecture on Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s Faust.

Lectures scheduled for the summer semester will be devoted to Thomas Mann and Franz Kafka, as well as more contemporary writers such as Christa Wolf or Herta Müller. After each lecture there will be a compact seminar for students at the Hebrew University. During the following winter semester, literature from earlier periods will be included, beginning with courtly love poems (Minnesang) of the Middle Ages.

The lecture was designed and is being coordinated by Prof. Susanne Zepp along with Prof. Anne Fleig (German literature) and Prof. Joachim Küpper (Comparative literature) at Freie Universität Berlin, in close cooperation with their colleagues in Jerusalem, Prof. Yoav Rinon, head of the School of Literature, and Prof. Reuven Amitai, Dean of the Faculty of Humanities. Dr. Karin Neuburger coordinates the project at the Hebrew University’s Division of German Language and Literature. The interdisciplinary DAAD Center for German Studies and the Franz Rosenzweig Minerva Research Center for German-Jewish Literature and Cultural History at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem are also involved.

Over the longer term, the lecture series is intended to contribute to strengthening and rebuilding German literature as a subject at the university. “Many students show great interest in learning German and getting more acquainted with German culture,” says Prof. Zepp. Prof. Amitai adds, “The lecture series is a unique opportunity to give our students a new perspective on German literature, culture, and history. It is an important component of the close academic cooperation between Berlin and Jerusalem.”

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Freie Universität Berlin are cooperating within the framework of a strategic partnership, which includes exchange programs and joint research projects in the humanities and natural sciences. The two university presidents, Prof. Menahem Ben-Sasson and Prof. Peter-André Alt, stressed that the new initiative demonstrates the excellent dynamics of this partnership and is evidence of what the two universities can achieve together.

In sponsoring this lecture series, the Axel Springer Foundation, 60 years after its founding, aims to contribute further to German-Israeli understanding. Beginning in the 1960s the publisher Axel Springer used his foundation to contribute to social, cultural, and academic projects in Israel. This commitment is continued by the foundation to this day.

Source: Marketing & Communication, Hebrew University