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Robert Vega, Director FAC 18 / 2304 Whitis Ave. Stop G6200 78712-1508 • 512-471-7900

Faculty Profiles - Germanic Studies

Dr. Katherine Arens - Cultural & Intellectual History and Language Teaching
Dr. Hans Boas - Linguistics
Dr. Philip Broadbent - Literature and Culture

DR. PHILIP BROADBENT

phillip
Academic Background: Ph.D. & M.A., German, University College London - UK; M.A. and B.A. Honors, English Literature and Language, University of Oxford - UK

Areas of Specialization: Contemporary German fiction; Berlin and the 1950s

What made you decide to go to graduate school?
I knew that I wanted to teach at a university. Beyond that I liked college, though I didn’t really have a sense of what I really wanted to pursue intellectually until half-way through the PhD program.

What was your dissertation topic when you were in grad school?
My German M.A. Thesis looked at the novels of Hubert Fichte and explored Fichte’s preoccupation with language, sexuality and identity. My PhD thesis looked at fictional representations of Berlin after the fall of the Berlin Wall as instances of political and socio-cultural engagements with the contemporary.

What topics do you teach at UT?
I teach courses on contemporary German culture post 1990 as well as introductory courses in European Studies. Every two years I teach and direct a play performed by students in the German department.

What is your current research focus at UT?
I am currently working on a book that explores the movement of cool from the U.S. to Germany in the 1950s, a decade conventionally seen as square. The term cool refers to the broad cultural zeitgeist that pervades midcentury modern art, architecture, film, design, music, literature, and popular culture. My project looks at the development of cool in film, literature and design.

Is there a hot topic currently being discussed by scholars of Germanic Studies in the U.S. or around the world?
Immigrant cultures and writings in Germany. Recent fiction moving away from issues of memory and history.

Did you participate in a research project as an undergraduate?
Yes I did participate in a research project while at Oxford. I worked on a project that looked at Coleridge’s philosophy of Logos in his writings and poetry. I thoroughly recommend students at UT to participate in research projects if only to learn how to research and write.

What makes a good grad student?
Intellectual curiosity and someone interested in learning. The rest will fall into place.

What are your top three tips for students interested in applying to Germanic Studies programs?

  1. Students should make certain that there are faculty in the department who teach/research in the areas in which the student is potentially interested.
  2. Develop the ability to articulate your research interests and show familiarity with issues pertinent to the chosen field of study.
  3. Work on improving your language skills.

What are the top five Germanic Studies graduate programs in the US?

  1. University of California - Berkeley
  2. Indiana University - Bloomington
  3. University of Chicago
  4. New York University
  5. University of Michigan - Ann Arbor

Download Dr. Broadbent's Profile.

DR. HANS BOAS


Academic Background: Ph.D. & M.A., Linguistics, University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill; Undergraduate degrees in English Linguistics and Law, Georg-August-Universitaet Goettingen, Germany

Areas of Specialization: They include syntax, lexical semantics, language documentation, multilingualism, language contact and language death, computational lexicography, pragmatics, phonology, intercultural communication, and history and philosophy of linguistics.

What made you decide to go to graduate school?
I wanted to learn more about how languages work.

What was your dissertation topic when you were in grad school?
A pretty abstract topic: Resultative Constructions in English and German. It's on sentences like "John pounded the metal flat," "I laughed myself silly," or "She ran her shoes threadbare." The dissertation looked at the underlying mechanisms that determine what types of verbs can combine with different types of postverbal elements (objects, resultative phrases).

What topics do you teach at UT?
German Syntax, Lexical Semantics, Construction Grammar, Language contact and death in Texas, The Texas-German Experience, Frame Semantics, Language and Politics, etc. etc. etc.

What is your current research focus at UT?
I'm currently interested in learning how speakers of English and German know how to put sentences together (grammar). Closely related to that is the question of what words mean (think of German "Schadenfreude", for example), and why. How do speakers of different languages view the world differently/similarly? How can we model this knowledge efficiently across different languages? I'm also interested in constructing multilingual lexical databases that can be used for machine translation and foreign language instruction. Finally, I founded the Texas German Dialect Project, which is documenting the unique dialect of Texas German. This dialect was spoken in Texas for more than 150 years and is going extinct. I'm looking at the structural changes in this dialect and am trying to explain why it is dying.

Explore the UT Feature Story of research on dying languages which highlights Dr. Boas' Texas German Dialect Project: "Vanishing Voices," published in January 2010.

Is there a hot topic currently being discussed by Germanic studies scholars in the U.S. or around the world?
German nationalism comes to mind; the status of Germany in the world; and others. Germanic Studies is a wide field, comprising the study of language, literature, and culture (in a very broad sense), and covering a great deal of languages, such as German, Dutch, Norwegian, Swedish, Danish, Icelandic, Yiddish, and Afrikaans. I'm a linguist working primarily on English, German, and Yiddish.

Did you participate in a research project as an undergraduate?
I participated in a research project investigating English dialects of North Carolina. That's what gave me the idea to start the Texas German Dialect Project. Any undergraduate should be exposed to research, if at all possible.

What makes a good grad student?
One who knows what they want. Don't go to graduate school if you're not sure that you ** REALLY ** want to go. Also, one should have a solid academic foundation from the undergraduate degree, good analytical skills, patience, persistence, writing skills, ability to interact with others, and also the ability to laugh about oneself and their research area(s).

What are your top three tips for students interested in applying to a Germanic studies graduate program?

  1. Talk to other students who are in the program.
  2. Talk to the faculty.
  3. Come visit our department and the UT campus.

What are the top five Germanic studies graduate programs in the US?
UT, Indiana, Berkeley, Wisconsin, Michigan (in no particular order)

What careers do alumni generally pursue after graduation from the program?
They work at colleges, universities, high schools, or go into related fields such as publishing, law, foreign service, etc.

Download Dr. Boas' Profile

DR. KATHERINE ARENS


Academic Background: Ph.D., Germanic Studies and Humanities and M.A., German Studies, Stanford University – Stanford, CA; B.A., Physics and German, Northwestern University – Evanston, IL

Areas of Specialization: Germanophone intellectual and cultural history since 1740; Austrian and Habsburg cultural and intellectual history; and language teaching and the teaching of "content-based" and "student-centered" courses.

What made you decide to go to graduate school?
Love of reading. It was one of the few things I was good at.

What was your dissertation topic when you were in grad school?
My dissertation was on a Prague German author and language theorist, Fritz Mauthner, who worked for a while with Martin Buber and who is castigated by Wittgenstein in the Tractatus. He exemplifies the "language crisis" familiar from studies of Vienna in 1900 – a paradigm for language study much more like deconstruction than today's linguistics.

Can you tell us a bit about your areas of specialization?
My work falls into three areas:

  1. Germanophone intellectual and cultural history since 1740 – a specialization which requires me to be able to recreate what texts means in their historical contexts, why they were significant then and remain significant now, and the issues that determine national and cultural identities.
  2. Austrian and Habsburg cultural and intellectual history – a focus not just on today's Austria, but also on the 1000-year old Habsburg and Austro-Hungarian Empire that was the original empire on which the Sun Never Set (in the 1600s and 1700s, Spain, its territories in the New World, the Netherlands, and Central Europe were all under Habsburg control). This specialization brings up questions of coloniality and post-coloniality, of the religious divide between Protestant, Catholic, Islamic, and Jewish European territories, and of Enlightenments other than the familiar French and British ones.
  3. Language teaching and the teaching of "content-based" and '"student-centered" courses == what differences there are in how to teach various content areas, media, and historical epochs.

What is your current research focus at UT?
I have several things going. My just-finished manuscripts looking for publishers are described at my website. Other than that, I am working on a study of science in Vienna at the end of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries -- a science that works quite differently in its use of theory and experimentation than most of the western science we study today.

Is there a hot topic currently being discussed by Germanic studies scholars in the U.S. or around the world?
Identity politics ("living on the hyphen" which in Germany most often means being German-Turkish or German-Jewish). Systems theory (Niklaus Luhmann) is getting very important as a corrective to identity politics.

What topics do you teach at UT?
Cultural studies (film and history, texts and ideas in historical context) in various permutations == texts in philosophy and literature from about 1740 through today, mostly from germanophone contexts, but also including French and English intellectual and cultural history. German intellectual history; cultural theory (feminism, psychoanalysis, linguistics, systems theory, post-structuralism; Frankfurt School; various schools of textual analysis and hermeneutics).

What makes a good grad student?
Someone who realizes that the opportunity to study requires the kind of commitment that we encounter in any white-collar profession: the willingness to work smart, to work long hours where necessary, to work within established traditions as well as being innovative, and to respect the intellectual integrity and norms of the professions, one's peers, and one's students.

What are your top three tips for students interested in applying to a Germanic studies graduate program?

  1. Tell us what projects you are interested in working on.
  2. Show us that you understand the profession.
  3. Read as much as you can as often as you can.

What are the top five Germanic studies graduate programs in the US?

In no particular order: The University of Texas at Austin, University of California - Berkeley, University of Wisconsin, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Cornell University.

What careers do alumni generally pursue after graduation from the program?
Teaching, publishing industry, and international business.

Download Dr. Arens' Profile

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