Film Night: “Free to Rock – How Rock & Roll Helped End the Cold War”

by Zoey Tu ‘21

On November 13, a film event was held by the Durden Dickinson Program in Bremen, at the suggestion of the U.S. Consulate General Hamburg. It was also a featured event for all students who take German 340 “Comparative Cultures: USA-Germany.” In addition to the required reading materials in class, which mainly focused on political issues, the film offered a distinctive perspective of the American cultural influence in the communist world from the 1950s to the 1990s – how soft power played a significant role during the Cold War.

Doug Yeager, the producer of this documentary film, attended the event and was interviewed after the film by Dr. Janine Ludwig, Academic Director of our program. Yeager gave insights about his motivation for making this documentary and emphasized again the huge but unconscious power of music as well as other kinds of popular culture. He talked about the twelve-year process for the team to complete this documentary, which includes interviews with Jimmy Carter, the former president of the United States, and Mikhail Gorbachev, former leader of the Soviet Union, who both realized the significant role of rock bands in the USSR and recognized the idea of freedom behind this specific music genre.

The 60-minute film introduced how rock music influenced the young generations in East Germany and the Soviet Union, explained how it was banned in the socialist world, and how it contributed to the collapse of the Iron Curtain. When rock music first came to the socialist world, it won great popularity among the youth. It awoke and inspired the young generations to demand the right to listen and play the music they loved and the right to express themselves freely. However, the idea of rock music – freedom and rebellion – was against the authoritarian governance of the Soviet Union.

It was a battle between two different ideologies: Democracy and Commu-nism. The US government hoped that rock music could be used as a certain means of propaganda. Looking at the results, this type of cultural propaganda was effective. The dissatisfaction among the Soviet public due to the censorship of rock music eventually led to movements as well as riots between the youth and the police, urging for freedom of expression. The idea of freedom, represented by rock music, also widely spread to the Baltic countries, since they demanded independence from Soviet control as well.

All pictures: © Calvin Wirfel

Compared to other factors, the soft power of pop culture has been less discussed in public discourse when analyzing the causes of the collapse of the Soviet Union. However, it is an area that is worth further research. Therefore, the influence of US pop culture is included in the syllabus of the German 340 class, taught by Dr. Ludwig, and will be discussed further. Moreover, besides the required readings and the class discussion, the film is also a good supplement for the students to gain a better understanding of different cultural influences.

Please hear a sound bite here:

Please find the link to the movie presentation here: https://www.freetorockmovie.com/

and the poster here: Poster Free2Rock Bremen rev.0

A cooperation between the William G. and Elke Durden Dickinson Bremen Program, U.S. Consulate General Hamburg (specifically Dr. Susanne Wiedemann, Cultural Affairs Assistant), Carl Schurz German-American Club (specifically Ulf-Brün Drechsel, Vice President), the University of Bremen, especially the department English Speaking Cultures (specifically Dr. Karin Esders-Angermund), and the Institute for Cultural German Studies (ifkud).

5th Dickinson College Public Lecture (DCPL)

“Germany’s Role in Defending Europe and the Emergence of a New European Security Architecture” with Prof. Andrew T. Wolff

Andy Wolff (l.) and Rick Yoneoka (r.)

On June 5, 2019, Andy Wolff, Dickinson Political Science Professor and Resident Director of the European Studies Program in Bologna, Italy, gave the fifth Dickinson College Public Lecture. Prof. Wolff’s talk posed questions about the current state of transatlantic approach to the security of Europe. The lecture took place in the tower hall of the Bremen Cotton Exchange (Bremer Baumwollbörse) to a crowd of Bremen citizens. His lecture was preceded by comments of distinguished guest Richard Yoneoka, U.S. Consul General in Hamburg, and the discussion was moderated by Prof. Dr. Ulrich Franke, member of the Institute for Intercultural and International Studies at Uni Bremen.

Angie Harris (left) with studen

The DCPL is organized by Dr. Janine Ludwig, Academic Director of the William G. and Elke Durden Dickinson Bremen Program, and Neil van Siclen, President of the Carl Schurz German-American Club, Bremen. A reception with refreshments was held after the lecture at which our Dickinson students helped to serve the guests and engaged in discussions themselves. Also present was Angie Harris, Associate Dean of Students, who visited the program. Please find more photos and media below.

Here the full description of the talk: “The Transatlantic approach to providing security for Europe, i.e. American involvement through NATO and deepening European integration is being challenged internally and externally. The United States has become hesitant to lead NATO, Russia is an assertive and revanchist power, and the European Union is in danger of fragmenting. How does Germany fit into this new security environment? What policy choices does Germany have for the construction of a new European security architecture? As Europe’s politics and security become more unstable, Germany must make difficult decisions that will impact the future of Europe and the transatlantic alliance.” 5th DCPL 2019 Flyer

 

Moderator Anneke ter Veen, Producer of the TV Talkshow „Budder bei die Fische – Der Ter Veen Talk,“ talking to Consul General of the USA, Richard Yoneoka (in German):

Meeting a famous politician

by Dr. Janine Ludwig

On May 19, 2019, we had the great pleasure to visit Dr. Rudolf Seiters who had been the Federal Minister for Special Affairs and Head of the Office of the German Chancellery of the FRG under Helmut Kohl from April 1989 to November 1991. In this position, he successfully negotiated with the GDR government under Erich Honecker the passage of the East German refugees in the West German embassy in Prague to the Federal Republic of. He was responsible for diplomatic relations with several major East German governmental figures during the 1989 revolution (Honecker, Egon Krenz, Dr. Hans Modrow) and later involved in negotiating the contract for German Unification.

Dr. Seiters discussed the events of 1989/90 with our students and shared deep political insight into the highest positions at the time. We found him to be a wonderful person, who was able to convey serious historical information in a very compelling way. For instance, he described how he took over his position and all the files from Wolfgang Schäuble in April 1989 after being alerted about the most pressing issues – there was no mention of the GDR at the time. Nobody knew what was coming and how drastically things would change just a few months later. He also relayed the anecdote of how an employee asked him on the afternoon of November 9 whether he could leave early for his child’s birthday. He said, “Sure, nothing much will happen today anymore.” Little did he know that that night the Berlin Wall would fall. His honest and entertaining way of explaining political work from an insider’s perspective was most intriguing to our students – some of whom had already met former East German Head of State Dr. Hans Modrow and heard about many of the same political events from a West German perspective.

In 1991, Seiters became Minister of the Interior, a position from which he had to step back in 1993 due to the shooting of the RAF terrorist Wolfgang Grams in Bad Kleinen, although it was widely agreed that he had done nothing wrong. From 1998 to 2002, Seiters was Vice President of the German Bundestag and until 2017 President of the German Red Cross.

It was a wonderful opportunity for us and very kind that Dr. Seiters and his wife, despite busy calendars, hosted us in their house in Papenburg, a small town roughly two hours away from Bremen. After that meeting, we visited the “Van Velen Complex,” a settlement of mostly tiny houses and cots from the 17th century – in a town that was built on dried marshland.

Please find a video in German here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jeh_gdDtF6I

After that the long day, some of us went to see our beloved soccer team Werder Bremen who happened to play a friendly match that day against SC Blau-Weiß 94 Papenburg – on a small playing field that allowed us to see the likes of Claudio Pizarro, Max Kruse, and Josh Sargent close up.

 

Here is a short video of a corner kick from that match:

GRMN 340: Comparative Cultures

When I first enrolled into the course, I was skeptical at what we would be discussing, because as an American raised in the 21st century, I’ve never had to think much about Germans in the context of American culture. I appreciated the way this course was able to go through every major era in U.S. history, speaking about the German presence in each. I also enjoyed hearing more about the German perspective on America (as I’ve never really thought before what Germans think of us… I had no idea how Americanized Germany is, but it makes sense considering the U.S. occupied Germany for many years). It was nerve-racking to complete a 15-minute presentation ‘auf Deutsch,’ but I’m grateful I was able to get some practice before completing presentations in other classes. Overall, I feel like a I learned a lot from the course and enjoyed it very much. >Liz Bodenman<

I really enjoyed the course “Kultur heißt vergleichen: USA / Deutschland.” It was very challenging for me to read long texts in German, but it improved my knowledge of the language greatly. Overall, I learned a lot in this course, and I especially enjoyed studying German-American migration patterns. The trip to Bremerhaven was helpful and informative. I also enjoyed learning about the impact of American and Western culture in the GDR. >Malou Planchard<

I really liked the seminar because I learned a lot about the relationship between Germany and the US that I didn’t know before. It was great to learn about this changing relationship over the course of history and how its developments have influenced our thinking today. Moreover, we had a lot of interesting discussions which were very informative and a great place for exchange of ideas and opinions especially since all the attendees were from different countries. >Isabell Hamm<

I thought the course was really insightful for the relationship between the US and Germany. I liked that we started in the 19th century because most people often start with World War I and omit the immigration influx. Also, I liked looking through the lens of pop culture throughout the 20th century because in America, we only focus on the political tensions. It was unique to also read it from a German perspective of how they viewed cultural traits and where did they come. I thought the discussions went well as we had good debates, and Dr. Ludwig furthered the discussion. >Sandi Kadric<

Roaring Twenties

I enjoyed learning about the stereotypes both America and Germany have formed on one another. I also enjoyed learning about how German people emigrated to America in search of “The American Dream” as I think that this mentality was still as prominent in recent years as it was over 200 years ago. However, my favorite part of the seminar was discussing more recent historical aspects (1920’s-present). Anti-war protests, “the roaring twenties” and women’s rights movements particularly interested me. I also enjoyed learning about Iraq and Palestine and perhaps how the media influences a great deal of what we view on television/in the media. Finally, it was great learning a different approach on how to read articles/pieces of writing. I now know the importance in not believing everything I read as there are many factors to take into consideration such as the writers’ viewpoint/sources which influence what we read. >Amy Hughes<

What interested me the most about this seminar was the content specifically. There was a lot of material and texts given for the students to learn, in more detail, about the topics discussed. This was extremely helpful in understanding each topic every week. Personally, I found the topic I done my presentation on the most intriguing because of how much more I learned by all my research in order to understand as much as I could for my presentation. Overall, I learned an unbelievable amount of content about each topic which in turn, made me very interested in this module. I enjoyed this seminar immensely throughout the semester. >Lisa Doyle<

Berlin Excursion January 2019

Stasi

by Sandi Kadric ‘20

We visited the Stasi Museum and prison. We learned about the operations of Stasi, and how involved they were in East and somewhat West Germany. In the museum, we saw how many files they had for each individual, e.g. what they bought, where they lived, where they worked, what facial features they had, etc. We looked at the technology they used to spy on others and how outdated it seems today. Our tour guide also explained how Stasi members were trained, and how they would spy on people such as going into their apartments when the family was away. The tour guide did a great job of explaining how big of an influence the Stasi was, and how much bigger they were than other organizations such as the Gestapo. We also visited a Stasi prison and the tour guide was falsely imprisoned. He showed us all the prison rooms and he shared his experiences. He explained the circumstances and situations in the prison really well, such as sanitary conditions, the mental, physical, and emotional abuse.  The tour guide shared his own experience of how he was captured, and how it was a struggle to have a normal life after being in prison for so long when he was finally released.

 

B.K. and Christa Tragelehn

by Liz Bodenman ‘20

After a few days in Berlin learning about the living conditions in East Germany, on Saturday, January 13th, we had the pleasure of meeting a man and his wife who had, as I like to put it, lived the full East German experience. They had lived not only through the everyday difficulties in the GDR, but through the specialized difficulties of being at the center of a theater scandal. Theater Director, author, and translator B.K. Tragelehn, an older, kind-eyed gentleman who enjoys stroking his cat and smoking cigars, welcomed us into his warm and cozy apartment for a chat and “Kaffee und Kuchen.” As we entered, his wife began serving us immediately, being the perfect hostess, and letting us gawk at the 18,000 books that covered their walls.

Christa & B.K. Tragelehn (middle) with group (Mary, Dr. Ludwig, Liz, Sandi, Dr. Falk Strehlow)

Gently puffing away at his cigar, Herr Tragelehn recounted the pinnacles of his life. Being a child in Dresden whose family was subjected to the WWII bombings (firestorm). Befriending and working alongside famous playwrights Bertolt Brecht, Erich Engel, and Heiner Müller. Meeting his wife for the first time (who he has been with for over fifty-five years). And perhaps most fascinating, being sentenced to work in the coal mines after directing the

B.K. Tragelehn with Liz

GDR-critical play Die Umsiedlerin in 1961. His wife chipped into the story too, explaining how difficult it was to live on little money, trying to make ends meet while her husband toiled in the mines.

Visiting the Tragelehns was my favorite part of Dickinson in Bremen’s Berlin excursion. It was truly awesome to meet such kind Berliners who were willing to give us a glimpse into the East German world. It was a very valuable, memorable experience.

 

Mary, Dr. Ludwig, Liz, Sandi (from left) at the German Historical Museum

 

German 340 – Comparative Cultures: USA – Germany

Every Fall, Dickinson students take this seminar, together with German students. In this course, we reconstruct and evaluate important stages in the more than 300-years old history of German-American relations. Then we ask in which way both cultures have mutually influenced each other.

First, we looked at German emigration to America. In the US census of 1980, more than one fourth of US Americans stated to have German ancestors. For a long time, Germans represented the largest immigration group in the USA with “parallel societies,” but today Germans are completely assimilated. The special history and stories of German immigration appear to be almost forgotten. In the second part of the seminar, we traced the ambivalent image of America as a motor of modernity and a symbol of capitalism – as it developed in the second half of the 19th century. We saw in which way America has always been seen as the “other,” as a counter project to European culture and society – as model and competitor, myth and object of scrutiny, as a target of wishes and dreams, but also of fears and attacks. In the third part, we critically evaluated the transfer of US American pop culture to the former Federal Republic of Germany (BRD) after 1945, with a side-glance to the German Democratic Republic (GDR). Many points of criticism that have been and still are being voiced towards the American culture (which is supposed to be flat, fixated on money, and the like) seem to be contemporary ideas – and yet, we found out that most of them are actually 100-150 years old.

Based upon these insights, we could eventually analyze up-to-date resentments, recent events, alienations, and stereotypes more profoundly and better classify similarities as well as differences in socio-cultural attitudes of both countries. >Dr. Janine Ludwig<

This is what students said:

In my opinion the class was very interesting. It was a good decision to choose it as “General Studies.” I really liked learning about the history and the relationship between America and Germany. Especially the fact that the class consists of students from both countries was really enriching, because of the different perspectives. That made the discussions in class much more interesting. I really liked how the seminar was structured, that we started with the history 300 years ago and ended with the present. Because of that well-structured system it was very informative. One of the most interesting aspects for me was the emigration from Germany to America. By preparing a presentation about the topic and reading many texts about it, I learned a lot. In this context the trip to Bremerhaven to the “Auswandererhaus” was a great experience for me. >Patricia Brüggemeier<

I especially found this course  interesting because not only is it composed of class discussions, but also constitutes presentations and field trips, which were helpful in understanding Germany and its culture. For example, during the semester we had the opportunity to visit two different cities. We first visited the emigration center in Bremerhaven, where German immigrants first took off on their journey to America. There, we were able to experience and learn about the process of the Germans’ emigration and immigration.

Dr. Hans Modrow

In December, we visited Berlin, where we learned much about German politics. One of the most exciting experiences was when we met Dr. Hans Modrow, an East German politician who experienced WW II and was the last communist premier of the GDR. Other than the two field trips, we also presented on topics that we chose in the beginning of the semester. Doing the presentation definitely helped me understand the course material better and also to prepare myself for other “Referate” that I had to do for my other classes. >Kyu Ri Hong<

Although I have studied American history and German history separately in the past, it was really interesting to focus on how they relate to one another. One thing I especially enjoyed was when Prof. Ludwig talked about her own experiences growing up in the DDR. It was incredible to see the actual files that the Stasi had on her father. To us, the GDR seemed more like history. Now it feels much more recent and learning about it helped me better understand current-day Germany. Personal experiences helped me fully absorb what we were learning. Also, having grown up in Pennsylvania, I was interested in our classes which covered my state’s close ties to Germany. Many people I know have German heritage, and now I understand their history a little better. I feel like I have a much clearer picture of the influence the US and Germany have had over one another. >Frances Youmans<

I have never wondered about the relationship between the United States and Germany. Therefore, I’m not sure why I’ve chosen a course called Comparative Cultures – USA / Germany. Anyway, I do have a few prejudices about the USA. Especially in the last one or two years the public opinion in Germany about the image of the USA changed for the worse and so had mine. That’s the reason why it’s so exciting to look back on the history and ask ourselves how and why the relationship between the USA and Germany changed and developed from last 300 years to today. Maybe we can learn something from this history? What I’ve learned is understanding. Understanding for the different historic experiences of each state and how it has formed the societies and their positions on both sides of the Atlantic. I’ve got a new perspective on the relationship between the United States and Germany. >Maike Schukenbrock<

One topic of the seminar that I enjoyed was the Americanization of Germany. While living in Germany, I have noticed an American influence here. I always hear people referencing Hollywood movies, talking about American bands, or using English words and I never really knew where this came from. I just assumed it had something to do with the American occupation of Germany and the fact that the U.S. is an influential country. It was interesting to learn about the details of Americanization, such as how different groups have reacted to it, what aspects in particular have taken hold in Germany, and why young people have gravitated towards American culture. Both the class readings and ones I found on my own were helpful in better understanding the topic. I enjoyed building off of what we learned in class, while researching for the paper. Because the topic of Americanization is so big, it was nice to be able to focus on what interested me. At the beginning of the semester we did a lesson on German immigration to the U.S. and how Germans have impacted American culture. I liked learning about the exchange between the two countries and how over the past hundreds of years both have played a role in shaping the other’s culture. >Molly Burger<

There were some very interesting parts of German 340, and most topics I found very intriguing, but if I have to pick a favorite, it would be the German influence of Pennsylvanian (in addition to other German communities that existed within the United States). Growing up, my Nana always talked about how we were Pennsylvania Dutch. From her home cooked meals to the way that she decorated her house, she always made a point that she was influenced by Pennsylvania Dutch traditions. I always used to take note of that, but I never really looked into what it really meant until I started studying German 3 years ago. In my previous German classes, the Pennsylvania Dutch traditions were always mentioned, but they were never fully elaborated, as they were in this class. I am very appreciative to have a better understanding of my heritage, as well as the traditions and the historical background that came along with that. I guess my lack of knowledge regarding the traditions that come along with my heritage really attests to how well integrated my German ancestors were into American society. Going to the emigration Museum in Bremerhaven was particularly interesting because I was able to see the common conditions of German immigrants to America. While I was not able to trace back my relatives to see if they immigrated from Bremerhaven because no one in my family knows the surnames, it was interesting to imagine what it was like for my an-cestors who immigrated to American from Germany all those years ago. I will definitely do some more research and reading on this because of its interesting nature in addition to the personal connection that the topic has for me. >Ben Soder<

I found the second half of this course particularly interesting because I learned new things about the German history and culture from the last century. In particular, the terms Deutscher Sonderweg and Americanization were both new for me, and I think that they both reveal something very important about the German culture. We discussed that the term Deutscher Sonderweg claims that the country Germany is unique because it has changed its government from aristocracy to democracy in a way that is incomparable to any other European countries. This opinion about the unique German path causes disputes and one can easily argue that every single country is unique in its own way because no country on earth has ever gone through the “normal path.” Furthermore, after the collapse of 1945, the term Sonderweg took a rather negative meaning because of Hitler’s rules and Germany’s fault in the Second World War. After we learned about the Sonderweg, we concentrated a lot on the aftermath of WWII and in particular, the role which the USA has played in Germany and the way the USA has been perceived by the Germans throughout the past decades.

For me it was interesting to learn more about the American influence on the development of German culture in the second half of the last century and to discuss whether or not there is room and proof to believe that the Germans have been Americanized in a different way than any other nation. Some claim this because of the state in which West Germany found itself after WWII – had it not been for the American support, it would probably not have recovered so fast from its loss. The presence of Americans was also important because of the cultural changes and influences that they brought with themselves – economic support and interdependence as well as pop culture were among the most interesting topics for me. I found the last classes that we had (for example, the class in which we discussed rock music or the last class in which we had the debate between “Americans” and “Germans”) very intriguing because the events which we discussed are still relatively fresh in our memory, and I also believe I can relate more so to the last century because my parents and grandparents have talked to me a lot about this period of our history and have shared their own experiences with me. Hence, reading more about this part of the German history gave me a new perspective and helped me understand better the relationship between Germany and the USA and which events have been important in shaping the interdependence between the two countries. >Stefani Zaharieva<

The William ’71 and Elke Durden Literary Series at Bremen #3: Lana Lux

by Janine Ludwig

For the third William ’71 and Elke Durden Literary Series at Bremen on November 9, 2017, we cooperated with the Institute for Cultural German Studies (IfkuD) at the University of Bremen. The student workshop, organized by Dr. Janine Ludwig, was the opener of a three-day conference on German-language literature written by migrant writers from Eastern Europe and Russia, under the title: Migration Foreground, Province Background. German Speaking (World) Literature from Eastern Europe.

In this workshop, the Dickinsonians currently studying in Bremen and German students talked with the author Lana Lux about her debut novel Kukolka. The novel tells the story of an orphan child named Samira who lives in a protectory in Dnipropetrovsk, Eastern Ukraine. At the age of seven, she loses her best friend Marina who is adopted by a wealthy German couple. Subsequently, she decides to flee the orphanage, hoping to make her way to Germany to reunite with Marina. Instead, she finds a new “home” in an Oliver-Twist-like gang of teenage beggars and thieves led by the pimp Rocky who adores her and calls her Kukolka (Russian for “little doll”). For years, she thinks he is saving money for her to make her finally see the “land of plenty” called Germany. When, at the age of twelve, she finds out  that this will never happen, she leaves him for a beautiful young man named Dima who becomes her great love and promises to take her to the wonderland that is Germany. He keeps his promise, but only to talk her into and later force her into prostitution. While still clinging to her naïve hopes for a better life, she ends up in a brothel with other Eastern European girls, with similar stories and the same shattered dreams. Samira manages to escape again, and a Ukrainian woman named Olga who can translate between both worlds helps her to finally meet her friend Marina again after eight years of separation.

With Lana Lux, who came to Germany at the age of ten from the same town as her protagonist, we discussed the different images and (mis-)perceptions of Germany as a new dreamland for migrants. Lux read passages from her both funny and hyper-realistic novel which we then analyzed. In this lively talk, our guest answered the students’ questions and told memorable stories from her childhood in the Ukraine, her first impressions as a school child in Germany, her experiences of being discriminated against as a Jew, and her yearning for her homeland which she has not visited in almost twenty years.

Lana Lux describing the scrutiny at the border control when she entered Germany

The workshop also related to our current seminar “German 340 – Comparative Cultures – USA/Germany” in which we analyze the former emigration from Germany to the United States and the myth of America as a “promised land” for immigrants. Comparing these findings, we opened the discussion to larger questions of flight and migration and cast a cultural studies oriented glance at the current image of Germany in the world.

At the evening of the same day, Lana Lux gave a public reading of her novel which was also sponsored by Bill and Elke Durden as part of our Literary Series. The IfkuD conference, which was open to our students as an opportunity to take a peek at up-to-date German academia, also cooperated with the renowned international literary festival globaleo (November 3-13).

Further information:

http://www.deutschlandstudien.uni-bremen.de/aktuelles/

http://globale-literaturfestival.de/

 

 

 

Annual Report 2016-17

Another year has gone by. Another group of students has spent a year in Bremen and has gone back to Dickinson for their senior year. Please find our program report on what we did in this past academic year here:

Durden Dickinson Bremen Program – Annual Report 2016-17

 

Greetings from Bremen!

Janine Ludwig, Academic Director

The William ’71 and Elke Durden Literary Series at Bremen #2: Thomas Meinecke

Workshop, Reading, DJ-Set

by Janine Ludwig

On June 2nd and 3rd, 2017, the Durden Dickinson Program in Bremen hosted the acclaimed writer Thomas Meinecke.

Please find the poster here: DLS Meinecke 2017 Poster (Grafikdesign Sibyll Wahrig)

Meinecke and Ludwig. Foto: Verena Mertz

Thomas Meinecke has received several prizes and many labels: postmodern author, writer of pop literature – although pop philosophy would be more accurate – feminist writer and even queer studies icon, because his new novel Self will surely become a reference text. Meinecke’s other professions as a musician, texter and singer of the alternative cult band F.S.K., as a DJ (Berghain, Pudel Club a.o.) and performer with the format “turntable” (Plattenspieler) at the Berliner Hebbel am Ufer, seem to reflect in his postmodern writing style: His writing technique has been described as sampling, t.i. mixing and juggling with phenomena of 20th and 21st century pop history as well as of diasporas and gender identities, and is based on a wide theoretical background, ranging from Judith Butler to Barbara Vinken.

 

Public lecture and DJ-Set in the club Spedition on June 3rd

Meinecke and Ludwig during the reading. Foto: Verena Mertz

His brand new novel Self (“Selbst”) deals mainly with blurring (gender) identities, love, and erotic desire by analyzing phenomena from fashion (androgynous models), music/ entertainment (e.g. David Bowie or Mykki Blanco music videos), and life style (techno clubs, selfies, beards, intimate shaving, feminist porn). As part of “The William ’71 and Elke Durden Literary Series at Bremen,” he held a public lecture in the off-scene arts & culture & music club Spedition which had hosted him before. An attentive audience of 60-70 people followed a lively mix of reading, video clips and discussion between Meinecke and presenter Janine Ludwig. Afterwards, DJ Winkhorst warmed up the crowd before Thomas started to turn the tables from midnight to 3 a.m.

 

Workshop at the University of Bremen, in cooperation with the IfkuD, on June 2nd

Meinecke (left), next to Janine Ludwig and students. Foto: Verena Mertz

In addition, Meinecke gave an intimate breakfast workshop to both our current group of Dickinsonians and Bremen students at the University of Bremen the day before. One of the threads of his multi-perspective novel happens to deal with utopian, libertarian German immigrants in Texas in the mid-19th century. Ironically, a German society of nobleman (“Adelsverein”) bought land in Texas in order to get rid of German communists by sending them there to colonize it. However, they were duped with dour land, and the colonists, a bunch of intellectuals with little farming experience anyhow, struggled for survival. They did, however, under John O. Meusebach, manage to sign a peace treaty with the hostile Comanche tribe – supposedly the only one which was never broken and is still commemorated annually by the Comanches today.

Lee making a good argument. Foto: Verena Mertz

Meinecke has extensively researched on these settler colonies and produced a film (at the behest of Alexander Kluge/dctp) for which he interviewed the descendants of the “Texas Germans” – who still speak the language, infused with some English terms: “Die sind hier reingemoved.” „Die Kuh ist über den fence gejumpt.“ Despite the settlement fiasco, the descendants still proudly remember the peace treaty as well as the fact that the colonists opposed slavery and some even defected from the confederate Army (and were killed in consequence). We watched snippets from the film, read passages from the book and discussed the idea of “communes” without government, but shared work and property. The workshop presented amazing insights into an almost forgotten culture between the “Beethoven Männerchor” in San Antonio, the “Wurstfest” in New Braunfels, the “Vereins Kirche” and “Social Turn Verein” in Fredericksburg (named after Frederick of Prussia). All this followed up nicely to the seminar “German 340: Comparative Cultures – USA/Germany” which Janine Ludwig taught in fall 2016/17 and which (among other things) covered German immigration to the US in the 18th and 19th centuries. But most of all, it was a unique opportunity for the students to meet, work, and discuss with an author of such a stature in an almost private atmosphere.

The William ’71 and Elke Durden Literary Series at Bremen, this year in cooperation with the Institute for Cultural Studies (IfkuD) at the University of Bremen and the Kunst- und Kulturverein Spedition e.V., was sponsored by Bill and Elke Durden and the Dickinson College. We are grateful for the generous support and also thank the Spedition for wonderfully hosting Saturday’s evening event.