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Student Projects

Students majoring in German Studies at Vassar College have completed many impressive projects, either as senior theses or independent studies. Here are a sample of recent projects:

Carmel Adrian, '05, "Die Mathematikerin Emmy Noether: Ein Leben zwischen hervorragenden Leistungen und Respektloser Umgang."

This senior thesis examines the work and life of Emmy Noether, one of the first women mathematicians and a central figure in the development of modern algebra. In contextualizing Noether's career in the gender and educational politics of the early 20th century, Adrian identifies a curious paradox: that Noether was both a revolutionary feminist and someone who resisted her own identification as a woman. Adrian then pursues this paradox in her reading of Noether's 1921 essay, "Idealtheorie in Ringbereichen," which, as a mathematical theory, exhibits a similar tension between a revolutionary breakthrough and self-styled revision of previous work. Her final chapter considers the significance of women scientists in post-War German culture through a reading of Respektloser Umgang, a 1980 novel written by Helga Königsdorf and based on an imagined series of dialogues with Lise Meitner, one of Noether's contemporaries.

Will Byrne, '06, "S(t)imulating Stasi: Exploring Censorship and the Public Sphere in East Germany."

In conjunction with Ken Bolton, '98 in the Media Cloisters and Jeffrey Schneider, Will Byrne developed a project that used MOOssiggang to simulate life in a totalitarian police state. Byrnes undertook the task of rewriting code in MOOssiggang to read out propaganda slogans and censor certain words after a number of infractions. When used in Approaches to Media Studies (MEDS 160), the class was divided into three groups: citizens, activists, and Stasi secret police agents. The activists were encouraged to hold a clandestine meeting in a location on the MOO, and to convey they meeting time to other activists. The Stasi worked to uncover the time and location of the meeting. The students developed a sense of the difficulties faced in trying to communicate in a repressive society.

Jessica Heckmann, '05, "Aktivismus aus der Distanz, Aktivismus an der Basis: Das unterschiedliche sozial-politische Engagement von Albert Einstein und Hertha Einstein Nathorff."

This senior thesis examines Einstein’s social and political activism, drawing on the collection of Einstein correspondence recently bequeathed to Vassar College. She compares Einstein’s activism “at a distance” with the grassroots activism of the doctor Hertha Nathorff, who, like her famous cousin, emigrated to America in the 1930s. A chapter of this thesis was published as "Action at a Distance: Einstein as Activist," in Albert Einstein: Life and Letters, 1905-1955: An Exhibition Featuring the Morris and Adele Bergreen Albert Einstein Collection at the Vassar College Library. Poughkeepsie: Vassar, 2005. 42-52. The thesis received Vassar's Lillian B. Stroebe Prize for Outstanding Scholarship in German Studies in 2005.

Jeremiah Joyce, '04, "Die große Liebe: Die Ästhetik zwischen Melodrama und Propaganda"

This senior thesis began as an attempt to develop English-language subtitles for Die große Liebe (1942), the most popular movie made during the Third Reich. Though Joyce was forced to abandon this project because of technical problems, the thesis nevertheless contains a valuable German-language transcription along with the author's English translation. The bulk of the thesis, however, offers a sophisticated analysis of the film's remarkable aesthetics and its political implications as propaganda. As Joyce writes, "Also diese These ist eine Bewältigung meiner eigenen Faszination mit dem Film und mit den Widersprüchen zwischen der Ästhetik des Filmes und seiner Propagandafunktion."

John Liszewski, '05, "Akzeptanz oder Ausgrenzung? Die türkische Minderheit und der Islam in Deutschland heute."

This senior thesis explores the difficult path of integration for the Turkish community living in Germany from the 1960s to the present, and critically examines the so-called Kopftuchstreit (headscarf debate) as a symptom of the complex relation of Germans to Islam. John’s thesis probes not only Germans’ acceptance of Muslim “others” in their midst, but also the tensions between generations of Turks in Germany as depicted in Faith Akin’s hit film Gegen die Wand.

Kris Miller, '03, "Bluebeard--Hope of Women. A Translation of Dea Loher's Blaubart--Hoffnung der Frauen with Analysis and Commentary."

This project involved translating and mounting a staged reading of Blaubart--Hoffnung der Frauen, a play by Dea Loher (1964-), one of the most important and interesting contemporary German playwrights. The play, in which a shoe salesman murders a series of women who fall in love with him, is a carefully crafted piece that treats contemporary issues of love and sexuality while responding to a long literary tradition that includes Oskar Kokoschka's one-act expressionist play Murderers--Hope of All Women and the "Cinderella" fairy tale. Unlike other productions, Miller's staged reading (April 2003) had one actress play the parts of all the women who were murdered, an imaginative decision that emphasized the repetitious compulsion that the play explores. The translation and staged reading received the Lilian B. Storebe Prize for outstanding work in German Studies in 2002.