In January, I, Steffen Kaupp, had the pleasure of visiting our current (University of Bamberg) and future (Humboldt University Berlin and University of Hamburg) overseas collaborators for our Rivalrous Masculinities Emerging Humanities Network. In Bamberg, I joined our sister seminar--we had met with Prof. Bennewitz's class twice via video-conferencing in the fall semester--and was amazed by the high quality of the German students' research on the objects that will go into their virtual exhibition. In Hamburg and Berlin, I met with Prof. Claudia Benthien and Prof. Andreas Kraß to discuss our collaboration for the fall 2013 Rivalrous Masculinities class; it will be the first experience for all participants with a three-way collaboration and we are all excited about the productive moments that will emerge from the broad range of research expertise.
The most memorable impression from my three weeks, however, was the exponential rate at which I was able to expand our humanities network. On a walk through Berlin, I discovered that the Humboldt University has a specialized Gender Library. Two emails and three hours later, I met with Dr. Karin Aleksander, the head librarian at this fine institute library. They have an outstanding selection of books, journals, and digital media that cover a broad range of topics relating to gender, queer and sexuality studies. Their advanced catalog system allows users to even find individual essays from journals and edited volumes through a sophisticated tagging system, which is an immensely helpful research tool. Since our students work with a lot of art objects from German speaking lands, she offered to function as a support person for our fall 2013 class. In Hamburg, Prof. Benthien and I started planning several visits of German students to Duke in the fall, which will allow our students to expand their own networks and it will give them insights into a university system that is fundamentally different from their own. In Bamberg, among many other things, I was invited to give a lecture on my dissertation research, which deals with the representation of masculinity in the works of contemporary Turkish German authors, and which is thus closely linked to our Rivalrous Maculinities project. This 45-minute presentation led to many follow up meetings with professors and doctoral students from fields as diverse as English Literature, German Literature, German Medieval Studies, Turkology, and Islamic Studies. Not only did they have helpful comments for my dissertation research, but they were all eager to find out more about the Rivalrous Masculinities project, which puts us on the radar of a broad network of international scholars.
This trip has shown that there is an added value of traveling to Germany, and physically – rather than virtually – meeting with scholars from different fields. It allowed me to make new connections, and to introduce our project to many people in only three weeks. Doing this virtually would have either not led to any substantial interactions at all, or it would have taken months to do so. I can safely say that our Rivalrous Masculinities network has grown, and thus broadened its expertise.
Steffen Kaupp is a graduate student in the Carolina-Duke Graduate Program in German Studies and is also working toward a Graduate Certificate in Women's Studies. He is a co-convener of Rivalrous Masculinities.
I am Professor Ann Marie Rasmussen and I wanted to share the experience that the Rivalrous Masculinity Working Group had recently when we hosted a visit by Anne McClanan, a Professor of Byzantine Art History at Portland State University. She earned her PhD at Harvard, her MA at Johns Hopkins, and her BA at Columbia, so she came with a great deal of scholarly expertise in the area on which our course will be focusing.
One of the principal reasons we brought Anne to Duke was for the tremendous insight she has developed into the online learning environment. For the past seven years her courses have been almost entirely online or hybrid (face-to-face and online). Rather than adapting the old models, she has developed fresh student-centered approaches that take full advantage of the new environment.
When she designs a course, she works hard to create a scaffolding assignment structure so students learn by building on what they've already done. Her role in the learning process is not to deliver lectures as a "sage on the stage" but to curate the material and provide a means to process it. She has the students engage each other, too, using online forum discussions and peer review of writing. When students know their peers will be reading their work, the writing is better — they don't want to embarrass themselves.
We had some wonderful discussions about the course we are offering this Fall (GERM 390-1 / ARTHIST 390 / MEDREN 390 / WST 290) and the exhibition that will follow in 2014 at the Nasher Museum. Anne shared her ideas about experiential learning and about increasing interactivity with the students. And she introduced us to an awesome resource — Smarthistory, a free and open art history textbook produced by the Khan Academy.
We had a great talk about the necessity of 'estranging' masculinity. Teaching about masculinity is a little like teaching about whiteness: it is for many the norm against which all else is measured, so familiar and structural that it has become invisible. One of the chief goals of our teaching and our exhibition is to create and engage some sense of alterity, of the constructedness of masculinity. We want it to stand on its own as one of many cultural modes, all of them equally free to speak for the diversity of human experience.
For the exhibition, we hope to have the class produce collaborative podcasts. It will be important for the audio material to complement the wall texts, not repeat them. We may use other new media, but only if it enriches the classroom and the exhibition. It has to have a clear point; otherwise it tends to be gimmicky. I would also like the students to keep a research experience blog where they write and reflect about the process, about its ups and downs and the funny things that happen along the way. The individual blogs could then be raw material for a public narrative about the course.
We might also set up a kiosk for the exhibition, and there are many other fascinating and fun ideas to consider. But it's very important to remember that the class products will be part of a public exhibition. High quality is a must.
We are excited about the opportunities that lie ahead of us, as teachers and scholars, and those that lie ahead of our students, whose learning we believe will be much richer for this experience.
We are excited! Launching this course is like preparing to travel to an exciting, new adventure destination. ID? Yup, a new course number(s) - GERM 390-1 / ARTHIST 390 / MEDREN 390 / WST 290. Flight booked? Yup, we've got a classroom time and seats for everybody in first class, that is to say, Seminar 1 in the Link. Bags packed? Not quite, but the syllabus is being written. Oh, and the most important items are in the bag, which is to say that the course synopsis is done. Who's coming along? The seats for faculty, faculty consultants, graduate students, and staff are now filled, but eighteen empty seats remain, all reserved for undergraduates only. We are eager to welcome you aboard!
Ann Marie Rasmussen
Professor, Department of Germanic Languages and Literature