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Fall 2016


  • Klaus W. Jonas, Professor Emeritus of German, died on November 2, 2016 at age 96.  Born in Stettin, Pomerania, in 1920, his adolescent and student years were overshadowed by the National Socialist Regime.  On numerous occasions the Nazi party hindered his efforts to study abroad or to complete academic degrees—they considered him “politically immature,” that is unwilling to conform to Nazi party doctrine.  As much as this limited his early academic opportunities, it also most likely saved his life.  The Nazi Party did not trust him politically, and so would not allow him to serve in the military.  Instead, he was pressed into service in a military hospital during the last year of the war. After the war he studied in Heidelberg, Geneva, Zurich, and at Columbia University before ultimately receiving his PhD from the University of Münster with a dissertation on “Somerset Maugham and the Far East.” Professor Jonas came to the University of Pittsburgh in 1957, after working as both an instructor and a librarian at the University of Connecticut, Yale, Rutgers, and Mount Holyoke College. While at the University of Pittsburgh he served as Chair of the Germanic Section in the then Department of Modern Languages (from 1959-1962), as a member of Senate Council, and as an associate bibliographer for the Germanic Section of the Modern Language Association of America.  While at Pitt he organized multiple exhibits for the library and was also instrumental in establishing a partnership between the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Augsburg in Germany. After his retirement from Pitt in 1988 he returned to Germany where he continued his bibliographical research on Thomas Mann, for which he had become an internationally-recognized expert.  He published articles and monographs on multiple authors, but his most significant contribution are his five volumes on Thomas Mann scholarship. Shortly after finishing a bibliography of Maugham scholarship, he approached Thomas Mann and asked the author if he would be interested in something similar.  Thus began a five-decade long research endeavor, to catalog the thousands of writings about Thomas Mann in the widest variety of sources, not only in literary books and journals, but also in sources ranging from fields as diverse as medicine (Medizinische Welt and Epilepsie-Blätter) and music (Opera Quarterly).  His care and thoroughness as a bibliographer earned him the admiration of colleagues and Thomas Mann aficionados, alike.  In 1997 he was awarded the Thomas Mann Medal of the German Thomas Man Society of Lübeck to honor his contributions.  He donated his collection of early 20th-Century German modernist literature—thousands of volumes of collected works, reviews, unpublished letters, etc.—to the University of Augsburg, that is now named after him and his wife, Ilsedore (Professor Emerita from Carnegie Mellon University).  This collection includes some of the most important names in German literature from the early 20th Century, including Heinrich, Thomas, Klaus, and Golo Mann, Rainer Maria Rilke, Hermann Hesse, Gerhart Hauptmann, Ernst Jünger, Hermann Broch, and Carl Zuckmayer.  Professor Jonas knew many of these writers personally, as well as English-speaking writers, including Somerset Maugham. Professor Jonas has been awarded numerous honors and awards from institutions such as the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Bollingen Foundation, the American Philosophical Society, and the German Academic Exchange Service. In 2004, a former student endowed the Klaus Jonas Chair at Pitt (currently held by Professor Randall Halle) in his honor.  His colleagues remember him for his interest in and enthusiasm for the variety of subjects he researched, which included not only German modernism, but also English and American art and literature, and even horse riding and dressage, and for his warm collegiality.  Professor Jonas is survived by his wife, Ilsedore B. Jonas.
  •  The German Department is pleased to welcome five new colleagues this year: Dr. Viktoria Batista, Lecturer; Dr. Viktoria Harms, Lecturer and Director of Language Studies; Dr. Jaclyn Kurash, Visiting Lecturer; and Dr. Anita Lukic, Visiting Lecturer.  Dr. Holly Yanacek, who received her PhD in German Studies from Pitt in April 2016, joins the department as a Visiting Assistant Professor.
  • The Department enjoyed a beautiful late-summer afternoon at a picnic at the David Lawrence Pavilion at Schenley Park. We welcomed new and returning faculty and students.  Here are some photos.
  • Making the "Top Ten List."  Professor Amy Colin's course "Vienna 1900" (GER 1528) was listed as one of "The top 10 classes all Pitt students should take before graduating." To quote junior Brian Fedorka:

    “Vienna 1900 was easily the best class/experience I’ve had at Pitt. Amy Colin teaches a lot of material but at a relaxed pace and with very low stress. And we took a week-long trip to Vienna, Austria during spring break... Without a doubt, it’s the thing I’ll remember most about my time at Pitt!”  This course will be offered again in the Spring of 2017 and probably in the Fall of 2017.



Spring 2016

  • MA alumna Laura Caton was awarded the 2016 Gutekunst Prize for Emerging Translators by the Goethe Institut New York.  For more information about the prize, click here.

Summer 2015

  • Recent PhD graduate Boryana Dobreva has been appointed the director of academic programs for Pitt's College of General Studies. Boryana, who earned her PhD in German Studies at Pitt in 2008, will be responsible for the development, management, and assessment of the College's academic programs and instructional curricula. Prior to joining the College of General Studies, Boryana served as director of global educaton at Northwestern College, Orange City, Iowa. Reflecting on her appointment, Boryana said, "I am privileged to join Pitt's College of General Studies family in this role and look forward to translating my experience of pursuing excellence in academic programming into the type of quality in curricular development and instructional content design that has long defiend the College's educational mission, its reputation, and name."

Summer 2015

  • The German Department is sad to announce the passing of a beloved teacher, mentor, colleague, and friend. Dr. Elizabeth Wylie-Ernst passed away on July 15, 2015, after a valiant battle with cancer. Beth was an invaluable colleague. She was tireless in her service to the department, serving at various times as Director of Language Studies, Director of Undergraduate Studies, TA/TF coordinator, German Club faculty liaison, representative to Pitt's College in High School program, and numerous other duties. She was a popular and effective teacher, consistently garnering excellent teaching evaluation scores and winning teaching awards. She regularly taught our large-enrollment courses and loved interacting with students both inside and outside the classroom. She built bridges across departments and programs at the university and was conscientious in her efforts to do her best in everything she did. Her loss will be felt keenly in the department.


    The German Department has established a fund in her memory with the aim of helping the Pitt students to whom she was so devoted. If you would like to contribute, please do so at the following link:

Spring 2015

  • During the 65th annual Berlinale Film Festival, Professor Randall Halle interviewed prominent German film director Andreas Dresen. To learn more, click here.

Fall 2014

  • Congratulations to Professor Randall Halle, Klaus W. Jonas Professor of German and Film Studies, on the publication of his most recent monograph, "The Europeanization of Cinema. Interzones and Imaginative Communities," with the University of Illinois Press.  One scholar praises the book as follows: "An original and ground-breaking view of the post-Wende central European landscape, drawn from a remarkable abundance of sources.  Halle's writing is intelligent and even amusing - I couldn't put the book down until I had read it to the last page." - Janina Falkowska.

Summer 2014

  • Holly Yanacek, a Ph.D. Candidate, has been admitted to the German Historical Institute's Archival Seminar during June and July 2014.  The program trains participants to read old German script, familiarizes them with German research facilities (archives and libraries), provides a forum for discussing research methods, and helps prepare them for their prospective dissertation research trips to Germany.  The program pays for round-trip air transportation to and from Germany, ground transportation to, from, and during the program, and accommodations.  During the program, Holly will be visiting archives in Speyer, Cologne, Koblenz, and Munich.

Spring 2014

  • Holly Yanacek, Ph.D. Candidate, has accepted a Fulbright fellowship to study at the Free University of Berlin and the Max Planck Institute during the 2014-2015 academic year.  Holly will be working on a dissertation about Emotional Communities in late 19th Century Germany.  In addition to the Fulbright fellowship, Holly was also offered a fellowship from the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) and a Mellon Fellowship.

Fall 2013

  • Dr. Stefan Bronner and Dr. Erin Kelly have joined the German Department as Visiting Lecturers for the 2013-2014 year. Welcome, Drs. Bronner and Kelly!
  • The German Department has redesigned the undergraduate major, and there are now two offerings. Please check the undergraduate major page to learn more.
  • Yvonne Franke, a 2013 graduate with the Ph.D., has accepted a tenure-track position at Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls, TX. Congratulations, Yvonne!

Fall 2011

  • Jay Baranoski and Elise Hannon, both graduates in 2011 with German minors, recently won Fulbright awards.  Congratulations, Jay and Elise!  More information at
  • Sabine von Dirke was selected as an Internal Fellow of the Humanities Center for the Spring Term, 2012.
  • Yvonne Franke, Ph.D. candidate, was awarded an Andrew Mellon Predoctoral Fellowship and a European Union Dissertation Fellowship from the European Union Center of Excellence / European Studies Center for the academic year 2011-2012.

  • Yvonne Franke, Ph.D. candidate, received a grant from the Center for German and European Studies at the University of Minnesota to present at the Graduate Conference Workshop in October "Rethinking Europe – New Approaches and Methodologies to the Study of Europe in the 20th and 21st Centuries" at the University of Minnesota. The title of her paper was "Transgressing Borders and Genres  – German Road Films in Times of European Expansion".

  • Holly Yanacek, second-year graduate student, presented a paper, “Investigating the Unexplained: Paranormal Belief and Perception in Kleist’s Novellas,” at the “Kleistian (pre-)Occupations” conference, held in October at California State University Long Beach.

Summer 2011

  • Meghan Leinbach, who graduated in April 2011 with majors in German and History of Art & Architecture, was awarded a Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange (CBYX) for Young Professionals for the 2011-2012 year.  The CBYX is a full-year work-study scholarship program with a strong focus on cultural exchange. CBYX provides 75 young Americans annually with an understanding of everyday life, education, and professional training in Germany. The program begins in July and includes two months of intensive German language training in Germany, four months of classroom instruction at a German university, and a five-month internship in a participant’s career field.  Congratulations Meghan!

Spring 2011

  • Dieter Waeltermann, part-time faculty member, received a Faculty Grant from the International Business Center at the University of Pittsburgh to enhance the courses Professional German 1 (GER 1 003) and Professional German 2 (GER 1 004).  The International Business Center provides funding for international research seed grants, course development, business case development, and language course development.

  • Noah Willumsen, a 2010 Bachelor of Philosophy degree graduate from Pitt’s Honors College, won the long-term award for study abroad from the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD).  Noah majored in German, philosophy, and art history with minors in physics and mathematics.  He plans to attend Humboldt University of Berlin and earn a master’s degree in German literature.

  • Kathryn Wright, a German minor, was awarded a long-term DAAD grant for graduate study at the University of Cologne for their International Master of Environmental Science program.  Kathryn had to decline the DAAD grant in favor of another offer. 

  • Alexandra Maihoefer, a linguistics major with a German minor and a Western European Studies Certificate, was awarded a Teaching Assistantship through Fulbright and the Austrian Government to teach English in Mödling and Enzersdorf in Austria.  Alexandra was born in Germany and lived there until age eleven, after which she moved to the United States wither her family.

  • Winners of this year's departmental prizes: the Ruth Kuschmierz Award for Study Abroad in Germany was awarded to Marissa Swanson, who will be studying in Augsburg this summer.  The Lore B. Foltin Memorial Prize for academic excellence was awarded to Laura Caton.  Laura will begin graduate studies in German at Pitt in the Fall.

  • Clark Muenzer was selected as an Internal Fellow of the Humanities Center for the Spring Term, 2011.  He will be using his fellowship Spring semester, after a Fall sabbatical leave, to continue work on his monograph, Goethe's Metaphysics of Immanence, which considers Goethe’s longstanding interest in specific structures of Spinozan thought (including the conatus and the finite modes) in light of the epistemological work of the Kantian imagination.

Spring 2010

  • Boryana Dobreva, a Ph.D. student in the German Department, was awarded a Mellon Dissertation Completion Fellowship from the American Council of Learned Societies to support her final year of dissertation writing next academic year.  Boryana’s dissertation, supervised by Professor Sabine von Dirke, studies the experience of migration as reflected in texts of contemporary Eastern European émigrés who live in Germany and Austria and write in German.  The ACLS was able to fund only 65 (about 5%) of the 1148 applications they received nation-wide, which made the competition extremely rigorous this year.  Congratulations to Boryana on this significant accomplishment!
    Click here to see a list of this year's recipients.

Fall 2009

  • Clark Muenzer, Associate Professor, has just been elected as the next Vice President of the Goethe Society of North America.  The Goethe Society ( is an international scholarly organization with over 200 members and that is dedicated to furthering scholarship and teaching on Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and his age.  After 3 years as Vice President, Clark will assume the Presidency of the society for a three-year term.
  • With the support of a  grant from the new Humanities Center, Clark Muenzer is organizing a year of activities to explore a cross-departmental initiative in literature, the arts, and philosophy. A number of events, including a lecture and a series of three graduate seminars by Professor Alexander Nehamas of Princeton's Philosophy Department, as well as a faculty and graduate student reading group, have been planned.  At the end of the academic year, the collaborators will submit a report with their recommendations for the initiative over the next two years.

Spring 2009

We'd like to congratulate our graduate students on recent successes.

  • Katrin Mascha is the recipient of a Mellon Fellowship for the 2009-2010 Academic year.
  • Gavin Hicks is the recippient of an Irvis Fellowship for the 2009-2010 Academic year.

March 2009

Professor Randall Halle, Klaus W. Jonas Professor of German Film and Cultural Studies, has been named the recipient of the prestigious Senior Fulbright Award for the Spring Term 2010.

One of our current seniors, John Wagner, has been named the recipient of the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange scholarship. With this award, John will be spending the next academic year in Germany, continuing with German language study and working in the office of a Bundestagsabgeordneter.

This is the second year in a row that one of our students has been selected (Currently, Jason Hutton is participating in this program.)

March 2008

We'd like to congratulate our graduate students on recent successes.

  • Boryana Dobreva has received TWO dissertation fellowships: the Cultural Studies Fellowship and the Lawler Fellowship. This doesn't mean that Borayana will have to write two dissertations, but rather that she'll have to pick between fellowships.
  • Yvonne Franke passed her Preliminary exam. The exam is the first step along the way to the PhD, and we were all in agreement that Yvonne made a great leap.
  • Gavin Hicks impressively represented the German Department at the Graduate Expo. It was an excellent opportunity to highlight graduate work at the university and we are happy that our department was so strongly represented. Further congratulations are in order for Gavin, who received an award for one of the best presentations. Along with Boryana and Zsuzsa Horvath's presentations at national conferences, we are very happy that our grad students are working hard to represent their work and our department to a broader audience.
  • Randall Halle, Director of Graduate Studies

May 2007

Elizabeth Wylie-Ernst, together with Project Director Claire Bradin Siskin (Department of Linguistics), Beatrice DeAngelis and Sarah Williams (Department of Hispanic Languages and Literatures, and Brett Wells (Department of French and Italian) have received an Innovation in Education Award from the Advisory Council on Instructional Excellence for 2007-2008. Their project is “A Tool for Assessing Oral Proficiency in Foreign Languages.”

May 2006

We are extremely pleased to announce that Randall Halle will be joining the faculty of the department in September 2006 as the Klaus W. Jonas Professor of German and Film Studies. Dr. Halle earned his PhD from the University of Wisconsin in 1995 and has been on the faculty of the University of Rochester since 1996. In addition to German Film Studies, he has published extensively on German social thought, gender studies, and globalization. In 2004 his Queer Social Philosophy: Critical Readings from Kant to Adorno appeared with the University of Illinois Press, and a second monograph, Toward a Transnational Aesthetic: German Film after Germany, will appear shortly. Professor Halle's current projects include one book-length study that focuses on the work of film in the age of digital reproduction and a second that explores problematic moments in the development of European social philosophy through the debates around the European constitution, the question of human rights, and the status of new migrants.