Film scholar launches Faculty Fellows series

Recent blockbuster films and television events devoted to World War II and its aftermath have claimed to break new ground by breaking taboos on the representation of German suffering while also emphasizing an emotional engagement with the past, particularly through forms of sympathy and empathy.

Yet the work of Alexander Kluge, the German director and writer, predates these developments by several decades. Indeed, Kluge’s films and stories — which have explored questions of war and suffering since the late 1960s — reveal both the taboo thesis and the “emotional turn” in historical representation to be little more than marketing devices in the race for new media content and formats.

On Jan. 27, Johannes von Moltke, Ph.D., professor of screen arts and cultures at the University of Michigan, will speak on “Confusion of Feelings: War and Emotion in the Films of Alexander Kluge” to kick off the Center for the Humanities’ 2009 Faculty Fellows’ Lecture and Workshop Series.

The talk begins at 4 p.m. in Duncker Hall, Room 201, Hurst Lounge. Refreshments will be provided.

Von Moltke — the first of six speakers appearing for the Center for the Humanities this spring — was invited to campus by 2009 Faculty Fellow Jennifer Kapczynski, Ph.D., assistant professor of German and Film & Media Studies, both in Arts & Sciences.

“Johannes von Moltke has done pathbreaking work on German cinema of the 1950s, on the negotiation of space and modernity in the genre of the ‘Heimatfilm,’ or ‘homeland film,’ ” Kapczynski said. “His more recent work on the place of emotion in the negotiation of national history in German cinema promises to become another important contribution to the field.”

In addition to the talk, von Moltke will lead a workshop titled “Cinematic Empathy” at noon Wednesday, Jan. 28, in the Graduate Center, located in Room 300 of the Danforth University Center.

The workshop will examine the construction of affect in melodrama, drawing on brief, pre-circulated readings and specific examples taken largely from the history of German cinema.

The Center for the Humanities’ Faculty Fellowships are designed to provide both physical and intellectual environments for innovative, interdisciplinary scholarship and teaching. Winners are selected by a panel of University faculty and outside reviewers.

Each fellow will spend a semester in-residence with the center, researching a new book project while attending a variety of presentations and delivering one formal, public lecture about their work.

The 2009 series schedule:

Feb. 10. Guinn Batten, Ph.D., associate professor of English in Arts & Sciences, will speak on “Romanticism, Violence, and the Feminine in Contemporary Irish Poetry.”

Feb. 24. Penny M. Von Eschen, Ph.D., professor of history and American culture at the University of Michigan, will speak on “Cold War Nostalgia: From the International Spy Museum (Washington, D.C.) to ‘Stalin World,’ Grutas Park, Lithuania.”

March 17. Andrea Friedman, Ph.D., associate professor of history in Arts & Sciences, will present “Bringing Anti-Colonialism Home: Gendering Puerto Rican Nationalism in the Early Cold War.”

April 7. Kapczynski will speak on “Haunted Heimat: The Specter of Male Violence in Postwar West German Film.”

April 14. David L. Clark, Ph.D., professor of English and cultural studies as well as an associate member of the Health Studies Program at McMaster University in Canada, will present “The Promise of Peace: Kant’s Wartime and the Tremulous Body of Philosophy.”

All talks are free and open to the public, though RSVPs are requested. For more information, call 935-5576 or email