Max Kade Distinguished Visiting Professor Claudia Benthien (University of Hamburg) has recently
returned to Germany after having taught a Graduate seminar on “Literarizität in der Medienkunst”
(The Literariness of New Media Art) at the Department of Germanics in the spring term. The course
investigated the potential of an analysis of new media art from the perspective of literary studies.
The guiding concept was “literariness” or “poeticness“, as developed by Russian Formalism and later
theorists. The term denotes the poetic “surplus” of meaning, emanating from a non-pragmatic use of
The seminar explored the dimensions of aesthetic signification generated through language, voice, and
script in the genres of video art, multimedia installations, and net art. Each participant had to present
a theory text (on concepts such as script, voice, “deviation” poetics, defamiliarisation, performativity,
repetition, self-referentiality etc.) and a free interpretation of one of the media artworks. Prof. Benthien
was very impressed by UW’s graduate students' ability to deal with these largely unfamiliar audiovisual
materials and by the open, curious, and constructive seminar atmosphere.
During her ten-week stay in Seattle, Benthien worked on several articles, among them one on the
concept and aesthetics of “translation” in new media art―which was also the topic of her “Friday
Lecture” at the Department of Germanics―and one on representations of the Shoah in contemporary
German-speaking stage productions. She also investigated the Seattle art and performance scene
for her research project on new media art as well as another one on oral poetry. Between all this work, she even managed
to see a great lot of what Washington state has to offer: the wild pacific coast of the Olympic Peninsula;
the many islands and ferries; and the snowy mountains of the North and South Cascades, including
magnificent Mount Rainier.