"Knotty Plot and Dense Text: Crime, Detection and Epigraphs in Wolfgang Herrndorf's Sand" in Colloquia Germanica 46,2 (2013) - published in February 2016
My dissertation, entitled “Moments of Rupture: Plotting, Character and Narration in Contemporary German Literature,” investigates the construction of German-language novels and their use of narrative elements to relate, mend or possibly overcome moments of personal, social and political rupture. While joining the larger conversation on contemporary narrative practices in German literature, my project refocuses the attention on key questions of literary form and storytelling. Each chapter draws on pertinent narrative theory to examine a narratological issue on the basis of one literary text of prime analytical relevance: the use of time and space in Christoph Ransmayr’s Der fliegende Berg (2006); the development of plot in Wolfgang Herrndorf’s Sand (2011); questions of voice in Saša Stanišić’s Vor dem Fest (2014); and issues related to character in Lutz Seiler’s Kruso (2014). Storytelling extends across media and disciplines and my project shows how it works in contemporary German literature, especially to represent disruptive moments, such as the transition between life and death, recognition and mistake, extinction and survival, mourning and change.(Adviser: Brigitte Prutti)
Dissertation Title: Mind-Crafting: The Synchronization of Whole Brain Emulation with Representations of Consciousness in German High Modernist Novels
In a 1971 article entitled “Brief Proposal on Immortality,” George M. Martin, a professor of pathology at the University of Washington, briefly albeit audaciously proposed a way to overcome death, by cryobiologically preserving the human brain, in hopes that a computer would “ultimately provide suitable techniques” in the future to re-pattern the brain electronically (340). Over time, Martin’s proposal has come to be known as whole brain emulation (WBE) or mind-uploading and is one of several projects advocated by a group of technology enthusiasts known as transhumanists. In his 2014 book Superintelligence, Nick Bostrom, one of the foremost transhumanist thinkers, summarized three steps needed to implement WBE: scanning, translation, and simulation (50). Literature has long anticipated the idea of replicating and augmenting the human essence in an external, “postsomatic” virtual reality. The novel in particular has served as a playing-field for crafting the virtual mind, as argued by Dorrit Cohn and Alan Palmer. In my dissertation, I examine Bostrom’s tripartite scheme for mind-uploading in the novels of Thomas Mann’s Der Zauberberg, Hermann Broch's Die Schlafwandler, Alfred Döblin’s Berlin Alexanderplatz, and Irmgard Keun’s Das kunstseidene Mädchen. As with Bostrom’s steps toward WBE, the mind in these novels interacts with and crafts its own reality (simulation), abstracts that reality (translation), and comes to apprehend it(scanning).
Nathan successfully submitted the first chapter of his dissertation in Winter 2016. He is co-organizing a graduate student conference at the UW, entitled Insiders, Outsiders and In-betweens: Narratives Converging from Within and Without scheduled for April 15-16, 2016. He will also be presenting a paper at the conference entitled, “’Eine Art Vogelfreiheit’: The Arrest of Individuation and Family Narrative through the Poetics of Migration in Zsuzsa Bánk’s Novel Der Schwimmer,” as well as moderate a panel on opening translation. Nathan is also looking forward to an exchange through the Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster starting in October 2016. (Adviser: Richard Block)
1. Talk: "Reception Theory in an Online Environment" MLA Annual Convention, Austin, TX - January 2016
2. Talk: "Interactivity in Web-Native Documentaries – a Myth?" GSA Annual Conference, Washington D.C.- October 2015
"The Essay in the 20th and 21st Century"
The dissertation focuses on the development of the essay in various media in the 20th and 21st century. Starting with an analysis of Walter Benjamin’s “Einbahnstraße”, the project examines how essayistic writing reacted to changes during the Weimar Republic and how, in turn, the genre of the essay adapted to these changes, particularly to the influence of an emerging visual culture. The written essay at the beginning of the 20th century already incorporates visual elements and thus serves as a starting point for the project, which will then focus on photo essays, essay films and digital essays. The project does not aim at reconfiguring the genre of the essay, but rather investigates the impact of changes in society, technology and visual culture on the epistemological quality of the essay. (Adviser: Sabine Wilke)
Jasmin received a DAAD grant to the Deutsche Kinemathek in Berlin, where she spent winter and spring quarter 2015 to conduct research for her dissertation. She has also been awarded a Joff Hanauer Excellence in Western Civilization Graduate Fellowship for the 2015-16 academic year. And supported by the Simpson Center for the Humanities, she continues co-organizing the graduate interest group Moving Images.
Her current project "Visual Arts and the Berlin School of Filmmaking" explores how contemporary German cinema defines itself in terms of traditional art genres, such as portraiture, landscape, and still life. (Adviser: Eric Ames)
Justin is one of the co-organizers for the upcoming interdisciplinary graduate student conference "Insiders, Outsiders and In-betweens: Narratives Converging from Within and Without" and will be moderating a panel entitled: "Narrating Difference."