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Center for German Studies Honors Its Founders at Rotunda Anniversary Event

Nov 26, 2018 |

The Center for German Studies celebrated its 10-year anniversary earlier this month with a public lecture in the Rotunda Dome Room by German scholar Klaus Theweleit and a dinner honoring some of the Center’s founding figures.

The inspiration for the interdisciplinary center came from a 2008 meeting of colleagues from different disciplines who shared a common interest in German studies as a field that engages not only the humanities but also the social sciences, economics, and engineering. Since its founding it has established close relations with the German and Austrian embassies and the Heinrich Böll Foundation in Washington, D.C. In the last five years alone, the CGS has organized or co-organized six major international conferences.

“I think it is fair to say that, over the years, the Center has become a major builder of bridges and an engine redefining area studies through global and highly interdisciplinary approaches,” CGS director and Associate Prof. Manuela Achilles said at the Nov. 8 anniversary celebration.

The UVA Center for German Studies celebrated its 10-year anniversary with a public lecture in the Rotunda Dome Room.
Molly Angevine / Arts & Sciences Communications

Gordon Stewart, a professor emeritus in the Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures and a longtime Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies within the College, was honored at the CGS dinner for his pivotal role in founding the Center. Margaret Nelson Spethmann, an A&S alumna and generous supporter of the Center, and Professor Volker Kaiser, who led the Center through its first five years and is retiring this year, also were honored at the event. 

“We owe Margaret, Gordon, and Volker a great debt for bringing the Center to life, for their enduring guidance and leadership, and their advocacy of interdisciplinary and transatlantic cooperation,” Achilles said.

The keynote lecture was delivered by German writer Klaus Theweleit, whose study of the imaginative world and bodily experiences of the German Freikorps movement has reshaped our understanding of the history and psychology of fascism. A precursor to Nazism, the Freikorps units were paramilitary groups who fought against the newly formed German democracy after WWI. Theweleit revisited his influential work to trace the intellectual and emotional predilections of the far right from the early Weimar years to Chemnitz and the violence of last year’s Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville.