Gabriele Wittig Davis
Professor of German Studies
Investigations into representations of late 18th- to early 20th-century German society and culture in literature, thought, and film; constructions of gender, race, and ethnicity in German and European culture; migration and citizenship in German and European societies, historically and contemporary; re-textualizations of literature and film; Theodor Fontane, Theodor Storm, Annette von Droste-Hülshoff,Thomas Mann; Holocaust and art; Faust myth
Gabriele Wittig Davis’ interdisciplinary scholarship arises from her multi-disciplinary graduate studies, starting in Germany at the Universities of Marburg and Berlin and culminating at Stanford University in a Ph.D. in German Studies and Comparative Literature, followed by post-doctoral seminars on German film studies. While her research interests are multi-faceted, they have also proved conceptually interconnected and are consistently interwoven into her coursework. She therefore teaches courses in both German and English, in German area studies as well as European and film studies. Furthermore, her long-standing investigations into Romanticism and gender role redefinitions as well as her studies into concepts of race and ethnicity from the late 18th-century to the present have also led to offerings on gender and migration studies.
More than 20 years ago, Wittig Davis offered the first course in the Five Colleges about the long hi/story of Black Germans, dating back to the Middle Ages. Most recently, her Spring 2010 European Studies 316 / Film Studies 370-04 Seminar, “Global Europe or: Transcending Binaries?” and her Fall 2010 First-Year Seminar, German 100 / Film Studies 101-02, “The New Face/s of Germany” focus on data and images of migration in Europe and constructions of identities of im/migrants in film and other texts.
The Fall 2010 German Studies 223 topics course integrates another research focus of Wittig Davis. The class entitled “Lustmord? Geschlecht, Gewalt und Gesellschaft”foregrounds representations of gender, sexuality, and violence in German film, song, and text from Goethe to Rammstein.
Wittig Davis has continually been engaged in experimenting with innovative instructional approaches utilizing a wide spectrum of media to meet the demands of the diversity of both research content and student learning styles. She co-taught, for example, the German Studies/Film Studies 231 topics course, “Haunted Utopia?: Weimar Cinema (1919-1931): From Caligari to M.,” in a novel approach to video-conferencing. Instead of employing the traditional “one to many” lecture method of such courses, she designed approaches where the MHC students interacted fully, in group and plenary work, with the student members and instructor located at Smith College.
In Spring 2011, Wittig Davis offers a similar German Studies / Film Studies course in English translation, “Spectres, Monsters, and the Mind: The Gothic and Grotesque in Anglo-German Film and Fiction.” Students investigate the lineage of a variety of cross and intercultural vampire and monster traditions, from Frankenstein to Dracula, The Perfume, and the Twilight rage throughout the world.
Finally, Gabriele Wittig Davis’s senior seminar, German Studies 325, in Spring 2011, “States of Terror: From Kaspar Hauser to 9/11in Film and Text,” integrates experiential and theoretical learning. It employs a case studies approach to probe historical and contemporary issues and tensions between art and society, focusing especially on the role of language in developing individual identity concepts and political power structures.
At MHC, Wittig Davis served for 20 years as Chair of the Department of German Studies, changing its concept from a binary “Department of German Language and Literature” into an interdisciplinary German culture studies environment where the full spectrum of ‘things German’ may become the focus of textual analysis, and “text” and “context” (as well as approaches) are no longer pre-determined, static entities but, instead, have turned into dynamic concepts shifting according to the focal points of investigations. As Chair, she also emphasized the interrelationship of the liberal arts and professional planning and has encouraged and supported all students in the department to seek out internship opportunities which allow them to meld their interests in German with such diverse fields of interest as chemistry, medicine, investment banking, journalism, broadcasting, museum administration, or theater (Suzan-Lori Parks was a double major in English and German Studies). On the College and Five-College levels, she has contributed toward similar shifts in the teaching of languages and culture in general by serving repeatedly as Chair of the Foreign Languages Executive Committee and as a member of two Five-College Committees, Film Studies and Arabic Studies. Currently, she is Fellowship, Internship, and Study-Abroad Adviser for German Studies, thereby employing her expertise gained as Chair, as guest professor in media studies and German studies at the University of Hamburg, and the Director of a long-standing study-abroad program there in guiding students toward successful applications for national and international graduate fellowships and undergraduate study-abroad and internship opportunities.
Wittig Davis has published the book, Novel Associations: Theodor Fontane and George Eliot within the Context of Nineteenth-Century Realism, and articles on topics including Theodor Fontane, Theodor Storm, German film and re-textualization issues, as well as pedagogical papers for Unterrichtspraxis. In addition, she has been participating in the full spectrum of professional activities, including writing scholarly reviews of newly published research in her fields of specialization; evaluating manuscripts for submission to such refereed journals as German Studies Review, Monatshefte, and the Fontane-Blätter, and presenting at a wide range of professional conferences both in the U.S. and abroad.
In addition, she has developed multimedia applications utilized by scholars and students in Germany and the U.S.: Geschichte/n eines Findlings: Kaspar Hauser multimedial (The Enigmatic Hi/Stories of Kaspar Hauser); The Metamorphosed Text: Film Analysis and Literary Analysis of Theodor Fontane’s Mathilde Möhring; and Vision oder Wirklichkeit?: Theodor Storms Der Schimmelreiter in Film und Literatur. She is currently in the process of adapting the multi-disciplinary Kaspar Hauser project to the Web. Wittig Davis and Robert Chapin Davis of the University of Massachusetts/Amherst were also awarded support from the Checkpoint Charlie Foundation for creating the bilingual multimedia CD-ROM, (Über)Lebenskunst: Wolfgang Szepansky—Fünf Jahre im KZ Sachsenhausen / The Art of Survival: Wolfgang Szepansky—Five Years in the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp. The CD-ROM is available for use at the Sachsenhausen memorial as well as in educational institutions of the states of Berlin and Brandenburg in Germany, and, of course, in the U.S.
- "New Course Will Offer Spooky Subject Matter," Office of Communications, October 28, 2010