Karen Remmler Awarded Mount Holyoke College Faculty Award for Teaching
Through her dedication, commitment, and attention students become successful learners without compromising academic standards. Students are empowered by Karen’s sharp intelligence and keen listening ability. Karen’s approach in the classroom leads everyone in the class to interact in respectful and meaningful ways with one another.
Perhaps the best way to begin is for all of us to pause, soften our gaze, get comfortable, and bring our attention back to our breathing. In doing this, we gather our whole selves to be present in this moment that we all share, together…it’s a fitting beginning because that is how Karen Remmler, the Mary Lyon Professor of the Humanities at Mount Holyoke, begins each class meeting. The classroom is a destination, an opportunity to discover, cultivate understanding, and develop insight with our whole selves. Karen’s class meeting is a place that encourages students to bring their whole selves to the work of collaborative learning.
Karen joined the Mount Holyoke faculty in the fall of 1990, where she has taught German history, language, and culture ever since. She served as co-director of the Weissman Center for Leadership and the Liberal Arts from 2000-2005, and director of the Five College Women’s Studies Research Center from 2011-2014.
Karen has been a prolific scholar of German history, language, and culture. Her book, Waking the Dead: Correspondences between Walter Benjamin’s Concept of Remembrance and Ingeborg Bachmann’s ‘Ways of Dying’ explores the pivotal role of remembrance as traumatic rupture in the context of (pioneering European women’s literature artist) Ingeborg Bachmann’s unfinished prose cycle on death styles under fascism. This early work serves as a point of departure for a scholarly career spent editing, authoring, curating how the dead live on, how we remember them, and how we use memory in the present. In teaching and writing about the relative abundance of monuments and museums commemorating the Holocaust across contemporary Germany, Karen has pointed out how much easier it is to mark the horror of the catastrophe now that there are very few Jews left in German society. Would it be so easy, she asks, to confront the truth if they were still here?
By teaching her students to notice the presence of key absences that shape human doings and meaning, Karen invites students to reflect critically on human genocides and fascist regimes using art, literature, social theory, and history. Transnational and transdisciplinary in her approach to teaching, Karen has taught in both English and German and her courses range from introductions to Gender Studies and Critical Social Thought to advanced seminars on memory in Germany and Japan; the Holocaust in Film; migration, identity, and culture in contemporary Europe.
In each of these classes as in her writing, Karen has been relentless about pedagogical details. Karen does not assume that our students arrive with the institutional know-how to navigate the quirks and tricks of Mount Holyoke’s curriculum. Instead, Karen is rigorously attentive to each element of what makes a complete and accessible classroom experience. There is no bottom to her energy and drive to support our students and to convey the stories of our past and present. Karen teaches with the urgency of someone who recognizes that at this point in the history of the United States, there may be no bigger mistake for small liberal arts colleges than to reduce their investment in the Humanities or eliminate German Studies as the shining example of what can happen when indifference, narrow expertise, banal study, and historical amnesia triumph over the messiness and occasionally nastiness of human striving.
Members of the awards committee selected Karen because in our review of decades of teaching evaluations, prizes and professional commendations, we were impressed by the consensus that she is brilliant, inspiring, supportive, kind, and calm with a calming nature. She is always thoughtful, attentive. Through her dedication, commitment, and attention students become successful learners without compromising academic standards. Students are empowered by Karen’s sharp intelligence and keen listening ability. Karen’s approach in the classroom leads everyone in the class to interact in respectful and meaningful ways with one another. We are thrilled to present Karen Remmler with the Mount Holyoke College Faculty Award for Teaching.