David Smith. The program's resident Southerner, I was born and raised in South Carolina, the son of two public school teachers. My parents lived in Germany during the Cuban Missile Crisis and building of the Berlin Wall, and their stories of life in Cold War Germany piqued my interest in the country’s history and cultures during my childhood some 15-20 years later. As a first-year college student, I was convinced I wanted to double major in business and German, but I quickly developed a love for the study of foreign affairs and the humanities. By my third year I had decided to major solely in German, a decision I have never regretted. It is a great life to get paid for doing something you truly enjoy. German for me is about people and their narratives—whether they be those of my parents; my German friends and colleagues; my high school German teacher, Peter Gould; or my college advisor and mentor, Al Gurganus.
In my teaching I try to live by the examples set by those before me and to be mindful that we all have stories to live and write, whether literally or figuratively: we all have histories—we all have dreams and aspirations. My role as a teacher is to train students to think critically and to achieve competency in the language and cultures of German-speaking lands. It is also, however, to encourage students to reach beyond their comfort zones to chase their dreams—to reflect on and embrace their strengths and weaknesses.
My research engages the writings and thought of people living in German-speaking areas of Germany in the Early Modern period and the Enlightenment, roughly 1600 to 1800. In particular I explore conceptions of German identity and unity at a time when there was no “Germany” in the political sense, an incredibly interesting topic when one considers that notions of race, gender, religion, aesthetics, and technology all play a part.
Funded ($2500), 2007. “Early Enlightenment Commemorations of the Printing Press.” Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst (DAAD) Grant to conduct archival research in Gotha and Leipzig, Germany.
1. Article: “Woman as the Face of God: The Poetry of J. M. R. Lenz.”
2. Book project: Early German Enlightenment Commemorations of Gutenberg’s Printing Press.
My manuscript examines a neglected product of early-Enlightenment thought with application to current debates in the fields of Germanistik, European imperialism, and media studies. As I demonstrate in my article in the Lessing Yearbook, J. C. Gottsched hails Gutenberg's invention as a God-inspired, German-mediated technology enabling the exercise and dissemination of reason. Gottsched then contrasts the virtues of press-driven reason with the sins of colonial enterprises, which cloud the mind with dreams of El Dorado and lead to corporal scourges—not just of the syphilitic colonizer and his colonized subject, but also of the German and greater European body politic.
My project expands on Gottsched’s pronouncement. In particular, it analyzes the degree to which commemorations of the press in 1740 privilege German speakers over the citizenry of Spain, France and England, all three of which possessed colonies and a recognized standard language when Germans did not. My study investigates the documents not simply to corroborate Gottsched’s convictions but rather to understand how they diverge and overlap in their depictions of the centrality of “Germany” and the press to the advancement of Enlightenment ideals. Of interest too is the possibility that some texts describe the press as a vehicle for exercising intellectual dominion over other cultures and languages, or even as a means by which to promote one theology over another.
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