Jill Twark. I began learning German in the seventh grade because my mother is of German descent, and soon became fascinated by Germany's long history, literature, philosophy, and classical music. Traveling to Stuttgart on a one-month exchange program in high school showed me both how steeped in history, and yet surprisingly modern, Germany actually is today. The friendly and well-educated people, fabulous public transportation system, bike lanes, and contemporary cityscapes, surrounded by vineyards and castles, led to an addiction with the culture of German-speaking countries that has lasted until today. As a professor, my goals are to impart my knowledge and enthusiasm for German language and culture to my students on a daily basis. I love my role as study abroad director for German-speaking countries, because I can send students to Germany, Austria, or Switzerland and watch them get turned on to German culture like I am!
My research interests include twentieth- and twenty-first century German literature and culture. In my recent book, entitled Humor, Satire, and Identity: Eastern German Literature in the 1990s, I surveyed the widespread Eastern German literary trend of employing humor and satire to come to terms with difficult experiences in the German Democratic Republic (former socialist East Germany) and after the fall of the Berlin Wall. I analyzed the literary strategies and language of ten novels, grounding them in politics and history and elucidating their cultural critiques and socio-political insights. All texts are sophisticated attempts to make sense of socialism's failure and a difficult unification process, and thus help define Germany today from a specific, Eastern German perspective. For my next project, I am shifting my focus within contemporary German literature toward a new, emerging literary trend concerning today's environmental challenges. This trend, for instance, has revived the science fiction genre with such best-selling novels as Frank Schätzing's Der Schwarm (The Swarm, 2004) and Andreas Eschbach's Ausgebrannt (Burned Out, 2007). Here I will draw on my personal interest in, and knowledge of, environmental politics and science, and my past research into satire as dystopia and utopia in order to examine the authors' literary techniques and warnings.
I teach all levels of German language, as well as Introduction to German Literature, Advanced Conversation, Advanced Grammar, and various literature and culture classes. My favorite upper-level classes to teach are Popular Literature and Culture in Germany from 1945 to the Present; The Contemporary German-Speaking World: Literature and Culture in Germany from 1945-2000; and The German Speaking World from 1900-1945: From the fin de siècle to Nazi Germany. I also find it very stimulating to offer classes on the Holocaust and on my own research topic: post-unification German literature and culture.