Gabriele Eichmanns Maier
Associate Teaching Professor of German, Modern Languages
Over the years, my research and teaching have been informed by the overarching question of whether human beings are able to overcome cultural differences and accept diverse ways of living. One of the occasions on which I had the opportunity to examine this question first-hand was in 2008 when I took a group of students from the University of Washington to Vienna to spend three months in one of the most beautiful cities in Europe to explore the German language and Austrian culture. Not only was I witness to their growing understanding of and sensitivity to the foreign environment, but I also noticed their immense interest in comparing Austrian and American culture, and in seeing their own ways of living through European eyes. This experience reminded me of my own trips and longer stays abroad when everything seemed different at first but then became familiar as time went on.
I started out as a double major in Comparative Literature and Japanese Studies at the University of Bonn in Germany. I spent my junior year in Southern Japan to improve my language skills and to learn about Japan and its people. It was a memorable experience and led to another, much longer stay abroad, this time in the U.S.: I went to Seattle to continue my studies at the University of Washington, where I received my M.A. in Comparative Literature. The following year, I traveled to Denmark to study Comparative Literature from a Danish perspective, while also learning about Scandinavian culture and literature. Upon my return to the States a year later, I decided to stay in the U.S. and begin a Ph.D. program in German at the University of Washington so that I would be able to teach my own language while simultaneously learning about my host country’s culture.
This dichotomy between the familiar and the foreign can be easily detected in the research I have been conducting over the past years. In my dissertation, I examine the German notion of Heimat (home) and the impact globalization has had on this very German concept since the fall of the Berlin Wall. I analyze how the local and the global come together, how they create hybrid forms and thus a new understanding of what it means to be German in the new millennium. I am in the process of revising my dissertation and intend to have a publishable manuscript in the very near future. I have also co-edited a volume on Heimat entitled Heimat Goes Mobile: Hybrid Forms of Home in Literature and Film, in which the various contributors explore the recent discourse on Heimat from multiple theoretical and literary angles. Furthermore, I finished a textbook on Germany and globalization for advanced learners of German, which is scheduled to be published in the fall of 2015 with Yale University Press.
Another project of mine is more comparative in its nature and involves a study of the encounter between East and West. Drawing on my background in Comparative Literature and Japanese Studies, I am exploring the German perception of Japan in an article entitled “Orbiting Around the Void: Emptiness as Recurring Topos in Recent German Short Stories on Japan.” I intend to expand my work in the future and also focus on Japanese authors such as Kenzaburo Oe and Yoko Tawada and their respective views of Western society and in particular German culture and history.