December 14, 2022
Modern Languages Celebrates Recent Book Publications
By KellyAnn Tsai
At the first in-person event of its kind since 2018, the Department of Modern Languages recently gathered for a book celebration to recognize the achievements of the department’s faculty in literary and cultural studies.
Modern Languages has been highly productive in the past four years. Six faculty members across five languages published 16 books, covering a diverse range of topics including film, literature, identity, language teaching, and critical pedagogy. Given this productivity, a formal recognition of these faculty’s book publications was warranted.
In her opening remarks, Anne Lambright, head of the Department of Modern Languages, applauded the work of her colleagues.
“There are many things to love about this job, but one of my greatest pleasures is being able to witness and share in the stellar intellectual production of our awesome Modern Languages faculty,” she said. “Multilingual and pluricultural, this collection of books truly exemplifies the scholarly excellence that marks our department and the depth and breadth of the impact our faculty have on their fields.”
The breadth of the department’s research is outstanding. The books recognized cover German film, Leo Tolstoy's and Vladimir Nabokov's aesthetic worldviews, Blackness in contemporary France, Chinese language and culture education, and pedagogy, trauma, and wellness.
Stephen Brockmann, Professor of German
Stephen Brockmann is a Professor of German whose research focuses on German cultural history from the nineteenth to the twenty-first century, including film, theater, and literature. In 2020, he published the second edition of his book A Critical History of German Film, which he first published in 2010 as a companion to his course on German film.
Donna Harsch, Professor of History at Carnegie Mellon University, praised Brockmann’s work for its clear, unpretentious writing and its ability to expertly situate German films in their historical context. Harsch, who uses the book for her own course on 20th-century German film, said Brockmann’s work pairs beautifully with her course content and has led to “amazing discussions” among her students.
With the winter holidays approaching, Harsch recommended that everyone take advantage of the extra time to watch some of the German films analyzed in A Critical History of German Film, second edition—but, of course, to read Brockmann’s book first.
Tatyana Gershkovich, Associate Professor of Russian Studies
Recent Publication: Art in Doubt: Tolstoy, Nabokov, and the Problem of Other Minds (2022)
Tatyana Gershkovich, Associate Professor of Russian Studies, specializes in Russian Imperial and early Soviet literature. She joined the book celebration via Zoom from Vienna, Austria, where she is conducting research for her next book project.
This year, Gershkovich published Art in Doubt: Tolstoy, Nabokov, and the Problem of Other Minds. Her work explores how authors Leo Tolstoy’s and Vladimir Nabokov’s seemingly opposing views come from “a shared fear at the root of their seemingly antithetical aesthetics: that one’s experience of the world might be entirely one’s own, private and impossible to share through art.”
Art in Doubt: Tolstoy, Nabokov, and the Problem of Other Minds has been praised as “a deeply sophisticated, subtle, and compelling study of the dilemmas of authorship in the era of transition from realism to modernism.”
Gang Liu, Associate Teaching Professor of Chinese Studies, and Haixia Wang, Senior Lecturer of Chinese Studies
Recent Publications: Living overseas: Cases, strategies and guidance for CFL teachers around the world (2021); Cross-cultural communication: Teaching Chinese in the global context (2021); Tales of Teachers: Case Studies and Reflections from CFL Classrooms in North America (2021); Tradition and Transition: Teaching Chinese Culture Overseas (forthcoming, 2022)
Longtime collaborators Gang Liu, Associate Teaching Professor of Chinese Studies, and Haixia Wang, Senior Lecturer of Chinese Studies, recently published four books that serve as essential resources for Chinese educators.
The books provide ample case studies on the teaching and working experiences of Chinese educators from more than 30 countries. But they also go beyond the classroom and offer guidance for teachers moving overseas to help them better understand local customs, geography, climate, clothing, food, housing, and transportation.
Liu and Wang’s books are the result of years of global collaboration. Living overseas, Cross-cultural communication, and Tales of Teachers include contributions from 45 authors in 32 countries. The forthcoming book Tradition and Transition: Teaching Chinese Culture Overseas combines the efforts of three Modern Languages faculty (Liu, Wang, and Sue-mei Wu, Teaching Professor of Chinese Studies) and ten alumni of the Department of Modern Languages’ PhD and Master’s programs.
Gang Liu, Associate Teaching Professor of Chinese Studies
Recent Publication: Dreamed Away: Luoluo Ting's Adventure in Ancient Chinese Mythology (2021)
In addition to his scholarly work, Liu is also the author of Dreamed Away: Luoluo Ting's Adventure in Ancient Chinese Mythology, a series of five children’s books published in 2021. Dreamed Away, which is written in Chinese, helps 6- to 9-year-old Chinese children as well as nonnative learners learn Chinese language and culture in a fun and entertaining way.
The book centers on a young Chinese girl Luoluo Ting, based on Liu’s own daughter, who travels with two feline friends to ancient China and meets the different gods and goddesses of ancient Chinese mythology. Liu says these books can be used to teach language, Chinese mythology, and traditional Chinese culture.
A key feature of these books are their beautiful illustrations, which were done by a close friend of Liu’s. Even for those who do not read Chinese, the books are worth a look—but Liu is also getting the books translated into English.
Mame-Fatou Niang, Associate Professor of French and Francophone Studies
When introducing her work, Mame-Fatou Niang, Associate Professor of French and Francophone Studies, often begins with a story from her childhood.
Growing up Black in France, Niang recalls carrying identification with her at all times to prove her French citizenship and avoid possible arrest or deportation—despite the fact that her family has lived in France for over 200 years. “I’ve only received a whooping once in my life and it was from my mother, for forgetting to bring my ID with me one day,” Niang said.
Mame’s work investigates the experience of Blackness in contemporary France. In her book Universalisme, Niang and co-author Julien Suaudeau challenge the idea of French universalism, the long-held belief that French citizenship transcends other identities such as race. Rather than viewing universalism as an unassailable truth, Niang’s book redefines universalism as “a dynamic work in progress never completed, always to be redesigned.”
The English translation of Universalisme is forthcoming.
Candace Skibba, Associate Teaching Professor of Hispanic Studies
Recent Publications: How Well? Wellness for the Rest of Us (2021); Trauma-Informed Pedagogy: Addressing Gender-Based Violence in the Classroom (2022)
Candace Skibba, Associate Teaching Professor of Hispanic Studies, investigates the intersection between literary and film studies and studies of the body. Staying true to her research, Skibba began her remarks at the book celebration by encouraging the audience to stand up, connect with their neighbors, and simply take a break.
How Well? Wellness for the Rest of Us, published by Skibba and Gabi Maier, Teaching Professor of German, is a compilation of illustrated short stories centered around ideas of community and mutual caretaking as antidotes to the corporately-driven, dominant notion of “Wellness” prevalent in the Western world today. Skibba’s most recent book, Trauma-Informed Pedagogy: Addressing Gender-Based Violence in the Classroom, investigates how educators and mentors can address the topic of gender-based violence with greater care and understanding.
Addressing an audience of her colleagues, Skibba said that although the work they do as educators is often difficult—and sometimes undervalued—it is vital. “It can be hard to talk to our students about issues of gender-based violence, but it is so needed,” said Skibba. “Let’s just keep doing the work.”