Carnegie Mellon University

Stephen Brockmann

Stephen Brockmann

Professor of German with courtesy appointments in English & History , Modern Languages Department


I joined the Carnegie Mellon faculty in August of 1993. From then until the present I have been involved in teaching in the University's German program, mostly at the third- and fourth-year levels. I have also enjoyed teaching Elementary German. I have courtesy appointments in the departments of English and History, and some of my courses, such as “History of German Film” and “Nazi and Resistance Culture”, have been cross-listed in those departments. I have enjoyed the rich interdisciplinarity of Carnegie Mellon, particularly the relationship between my own college, the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences, and the College of Fine Arts. I am the major advisor for students interested in majoring in German but am also happy to advise students with any German-related interests.

My scholarship is governed by a commitment to interdisciplinary research combining the study of literature and film with the study of history and politics. This interdisciplinarity is generally referred to in the profession as German Studies in order to distinguish it from the traditional exclusive study of literature generally characterized by the German-language term Germanistik. The German Studies approach is largely a product of the last four decades and is associated with the foundation and growth, during the 1970s and 1980s, of the German Studies Association (GSA) which brings together literary scholars, historians, and political scientists who share a common interest in the history, culture, and politics of Central Europe. I have been actively involved with the German Studies Association since the beginning of my career. From 2005-2007, I served a three-year term on the Executive Board of the GSA, helping set policy for the organization. In 2011-2012 I had the honor and privilege of serving the GSA as its President; and in 2013-2014 I served on the GSA’s Executive Council and Board as immediate past president. I also served as vice president of the organization in 2009-2010.

All of my major research projects explore the relationship between literature and culture on the one hand and German national identity on the other. My most recent book, The Writers’ State: Constructing East German Literature, 1945-1959, examines the origins and development of East German literary culture out of the catastrophe of the Nazi dictatorship and in the crucible of the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union. I expect that book to appear by the end of 2015. A Critical History of German Film, which was published in 2010, is an overview of German film history from the perspective of German national identity; it developed as a textbook for my regular course “History of German Film” at Carnegie Mellon. Nuremberg: The Imaginary Capital, which was published in 2006, is a broad study of German cultural history since 1500, with particular emphasis on the period since 1800. It explores the ways in which Germans have imagined Nuremberg as a cultural and spiritual capital, focusing feelings of national identity on the city—or on their image of it. German Literary Culture at the Zero Hour, published in 2004, examines the ways in which German intellectuals and writers, in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War, confronted perhaps the most difficult complex of problems ever faced by modern intellectuals in the western world: the complete defeat and devastation of their country, the crimes of the Hitler dictatorship, the onset of the Cold war, and ultimately the political division of the nation. Literature and German Reunification, published in 1999, was the first systematic attempt in English or any other language to examine the literary consequences of German reunification. In exploring the ways in which authors of the 1990s sought to cope with history and national identity, the book addresses questions about the role of the nation and a national literature in the context of economic and political globalization. My future plans include a book dealing with the year 1989-1990, the collapse of the East German State, and the development of culture in a political vacuum; I intend that book to be complement to both Literature and German Reunification and The Writers’ State.

In 2007, I was honored to receive the DAAD Prize for Distinguished Scholarship in German and European Studies/Humanities, an award given out every three years by the German Academic Exchange Service and the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies. (In other years the DAAD and the AICGS award prizes in economics and political science.)

From 2002-2007, I was the managing editor of the Brecht Yearbook, the major scholarly organ devoted to studying the work of one of the greatest figures in twentieth-century literature, the playwright and poet Bertolt Brecht. Together with colleagues in Augsburg, Germany, the city of Brecht’s birth, I also organized a major international, interdisciplinary symposium entitled Brecht and Death/ Brecht und der Tod in Augsburg July 12-16, 2006 to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of Brecht’s death in the summer of 1956. Selected proceedings of this fascinating symposium were published in the summer of 2007 as Vol. 32 of the Brecht Yearbook. As probably the most influential political playwright of the twentieth century and a powerful, perceptive critic of moral hypocrisy and self-righteousness, Brecht is just as relevant today as he was in the first half of the twentieth century. He has had, and continues to have, a profound impact on nonconformist theater in the United States, Latin America, South Africa, Germany, and elsewhere. Brecht was also one of the greatest German-language poets of the twentieth century, revolutionizing the use of the German language in somewhat the same way that Ernest Hemingway revolutionized the use of the English language: he made simplicity and directness an art form, translating complex and subtle thoughts into direct, clear, comprehensible language. I was honored to be elected president of the International Brecht Society (IBS) in 2013, and I am currently looking forward to the sixteenth symposium of the IBS, Recycling Brecht, which will take place in the United Kingdom at the University of Oxford in June 2016.