AUBG’s Dr. Stantcheva’s Visit at Denison

Working with German professor Dr. Diana Stantcheva from the American University in Bulgaria (AUBG) as a collaborative team within GLCA’s Global Course Connections Program over the past four years has been a most productive and enjoyable journey. Both Denison and AUBG students have been collaborating on a great variety of projects for 7 continuous semesters. These courses have ranged from intermediate to advanced level , from language to content-focused, and from simple technologies to complex digitally innovative courses.

Students on both sides have gotten to know each other and both professors over the years, and it’s not been seldom that students who had worked together on a digitally supported project found each other to be partners again three semesters later. Via Google Hangouts and later Zoom video-conferencing students on both sides have met regularly over time to discuss American and East-European culture, US and German politics, the refugee situation in Europe, German media, Homosexuality in German film, gender and family, and linguistic phenomena, and much more – all in German!

img_0195This fall, on November 7th, Dr. Stantcheva came to Dr. Dillmann’s “Media in Germany” course to discuss the US presidential election from a European perspective with the class. In turn, students in the course explained and discussed the American voting system with Dr. Stantcheva who was extremely impressed both by how politically informed our students were and how well they were able to describe the complex election system and state their own opinions on the two competing candidates in very clear German.

Dr. Stantcheva’s husband Vladi, an accomplished artist based in Sofia and Berlin, joined us for a campus tour where he talked with several students in German. He was particularly interested in students working at the election information table in Slayter Hall and likewise impressed by how politically savvy and engaged our students are. The stereotype that young Americans are indifferent to the politics in their own country was certainly not confirmed on our campus.


Definitely a highlight of Diana’s and Vladi’s visit – according to both Diana and Vladi – was visiting the Mulberry MixLab with its director, Christian Faur, showing them the lab space with its manifold artistic production programs and demonstrating to them how the various 3-D printers set up in Mulberry and the Bryant Arts Center function. Diana was especially delighted about the special gift she received from Christian: her name laser-cut into a piece of wood.


We concluded the evening with a meal at Day Y Noche, where two of our Denison students had the pleasure to be captured spontaneously in a portrait drawing by the artist at the dinner table. They said that they would always treasure this unexpected gift.

Thank you, Diana and Vladi, for your visit and sharing your thoughts and experiences with our students!

Ethel at German Kaffeeklatsch!

Screen Shot 2015-12-08 at 8.10.28 PMThursday, December 3rd, was a fabulous day for the German section at Denison University’s Modern Languages Department! The wunderbar string quartet Ethel joined the German social coffee hour to discuss and show via example the influence of revolutionary Austrian composer Arnold Schoenberg on the avant-garde and contemporary composers – including Ethel! Students were enthralled.

Evan Woodnorth and Hannah Doermann lead the weekly Kaffeeklatsch, which invites students from all courses and levels of German to join in for conversation and German coffee. Every Thursday during common hour, they discuss contemporary issues such as the refugee crisis in Europe to pop and alternative German music to important historic events. Hannah, who is a native of Bonn, Germany has been co-conducting German KK since her freshman year at Denison and Evan, a native of Minnesota, who is practically linguistically and culturally near-native German after spending a year living in the country right after high school, when he had been awarded the coveted Congress-Bundestag scholarship, has been contributing very creatively to KK for the past year now. Together, they’ve made a great team!

On average, Kaffeeklatsch has a student turnout of about 20 students each week in the Foresman Lounge on the third floor of Fellows Hall, but with Ethel visiting we had to move to a larger space than our regular gathering place – almost all students from all courses as well as students interested in “all things German” came to the social hour, about 100 students. All visitors enjoyed German chocolates, ginger breads, and the famous German Stollen with Jacobs Kaffee throughout the event.

The event was introduced by German student Melodie Petra Faur who presented an informative introduction to Schoenberg’s life and work in German so engagingly that the language barrier for non-German speakers was reduced to a minimum – the music itself made up for the rest! [arnold schönberg]

Beautiful cello artist Dorothy gave a very insightful introduction to the importance on Schoenberg on the American avant-garde and Ralph shared his own experiences with Schoenberg’s genius in his development as a musician from his teenage years. Corin and Kip rounded off the influence of Schoenberg on their own artistic development .. until we ran out of time.

Arnold Schönberg’s work and significance as a major cultural figure was a topic in the advanced German course 311, a writing course and survey of 20th century German/Austrian/Swiss writers and artists. For students to get an in-depth exploration of his work with highly recognized musicians such as Ethel is a treat very few college students get to enjoy in such an intimate and close setting.

I would like to whole-heartedly thank Mike Morris Sr., Director of the Denison Vail Series, and Ching-Chu Hu, Chair of the Denison Music Department, for making this event possible for our German students and faculty (Gary Baker, Gabriele Dillmann, Jeffrey Frazier). Furthermore, I owe much gratitude to Tim, Denison’s amazing photographer, and Jamie Hale from University Communications for taking and then sharing the photographs below with me for this blog. But most of all a heartfelt Dankeschön to Ethel: Dorothy, Ralph (aka Frank), Kip and Corin!!







4 North Park Place Newark, OH: Art and History in Unexpected Places

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The Denison Art Department had its BFA group show at 4 North Park Place in downtown Newark this April. Students displayed their art work throughout the three floors of the building after an intense clean-up of several days. The idea was to create a space that would show a symbiotic relationship between students’ artwork and the space itself.  If you had a chance to see the show, you were in for a surprise. The entire, huge building with its seemingly endless rooms is a work of art. Over the years, the slow decay of walls and ceilings has created patterns and shapes that are stunningly beautiful to a point where sometimes the intentionally created art struggles to compete with what nature has created by itself.

Walking through the vast space, from one dilapidated room to the next, I wonder how long these floors have been left to themselves to decay and wither away behind a perfectly well maintained facade of the historic downtown building. I find the answer in a room with Kristie King’s name tag by its entrance door: Tuesday, January 31, 1933 reads the date on one of the newspaper pages spread all over the floor in anticipation of a renovation project that was never completed. For 81 years this place has been abandoned at a time that would be the beginning of one of the greatest tragedies to befall Europe and with it the United States. “Hitler Faces Stormy Course in German Chancellorship – Nationalists Celebrate in Wild Fashion,” reads the headline of page 2 of The Ohio State Journal with a photograph of Adolf Hitler in typical grim and hostile pose. “Gets his chance – Adolf Hitler, leader of the German Nationalists, was made chancellor yesterday in a common effort to pull the fatherland out of the mire,” its caption elaborates on Hitler’s infamous Machtergreifung (seizure of power) adopting the nationalist rhetoric of the time. The day before, on January 30th, 1933, Hitler was appointed Reichskanzler by President Hindenburg. On the day after this newspaper page was printed, Hitler gave his first national radio address, “Appeal to the German People.” By the end of World War II, tens of millions of people had died or were missing in action, about 420,000 of those were American soldiers, 23,000 were men and women from Ohio.

The paper is holding up surprisingly well considering its age and its exposure to an unforgiving environment. With a little effort, even the smaller print is still legible. It is as if time had been arrested behind these historic walls. Fortunately, Kristie had the foresight to leave this room untouched and let the remnants of history speak for themselves.

IMG_8200 IMG_8205IMG_8202

From the Downtown Newark Ohio Association website we learn a little bit about these semi-abandoned buildings:

Newark, Ohio was founded in 1802 by Maj. William C. Schenk, who came to Ohio from Newark, New Jersey. It was incorporated into a town in 1826 and became a city in 1860. Our beautiful Second Empire Courthouse was dedicated in 1876 as the 4th courthouse on this site. It is surrounded by the Downtown Newark National Register Historic District which contains more than 90 well-preserved late 19th early 20th century commercial structures, representing a wide variety of architectural styles. Many of the shops, restaurants, attractions and points of interest are housed in these structures.

What has happened to that building since that paper was spread to protect this small room’s floors from the messes of restoration 81 years ago?

Let’s see the show:


Ohio_State_Journal_Hitler_1933 (Original Newsprint)



Modern Neuroscience and Freud Event

The Association for Psychoanalytic Thought offered another superb event this past Friday at the Cincinnati Psychoanalytic Institute. With renewed interest in Freud’s scientific ideas by contemporary leading neuroscientists such as Mark Solms and Oliver Turnbull, not to forget the role Freud had played in Nobel Laureate Eric Kandel’s life and work, this event was especially timely and relevant. (Also Discover Mag currently has a cover article on Freud’s “second-coming”.)

Konstantin Bakhurin who is completing his PhD in the Neuroscience program at UCLA, gave a highly informative talk  as the first of two speakers on the subject of contemporary neuroscience and Freud. His topic: Learning-dependent modulation and potential neurological correlates for past experience influencing present behavior; a model to provide understanding of Freud’s ID, Ego, and Superego as ‘residing’ in the brain as an effect of its organization and interaction function. I especially appreciated Konstantin’s cultural approach to Freud and psychoanalytic thought in his introduction providing us with the context in which psychoanalytic ideas – and precursors to those – were shaped and processed by thinkers, scientists, and artists alike. This culture of cross-fertilization set the tone in the late 19th century for the advancement of psychoanalytic thought and this renewed, respectful treatment of Freud’s scientific ideas within a growing neuropsychoanalytic community promises to lead to a fruitful period for collaborative research between the arts, humanities and sciences. (In this context also of interest is Eric Kandel’s new book The Age of Insight and an interview by Die Zeit with the author.)

For Konstantin’s full talk, please visit here:

Further suggested readings:

Linden, D.J. (2007) The accidental mind: How brain evolution has given us love, memory, dreams, and God. (Book Review)

Burton, Robert (2013) A Skeptic’s Guide to the Mind

Demasio, Antonio (2012) Self Comes to Mind

Panksepp, Jaak (2012) Archaeology of Mind

Obituary of David Hubel

This is a great collection of review articles on the various kinds of representations of the outside world in the brain that are typically studied in neuroscience. People should have access to these through their university library:

The second talk by Dr. Marcia Kaplan, practicing psychiatrist and psychoanalytic therapist was equally inspiring and in the same spirit as the first speaker’s. Its topic: Findings regarding firing of single neurons correlating with psychoanalytic models explaining behavior; information-processing in “bottom-up” and “top-down” ways by both brain and mind. Rich in background information and context with helpful examples made for an illustrative presentation of complex ideas that became accessible to a appreciative and interested audience.

For Dr. Kaplan’s full talk, please visit here:

Further Readings:

Podcast by Jaak Panksepp

Panksepp, Jaak (2004) Affective Neuroscience

A special thank you to Christian Faur, Director of Collaborative Technologies Fine and Performing Arts at Denison University for professionally capturing and editing these talks.