Looking for participants….

This week a request for participants from Oxford’s Chair of Medieval German Literature and Linguistics, Prof. Henrike Lähnemann – if you’re in Oxford on 25 May 2017 and want to take part in some of the celebrations and events for Bonn Week, read on…

A portrait of Martin Luther by Lucas Cranach the Elder (1528)

I am looking for German speakers who would like to take part in a public reading of Martin Luther’s ‘Sendbrief vom Dolmetschen’ in German which is scheduled to take place on 25 May, 4-5:30pm, at the Taylor Institution Library, Oxford. This is to launch the first publication in a series of Reformation pamphlets in facsimile, transcription and new translations, provided in this case by Howard Jones (and with input from many of you). The reading will be recorded and made available together with the free, open access edition, in the Digital Library section of the Reformation 2017 blog of the Taylorian where currently there is already the facsimile and transcription available. Thanks to sponsorship from the German Embassy, we will be able to hand out free print copies to all readers and sell them otherwise at the launch for 2GBP (afterwards 5GBP); the download will be available free directly after the launch.

The launch is scheduled to coincide with Bonn Week, a celebration of 70 years of twinning with Bonn, so we hope to have a good mix of German and British audience. Further details to follow – for now I just need expressions of interest for reading; drop me an email to volunteer for a paragraph. It would be nice to have a cross-section of voices from young and old, men and women, German and English native speakers! The text is 7,000 words long = ca. 60 minutes reading time; if we could have 20 speakers, everybody would get one (longer or shorter) paragraph, between 2 and 4 minutes.

Looking forward to hearing from you,

Henrike Lähnemann (email: henrike.lähnemann@mod-langs.ox.ac.uk)

PS: You might have seen / heard the BBC series ‘Breaking Free – Martin Luther’s Revolution’; two episodes are now available from the website http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08nyr3b


The German Reformation – hands on!

Students and staff at the University of Oxford have been celebrating the inauguration of Prof. Henrike Lähnemann as the Chair for Medieval German Literature and Linguistics. As part of the events, students and staff of the sub-faculty of German have launched a new website that celebrates some of the 500-year old prints held by the Taylorian Library. One of OGN’s student ambassadors, Kezia, has been handling the texts and introduces the students’ work here…

Friday, 22 January 2016 was the day the Reformation 2017 Taylorian website was launched! 2017 will be the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s 95 Theses, which launched a seismic religious, social and cultural shift throughout Europe, and it will be the year that the Taylorian Library really gets to show off its incredible collection of Reformation pamphlets. So the German sub-faculty has started preparing already!

Students and staff at Oxford University present Reformation prints from the holdings of the Taylorian Library
Eyn Wunderliche Weyssagung von dem Babtstumb detail Taylor 2
A page from Eyn Wunderliche Weyssagung von dem Babsttumb (1527), held in the Taylorian Library, Oxford.


A group of German graduate students and I have started to scratch the surface of the trove of early sixteenth century prints. Thus far, we have read roughly 10 pamphlets and have already discovered: a previously-unknown print of a pamphlet by Andreas Karlstadt; detailed marginalia in Latin and German surrounding two copies of Luther’s De captivitate babylonica; Hans Sachs’ Shoemaker Dialogue, the shoemaker’s nose roughly cut and pointy in the title woodcut. We found a copy of Passional Christi und Antichristi with Christ and the Pope having a face off across each double spread – the Pope definitely coming out the worse for wear. The Pope also features in the 30 images of Eyn Wunderliche Weyssagung von dem Babstumb, including with a bear on his head, as a dragon, and in his underwear! The Lustgarten der Seelen also offers an intriguing, less blatant example of a Protestant text as every page shows an image of a saint in the process of being martyred in their own particular way, despite saints being devalued by the Lutheran movement.

There are over 500 of these pamphlets in the Taylorian and they are accessible by all Oxford University students, any subject, any college, which makes them an incredibly resource for anyone who touches on the Reformation period, printing or woodcuts. It is an amazing feeling to be working on printed pamphlets that have never been looked at in detail before and there are so many more to go! On top of that there is now a transcription of each of these pamphlets we presented, along with digitised images and information about them, available on the Reformation 2017 website. The pamphlets themselves are also in the display cases in the Voltaire Room in the Taylorian Library at the moment.

Go, have a look, the pictures are definitely worth it! And there are going to be more events, including music and a Reformation Trail, as the year goes on…

Kezia Fender, OGN Student Ambassador

The Future of German Studies

On the occasion of the inauguration of Prof. Henrike Lähnemann as Chair in Medieval German Literature and Linguistics at Oxford University, a round table discussion on “The Future of German Studies” was held on Friday, 22 January 2016. OGN’s coordinator, Nicola, gives her thoughts here…

Arriving for an event about “The Future of German Studies” I was curious as to what awaited me. This title suggested a whole series of questions: “What is the future of German Studies?”; “How do we make German Studies fit for the future?” or even the more provocative “Is there a future for German Studies?”

The panel was chaired by Prof. Ritchie Robertson (Taylor Chair of German Studies) and featured OGN’s Director Prof. Katrin Kohl, alongside Prof. Dr. Hans-Jochen Schiewer (University of Freiburg), Dr Wilhelm Krull (VolkswagenStiftung), Dr Dorothea Rüland (DAAD) and Dr Carsten Dose (FRIAS). It was part of a series of events to mark the Inaugural Lecture of Henrike Lähnemann, Chair in Medieval German Literature and Linguistics at Oxford University. More on these other exciting events in a future post…

Given the credentials of the panel it will come as no surprise, though perhaps still something of a relief, to hear that all of them believe there is a future for German Studies. As to the question of what this future may look like, two broad themes emerged: intercultural learning and exchange, and interdisciplinarity. In a globalised world there is a role for the humanities in helping us to better understand and integrate different cultures, and within the academic sphere there is much to be gained from a transfer of academic cultures through initiatives such as summer schools or joint degree programmes hosted by, for example, German and British universities. Many of the speakers noted that German Studies is by nature interdisciplinary – perhaps explaining why it can prove such a hard term to pin down! – and suggested too that more can be done to strengthen links with other fields and to better articulate these in existing projects.

But for me the future of German Studies is perhaps to do more with the who than the what. This is arguably where the Oxford German Network fits in. Prof. Kohl summed up a key part of OGN’s mission as providing a “dimension to German that goes far beyond what it is in schools”. Generating enthusiasm for German now – whether language and literature or Lebkuchen and Laugenbrezel – is fundamental to the future of German Studies. A former teacher who shared her experiences during the Q&A section summed this up by saying that for German teachers “getting pupils to Germany equals job done” – whether visiting a Christmas market, eating Currywurst or crossing Checkpoint Charlie – pupils are excited and enthralled by what they discover when they are given the chance to really experience German culture.

My reflections on the event, and this topic as a whole, can be summed up in just one word: ‘youth’. A youthful spirit and open-minded approach will ensure that German Studies is fit for the future, and young voices, able not only to speak German but to see the world through someone else’s eyes, are in themselves the future.

                                                                                                                                                Nicola, OGN Coordinator