5 Fragen an Dr. Johannes Schmid

Fachschaft und Studiengangleitung haben sich gemeinsam fünf Fragen an Dozierende des Studiengangs überlegt, die Studierenden die Gelegenheit geben sollen die Dozent*innen ein wenig besser kennenzulernen.

Dr. Johannes Schmid – Webseite der EUF

Portraitfoto Dr. Schmid

1. How did you decide on your field of study?

For American Studies, in general, the fact that my mother was an English teacher probably was a significant influence. She was very much focused on British culture, however, so perhaps, my American focus was rebellious in some small way. I simply found (and still do!) that American literature includes the most interesting texts which speak to me the most. My focus on (nonfiction) comics is something that came out of my own studies at the University of Hamburg. I had a mentor who specializes in comics studies, and this sparked my own interest. I have a general fascination with attempts to represent reality through language, media, and so on, and the impossibility to ever do so in full. This impasse between private experience and interpersonal or public communication is especially interesting in graphic nonfiction.

2. What was your best KSM seminar topic to date, and what would be a desirable topic for a future KSM seminar?

I haven’t taught in KSM so far, but I very much look forward to doing so! For my first one, I want to do a general survey of different documentary media. It will be cool to discuss the affordances and constraints of different media and to talk about documentary ethics and impulses more broadly.

3. What book has particularly influenced you, or is a must read?

Although I don’t think there is that one book that everyone should have read, here we go! Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian remains a favorite of mine. For non-American works, Haruki Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore I found truly fascinating as well. Often, books that take you out of your comfort zone and/or offer different perspectives like Toni Morrison’s Beloved or Octavia Butler’s Kindred can be especially rewarding. As for comics, Art Spiegelman’s Maus and Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic were eyeopeners for me. When it comes to general nonfiction, Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking Fast and Slow is probably closest to what I would call an essential read that helps us reflect our own thought processes. Possibly, George Lakoff’s Don’t Think of an Elephant as well. Oh, and on the lighter side, Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series has never failed to provide comic relief for me.

4. Is the glass half full or half empty?

Different perspectives on the same glass will be just as valid and I think it is important to acknowledge this. A positive outlook is a good way to stay sane, but it should not lead us to invalidate other experiences. Also, as the Kahneman and Lakoff books will tell you, whether we perceive the glass as half full or half empty will depend on a variety of factors beyond what we would like to actively believe. That’s what I find fascinating.

5. Looking back from your own experience, what advice would you give to your former student self?

From a position where everything has (kind of) worked out in the end, I would probably tell myself to be less anxious and kinder to myself. Come to think of it, that’s probably advice I should still take to heart more.