5 Fragen an: Prof.in Dr.in Birgit Däwes

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.

Prof.in Dr.in Birgit Däwes – Webseite der EUF

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

I’ve always loved reading – I have to confess that I was one of those nerdy kids always walking around with a novel or poetry collection in high school. I started studying English with a focus on British literature, and when I spent an undergraduate year in Ireland, I found myself noticing that I was much more interested in my roommate’s reading (who was enrolled in American Studies) than my own. Coincidentally, when I returned to Germany, I had an offer to come on board as a student assistant in the American Studies department, so that’s how I became an Americanist. My research focus in Indigenous Studies came from a seminar during my graduate semester in the U.S. – an amazing course on Native American literature, taught by the wonderful Lucy Maddox and featuring some 15 novels. I was hooked immediately, and have been ever since.

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

I would have to let my students decide that – it also depends on the criteria you set for „best“. My seminars on „Disney and Imperialism“ and „First Contact Narratives from Columbus to Star Trek“ have been pretty popular with students, but I definitely enjoy every topic we explore together. I also greatly enjoy the liberty of deciding on my topics, so if anyone has particularly „desirable“ topics that match with my area of expertise, don’t hesitate to let me know. 🙂 In general, I believe in research-oriented teaching, so I also like combining seminars with academic conferences.

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

How much space do I have – top 100? But seriously… For novels, I would probably go with Henry James’s Turn of the Screw, William Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom, and Toni Morrison’s Beloved. And anything by Louise Erdrich, Jesmyn Ward, and Thomas King. For poetry: Hilde Domin, Robert Frost, Anne Sexton, Simon Ortiz. For plays: Tony Kushner’s Angels in America, Tomson Highway’s Rez Sisters, and anything by Shakespeare). Non-fiction: Roland Barthes‘ Mythologies, Hayden White’s Metahistory, and The Cambridge Companion to Limiting Your Choice of Books.

4. Is the glass half full or half empty?

Half full, always. But my most frequent quotidian answer goes more like this:

Optimist: „half full!“

Pessimist: „half empty!“

Me (as a mom): „why is there no coaster underneath?!“

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

Follow your interests and your heart. Go abroad. (I actually did, several times – among the top 5 best decisions of my life!). Dare to ask questions. Do not let yourself be intimidated by others. And, as Mary Schmich once put it: Wear sunscreen.