German professor encourages cross-cultural learning at home and abroad
An update from Professor of German Elke Segelcke in the Department of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures at Illinois State.
“As a free spirited wanderer between worlds, I have embraced other cultures and languages early on. Born in the medieval city of Lüneburg in Northern Germany, I studied Germanistik and French at the University of Göttingen. I experienced my first study abroad at the Sorbonne Nouvelle in Paris where I later returned with the Staatsexamen’s degree in order to teach German conversation at a Lycée. My American boyfriend (now husband) persuaded me to take yet another chance by moving to the U.S. and to his home state of North Carolina to enroll in a Ph.D. program at University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. My time there was cut short when I accepted a temporary position as Assistant Professor at the University of Augsburg, Germany, while simultaneously finishing my dissertation on Heinrich Mann and teaching my first courses on literature. In the end, however, I finally joined the faculty at ISU in the 1990s after visiting appointments at Washington University and SDSU in San Diego. Every summer, I reconnect with family, friends and colleagues in Germany, usually in conjunction with various conferences in Europe.
From the very beginning, my research has been informed by my interest in socially and politically engaged literature, intellectual history, and cultural studies. My initial focus on authors of modernity and the avant-garde of the 1920s later shifted to German post-unification and intercultural literature in the context of current debates over a national and European cultural identity. For the past years my scholarship has focused on German intercultural literature as a challenge to German literature as a national institution and to dichotomous perceptions between cultures that construct (Muslim) Turkish and (Christian) European identities as a clash between “Orient” and “Occident.” As part of a larger research project, I am presently expanding that research further in the field of Turkish-German Studies by completing a scholarly article about the multi-layered concept of translation by the Turkish-German author, Zafer Şenocak, with reference to translation theories by the twentieth century philosopher and cultural critic Walter Benjamin and the founder of ‘deconstruction’ Jacques Derrida.
I teach German courses on language, literature, film, culture, and history as well as lecture courses in English on ‘Literary Narrative’ in the General Education curriculum and on “Europe Today” as part of Illinois State’s new interdisciplinary European Studies Program. I am passionate about furthering the cross-cultural awareness of my students by integrating a culturally comparative perspective on language, literature, history and contemporary socio-political and educational issues in my curriculum. Students not only learn about the diversity of other cultures but also gain a deeper insight into their own language, culture and society. In order to fully immerse, I encourage students to consider the intellectual challenge and adventure of travel and study abroad, as this is likely to contribute to their becoming informed citizens of the world and provide them with one of the most transformative experiences of their academic life.”