19 – 23 February 2018, University of Delhi

“Science and arts are universal which renders borders meaningless.”

As I excitedly shared with a friend and a German Studies enthusiast my experience at the German Week 2018, she translated the above quote of Goethe from German to English. I found a book mark with this beautiful quotation as I curiously checked what the conference bag of the German Week contained. What a suitable quote not only for the conference whose broad theme this time was Cosmopolitanism, Globalisation and Literary Space but also for times we live in where these values of science and arts and therefore of education are of great significance! As the Conference Centre was filling up with scholars and aspirants of German studies, I soon realised that there could be no more conducive place than this for thought provoking interactions and inspiring new ideas on effective literary engagements.

Ten very promising research papers of M.Phil. and Ph.D. students were presented in the Young Research Conference (Nachwuchssymposium), held in the first two days of the German Week. The papers presented new literary debates in migration, literature with social media, resistance literature, feminist literary discourse, perspectives in children’s theatre, animal-human encounters in literature, translation of epics, multilingualism and teaching German as a foreign language. These sessions gave a sense of how research in German studies in India is largely pitched at the contemporary moment at the same time it also seeks to find parallels or its relevance in the Indian context. Befitting this topic was also the poetry reading Wo bist du zu Hause, (where do you feel at home) by the Delhi University students pursuing Masters in German.

A vibrant Q&A session followed each presentation and it continued even over the generously provided tea and lunch breaks, that offered space for informal yet productive conversations both with research scholars as well as young students who are yet to start their research journey. Apart from that, the second day of the symposium offered a platform for the participants to discuss in detail our dissertation ideas with Prof. Andrea Albrecht from the University of Heidelberg and with other experts from Germany. This workshop was a productive exchange and was beneficial for us in our early research to think through our ideas and methodology of scientific paper-writing.

The Nachwuchssymposium ended with a very enriching discussion in the workshop titled “Weltbürgerliches Vagantentum und der große Krieg – Daniel Kehlmanns ”Tyll” (Cosmopolitan Wanderer and the Big War – Daniel Kehlmann’s “Tyll”). The figure of artist, representation of the female figures, critique of enlightenment, postmodern characteristics of the novel and the boundary between kitsch and art were topics of discussion which emerged in the workshop lead by Prof. Albrecht. These various aspects of the novel explored in our discussion motivated me to take back these ideas to my students of German Literature in the University of Mumbai and inspire them to read this work.

The German Week continued with several thought-provoking ideas around cosmopolitanism presented in the International Conference of the Goethe Society of India. A session particularly appealing to the young researchers was the reading and discussion by the young and influential German author Senthuran Varatharajah, whose family fled to Germany in the 80’s because of the civil war in Sri Lanka. Varatharajah particularly struck a chord with the young students as he spoke not only on poetics and the aesthetics of writing but also on war, forced migration and rootlessness. The room was filled with curiosity and enthusiasm as he generously conversed and took pictures with the students.

The German Week is thus for us, young researchers a very important platform for a constructive dialogue with co-researchers and experts not only on their own research topics but also on the contemporary concerns and aesthetics of German literature in times of increasing cosmopolitanism.

Report by Dipti Tambe, Ph.D Scholar at University of Mumbai