Dynamic scholar joins Arts as new Diefenbaker Chair of German Studies

Friday, January 9, 2015

Along with fresh snow and a new year, the Department of Germanic and Slavic Studies (GSS) welcomes their newest colleague, Ann Marie Rasmussen, a respected scholar of medieval, gender, and literary studies - and UWaterloo’s new Diefenbaker Memorial Chair of German Literary Studies.

Ann Marie Rasmussen

“Professor Rasmussen will bring a career’s worth of innovative teaching, research, and programming not only to our department, but to Canadian German studies as a whole” says Prof. James Skidmore of GSS.

Mandated to lead the discipline of German studies in new directions, the Diefenbaker Chair was endowed to GSS by a private philanthropic foundation in 2007 after a Canada-wide competition to find a host university.

Prof. Rasmussen joins UWaterloo following 26 years at Duke University in North Carolina. Her scholarship is highly transdisciplinary, often extending and combining medievalism and language studies with gender studies and a variety of other approaches, including manuscript studies, the anthropology of gift-giving, visually studies, sexuality studies, and material culture. 

During her visit to UWaterloo last March, Prof. Rasmussen presented “Why Do Medieval Badges Matter?” a talk based on her current book project that digs deep into the meaning of the mass-produced badges of the high and late Middles Ages.  She says the badges are not merely sacred or profane representations of allegiance, but can be understood as an early form of media.

In both her teaching and research, Prof. Rasmussen makes connections between the historical past and the present moment. And she welcomes new collaborations: “I’m interested in fostering interdisciplinary, collaborative conversations about adaptation and appropriation in literature across time, culture, and media” she says.

“With colleagues at Duke University, I’ve begun exploring an ancient art form that is booming in popularity in contemporary culture,” she cites as another example of her research. “These are story worlds, or an open-ended story universe around a familiar set of characters or events that grows and changes over time. Also called story cycles or serial fictions, they have advanced into realms of storytelling opened up by television, cinema, graphics, and video games. Yet at the same time, the art form of creating story worlds has a very long history.”

Beside her accomplishments as a researcher, she is a particularly enthusiastic teacher. “In a conversation we recently had,” says Prof. Grit Liebscher, chair of GSS, “Professor Rasmussen told me how excited and happy she is to be joining an institution where teaching is so valued.”

Undergraduate and graduate students in GSS and other programs will have some unique opportunities to learn with Prof. Rasmussen in courses such as Identity and Nationhood: the Myth of Siegfried the Dragonslayer in German History & Culture, Images that Shock, and Sex, Gender & Love in Medieval German Literature.