Current research projects (2014)

For more information on faculty research, please visit our research interests page.

The Oral History Project:  Whether they arrived in the 1950s on a ship or a few years ago on a passenger plane, German immigrants to Waterloo region still hold many untold stories and their families that risk being lost if they are not recorded. The OHP’s preparation, recording, and transcription of about 100 interviews are being done by more than 20 graduate students and professors of the Department. Based on these interviews, graduate students and professors will contribute chapters to a book that tells the story and stories of this large and varied group of German Canadians. Project coordinator is Professor Mat Schulze, and the project has a website.

Daniela Roth’s dissertation analyses the prescriptive construction of migrant identity in adolescence novels. She seeks to reconceptualize the term ‘migration literature’ in transnational contexts and to explore the normative discursive function of adolescence novels for the construction of (migrant) identity in Alina Bronsky’s Scherbenpark (2008), Steven Uhly’s Adam’s Fuge (2011) and Martin Horváth’s Mohr im Hemd, oder wie ich auszog die Welt zu retten (2012) .

Sara Ghaffarian’s dissertation examines ways of promoting the development of “Symbolic Competence” (Kramsch, 2006) in a language classroom environment in order to make pedagogical approaches more relevant to our global, multilingual world.

How do students develop their language proficiency in online courses? How do they choose between online and on-campus courses in their programs and how does this choice affect their learning success? To answer such questions about students’ individual developmental trajectories in computer-assisted language learning, Mat Schulze has utilized Complexity Science in research in applied linguistics. He is currently supervising PhD and MA projects on extracurricular language learning in computer games and on factors that inform students’ choices between online and on-campus courses. Together with graduate research assistants, he is also working on computationally measuring the proficiency level students display in their written texts.

In her dissertation, Katharina Schroeder is exploring the experiences of adults who were raised in German-speaking families in Canada. The aim of her study is to examine how individual participants’ language trajectories are connected with other dimensions of their lives. How, for instance, has growing up with, developing, and living with German shaped their sense of who they are or could become? What role has it played in interpersonal relationships? She hopes to shed light on subjective dimensions of learning and living with German as a so-called “heritage” language in Canada.

Ann Marie Rasmussen is interested in fostering interdisciplinary, collaborative conversations about adaptation, appropriation, and translation in literature across time, culture, and media. For example, she has explored an ancient art form that is booming in popularity in the contemporary media culture: serial fictions, or the creation of an open-ended story universe that grows and changes over time. Serial fictions have advanced into the new realms of storytelling opened up by television, cinema, graphics, even video games:  anime, manga, graphic novels, fan-fiction, comic books, television series, soap operas, and never-ending movie sequels. Yet at the same time, the art form of serial fiction has a very long history. It is a ubiquitous form of storytelling in the Middle Ages. Medievalist call them story cycles, defined as episodes and narratives that accumulate and mutate around “touchstone” characters, for example, mighty heroes such as King Arthur or sacred heroes such as saints.

Why does homeopathy arise around 1800? What historical, discursive shifts contribute to its birth? Are there earlier models of medicine that paved the way? Are there concepts of thought that parallel homeopathy and explain its growth in popularity?  Alice Kuzniar has just completed a book that looks at the invention of homeopathy within the cultural, medical, and semiotic framework of its day in Germany around 1800.  It gathers references to various writers of the period, ranging from Goethe to Alexander von Humboldt, in order to give a fuller view of homeopathy as a phenomenon of its time.

Derek Andrews is writing an MA thesis on the treatment of euthanasia in contemporary German language literature. In addition to the historical dimension of this topic, he looks at assisted dying in a bio-political and bio-ethical context.

Kyle Scholz is analyzing the affordances of digital games for second language development. His PhD research follows German language learners as they interact with one another and other German speakers while playing online games. These extramural opportunities support and reinforce the learning that transpires in traditional foreign-language classrooms without the need for direct instructor intervention or observance.

Grit Liebscher’s research in Applied Linguistics addresses questions of language and identity within or outside of the classroom context. Her fascination with language typically centers on the analysis of certain linguistic resources, such as laughter and code-switching. She is currently investigating intercultural and transcultural aspects in study abroad contexts and in tandem online learning of German and English as foreign languages, where such linguistic resources mediate (mis)understanding, (re)alignment, and identities.