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Studying the Past from a Transdisciplinary Perspective

Prof. Helmut Puff
University of Michigan, US


Prof. Maren Lorenz
Department of History

The quality of graduate education has much to gain from exchanges among fellow PhD students in non-competitive settings. Over a period of three years and starting in Sommersemester 2018, Helmut Puff (History / German / Women’s Studies, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor) plans to offer interdisciplinary workshops tailored to the needs of students in History, German, and Art History writing their dissertations. Spread out over several, usually three to five days, the workshops are designed to enhance students’ experience in graduate school. Sessions will revolve around hands-on support, skills, and opportunities for feedback that will be of appeal to graduate students in various disciplines in the humanities at all stages of their doctoral or post-doctoral studies. Exact dates will be announced during the semester prior to the actual visit. 

The 2018 workshop, the first in a series of three, focuses on increasing students’ competence and expertise in working with visuals – images, photographs, tables, objects, and spaces. Visuals in this sense are often part of the corpora graduate students assemble during their research. The omnipresence of visuals notwithstanding, their study frequently is an afterthought. Sometimes, they are cast aside on the basis that they are said to be exclusively the object of art historical inquiry. At other times, they are thought to be merely illustrative and, as a result, are not treated with the sophistication they deserve. Yet integrating visuals into one’s dissertation can greatly deepen one’s analysis as well as increase the impact of one’s work on readers. What are requirements for studying or presenting visuals in academic writing? Participants will debate examples, survey extant models, and work out principles for visuals – always with an eye to practical implementation. 

The second seminar (summer term 2019) will revolve around workshopping the writings of graduate students and post-docs at various stages. The goal is to develop, further, or exchange writing strategies and to practice writing or thinking about genres of academic writing such as papers, reviews, conference reports, etc. in a German- as well as in an English-speaking academic context. In one-on-one sessions and upon request Prof. Puff will offer to feedback on dissertation chapters or other writing samples. Every participant will be asked to share a piece in process that will be workshopped in a group setting. The interdisciplinary setting of the workshop will encourage participants to become aware of and reflect standards within their fields and academic environments that often go unacknowledged. 

The topic of the last seminar in June 2020 will ultimately be determined through interactions with and suggestions from graduate students and post-docs during the previous two years.

During his extended stays in Bochum, usually in the month of June, Prof. Helmut Puff will make himself available for individual consultations with students on topics such as writing in English, applying for post-docs in English-speaking countries, conference participation, as well as all other aspects of academic life from a transatlantic perspective. Exchanges with graduate students from the visiting professor’s home institution, the University of Michigan, are also planned. 

In addition, during every year the Visiting International Professor will deliver a public lecture on current research.