Michael J. Price Lab for Digital Humanities

Constructing Realities for the People at the Interstices of West and East

Constructing Realities for the People at the Interstices of West and East

Claudia Lynn

Language Program Coordinator and Lecturer of Foreign Languages

Sibel Sayılı-Hurley

Lecturer, Germanic Languages and Literatures

Funding Period: 
August, 2018May, 2019

This project  is being developed for use in German 104. In this particular course, learners will engage with the history of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) through Thomas Brussig's novel Am kürzeren Ende der Sonnenallee. The class focuses on personal and public accounts of key events during the period of 1945-1990 that are referenced in the novel. We are especially interested in the intersection of public and private spheres as conveyed through historic sources. Learners will examine digitized historic sources (digitized archives of newspapers, eye witness accounts, etc.) about significant events through both public and private accounts to complement the fictional account in the novel. This will provide learners with a multi-layered perspective: the sequence of events (reported facts) and the way the source/account frames and presents events linguistically, semantically, and visually and thereby frames meaning for the reader. Learners will be divided into two teams. One team will work with a selection of different public GDR accounts (e.g., newspapers, history textbooks, radio and TV reports etc.) of the events, while the other team will use selection of private GDR accounts (eyewitnesses, photos, letters, etc.) of the events. Using data visualization tools such as Voyant. Learners will be able to compare the personal and public accounts in an exploratory qualitative data analysis and gain a better understanding of life in the GDR.Our project aims to raise learners’ awareness of the multi-faceted nature of language and culture as well as cultural meaning embedded in language. In our project, learners in an intermediate German course at a postsecondary institution will employ text analysis tools for critical observation and reflection of linguistic choices within the source materials. Learners will use text analysis tools to decode embedded cultural perspectives in the target language, assess their own assumptions, and ultimately also reach a better understanding of their own culture. Additionally, our learners will be contributing to the body of knowledge of German language, culture, and history. We hope to achieve this while simultaneously raising learners’ awareness of the possibilities that Digital Humanities offers and introducing them to some of the learning tools used in Digital Humanities research. We believe learners will thereby also learn a transferable skill.