Richard Langston, Associate Professor of German: Interdisciplinary Workshop at Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen 

Applicant Information

  • Name: Richard Langston
  • Title: Associate Professor
  • Department/School: German & Slavic
  • Email:


Partner and Participant Information

  • Partner Institution(s) and Location: Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen (Germany)
  • Partner School/Department: German Literature + Communication and Media Studies
  • Participating UNC Schools/Departments: German and Slavic and Communications


Project Information

Please describe the initiative to be conducted:

With the involvement of Professors Parker, Perucci, Palm and Silva from UNC’s Department of Communications as well as Professors Layne, Hess, von Bernuth, Pollmann and Trop from German and Slavic, I co-authored with Professor Klaus Sachs-Hombach (from Universität Tübingen) a proposal for 25,000 Euros for Universität Tübingen’s “Summer School” funding program developed to foster collaborations with UNC-Chapel Hill. The “Summer School” proposal – to be thought more like a weeklong workshop – brings together approximately 16 faculty members from the departments of communications from both universities and the departments of German literature from both university to spearhead a graduate student workshop for students from both UNC and Tübingen. The theme of the workshop to be held April 2 to 9, 2016, is “Risky Understanding” and seeks to explore the distinctions between the intended ambiguity in works of art and literature and the reduction of ambiguity in everyday communication. The workshop will be designed and offered to a small group of graduate students from all four participating departments: the German literature programs from both universities as well as their departments of communications. The workshop will entail lectures by and discussions with faculty, task-based activities both in the Ackland Museum and the Carolina Performing Arts program, as well as visits to graduate seminars already underway in the semester.

Proposed Dates/Timeline:

Guests from Tübingen will arrive in Chapel Hill on either on Friday, April 1 or Saturday, April 2, when the workshop will officially begin. It will continue throughout the entire week and conclude on the morning of Saturday, April 9. Workshops will take place daily in the Fed Ex Center and include lectures and discussions with both German and American faculty and involve a mixture of graduate students from both universities from both disciplines.

Please state the requested funding amount and how the award would be spent:

The authors of this application – both Richard Langston and Tony Perruci of Communications – kindly request $2500. Of the requested 25,000 Euros requested from the Universität Tübingen, only travel and boarding costs for the intended 14 Tübingen guests were promised (i.e., 22,700 Euros). (This includes costs for 4 faculty from Medienwissenschaften, 3 from Germanistik, a representative from Universität Tübingen’s university museum and 6 graduate students from both departments.) In other words, the budgets costs (approximately $2500) initially slated for catering (just some of the working lunches to be held in Fex Ed 4003, coffee and tea, etc.), a reception and a farewell dinner, as well as tickets to two performances were subtracted from the Tübingen application. This effectively leaves the involved UNC faculty and graduate students with no funds with which to host these guests.

Please list other funding sources identified or received:

Requests have or will be made to Dean Matson of the graduate school and the IAH. The German and Slavic department has no funds with which to support this workshop and it remains unclear whether Communications can contribute, especially seeing that it must try and fund one of the slated performances, which will be the subject of the workshop, entirely. The Ackland Museum has expressed willingness to host a reception, but it’s still unclear at this stage whether any support for such a reception is also possible. Carolina Performing Arts has suggested that it, too, could make resources available to subvent a cultural outing, but this does not contribute to the core funding dilemma.

Please describe the expected outcomes:

The outcomes of the UNC-Tübingen “Risky Understanding” summer school are fivefold:
1) To forge new links between the two universities’ departments of communication and to strengthen the existing ones with the German literature departments;
2) To offer graduate students from both institutions an interdisciplinary, transatlantic learning experience, one taught by faculty from both institutions;
3) To begin a transatlantic dialogue that will continue in Tübingen in 2017 that will lead to a publication that includes both faculty and graduate student work in both German and English. This second point will spill over into the fourth point:
4) To involve more units in the humanities at UNC in collaborations with Tübingen; with Communications involved, the initiative seeks to get the universities museums, as well as the departments of art history and religious studies on board; and
5) To gain constituents throughout the College of Arts and Sciences for the burgeoning strategic partnership with Universität Tübingen such that the arts and humanities are well represented alongside the natural and human sciences, arguably the areas of greatest concern for Universität Tübingen.

Please describe how the initiative will advance the institutional partnership:

The link between the German departments is arguably the strongest and oldest of any between both institutions. However, that relationship was largely the initiative of Professor Frauke Berndt, who is now in the process of leaving Tübingen. This means this particular portion of the partnership needs to find new interlocutors in Tübingen for it to continue to thrive. It is the intention of the organizers to use the workshop as an opportunity to identify and win over successors to Dr. Berndt (in particular newly hired Dr. Erkart Goebel who will participate in the workshop). The collaborations between the departments of communications are in their infancy. For this reason, the visiting faculty and students from Tübingen’s communications and media studies department will have ample opportunity to get to know the entire communications faculty at UNC and hopefully build opportunities for graduate and faculty exchanges.

Please describe your previous engagement with the partner institution:

Associate Professor Richard Langston has been interacting with the Universität Tübingen since the inception of its TA exchange with the UNC German department around 2004. In the last years, he has worked closely with Professor Frauke Berndt to broaden cooperation at the undergraduate, graduate and faculty levels between UNC and Tübingen. Associate Professor Tony Perucci began interacting with media studies scholar Professor Klaus Sachs-Hombach in the spring of 2015, when Sachs-Hombach visited Chapel Hill in order to establish new relations.