This academic year, the department inaugurated a writer in residence program. With support of the Max Kade Foundation, we invited German novelist, writer, and spoken-word artist Selim Özdoğan to join the faculty during the Fall term. A bilingual German author of Turkish heritage, Özdoğan was born in Adana, Turkey in 1971 and moved to Germany at a young age. His first novel, Es ist so einsam im Sattel, seit das Pferd tot ist (It’s so Lonesome in the Saddle Since the Horse Died) was published in 1995. He has since published ten novels and four short story collections. He is currently completing the last novel of a trilogy centered around the experiences of the protagonist Gül, from her early years as a young woman growing up in rural Turkey during the 1940s (Die Tochter des Schmieds), through her arrival and gradual integration in Germany (Heimstraße 52), to the final installment whose publication we now eagerly await. The recipient of the Adelbert von Chamisso Prize Förderpreis in 1999, Özdoğan has held fellowships from diverse organizations such as the Literaturbüro NRW (2006), the Arts Foundation of North-Rhine Westphalia (2014), and the Robert Bosch Stiftung (2015). Özdoğan has also collaborated with the film director Fatih Akin (Gegen die Wand; Auf der anderen Seite), written a weekly column for Zeit Online, and has substantial experience working with students at different levels.
Having arrived at the beginning of September, Özdoğan visited a number of classes within the Department, ranging from our workshop in literary translation to seminars in literature and culture. He also read from and discussed his writings at a Symposium on Contemporary German Literature in September, participated in the live performance of Esther Dischereit’s Blumen für Otello (Flowers for Otello) last October, and traveled to other University campuses in the US for readings and discussions. During his last visit, which took him to the University of Texas at Austin, Özdoğan gave an interview to the Austin Chronicle, entitled “Looking from the Outside.” In the interview, he describes the impact the recently deceased Leonard Cohen had on his own writing, muses on his American experience in the “bubble” that is Ann Arbor and the University of Michigan, responds to the recent election in the US and the situation in Turkey, compares German and American politics, notes the differences between his fictional characters and himself, and riffs on the complicated German notion of Heimat.
At the core of his residency with the department was a one-credit writing workshop, which met for two hours a week over the course of seven weeks. In the course, students learned about literature and its techniques by creating their own short story. Student Mary Boyd writes, “It was a good opportunity to revisit creative writing after years of writing analytical, argument-based papers. He wanted us to question the way we interact with creativity and art in our daily lives.” Susan LaMoreaux shares, “What I enjoyed most about our time with Selim was the way he worked to flip the classroom. I found it very rewarding to work with a teacher who both challenged and encouraged students, promoting true growth." The Department extends a fond "Auf Wiedersehen" to Selim and looks forward to return visits!