Connecticut College News
Professor´s fellowship fosters Euro-American relations03/12/2010
Professor Janet Gezari, right, with the Spring 2010 fellows at the American Academy in Berlin.
There is no typical day for Professor Janet Gezari at the American Academy in Berlin, where she is spending the semester as the Siemens Fellow. One minute she´ll be dining with a famous opera director or visiting the Federal President´s office, and deeply engaged in her research or exploring the sites of Berlin in the next. "This is a remarkable opportunity for me," Gezari, the Lucy Marsh Haskell ´19 Professor of English, said. "In addition to ideal conditions for working, I have the opportunity to get to know Berlin and Berliners." Fostering European-American relations is a central goal of the American Academy in Berlin. Each semester, a dozen American scholars, writers, policymakers and artists are offered residential fellowships to live and work in the Hans Arnhold Center on Lake Wannsee in Berlin. Fellows are provided housing, partial board, a monthly stipend and the opportunity to meet distinguished experts from various fields, and are encouraged to share their work with the people of Berlin. While most fellowships cater to academics, Academy fellows include artists, musicians, authors and those responsible for public policy, adding to the unique nature of the opportunity. Gezari says she has already learned a great deal from the other fellows, which include a young composer, a documentary photographer, an American journalist and novelist and two art historians. "Some of what I´ve learned has been specific - about Cranach, from an art historian who works on his paintings, or about Kleist, from one of his translators," Gezari said. More generally, she says, she has learned about contemporary music, public policy and - from a fellow who is taking documentary photos - about areas of Berlin off the beaten path. While in Berlin, Gezari is working on a new book project, exploring the art associated with age and a late stage in a long career. The proposed book, "Late Work and Modern Times," will focus on four contemporary artists, Vladimir Nabokov, J.M. Coetzee, Philip Roth and Bob Dylan. "In all four cases, the late work of these artists has puzzled or dismayed readers, and, in the case of Dylan, listeners," Gezari said. On April 8, Gezari will give a public lecture about Nabokov´s final novel, "The Original of Laura," which he was working on at the time of his death in 1977. The book was published in the U.S. last fall, despite Nabokov´s request to destroy the manuscript if he did not live to complete it. The opportunity to research in Berlin has been rewarding for Gezari. "European history and literature are an essential part of the background for work I´ve done in the past on 19th-century British literature and for the work I´m now doing on Nabokov and Coetzee," she said. At Connecticut College, Gezari has taught a senior seminar on Nabokov´s work and regularly teaches a course on Bob Dylan with English Professor Charles Hartman. She plans to bring much of what she learns in Berlin back into the classroom. "These kinds of opportunities have immeasurable value for faculty in relation to their teaching," she said.