Christian Klein

Spotlight – Christian Klein

No one ever asked my friends, who intended to study medicine or engineering, for the reasons of their choices. But I was always asked why I wanted to study German literature. My answer was one of irritation and defiance: Simply because I want to! I still think that this is a reasonable answer, but today I would add: Because literature deals with the three great questions: Who are we? Where do we come from? Where are we going? In other words: Literature explores the “conditio humana”, what makes the human being a human being?  Literature asks how culture and society became the entity that shapes our life today. And literature outlines scenarios of what our life might look like in the future. And please tell me: what else would you expect from studying at a university? But at the beginning of my coursework in literary studies I had only a vague idea of this universality. I started my studies in the very north of Germany, in Kiel, before I moved to Berlin in 1995 and continued at the Freie Universität. I lived there for eleven years, finished my studies, and did my Doctorate in Comparative Literature. My dissertation-project was a biography of the German author and playwright, painter and sculptor Ernst Penzoldt (1892-1955). In this context I started to focus on the history of German drama as well as the theory of biography, and as a consequence of these efforts I edited some volumes about theoretical questions concerning biographical research. My current fields of interest are contemporary German writers (like Marcel Beyer), comics and graphic novels, and recently I published a book that answers the question of how a book can become a cult book. I knew quite early that I would like to continue my academic career, so I was very lucky when ­ right after receiving my “Dr. phil.” ­ I got a job at the Bergische Universität Wuppertal, where I still work. But even if Wuppertal is much nicer than a lot of people think, I do enjoy teaching somewhere else now and then. That is why I was in Melbourne last springtime and taught at Monash University and why I am grateful to have the opportunity to work at MSU as a Max Kade Visiting Professor in such a great community of colleagues and students. Admittedly springtime in Australia is much balmier, but I am enjoying the time in Michigan a lot. I really like the combination of a small city, where you can reach everything by bike, with a large university (MSU has lots more students than the Freie Universität Berlin) with a lively campus life. I think I have settled in quite well already (thanks to all who welcomed me so warmly) ­ at least I already have a Spartans lanyard and folder. And because we Germans are well known for our ecological awareness, I can easily join in with the slogan “Go green!”. 😉