Teaching

I have had the privilege of teaching courses in all areas of German studies, as well as in European studies, film studies and translation. My most recent courses are described below.

2014-15: Worlds of Literature (Level 1)

I’m very excited to be teaching this comparative literature module, focussing largely on poetry and theory – I’ll be learning along with the students!
Making use of examples drawn from the wide range of cultures taught in LCS, this module will challenge students to think critically about their own perceptions of literary cultures, raise their awareness of the intellectual, cultural and ethical questions in the study of literature, and introduce them to some of the concepts and approaches that will help them to negotiate the reciprocities and complexities of the interactions between literary traditions.
Drawing on a wide range of languages and periods, and on the different research specialisms of lecturers, this introduction to literary criticism is illustrated by reference to a varied selection of texts studied during the year. Typically these will include short stories, drama, poetry and a novel.

2011-12/2013-14: W. G. Sebald and the Politics of Literature (Level 3)

This the first time I taught a module based solely on my research, and I think it went well! But don’t take my word for it – read the account by a student, Claire Cordukes, in the 2012 German Undergraduate Newsletter.
This module introduces students to the writings of one of the greatest German writers of the twentieth century, W. G. Sebald (1944-2001). Sebald created an entirely new form of literature, mixing images, documentary material and fiction to explore questions of memory and history. His complex works address the major questions of German and European history – such as the Holocaust, and the significance of art in turbulent times – in a unique poetic voice. While the module is mostly literary, students may take a political or historical approach to one of the most important authors of modern German literature.

Student comments:

“I don’t even think I really like Sebald- but Helen’s interest is infectious really. I can genuinely say this is my favourite module, the concepts and ideas discussed are so interesting. Also it feels less like we’re just learning from the lecturer or from guest speakers, and more like a kind of community of learning. The worksheets may have been long but they do give you some sense of achievement when you get them done. Even when there are bits I didn’t answer, it’s good that we discuss in groups before feeding back to the class so you can get ideas from others.”

Proof that reading Sebald can actually be fun

“I really enjoyed having guest speakers in the second semester, it felt like we were working at a post graduate level. I also really liked the semi-informal seminar style which lead to more fruitful and interesting discussions in class. It also seemed to work well as everyone got a chance to voice their opinions and no one person was dominating.”

“It was unique in terms of the depths into which the discussions went. Having said that, it had enough in relation to previous as well as current modules for it not to be totally independent. I felt the atmosphere in the seminars was perfect, informal but not so much that nothing was covered. I really feel I have learnt more from this module than from any others”

2009-12: The Shock of the New: Culture and Power in Germany from the Second to the Third Reich (Level 2)

The module charts a period of dramatic upheaval and radical transformation in Germany: from the self-confident Wilhelmine Empire to defeat in Wold War I; from the artistic and socio-political creativity of the Weimar Republic to the brutal dictatorship and mass manipulation of the National Socialists. Withjn this historical framework we first examine the multi-faceted theme of the impact of modernity’s radical break with tradition – “the shock of the new”. This theme is then used to link an interdisciplinmary range of texts (philosophical, political, sociological, literary, filmic and musical) and to explore the interplay of culture and power in the period 1871-1945. We will focus on a selection from the following range of core issues: the intellectual, socio-cultural and economic roots of modernity; literary expressionism; discourses of gender and identity; the artistic avant-garde and its opponents, new political and social movements; modernity, mass culture and the Holocaust.

Student comments:

“Firstly I must say the teaching on this module is the best I have ever experienced. Helen especially engages us in a way that makes relatively high-brow content accesible to non-Philosophy/Politics students. In seminars I find myself participating and encouraged by little nudges I have seen my skills develop greatly. My interest in the module was increased hugely by the enthusiastic and dynamic leadership. The worksheets for the seminars were also very good at focusing on the core themes. It is very intellectually stimulating, something I have really enjoyed and has developed my appreciation for, importance of and understanding of other genres of books, films and art.”

“Excellent teaching. Helen Finch in particular (she took my seminars for the year) is enthusiastic, 100% professional, has a massive range of knowledge and is a real expert, which in turn creates enthusiasm in students.”

“My favourite module this year by a country mile. Keep up the incredible work!”

2009-2012: Advanced Translation (Level 3)

I have taught all styles of translation on this module, particularly specialising in literary translation. I have been able to build in literary translation workshops with visiting writers Larissa Boehning, Alois Hotschnig and Clemens Meyer, to give students experience of how literary translation fits in to the writing and publishing process.

This module is about the process, purpose and practice of translation and requires students to reflect on the nature of translation in general as well as specific translation tasks. Students are asked to identify the characteristic features of a particular text or text type (e.g. journalistic, consumer-oriented, technical and literary) and to formulate and put into practice appropriate strategies for reproducing the meaning and effect of the text in their own language and cultural context. Weekly translations (individual or paired) are supplemented by longer-term group projects that require meetings (face to face and virtual) outside class time and a great deal of research and preparation is expected of students. While assessment is individual, the learning process places great emphasis on discussion and sharing ideas. Discussion groups are normally mixed, with native speakers of German and English helping each other to produce the most effective translation. The translation direction is into English and students’ level of English (punctuation, standard grammar, vocabulary, register) is as important as their comprehension of German.

Student comments

“Best thing about the module – Helen’s enthusiasm and desire for us to do well and enjoy the module. I enjoyed undertaking a module in which the work is very different to other modules. It offers a change and it was enjoyable to get my teeth into translations!”

“Helen’s seminars were very good: well-structured, engaging and with clear aims”

“The best thing about the module was the second semester, focussing on journalistic and literary translations. I found the level of teaching and the usefulness/relevance of seminar content very impressive and appropriate in the second semester. I also enjoyed some of the thoughts provoked by the Marketing oriented translations in semester 1 […] The two translation workshops with Alois Hotschnig and Clemens Meyer were very useful and relevant.”

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