|Denham named Charles A. Dana Professor
April 09, 2009
Scott D. Denham, professor of German and director of the Center for Interdisciplinary Studies, has been named Charles A. Dana Professor of German.
“I was both shocked and affirmed,” said Denham. “My first reaction was that I’m not wise enough or published enough—I speak out of turn and sometimes they don’t let me sit on certain committees. But really, it’s an affirmation of my work and my vocation and my commitment to this place. I’m honored.”
Denham won the Hunter-Hamilton Love of Teaching Award in 2002, for dedication to students across the academic spectrum, from working with interdisciplinary majors with complex interests “that keep them up at night,” to one of his greatest loves, teaching beginning German. “That can be very goofy and intense, and the students are mystified from day one,” he said, “but in a month, we’re having baby conversations. There is a great sense of payoff and free space.”
A unique teaching style is working with small groups of students in what Denham terms Oxford-style tutorials that “technically, don’t exist at Davidson,” involving close independent reading and writing by students, shared in long-format weekly sessions on aesthetics or literary theory, for instance.
Denham also has edited and translated numerous volumes and papers in German studies, including W.G. Sebald: History, Drama, Memory, edited with Davidson Professor of German Mark McCulloh and A User’s Guide to German Cultural Studies, edited with Irene Kacandes and Jonathan Petropoulos. He also co-edits a book series called Interdisciplinary German Cultural Studies. The most recent of Denham’s numerous grants include a 2008 Associated Colleges of the South Mellon Faculty Renewal Grant with three other Davidson professors, for an interdisciplinary teaching project on memory. Denham’s recent scholarly work has addressed public memory in Germany, including analysis of current debates about representations of German suffering in the shadow of Auschwitz.
Denham will use the resources of the Dana Chair to extend and deepen his own research of Walter Gropius (1883–1969), the German architect who founded the Bauhaus and, with Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier, the larger modernist movement in architecture. Denham edited and catalogued what he described as “a couple dozen linear feet” of Gropius papers during three-and-a-half summers at the Houghton Library at Harvard, where he received his Ph.D. in 1990, the year he came to Davidson. Many more meters of Gropius documents still reside in archives in Germany.
“For someone who’s interested in interdisciplinary studies,” he said of the modernist movement, which encompassed many forms of art and technique, “it’s all out there, and it’s a mess.”
His own book-lined office walls are neatly organized at the Center for Interdisciplinary Studies, which he has directed since 2005. Denham is especially thrilled at the research prospects the Dana makes possible, he said, since much of the last seven years since he received tenure have been spent primarily in service to students and the college, and secondarily in service to his profession, leaving precious little time for in-depth scholarship.
“The Dana Professorship is a perfect complement to my work at Davidson, and I’m looking forward to digging into the archives in Berlin soon. I’m so very grateful for the honor bestowed and opportunities it provides.”
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Posted By: Burkhard Henke