When students learn to analyze German literature, art, music and films, they also develop the tools to learn how to criticize their own culture.

Peter Keitel

Peter Keitel, Professor of German Studies, has published scholarly essays and books on utopian thought, ecological sustainability, climate change, anti-Fascism, left Zionism, life reform movements in Germany and murder in German literature, among others. He is fascinated by all forward-thinking, progressive, utopian and left-liberal concepts in German cultural history -- concepts that have always contributed to the development of humankind in positive ways.

Keitel incorporates these research interests into his teaching through German Studies courses in which he encourages open-mindedness, free thinking, and broad exploration of culture, history, politics and social issues. "When students learn to analyze German literature, art, music and films," says Keitel, "they also develop the tools to learn how to criticize their own culture."

In his course Green Utopias, taught in the Environmental Studies Program, Keitel and his students explore the history of environmentalism depicted in utopian or dystopian literature and film. The students come to understand that modern societies are based on scientific and technological progress, which in turn is based on the exploitation and devastation of nature.

"If the natural household is destroyed, human development will stop," says Keitel. "Throughout history, many individuals, movements, and organizations have spoken out and protested actively against the devastation of nature. Students learn about such protests, explore alternatives to globalization, and focus on concepts of sustainability on a local and regional level. They understand that getting involved and speaking out for the oppressed and exploited is still an important value for an educated person."

In addition to helping students develop critical ways of thinking, Keitel says he is preparing students for the workplace, where businesses seek graduates with broad backgrounds and knowledge of the intricacies of history, politics, and social issues. By studying the development of modern Germany in the last 250 years, he says, he is preparing students to take their knowledge into the world. "The knowledge of and about foreign languages and cultures cannot readily be defined in economic terms, however it is an essential aspect of preparing Bucknell graduates for their active and responsible participation in society."

Posted May 9, 2012