Gerhild Williams

Gerhild Williams

Barbara Schaps Thomas & David M. Thomas Professor in the Humanities
PhD, University of Washington
research interests:
  • Early Modern German and French Literature
  • Magic, Daemonologies, Witch Theory
  • Media and Culture
  • Reformation Movements
  • Translation Theory and Practice
  • Travel Narratives
  • Volksbuch/Novel
  • Early Modern Media and the Evolution of the Novel
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    • All being held via Zoom
    • Monday, 3:00 to 4:00 pm
    • Wednesday, 1:30 to 2:30 pm
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    • Washington University
    • CB 1104
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    ​Professor Williams has published widely on German and French literature and culture from the Middle Ages to the Early Modern Period (1100-1700), specializing more recently in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

    Williams has been working in translation theory and practice, the early modern witch phenomenon, the early modern Volksbuch, and the development of the novel. She has explored the impact and influence of newspapers and other early modern media on the production of novels. Some of her recent publications include books, edited and co-edited volumes, translations, and articles on the Prosaromane of Fortunatus, Melusine, Dr. Faustus, Wagner, and on the seventeenth-century writers Johannes Praetorius and Eberhard Werner Happel. Currently, she is working on the influence of Ottoman power and culture on German prose texts and on the globalizing impact of the Ottoman imperial ambition and cultural hegemony during the seventeenth century.

    Spring 2021 Courses

    Studies in Genre: Living Rhymes, Rhyming Lives (German 4104)

    Poetry has a long history using forms and conventions worldwide to suggest varied interpretations of worlds. words, or to evoke emotive responses. Whether in rhyme or prose, Goethe or hip hop, poetry accompanies our lives from cradle to grave as we celebrate, mourn, and memorialize the stops along the way. In this undergraduate course, we will read, discuss, and critique German poetry across the centuries to the present. We will translate into English, transfer poetry into prose, compare translations, and perhaps write our own poems, in German, of course. And, we will talk about the cultural and political influences that have inspired and shaped poetry from the past to the present. Prerequisites: German 302D and German 340C/340D OR German 341/341D OR German 342/342D.

      Seminar in Reformation & Humanism: Narrative Evolutions - The Early Modern Prosaroman/Volksbuch

      During the early modern period, roughly 1450-1700, prose fiction (Prosaromane/Volksbuecher) developed as one of the dominant literary forms. In this graduate seminar, we will read and review several important expressions of this evolving genre marking the structural and thematic path of its narrative development from the late medieval to the early modern. We will explore the relationship of fact and fiction, the textual influences of magic, demonology, and travel writing as well as expressions of gender and sexuality. The texts we will explore are Magelone, Melusine, Fortunatus, and Dr. Faustus. Prerequisite: Graduate student standing OR permission of Director of Graduate Studies and instructor.

        Selected Publications

        Mediating Culture in the Seventeenth-Century German Novel (Eberhard Werner Happel, 1647-1690). Ann Arbor: Michigan UP, 2014.

        Mothering Baby: On Being A Woman in Early Modern Germany. GSW trans. Tempe: Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies, 2010

        Ways of Knowing in Early Modern Germany: Johannes Praetorius as a Witness to his Time. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2006

        On the Inconstancy of Witches: Pierre de Lancre's Tableau de l'inconstance des mauvais anges et Demons (1612). Harriet Stone and Gerhild Williams, trans. Tempe, Arizona: Center for Medieval Renaissance Texts and Studies, 2006

        Mediating Culture in the Seventeenth-Century German Novel

        Mediating Culture in the Seventeenth-Century German Novel

        Eberhard Happel, German Baroque author of an extensive body of work of fiction and nonfiction, has for many years been categorized as a “courtly-gallant” novelist. In Mediating Culture in the Seventeenth-Century German Novel, author Gerhild Scholz Williams argues that categorizing him thus is to seriously misread him and to miss out on a fascinating perspective on this dynamic period in German history.

        Happel primarily lived and worked in the vigorous port city of Hamburg, which was a “media center” in terms of the access it offered to a wide library of books in public and private collections.  Hamburg’s port status meant it buzzed with news and information, and Happel drew on this flow of data in his novels. His books deal with many topics of current interest—national identity formation, gender and sexualities, Western European encounters with neighbors to the East, confrontations with non-European and non-Western powers and cultures—and they feature multiple media, including news reports, news collections, and travel writings. As a result, Happel’s use of contemporary source material in his novels feeds our current interest in the impact of the production of knowledge on seventeenth-century narrative. Mediating Culture in the Seventeenth-Century German Novel explores the narrative wealth and multiversity of Happel’s work, examines Happel’s novels as illustrative of seventeenth-century novel writing in Germany, and investigates the synergistic relationship in Happel’s writings between the booming print media industry and the evolution of the German novel.