As America’s first research university, Johns Hopkins owes much of its legacy to the German model of higher education. So it seems particularly fitting for the Krieger School to serve as home for the new Max Kade Center for Modern German Thought, which launched late in the spring 2011 semester thanks to a generous grant from the Max Kade Foundation.
“The German model is one of the defining elements of the Johns Hopkins University identity,” explains the Max Kade Center’s co-director Rochelle Tobias. “An examination of the modern German intellectual tradition is crucial for the continued success of the humanities and social sciences at Johns Hopkins.” Many of the issues that preoccupied modern German scholars continue to be studied in departments across the Homewood campus. Around the time of the Enlightenment, German intellectuals began examining diverse ideas ranging from the role of irony in literature, to the social effects of memory, to the challenges of hermeneutics and translation—key thoughts that remain present in today’s liberal arts curricula.
In one way or another, “modern German thought is at the core of most of the disciplines taught at any university,” Tobias says. The center will engage students and faculty from disciplines that either originated in Germany and Austria or were strongly influenced by German-speaking intellectuals, such as anthropology, classical and comparative philology, psychology, physiology, physics, mathematics, sociology, history, and art history.
Housed on the fourth floor of Gilman Hall, the Max Kade Center began its work in earnest this fall, offering four undergraduate courses (three in conjunction with the Department of German and Romance Languages and Literatures) while planning to host a lecture series, summer workshop, and graduate-level conference for 2012. At the heart of the 2011–2012 curriculum is a yearlong undergraduate course titled Panorama of German thought, in which the center’s other co-director, Elisabeth Strowick, guides students through the gamut of modern German philosophy, from Martin Luther to Niklas Luhmann.