Graduate Students

Willi Barthold

Willi completed his bachelor’s degree in German Literature and History at Dresden University of Technology, Germany in 2016. As a fellow of the German Academic Scholarship Foundation (Studienstiftung des deutschen Volkes) and a student assistant in the German Department’s Professorship of Media Studies and Modern German Literature, he had the opportunity to gain ample experience in interdisciplinary German Studies. His interest in Literature and Media Studies culminated in his Bachelor’s thesis “Goethe’s Faust II and the Competition between Visual Media and Literature at the Beginning of the 19th Century,” which discusses the effects of the new media constellations around year 1800 on Goethe’s main work and the literature of this period in general. During the last year of his undergraduate studies, he came to Georgetown’s German Department as an exchange student. The excellent academic environment at Georgetown convinced him to pursue his PhD here, and he joined the German Graduate Program in the fall of 2016.

Willi’s research interests focus on the interplay between literature, media and social change. Working at the intersection between Literature Studies, Cultural Studies, and (Visual) Media Studies, he seeks to explore how the advent of new media technologies in different time periods triggered transformation processes in human perception, social interactions, and modes of communication that ultimately affected literature and other art forms that, in turn, reflected on the altered medial disposition and modes of perception of their time. Willi sees the examination of literature and art as a way to explore how earlier generations perceived as well as construed reality due to their medial conditioning. This endeavor ultimately enables us to gain a better understanding of the present and develop means to conceive and analyze current medial, aesthetical, cultural, social, and political changes as well. Although he currently focuses on German literature of the 19th century, his interests broadly include literary, visual and sequential works of art that have been published between the eighteenth and the twenty-first century.

Willi’s CV is available here.

Andrea Bryant

Andrea completed a Master’s degree in Applied Linguistics through the University of New England (Armidale, Australia) and an MA in German Studies at the University of Oklahoma. She has taught in the United States, Germany, Austria, and China. In the 2015-2016 academic year, she completed an ethnographic project documenting the experiences of four cohorts of Chinese international students at a college preparatory institute in Germany, and is very grateful for the DAAD Graduate Study Scholarship that supported her research year. Her thesis, “From it to you: An autoethnographic journey with Chinese users of German in Germany,” provides an authentic account of how carrying out the project transformed her perspectives.

In addition to her interest in Applied Linguistics, Andrea appreciates a good book. Her favorite genre is poetry and she often memorizes poems so she’ll have them later in the event of an emergency. Mary Oliver is her most beloved English-language poet and she also enjoys poems by contemporary German-language poets such as Michael Krüger and Kuno Raeber. One day she hopes to write as intimately about literature as Michael Hofmann or even the great Marcel Reich-Ranicki, but for now is satisfied with learning as much as possible about the sweeping movements that contributed to such great literature. Her research interests currently focus on identity, bilingual identity, and motivation, concepts which she is sure will deepen during her upcoming studies at Georgetown to encompass the multiple identity shifts that can take place in a writer’s life.

Sandra Digruber

In May 2015, Sandra received her Master’s Degree in German Studies from Florida State University. In her master’s thesis “A New Perspective on Post-Migration German Identity,” she discusses how German identity changed over time, focusing in particular on the differences between today’s concept and ideas from the nineteenth century. During her studies, Sandra taught beginning to intermediate German language courses at FSU. Before coming to Georgetown University, she also completed an MEd degree in English, French, and Educational Studies with a concentration in foreign language instruction at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, Germany. 

Sandra’s research interests lie predominantly in the field of Second Language Acquisition (SLA). She has developed a special interest in Systemic Functional Linguistics (SFL), which she will explore further in her dissertation research by investigating the topic of classroom discourse. Apart from that her research interests also include teaching with technology as well as foreign language curriculum design. 

Forrest Finch

During his undergraduate career at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Forrest spent his junior year in Berlin studying at the Freie Universität, where his passion for German scholarship was fomented. His undergraduate honors thesis work analyzed the representation of inter-generational, pedagogical relationships in Robert Walser’s novel Jakob von Gunten using Walter Benjamin’s The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, as well as primary documents from the early twentieth century pedagogue and acquaintance of Benjamin’s, Gustav Wyneken. Receiving a bachelor’s degree in German Language and Literature in 2015, Forrest joined the Georgetown German Department in the subsequent semester. Now in his fourth year of graduate school, Forrest has taught the beginner, intermediate, and advanced German levels and he looks forward to engaging with the curriculum further. 

Having worked with these approaches in a variety of German media from the eighteenth century to the present, ranging from dramas, novels, short stories, and film, to social media, photography, and conceptual art, Forrest’s dissertation research interest focuses on the Enlightenment project of rearing male subjects through engagement with visual media amid variable media ecosystems. More specifically, his dissertation examines the discursive linking of visual media, male subjects, and social control in narrative prose from around 1800 and it pursues this constellation in primary texts by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Heinrich von Kleist, Joseph Eichendorff, Sophie Mereau-Brentano, and E.T.A. Hoffmann using the tableau or tableau vivant, i.e., the performances of ‘living paintings,’ as his textual object of investigation.

Samantha Grayck

Sam received her MA in Comparative Literature in 2016 from the University of Chicago, focusing on inter-war life writing by German and British soldiers. She has a long-standing academic interest in the First World War, modernist literature, and texts with science fiction elements. Her background also includes teaching French at the undergraduate and graduate level, composition and writing tutoring, and academic administration. Sam hopes to continue researching German inter- and post-war literature as well as exploring modernist themes in Polish and Yiddish literature.

Michelle Hardy

Michelle started her graduate studies at Georgetown in Fall 2017. She received her BA in German and Russian from the University of Iowa in December, 2014. As an undergraduate, she participated in the Academic Year in Freiburg program, taking courses at Albert-Ludwigs-Universität and the Pädagogische Hochschule Freiburg. In Freiburg, she completed a German-English translation internship at Petite Planeté and volunteered for Carl-Schurz-Haus’s Rent an American program by guest teaching at schools throughout Baden-Württemberg. She has worked as a freelance translator and tutor and spent two years as an English Teaching Assistant at the Gymnasium-level with the Austrian-American Educational Commission (now Fulbright Austria), first in Feldkirch, Vorarlberg, and then in Vienna. She was thrilled to be a graduate exchange student at Universität Trier for the 2018 summer semester.

Michelle’s research interests include twentieth and twenty-first century German and Austrian Literature, focusing on representations of historical memory, cultural hybridity, and identity. Working at the intersection of feminist Disability Studies and literary analysis, she is particularly interested in how disability is portrayed in both fiction and life-writing. She is also very fond of teaching and expanding her knowledge of language pedagogy and genre theory.

Doria Killian

Doria first fell in love with foreign language study as an undergraduate here at Georgetown, where she began learning German her freshman year. After completing her BA (2011) in German and English, Doria spent a year as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in Zwönitz, Germany, a small town in Saxony near the Czech border. Simultaneously teaching students a foreign language while refining her own knowledge of German language, literature, and culture caused Doria to realize where her true passions lie and upon returning to the U.S. in the fall of 2014, she joined Georgetown’s German Graduate Program.

Her research interests include the construction and performance of postwar German identity, literary representations of historical memory, the intersection of religion and literature, as well as a burgeoning fascination with Second Language Acquisition. She is looking forward to refining and exploring these interests further and working with the exceptional German Department faculty and students.

Kerstin Kuhn

While Kerstin focused on German and English Linguistics and Literature for her Bachelor’s degree in German and English for K-12 education, she aimed at connecting these disciplines with new media in the German classroom during her graduate career at the Humboldt University in Berlin, Germany. Her Master’s thesis (MEd) demonstrates how Digital Storytelling fosters the narrative competence of students, while analyzing its benefits and challenges based on a field study from her teaching classes.

Kerstin’s research interests include Applied Linguistics and Second Language Acquisition, specifically the nature of narrative structures behind (digital) representations of literature from the German speaking world, as well as Foreign Language Pedagogy and Intercultural Competence.

Douglas McKnight

Douglas holds a BA in History from the University of Oklahoma, where he studied in Basel, Switzerland and Graz, Austria, and an MA from Georgetown’s MAGES (Master of Arts in Geman and European Studies) program. Following his masters, he worked as an English teacher with the Austrian-American Educational Commission in Feldkirchen im Kärnten, Austria. Afterwards, he worked as a translator and technical writer for a small software company in Dresden, Germany.

Douglas’ research interests include twentieth century German and Austrian history and literature, and how the Second World War is remembered (both officially and unofficially) through literature, film, and museums in both countries.

Justin Quam

Justin received his BA in Political Science from Yale University in 2010 and has taught English and German in Bruck an der Mur, Austria, and Portland, Oregon. His interest in language learning stems from the thirteen summers he spent teaching German at Waldsee, an immersion language program in northern Minnesota. Justin’s primary interests include second language writing and foreign language curriculum development; his dissertation research explores the ways in which learners of German express evaluative meanings at various proficiency levels.

Justin currently teaches full time at the St. Paul’s School in Brooklandville, Maryland; In his spare time, he sings with the 18th Street Singers, a local choir of passionate amateurs. Justin’s CV is available here.

Noelle Rettig

Noelle received her BA (2011) in German Language and Literature and English Literature from CUNY Hunter College in New York City. During her undergraduate studies, she lived in Berlin for several years, completing a study abroad program at Humboldt University and working as an English tutor for German elementary school students. She joined the graduate department at Georgetown in the spring of 2013. 

In 2016, Noelle began work on her dissertation, tentatively titled “From Aesthetic to Pathology: Reading Literary Case Studies of Melancholy, 1775-1850,” which explores how multivalent images of melancholy are deployed in order to individuate characters and their respective psychologies, affects, and emotions in late eighteenth and early nineteeth century fiction and drama. Goethe’s Werther, Schiller’s Die Räuber, Karl Philipp Moritz’s Anton Reiser, and Georg Büchner’s Lenz all provide panoramic, contemporary representations of melancholy at the specific interstices of science and subjectivity, reason and passion. At the same time, these illustrations offer undeniable diachronic continuities with current understandings of depression, bipolarity, and schizophrenia. Ultimately, this project seeks to create new dialogues surrounding these classic texts and their sociocultural histories in the attempt to construct an informed genealogy of mental illness. 

Noelle has received a 10-month fellowship from the Berlin Program for Advanced European Studies at the Freie Universität, which began in October 2017. Currently she is looking forward to conducting archival research in the history of medicine, science, and emotions. Her CV is available here.

Maja Salibasic

In 2017 Maja received her BA in German Language & Literature and Philosophy from Stetson University in Florida. Due to constant moving at an early age, Maja was raised multilingual (Serbo-Croatian, German, and English), which is partially what fostered her interest in different languages and cultures. While studying at a language gymnasium in Bosnia and Herzegovina where she was taught Serbo-Croatian, English, German, French, and Latin, Maja became fascinated by the numerous contributions to the arts and human thought, especially that of German thinkers. This experience further spurred her curiosity in academic research on the key theoretical approaches needed to analyze the relationship between literature and philosophy and its cultural influence.

Maja’s interest is in pursuing a career that supports cross-disciplinary work in the humanities in a lively and engaged intellectual community, working in a wide range of interdisciplinary and theoretical approaches to German culture, with the main focus on the intellectual history, media and cinema studies, and philosophy from the seventeenth century to the present.

Joshua Seale

Josh joined the German department in fall 2013 as a joint student concurrently enrolled in both the PhD program in German and the MAGES (Master of Arts in German and European Studies) program at Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service. He graduated with a BA in Germanic Studies from the University of Chicago in 2012 and spent the following year on an Austrian Fulbright teaching assistantship in Hollabrunn. His BA thesis at UChicago examined the history of the German forest as a quasi-mythic place in the German cultural imagination since Romanticism and its role as a complex and powerful symbol in the Heimatfilm of the 1950s.

His research interests include: postwar conceptions of Heimat, identity and belonging for expellees/refugees in border regions, and cultural representations of the German forest in literature, art and history (as well as its exploitation and politicization). He is also interested in the Polish-German relationship and the various constellations of their polemical history in film, literature and art, in addition to political institutions of memory. In his free time, Josh enjoys playing soccer, hiking, and traveling.

Aleksandra Starcevic

Aleksandra’s passion for foreign languages started at the age of seven when she began learning English. This was her first foreign language after her native language, Serbo-Croatian. She was immersed in German culture when she lived in Germany for seven years as a war refugee. There, she learned German and French. Living in Germany, she completed Realschule and two years of Wirtschaftsgymnasium, where her major was English, before her family moved to Atlanta, Georgia in 1999. She completed her bachelor’s and master’s degree in German Language and Literature as well as bachelor’s degree in Sociology at Georgia State University. Her master thesis “Das Kapital and Capitalism: A Marxist Critique of the Film Wall Street” discussed capitalism in depth by looking at Karl Marx’s theories and how they are represented in film. While at Georgia State University, she taught beginning and intermediate level German courses and also worked as a tutor in the language lab. Stepping out of the classroom after teaching her very own first German course, Aleksandra knew that this is what she wanted to do for the rest of her life. After graduation, Aleksandra taught beginning and intermediate level German courses at several schools, ranging from German Saturday School (an accredited Saturday morning school), two year colleges, and four year universities. At the same time, she worked for the German American Cultural Foundation on a project “German for South” that was established to teach and promote German language and culture.

Aleksandra’s research interests are divided between literature and second language acquisition. She is very much interested in literary and cultural studies of the nineteenth through twenty-first centuries, Holocaust studies, postwar literature and society, questions about identity, migration, and Heimat as well as film studies. On the other hand, she would also love to research the areas of foreign language pedagogy, teaching with technology, vocabulary acquisition, foreign language curriculum design and development, and blended language education. Aleksandra is very grateful for the opportunity to explore both literature and second language acquisition fields with the excellent German faculty and students at Georgetown University, and to find the focus of her future studies. Aleksandra’s CV can be found here.


Paige has lived in Germany for a combined eight years, having spent four years as a child in Stuttgart and another four years as an adult in Bavaria. While abroad, she developed a love of German language, literature, and culture, and she knew from a very early age that German was to hold a significant place in her life. Paige received her BA in English and Political Science from Seton Hall University in 2002, where she played Division I Volleyball, was named to the Verizon District III Academic All America Team, and was awarded the NCAA Post-Graduate Scholarship. She then earned an MA in German from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 2004, where she focused on the ecumenical writings of Heinrich Heine and Friedrich Nietzsche. Additionally, she was named the German Department’s Bauer Scholarship recipient. She has spent 12 of the last 14 years teaching German and English at various institutions, including the University of Colorado at Boulder, the Tacoma German Language School, and the University of Maryland University College.

Upon completion of her PhD studies, in which she hopes to further explore the writings of Heine and Nietzsche, as well as notions of nationalism and identity, she wants to return to the classroom and teach language and theory courses. In her free time, should she discover some during the course of the program, she looks forward to visiting Washington, DC’s fantastic museums and attending Hoya athletic events with her family.


Bryan began learning German as a primary school student. His German education continued through undergraduate and graduate studies where he earned a BA and MA from the University of South Carolina. Bryan studied at the Otto-Friedrich Universität for a semester during this time, and was also able to complete a master’s thesis in which he evaluated the extent to which the origins of Yiddish could be described by comparison to German dialects. 

While his main interests are not wholly linguistic in nature, the story of Yiddish provided a long standing sample of how issues of identity arise at points of intercultural contact. This interest in cultural intersections and identity negotiation lead Bryan to pursue a joint degree in German and European studies with German language and literature. German colonialism as well as more recent demographic exchanges are arenas in which Bryan aims to work.