Research in German Studies, School of Modern Languages, Literatures and Cultures

Dr Arnd Witte

Applied linguistics and intercultural studies is a particularly noteworthy research strand of the Maynooth University German Studies which has attracted many students over more than two decades.
Reducing foreign language acquisition simply to learning grammar, syntax and vocabulary would be a reductionist approach because language cannot be separated from its socio-cultural context of use. Culture is not just an object, visible through its artefacts, but culture does something to the human mind by providing it with certain choices of action and construal, while at the same time excluding others. Therefore, foreign language learning always implies more than just learning grammar and vocabulary: it means acquiring another cultural frame of mind.
This increasingly transformative impact on the mind is not restricted to the classroom but is typically applied in a meaningful way to all aspects of life by the foreign language learner. The learner’s mind is now open to influences, not only from the native culture but also from the foreign culture(s). This means that the advanced foreign language learner has acquired intercultural competence: By having experienced and internalised a new medium for forming and expressing thoughts and new cultural patterns of construal, a novel world opens up, and learners’ identities shift to dynamic intercultural spaces which are oscillating between the first and second languages.
Applied linguistics and intercultural foreign language learning are areas heavily researched and published on by Maynooth University experts. Postgraduate teaching in these fields include modules in intercultural studies, methodologies and didactics of teaching German as a foreign language and cultural studies.
At MA and PhD levels, Maynooth University students will have the opportunity to research areas such as psycholinguistics and applied linguistics, societal, cultural, institutional, situational and subjective influences on foreign language acquisition, the notion of 'understanding' in intercultural communication, learner strategies, the role of culture (i.e. 'Landeskunde' and literature) in teaching/learning foreign languages, vocabulary acquisition, and language awareness. Current research in the department focuses on intercultural blending of mental spaces, as well as the complex interplay of languages and cultures in the minds of foreign language speakers. 

Dr Jeffrey Morrison

Jeff Morrison took a Single Honours degree in German at the University of Oxford (Pembroke College as a Scholar in Modern Languages) in 1984 before moving on to take a D.Phil. at the same university under the supervision of Dr. David Constantine. In his research he developed material which he first encountered as an undergraduate in an optional course on eighteenth-century German aesthetics/literary theory. The resulting thesis, entitled Winckelmann and the Notion of Aesthetic Education, was completed with the assistance of a British Academy Scholarship and subsequently of a Laming Junior Fellowship at The Queen’s College, Oxford which enabled him to work for extensive periods abroad in Germany, France and Italy. The thesis was to appear, in a slightly amended form as a monograph for Oxford University Press (see list of publications).

During his time at Oxford he taught extensively and worked as a College Lecturer at The Queen’s College for one year. He also took leave from his Junior Fellowship to take a one-year post as Lecturer in German at The University of Manchester. He has been teaching aspects of German language and literature, with an emphasis on the eighteenth century, at Maynooth University since 1992. The focus of his research is still eighteenth-century aesthetics and he is currently preparing a monograph on Swiss aesthetics in a European context as well as editing a volume on German poetry with his colleague Florian Krobb.

Dr Valerie Heffernan

Valerie Heffernan graduated with a BA (Hons.) in French and German from University College Dublin in 1993. She went on to postgraduate study at the same university and was awarded Masters in German in 1995. After two years of research in at the Université de Lausanne (Switzerland) and the Humboldt-Universität Berlin (Germany), she returned to Ireland to carry out doctoral studies on the Swiss writer Robert Walser. In 2004, after completing a dissertation under the supervision of Prof. Anne Fuchs at University College Dublin, she was awarded a PhD in German. Her dissertation was published in 2007 under the title Provocation from the Periphery. Robert Walser Re-examined (Königshausen & Neumann).

Since joining the staff at Maynooth University in January 2004, Dr. Heffernan has offered courses on German language and German literature from the Enlightenment to the present day. In her research and teaching, she continues to focus on Swiss writing, and a volume on contemporary Swiss literature entitled Schweiz schreiben. Zu Konstruktion und Dekonstruktion des Mythos Schweiz in der Gegenwartsliteratur, edited by Valerie Heffernan and Jürgen Barkhoff of Trinity College Dublin, will appear in Spring 2010. In addition, she is working on a new project on contemporary Women’s Writing in German.

Dr Clive Earls

Clive Earls graduated with a First Class Honours from his BA in Applied Languages, majoring in German, Spanish and Linguistics, from the University of Limerick in 2006. He then proceeded to spend one year in Eastern Germany teaching English and German as a foreign language at a national language academy. Upon completion of this year, Clive returned to the University of Limerick where he successfully obtained a highly competitive Irish Social Sciences Platform (ISSP) Government of Ireland Scholarship, the largest doctoral and post-doctoral scholarship scheme in the history of the Irish state, to pursue his interdisciplinary doctoral thesis. In 2013, Clive was awarded a PhD in German and Applied Linguistics, under the external examinership of eminent researcher Prof. Dr. Ulrich Ammon of the Universität Duisburg-Essen. Prior to joining the faculty at Maynooth, Clive spent one and a half years working as a Senior Research Associate in a professional research firm in the private sector honing his research skills and industry experience.
Clive's recent monograph published with Palgrave MacMillan in 2016 explores English-medium higher education in Germany, following a high degree of interdisciplinarity by drawing upon methodological and theoretical frameworks from the disciplines of Education, Internationalisation, and Applied Linguistics particularly Language Policy and Planning, Intercultural Studies, and Language Pedagogy. His most recent publication (2016) is an edited volume addressing the relationship between multilingualism and English in 21st-Century Europe. Clive is currently actively research concomitantly on target-language teaching approaches at university level in Ireland and the changing status of English and German in a post-Brexit European Union. He welcomes research proposals from prospective PhD candidates in the areas of English as a lingua franca, foreign language pedagogy, language policy and planning, and internationalisation of higher education.

Dr Linda Shortt

Dr Linda Shortt graduated with a BA in German and History in 2001 and an MA International in German Cultural and Language Studies in 2003 at University College Dublin, Ireland. Her PhD in German (Pathologies of Belonging? Generation, Place and Rebellion in Post-Unification German Literature) was completed in 2009 as part of the UCD Humanities Institute of Ireland interdisciplinary research programme on “Memory, Identity and Meaning”. Her monograph (German Narratives of Belonging) stemming from this research was published as part of the Legenda Germanic Literatures series in 2015.
After finishing her PhD, Linda went to Germany to work as a research assistant for Prof. Aleida Assmann at the Exzellenzkluster at Universität Konstanz. Before coming to Maynooth, she was Associate Professor in German, Translation and Transcultural Studies at The University of Warwick (2016-2021), where she co-led the new Translation and Transcultural programmes in the School of Modern Languages and Cultures with Dr Mila Milani. She has been teaching at third level since 2002, and has taught a variety of undergraduate and postgraduate courses at UCD, Universität Konstanz, Bangor University (2010-2016) and Warwick. 
Linda is a specialist in German language and culture since 1945 with a focus on representations of the politics of belonging, the experience of expulsion and inclusion, transition and place-making, and German memory. Current work focuses on representations of migration (in particular the so-called "refugee crisis"), as well as borders and bordering. She is also working on cultural representations of chronic illness, aging and dying.