Interdisciplinary Masterclass

A literary scholar and a geologist walk into a classroom...

This may sound like the beginning of a joke, but in fact it is the beginning of a highly innovative project in interdisciplinary teaching: UYA members João Trabucho Alexandre and Susanne Knittel are developing lectures and seminars (BA and MA level) that revolve around issues and concepts relevant for both disciplines, such as time, memory, representation, or the Anthropocene. 

Dr. Joâo Trabucho Alexandre and Dr. Susanne Knittel about interdisciplinary collaboration

Past masterclasses

The first of these took place on May 9, 2018 in the context of Susanne's course Aesthetics of the Posthuman (part of the 2-year Research Master program Comparative Literary Studies), where João and Susanne co-taught a seminar on the topic of deep time, combining geological and literary perspectives and readings. Using Max Frisch's 1979 novella Man in the Holocene as a basis for discussion, the students explored questions such as: How can we think about and represent deep time? How can we imagine the world without (before/after) us? This first foray into truly interdisciplinary teaching was a resounding success and has now become a permanent part of the course. 

In the spring of 2019, Susanne was a guest in João's geology course on Sedimentology and Basin Stratigraphy. Under the title "The Worst Year to Be Alive", they discussed the Anthropocene from the perspective of geoscience on the one hand (e.g. the problem of defining its beginning) and the humanities on the other (e.g. the role of the Anthropocene as a concept and narrative, the role of climate fiction in popularizing the concept of the Anthropocene and the issue of climate change). 

In the future

As the project continues, Susanne and João will keep developing different modules for students at BA and MA level and write various publications together, including a book chapter on best practices for interdisciplinary teaching.