German & Russian
Kirsten Harjes grew up in Bremen on the North German coast, where people to this day are proud of the city’s medieval merchant glory as a member of the “Hanseatic League.” After completing a teaching credential for German and Spanish at the University of Göttingen, Kirsten worked in Italy, Argentina, and for the United Nations in New York. She then got a Ph.D. in German Studies from UC Berkeley, with a dissertation on Holocaust literature and collective memory. Since 2003, she has been teaching language, literature, film, and history classes for the UC Davis German program, as well as the film and medieval studies programs. She has also taught in the Master’s program in public history at Sacramento State. She is now the Language Program Coordinator for German and Russian at UCD. Kirsten’s course “Viking Visions” reflects her long-time interests in history, myth, and religion. Department website.
A Message to Students and Parents
"To this day, I feel a sense of surprise and bewilderment when I look at the originality and strangeness of some of the values, ideas, and customs of tribal societies and their myths. I try to convey this sense to my students. Immersion in foreign cultures and historically remote beliefs makes us think outside the box. It brings a sense of freedom of thought as we upend entrenched assumptions about nature and human life for a moment. While I see this as a core learning goal of every undergraduate general education course I teach, this particular class makes it the easiest. We immerse ourselves in foreign cultures as we travel along, we learn to develop a historical perspective on modern life through our course readings, and we explore the human condition between the physical and metaphysical worlds of pagan belief. As a byproduct, we learn to interpret and write about various genres of texts, and we observe how these texts express themselves in art, architecture, and Viking technologies and craftsmanship. All of this will come to life in a whole new way when the actual historical sites are our classrooms, and when we are in the midst of societies that continue to shape parts of their lives in light of the old tribal world."