Science Reflected in Literature
Dr. Elmar Schenkel is a Professor at the Institute of English Studies, University of Leipzig. He visited HSE in Nizhny Novgorod in early April at the invitation of the Faculty of Humanities. He has talked to the HSE Look about his research interests and collaboration with HSE.
— What is your research centered on?
— My major focus is the interrelation between science, myth and literature. I am looking at relations between physics and literature, technology, religion and literature, at how scientists feature in literature, like Darwin, Tesla and others. This approach is quite new to the students, and they show a great interest in the lectures and ask many good questions.
— How did you start collaborating with colleagues at Nizhniy Novgorod?
— We have a long-standing relationship which started at a conference 20 years ago, and last year I visited HSE with a German delegation, we were trying to establish closer relationships with Russian universities. I can definitely say that while a year ago there was a certain worry if all the political events and their media coverage affect the interactions, but I see for sure that on the ‘human’ level there is absolutely no animosity on either side, and we can and want to work together in an unhindered way.
I enjoy visiting HSE at Nizhniy Novgorod both for the collaboration with colleagues and for the rich cultural experience this city offers: exhibitions, Russian paintings, modern photography exhibitions.
— How is your work with the students organized?
— I am giving a two-week course of lectures on comparative literature, American and British, for HSE students at Nizhniy Novgorod. Apart from that I give individual lectures on eccentrics in science, game theory, German philosophy, children s literature and travel writing… I try to involve students in discussions; the class is not too big, so we have a chance to talk about the differences and similarities in perception, from Russian and German perspectives. I try to make use of the situation to foster intercultural understanding.
I am very impressed by the level of knowledge and engagement in topics which students demonstrate. They have a very good background in terms of literature and history, and are ready to participate when I put questions to the audience.
— Do you also have a joint research project with HSE colleagues?
— I have a joint project with a colleague on Eastern-Western travel writing, and she gave lectures at a conference I organized in Leipzig. Several students got interested in the lecture I gave on the eccentrics in science, and they would like to come to Leipzig and do a thesis there under my supervision. I already have a very positive experience of supervising a student from Nizhniy Novgorod who came to my home university through an exchange programme. As for the future, we are planning to keep working on intercultural encounters between East and West as well as on spirituality and literature.