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The "Austria Project:" A Literary Journey to Klagenfurt (Part 1)

The "Austria Project:" A Literary Journey to Klagenfurt (Part 1)

Welcome back dear reader,

In this post I would like to introduce you to the idea behind a collaborative mapping project, with with which my students virtually traveled to Austria. Our textbook Weiter geht’s offered the best possible entry to the world of digital mapping due to its outline of three chapters on „Germany,“ „Austria,“ and „Switzerland,“ which is followed by a chapter on German cultural history. Thus, the structure of the textbook already suggested an intersection between geography and cultural history, which I was more than eager to take on and further develop.

The Travel begins: The Ingeborg Bachmann Prize

In addition to the rich information on Austrian identity, history, and culture, which chapter seven of our textbook granted, I wanted to deepen my student’s knowledge about contemporary literature by incorporating a monthly long collaborative learning project. Through the lens of literature, I wanted to strengthen the grammatical, reading, writing, and listening abilities of my students and invite them to engage with literary texts, which were presented at the Ingeborg Bachmann Prize – an annual cultural event that influences and shapes the literary scene of Austria and beyond.

The annual Bachmann Prize, which takes place in Klagenfurt, is the perfect theme for my collaborative reading project. This festival of German-Language Literature is a unique literary competition, which lasts for several days. Public viewing of the three day long reading-marathon is accompanied by cultural events in the city and eventually ends with the announcement of the winner of the prestigious Bachmann Prize, which is worth 25,000 Euros.

"Ines snapt" created a snapchat documentary that gives a perfect impression of the various days and locations of the Bachmann Prize in 2016. Watching the documentary helped my students to understand the design of the Bachmann-Prize.  Additionally, we could enjoy Klagenfurt through Ines' eyes. What a great project and opportunity for us! Thank you!

Most authors, who read at the Bachmann Prize, are going to be promoted during the calendar year and play a bigger role at the Frankfurt Book Fair, which takes place in the fall. Students can then continue to engage with the literary newcomers  in various social media and follow the career paths during the rest of the year.

Reading Literature through a geographical lens:

With the help of backward design, I identified desired language learning goals, which guided my selection of authors and texts of the Bachmann-Prize in 2016. From a pedagogical standpoint it was important to me that the real-life material combined cultural knowledge of the German-speaking world, and addressed contemporary cultural, political, and individual challenges. After completing the task, my students would have gained cross-cultural competencies to reflect upon intersections, variations, and differences between German and Austrian culture, resulting in a better understanding how local cultures intertwine with the European idea on a global level. The literary texts presented at the Bachmann-Prize fulfilled the parameters of the learning goal in a two-fold manner. First, the texts reflected upon current cultural topics of 2016 and, second, supported the loose understanding of borders between European countries which opens up a multifaceted reflection on identities in diverse cultural contexts on a local, but also global level.

Outline and Design of the Travel Journal

The Travel Journal “Austria” consists of four different tasks, which focus on reading comprehension, cultural and geographical knowledge, presentation skills, and writing comprehension in the form of an essay. Task one supported students reading comprehension by analyzing text excerpts from the Bachmann-Prize. First, students were asked to research the author of their assigned specific text further. This was followed by a summary of their text, which tackles the main idea and focuses on the representation of space within the text. Students were asked to think about the construction of German and Austrian identity within the text and how they relate to the concepts of “Typisch deutsch” and “Typisch Österreich,” with which Weiter geht’s operates. Additionally, students worked together on a vocabulary list, which they created with Google Doc. 

Literature and the European Identity: The Selection of Texts

2016 was a very special year for the Bachmann Prize – a very diverse group of authors challenged the construction of identity from various angles in their literary texts. This unifying momentum of the texts opened up a reflection on the notion of cultural exchange, diversity, and growth of the “European idea.” Whereas Tomer Gardi’s text "***," which is written in “Broken German” challenged the euro-centric perspective on literature, Sharon Dodua Otoo’s text “Herr Gröttrup setzt sich hin” questioned German identity through the lens of an outside perspective on the everyday life of the family Gröttrup. Bastian Schneider’s “Mezzanin: Stücke” was particularly interesting for the foreign language classroom due to the episode like structure of the text, and the focus on events and objects of the everyday life. Stefanie Sargnagel’s “Penne vom Kika” offered a portrayal of the millennia generation through a Viennese perspective. Additionally, the texts by Dieter Zwicky: “Los Alamos ist winzig,” Jan Snela: “Araber und Schakale,” and Isabelle Lehn: “Binde zwei Vögel zusammen” combined life-stories of individuals in (un)familiar cultural contexts of East and West.

To be continued …

I hope that this short introduction to my project sparked your interest to read more about my "Austria Project." In my next post I would like to introduce the second part of the travel journal, which asks students to map their literary texts, and focus on potential  challenges of reading literary texts through the eyes of digital cartographers. Eventually the next post will grant you access to browse through the literary map my students created. 

For those of you who already worked with mapping technologies in the foreign language classroom, please do not hesitate to reach out to me. I would love to discuss strategies how to introduce more advanced mapping technologies in the classroom. Which technologies did you use? What is your project design and which challenges did you encounter while drafting your project? Did you support a collaborative learning environment or a goal-oriented learning approach? How did you assess your students learning?


Please find attached the introduction to the Travel Journal "Austria" and the "First Task: Reading comprehension."


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