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Notes from the Chair

Submitted by Yuko Mera on September 29, 2015 - 10:20am
Eric Ames

Welcome to the 2015-16 academic year!

I am very excited about my new role as Chair of the Department of Comparative Literature, Cinema and Media. It’s a role that, as a former graduate student in this department, I never would have expected, but one I that am fortunate to have. For those who don’t know me, allow me to introduce myself.

I earned my B.A. in Comparative Literature at Dartmouth College before entering the master’s program in Comparative Literature here at the University of Washington. That was almost twenty five years ago, in 1991. I took seminars from Ernst Behler, worked as his research assistant, and TAed for Willis Konick. Marcia Feinstein-Tobey, who had joined the main office that same year, guided me through the administrative maze.

After completing the master’s degree at UW, I went on to Berkeley, where I earned a Ph.D. in German literature with a Designated Emphasis in Film -- a credential that is not just similar to our graduate certificate in Cinema and Media Studies at UW, but a model for it.

I joined the UW Germanics department in 2000. In addition to my teaching there, I served for years as undergraduate adviser and twice as acting chair. In 2014, I moved half of my appointment to what is now the Department of Comparative Literature, Cinema and Media.

My teaching ranges from specific topics and directors to courses on Weimar cinema, film noir, documentary, and the avant-garde, as well as core courses in the CMS track. My research extends from nineteenth-century forms of visual culture (zoos, museums, panoramas, ethnographic exhibitions) to the films of Werner Herzog. Currently, I’m writing a little book on Herzog’s Aguirre, the Wrath of God. (Yes, the world needs a book on that film.)

So I began my studies in comparative literature almost three decades ago; I’ve taught for more than fifteen years in German; and my work has gradually shifted to cinema studies. Each of these experiences will inform my approach to the job. Like all new chairs, I have much to learn, and I’ve thrown myself into it.

I want to thank Míċeál Vaughan (once again) for his three years of service as Chair, and wish him all that’s splendid in retirement. (At his retirement party, the Dean of the College Bob Stacey gave a wonderful history of Míċeál’s career -- read it here.) A few weeks ago, Míċeál invited me to join him and watch a Manchester United game at CenturyLink Field. The department had given him tickets as one of his retirement gifts. Only after the game began did he mutter under his breath that he hates Man U (he was a Liverpool fan for years, and he continues to like Man City and Chelsea “mostly because they are NOT Man U”). But there we were, doing “the Wave” in a sea of red jerseys, surrounded by thousands of screaming wild Man U fans. We had a blast.

There’s not much more that you need to know about me. I live near Ballard with my wife and our two boys, ages 7 and 9. (My wife is a psychiatrist, which I just assume is the reason why I was asked to serve as Chair. Every department needs access to psychiatry.) My friends refer to me, not so politely, as the guy who doesn’t have a cell phone. But I can usually be reached at the Department’s main office. Drop by sometime, let’s talk.

I look forward to meeting you, and to working in this new capacity with students, faculty, staff, and (fellow) alumni.


Eric Ames

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