Gundi Walterskirchen

Gundi Walterskirchen

Gundi Walterskirchen

 


Courses

Fall: ENG 112 – Intro to Literature (3 credits)
MUS 203 – Developmental Music in Europe (1 credit)
Spring: MUS 304 – Developmental Music in Europe (1 credit)

Interview on the MUS course

1) How would you explain the content and approach of your course?
The music course as it is offered to all forty students of the Salzburg Culture Program of the University of Portland is meant to give them a survey of the development of Western music. Since for most of the students it is their only encounter with a class on music history, I cannot go into specific explanations of various music theories and techniques of composition, but concentrate on the characteristics of the various periods of music history after 1600,  their most important composers and their ouevres. With just one lecture period a week, time is limited and I do want to play as much music to them as possible. Trips to the cathedral organ and to Mozart’s birthplace, visits to two opera performances (one at the State Opera House in Vienna and one at the Marionette Theater in Salzburg), together with a compulsory attendance of at least one symphony concert at the Great Festival Hall in Salzburg, supplement the music course each year.

2) What do you most enjoy about teaching UP students?
I enjoy the students’ immediate response to what I present in class. Most of them are eager to learn new things and realize that the Salzburg year offers this opportunity and therefore – like sponges – soak up as much knowledge as they can get. I remember a girl’s comment at the end of our trip to Vienna about four years ago that sounded like that: “When we drove to Vienna, I knew nothing and now I have the feeling that I already know so much.” I thought to myself: ‘You don’t know how much more you will know by the end of this year.’

3) What challenges do you see students facing in their studies in Salzburg?
First of all, Austrian teachers have a different approach to seeing certain subject matters and different ways of teaching and testing their students. Oral exams are usually the norm at Austrian universities when it comes to being tested on lectures; written papers or written exams are used in smaller courses, so-called proseminars and seminars, unless the numbers of students at the lectures make oral exams impossible.  Multiple choice questions are generally not  found in university test papers, not even at high school level.

4) What elements do you like to emphasize in your courses? (eg: culture, history, tradition, etc)
I like to emphasize the relationship between social history, art and music history, therefore I like to talk about the various social positions the composers used to live in and how  their compositions were received by the general public and their audiences.

5) What changes do you see occurring in students over the course of the semester?
The further up in music history we get the more students recognize names of composers and  their works. This happens mostly in the second semester when we talk about the 19th and 20th centuries. It is most gratifying to see that more and more students take advantage of my offer to borrow the CDs I use in class in order to listen to the pieces during their free time and in full length.

6) In what ways do students and professors learn from each other?
It is important for us teachers to get the students’ feed-backs,  either right after class or when reading their evaluations at the end of the semester. For Austrian professors these evaluations are still not an ordinary routine since Austrian universities in general do not ask their students to evaluate their courses and thus their professors.

Interview on the English Literature course

1) How would you explain the content and approach of your course?
When, many years ago, Fr. Art suggested that I should start teaching an introductory course on English literature besides my music history one, I was at first a little uncertain whether I could do that with English not being my native tongue. However, Fr. Art was positive that I could teach that class and I was given the liberty to choose the literature I thought would be suitable for a course of American students spending some time on the European continent and learning about its history. As reading English books has always been the core interest of my professional and private life, I’ve never regretted accepting Fr. Art’s offer in the end.
The topics of the books I chose focus on the relationship between the United States and Europe, their mutual interest in and influence onto each other, secondly on literature that deals with the holocaust, and thirdly on some samples of important English and German literary works which present an insight into the European mentality. Considering the fact that the students spend a year in a German speaking country, two famous German works of fiction – Goethe´s play “Faust” and Thoman Mann´s novella “Death in Venice” – are dealt with as well in English translations.

2) What do you most enjoy about teaching UP students?
It’s the atmosphere of this course, it’s the 15 to 20 students, that makes it so special. The willingness of them to plunge with me into the different worlds the authors describe and to let themselves be moved by the plots makes all the difference. The best proof for that happened in the spring of 2006 when some members of the lit group decided to put on one of the plays we had read in class and to surprise the faculty and their fellow students with two great performances of J. B. Priestley’s play An Inspector Calls.

3) What challenges do you see students facing in their studies in Salzburg?
Those students who are not used to reading much might have difficulties at first with the number of reading assignments. In past years, however, some of those students told me later on that eventually their reading speed improved, thus their dislike towards reading mellowed down and they even began to accept reading books as a means of entertainment.

4) What elements do you like to emphasize in your courses?
I like to lay stress on the social and continental differences between America and Europe, on the different social attitudes (e.g. “American Dream vs. European Dream”) and the various writers who knew both continents equally well. Most of all though, I’d like to prove to them that reading books can bring color into one’s life and pastime.

5) What changes do you see occurring in students over the course of the semester?
After a while students learn to search for certain literary devices and peculiarities in certain authors without being told where to look. Even books that most of them have already read in high school, like “The Great Gatsby”, appear in a different light.

6) In what ways do students and professors learn from each other?
A literature course in which each student and the teacher lay open their personal feelings during discussion time or when reading certain passages of a novel or a short story makes students and teachers understand each other better and move closer to each other.