The Catholic University of America

Claudia Bornholdt, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of German
Department of Modern Languages and Literatures

Where are you from?

I was born in Schleswig-Holstein in northern Germany and lived there until 1995, when I came to the US.

Educational background

I spent 1 year studying Pedagogy at the Pedagogical University in Kiel, Germany, and then several years as a student of German literature, linguistics, Art History, and History at Christian-Albrecht University in Kiel. In 1995, I came to the US as a research assistant to work on the Conceptual Dictionary of Middle High German Literature at Bowling Green State University in Ohio. I received my MA there in 1996. I then moved to Bloomington, Indiana, where I completed my PhD in medieval German and Scandinavian literature in 2001.

Your discipline/research and accomplishments

My research focuses on medieval literature, language, and culture. I am especially interested in the beginnings of vernacular writing in Germany in the 11th to 13th century and in the transfer of narratives, characters, motifs, and manuscripts between Germany and Scandinavia. I have published one book on the medieval genre of bridal-quest narrative (Engaging Moments: The Origins of Medieval Bridal-Quest Narrative, DeGruyter Press 2005). My second book (Saintly Spouses: Chaste Marriage in Secular and Sacred Narratives From Medieval Germany (12th and 13th Century)) is forthcoming with University of Arizona Press. I also published several articles and presented many papers on various aspects of medieval German and Scandinavian literature and culture.

Here at CUA, I teach many different courses on modern and medieval German language and literature. Recent courses I have designed and taught include a class on German theater (which concluded with a Swiss play performed by the students in German), a class on Austria in Literature and Film, a seminar on the German medieval epic Das Nibelungenlied and its sources  and later adaptations, such as the Scandinavian Eddic poetry or Richard Wagner’s Ring cycle. Next semester I will be teaching a course on contemporary German literature written by recent immigrants to the German-speaking countries.

Mentors/Role models who encouraged you

My parents have always encouraged me and my sister (who is currently completing a PhD in History at the University in Oslo, Norway) to discover new worlds, dream big and never stop pursuing our dreams. I am very grateful for this, especially if I consider that my sister and I are the first in our family (which looks back on many generations of teachers and farmers) to complete PhDs and work in Higher Education.  I feel very lucky that I had a grandfather who shared with me his deep love for nature, and that I have parents who have always supported me in doing what I loved to do, even though that meant that I know live thousands of miles away from them!

What do you do for fun in leisure time?

I love to travel and there are many countries and places I haven’t seen yet and can’t wait to explore. I also love being out in nature, be it by digging in the garden or by taking long walks in the woods and the Appalachian Mountains.