Emeritus Associate Professor of German Modern Languages & Literatures

Robert Shirer, Emeritus Associate Professor (Ph.D. Chicago) has been at UNL since 1983. His areas of specialization include twentieth-century German literature: postwar prose, especially GDR literature; the Expressionist lyric; film and popular culture; and folklore. He is graduate advisor in German.


  • Books
    • Difficulties of Saying 'I' The Narrator as Protagonist in Christa Wolf's Kindheitsmuster and Uwe Johnson's Jahrestage, Germanic Studies in America, No. 57, New York and Berne: Peter Lang Verlag, 1988.
    • Kulturelle Begegnungen: Cross-Cultural Mini-Dramas, Skokie: National Textbook Company, 1979. 2nd. Ed., 1994.
  • Articles
    • “Johannes R. Becher” A biographical essay for the Encyclopedia of German Literature, Fitzroy-Dearborn Publishers, Chicago, 2000.
    • "Murder and Suicide Revisited: Johannes R. Becher's Literary Treatment of a Youthful Tragedy" Monatshefte 81, No. 2 (Summer, 1989):175 185.
    • "Uwe Johnson," Critical essay for the volume Contemporary German Prose Fiction (1945) to the Present) in the Dictionary of Literary Biography, Columbia, South Carolina: Bruccoli Clark Layman, 1988, pp. 115 132.
      Selected for reprinting in the Consise Dictionary of World Literary Biography, 2000.
    • "Uses and Misuses of Language: Ingrid Babendererde as a GDR novel," Colloquia Germanica 21 (1988):77 84.
      Selected for reprinting in the volume Twentieth Century Literature Criticism, Vol. 249, to be published by Cengage Learning. Forthcoming.

Lectures & Conference Papers

  • “Cabaret in 1920’s Germany” A pre-performance lecture at the Lied Center for the Performing Arts, Lincoln, Nebraska, November 2002, preceding two performances of the play Cabaret.
  • “’Strenge Rügen’ or ‘Väterliche Mahnungen’: Christa Wolf and the German literary critcal establishment.” Public lecture as part of the University of Newcastle-on-Tyne’s Research Seminar Series 2000-2001, November 30, 2000, Newcastle-on-Tyne, United Kingdom.
  • “Eduard Mörike and his Poetry.” Public lecture as part of a symposium: “The Fullness of Life: The Voice of Hugo Wolf” held Sept. 17-19, 1999 at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The Symposium was partially funded by the Nebraska Humanities Council.
  • “The Making of a Public Figure: Johannes R. Becher and Uses of the Biographical and Autobiographical in the GDR” Paper given as part of a panel on GDR biography the 1997 German Studies Association Conference, Washington, D.C.
  • "Väterliche Mahnungen und strenge Rügen: Christa Wolf und die Zuchtmeister der Literaturkritik" Paper presented at the NEH Seminar, "The Writer and the State in the GDR" at Cornell University, July 31, 1995. Expanded version presented at the NATG (Nebraska Association of Teacher of German), March 7, 1996 at Creighton University.
  • "Reading Johnson Reading" paper delivered at the1994 Kentucky Foreign Language Conference, April 1994.
  • "Prospects for Reunified Germany" Participant in panel discussion. Mattingly Symposium on Peace and Justice, Nebraska Wesleyan University, April 4, 1991.
  • "The New Germany for the 1990's," address to the College of Business Administration, UN-L, as part of CBA's International Awareness Month and Visiting Scholars program, April 11, 1990.
  • "A Case Study in Secular Hagiography: Johannes R. Becher's Biography of Walter Ulbricht," paper presented at the 1989 Kentucky Foreign Language Conference, April 28, 1989, Lexington, Kentucky.
  • "Franz Kafka and the FL Classroom," Lecture-demonstration at the Nebraska Foreign Language Conference, Kearney, March 19, 1988.
  • "Murder and Suicide Revisited: Johannes R. Becher's Literary Treatment of a Youthful Tragedy," paper presented at the Midwest Modern Language Association Conference, Columbus, Ohio, November 12, 1987.
  • “Suicide in the GDR: Social Reality or Literary Device," public lecture, sponsored by the Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures at the University of Chicago, May 12, 1987.
  • "Uses and Misuses of Language: Uwe Johnsons Ingrid Babendererde as a GDR Novel," paper presented at the Kentucky Foreign Language Conference, Lexington, Kentucky, April, 1986.

Research in Progress

  • The Poet as Politician. A Critical Biography of Johannes R. Becher.
    • Book to be completed within two years. Five summers, a development leave, an NEH Seminar, and a second development leave have been spent on background work; initial products were the above mentioned article and conference papers.
  • “Music and the past: the gramophone in Mann’s The Magic Mountain, Disorder and Early Sorrow, Roth’s Job and Hesse’s Steppenwolf. Article.
  • “The Making of a Public Figure: Autobiographical and Biographical Constructions of Johannes R. Becher in the GDR,” article to be expanded from paper given at the 1997 German Studies Conference.
  • "Fatherly Reproaches and Severe Reprimands: Christa Wolf and the Masters of German Literary Criticism," Article to be expanded from the paper presented at the NEH Seminar at Cornell University and in November 2000 as a lecture at the University of Newcastle-on-Tyne in the U.K.
  • "Editorial Image-making: The 'Selected' Volumes of J. R. Becher's Collected Poems" Article.
  • "Becher and Brecht in the GDR: An Uneasy Relationship," Article.
  • "Die Puppe als gesteigerter Narziß: Rilkes Puppenessay und die vierte Elegie." Article.
  • "'Samt Inventar:' Uwe Johnson's Ingrid Babendererde as a Sourcebook for Jahrestage. Article.

Pedagogical Workshops

  • Participated in the ACTFL Oral Proficiency Workshop, May 1995, University of Nebraska Lincoln.
  • Conducted intensive German weekends for instructors in the Nebraska Mediated Learning Program, Feb., 1993; Feb., 1992, in Grand Island, Nebraska; Feb., 1991; Feb., 1990; March, 1989 in Kearney, Nebraska, funded by Dartmouth- Nebraska grant and/or by the Rassias Foundation or the Nebraska Instructional Materials Council.
  • Conducted a foreign language methodology workshop for the Lincoln Public School System, January 17, 1992, funded by Dartmouth-Nebraska grant.
  • Co-sponsored the visit of Prof. John Rassias to the Nebraska Foreign Language Association Fall Meeting in Omaha, November, 1991; served as facilitator for the subsequent intensive methodology workshop at UNO.
  • Organized and led in methodology workshops for the Nebraska Mediated Learning Program, August 11, 1990, funded by the Nebraska--Dartmouth Language Outreach Grant; August 1993, funded by Nebraska Instructional Materials Council.
  • Participated in the presentation of a Mini workshop on the Dartmouth Method at the University of Nebraska Omaha, January 23, 1990.
  • Participated in a Methods Workshop at the Language Outreach Project at Dartmouth College, February 1989, funded by the Rassias Foundation.
  • Participated in ACTFL Oral Proficiency Workshop, sponsored by the Nebraska State Office of Education and the Cooper Foundation, June 19 22, 1984.

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  • The University of Chicago, 1977 - 1983.
    Ph.D. with departmental honors, Germanic Languages and Literatures, 1983.
    Dissertation: "Über die Schwierigkeit, ich zu sagen." The Narrator as Protagonist in Christa Wolf's Kindheitsmusteri> and Uwe Johnson's Jahrestage. Peter K. Jansen, adviser.
  • Universität Bonn, 1976 - 1977.
  • The University of Chicago, 1973 - 1976.
    M.A., Germanic Languages and Literatures, 1976.
    Master's paper: "Vision, Reality, and the Poet: The Poetry of Johannes R. Becher, 1914 - 1929."
  • Beloit College, 1969 - 1973.
    B.A. with academic honors, 1973.
    Majors: German and Government.