New CREECA associates talk outreach, interdisciplinarity, and language studies

Three new CREECA associates, Krzysztof Borowski, Melissa Sheedy, and Liina-Ly Roos, have joined the Department of German, Nordic, and Slavic (GNS+) this fall and have settled into new academic appointments at the start of this historic academic year at UW-Madison.  

CREECA Associate and Slavic Lecturer, Krzysztof Borowski

Krzysztof Borowski is the latest addition to the Slavic unit in GNS+. Borowski received a PhD in Slavic Languages and Literatures in 2020 from the University of Kansas where he taught Polish for five years prior to coming to UW-Madison. Borowski’s languages of study and research are Polish, Bosnian/Croatian/Montenegrin/Serbian, Russian, Italian, and Spanish; he is currently teaching first-semester Polish and will continue to teach first-year and advanced Polish in spring as well. 

Besides Polish language instruction, Borowski also specializes in Slavic sociolinguistics and issues of identity in contemporary Poland. His dissertation, Conflict Discourse, Identity, and the Social Imagination of Silesian Minority in Poland, critically examined the societal patterns of thinking about ethnicity, belonging, and nationhood in Polish-Silesian online conversations.  

The interdisciplinary approach that Borowski takes in his research is a core value among REECAS scholars at UW-Madison. In a recent Q&A session with CREECA and GNS+, Borowski elaborated on how he undertook his dissertation research by deploying theories and methods across a variety of domains.  

My PhD research was very much interdisciplinary in that I was studying online political discourse in contemporary Poland from a sociolinguistic perspective. Given that, I was borrowing theories and methods from linguistics, anthropology, [and] sociology while drawing heavily from history to uncover how language use in participatory online media helps produce prejudice, hateful speech, and, sometimes, outright violence. The fact that I enjoy working across disciplines and learning new methods and theories has definitely helped me complete this project, making it more entertaining along the way. 

“The Politics of Laughter: Polish Comedy Culture” (SLAVIC 245/LITTRANS 247) with Krzysztof Borowski in spring 2021.

Additional academic interests include contemporary Polish film, society, and Polish migration to the Americas. Borowski is currently teaching a new literature in translation course, “Migrant Nation: The PolishAmerican Cultural Experience. In a recent podcast interview for Ameryka i ja (America and Me), Borowski talks more in-depth about this course and teaching online, and many other topics including his journey to Wisconsin from Poland.  For spring 2021, Borowski looks forward to teaching another online course on politics and comedy, titled “The Politics of Laughter: Polish Comedy Culture (SLAVIC 245/LITTRANS 247). 

In an addition to interdisciplinarity, Borowski also talked about his experience with and plans for outreach and public service – core components of the CREECA mission – during the Q&A session. In the past, he has co-organized biweekly meetings of Polish language learners and speakers. “I have always enjoyed it as a chance to get out of the strict professorstudent roles and to just build community while using Polish,” said Borowski.

At UW-Madison, Borowski has been working with Polish professor Łukasz Wodzyński and the Polish Students Association to organize and publicize the annual Polish Film Festival, which will be held virtually this December. Borowski said the festival has been successful in the past and is excited to continue the tradition for the Madison community and beyond given the new virtual format.

Slavic lecturer Krzysztof Borowski announces the upcoming Polish film festival on Twitter.

The full Q&A with Borowski includes details on his fascination with languages, his favorite non-English word, and advice for those interested in language studies.  

With a PhD in German Literature, UW-Madison alumna Melissa Sheedy joined the German unit of GNS+ as a lecturer this fall. Her research interests include 18th- to 21st-century German literature and culture, contemporary literature, Romanticism, GDR and Post-GDR literature, fairytales, feminist theory, ecocriticism, and violence. In her Q&A, Sheedy talked about her interdisciplinary work and connection to the REECA region.  

I am particularly excited to be a part of GNS+ because of the opportunities for interdisciplinary work in the department and on campus. I studied Russian for several years and completed my PhD minor in REECAS here at UW, where I found a lot of productive avenues for research. One area of my studies that intersects particularly well between these fields is the former GDR, which produced some truly fascinating literature and cinema (particularly in the realm of fairytales!) As far as fairytales go, I am also really looking forward to collaborations with Folklore here at GNS+, and I am excited to continue exploring the Grimm tradition through a global context, with an eye to gender, race, class, and the environment.  

CREECA Associate and German Lecturer, Melissa Sheedy

In drawing on her expertise on fairytales, Sheedy will offer the course “From Grimm to Gryffindor: German Fairytales (Re)imagined” (GERMAN/LITTRANS 276) in spring 2021. The course will look at the legacy of the Grimms, but with a particular focus on female authors of fairytales and modern iterations. The course, which will be offered in English, is open to students across majors and disciplines.  

Sheedy’s languages are German and Russian, and this fall, she is teaching first-semester German for undergraduates and graduates, as well as Intermediate German for writing and listening/speaking; in spring, she will teach two sections of third-year German writing. As a seasoned language educator and language learner herself, Sheedy offered her perspective and advice on the value and rewards of additional language learning. 

I could go on and on about the opportunities—both personal and professional—that are associated with learning a second language, but the experience itself in class can be so indescribably rich. Language classes are often the ones in which students feel the most comfortable and feel the most like they are part of a real community, just because these groups tend to be smaller and more closely-knit. German is for everybody, and the humanities are for everybody – learn how to “meow” as many different ways as you can! 

More on Sheedy’s research, language learning trajectory, and favorite non-English words can be found in the full Q&A report from GNS+. 

CREECA Associate and Assistant Professor of German, Nordic, and Slavic, Liina-Ly Roos

Finally, CREECA welcomes Liina-Ly Roos (PhD, University of Washington), who joined the Nordic unit of GNS+ as an assistant professor this fall. Her languages are Swedish, Finnish, and Estonian, and her research interests include Nordic and Baltic film, television, and literature; childhood studies and children’s literature; memory studies; hierarchies of migration; postcolonial theory; film and television theory; cultural studies; and public humanities.  

This year, Roos is teaching a variety of interesting topics courses related to these academic interests. She is currently teaching courses on Scandinavian film and Scandinavian children’s literature, and in spring 2021, she is slated to teach “Migration and Media in Europe” (GNS 370) and “Contemporary Nordic Television” (SCAND ST 520). More on Roos’s research and publications can be found on her GNS+ faculty page 

CREECA extends a warm welcome and wishes all the best to our new colleagues in GNS+. We look forward to future collaboration and conversations at events to come. 

Written by Ryan Goble | Communications Project Assistant | CREECA