Schlink's lecture, scheduled for 7:00 p.m. on Feb. 4 in Lee Chapel on the Washington and Lee University campus, will consider collective guilt and how it entangles not just the first but also subsequent generations. This theme is at the narrative center of The Reader, a parable of German guilt and atonement the Los Angeles Times described as "formally beautiful, disturbing and finally morally devastating." Schlink returned to this uniquely German question in his most recent novel Homecoming.
In addition to his acclaim as a novelist, Schlink is one of Germany's leading constitutional law scholars, a professor on the law faculty at Berlin's Humboldt University, and a former justice of the Constitutional Court of the German state North Rhine-Westphalia.
"Schlink's visit to Lexington recognizes Washington and Lee's excellence as regards research and teaching in German letters and law," said law professor Russell A. Miller. "There are few American institutions that could fairly claim to better appreciate both facets of Schlink's impressive profile."
Schlink's visit is being jointly sponsored by the School of Law and the Department of German and Russian Languages, headed by Prof. Roger Crockett, who has exposed generations of W&L students to Schlink's literature.
"Bernhard Schlink is among the most important German authors since unification," Crockett explained. "The question of collective guilt, Schlink's lecture topic, is one of the most problematic and persistent themes in German literature since World War II and his novels have given us new perspective. The Reader has been indispensible to our Twentieth Century German literature course for a decade, and Homecoming is about to enter the canon."
The German and Russian Languages Department is a small but vibrant department that has produced more Fulbright scholars and teaching fellows in the past five years than any other department on the W&L campus. Literature is the centerpiece of both its degree programs.
The W&L law school is home to the German Law Journal, an English-language scholarly periodical reporting on developments in German, European and international jurisprudence. The German Law Journal was founded by Prof. Miller who, with the assistance of W&L law students, continues to serve as Co-Editor in Chief as the journal begins its second decade of monthly publication in 2009.
Prof. Miller is also the co-author of the forthcoming third edition of the definitive English-language treatise on German constitutional law, The Constitutional Jurisprudence of the Federal Republic of Germany (with Donald Kommers, Duke University Press).
"I am happy to be visiting the home of the German Law Journal and the co-author of the third edition of The Constitutional Jurisprudence of the Federal Republic of Germany," Schlink noted. "I am glad that the Journal exists and blooms, and I am also glad that the book, which I have often used in my teaching, will soon be available in an updated edition."
Schlink's lecture is free and open to the public.