German - Doctoral Theses

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    The effect of task-based language teaching on developing speaking skills among Saudi Arabian female EFL learners at university level
    (University College Cork, 2023) Alsahli, Hanin Salman; Siller, Barbara; Devlin, Anne Marie; Saudi Arabian Cultural Bureau
    In the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the rate of women entering international workspaces has been increasing. However, due to the competitive nature of the job market, women are required to gain a high level of English proficiency. With this in mind, the current study takes a socio-cognitive theory to investigate the impact of task-based language teaching (TBLT) on the oral proficiency of English as a Foreign Language (EFL) learners at a Saudi Arabian female university. The aims of this study were threefold: a) to investigate the speaking challenges faced by female EFL learners at the university level, b) to explore the attitudes of one teacher and 16 Saudi EFL learners toward TBLT, and c) to examine the effect of TBLT on developing learners' oral language proficiency based on the complexity, accuracy, and fluency (CAF) measurement. Many previous studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of TBLT over other teaching methods in a variety of teaching contexts. However, most of these studies have taken a sociocultural approach to their investigations. Thus, the current study offers new insights by investigating an understudied cohort of EFL learners from a socio-cognitive perspective. The study used a four-pronged design comprising a quasi-experimental teaching intervention, pre- and post-tests, a questionnaire, and semi-structured interviews. Under the quasi-experimental design, 32 learners were divided into an experimental and a control group, with 16 participants in each group. Both groups attended EFL classes for over a period of three months, but the experimental group followed the TBLT approach whereas the control group was taught according to the CLT approach, the conventional approach at the selected university. The learners of the experimental group completed a post-intervention questionnaire, two semi-structured interviews, and one pre- and one post-intervention speaking test, while the teacher of the experimental group only responded to one post-intervention semi-structured interview. Firstly, the pre-intervention interview was conducted to investigate learners’ speaking challenges. Then, a post-intervention questionnaire was followed by a semi-structured interview conducted with learners in the experimental group to further examine their attitudes toward TBLT in English speaking instruction. The second post-intervention interview set out to investigate the attitude of the experimental group teacher with respect to the TBLT approach in teaching speaking skills. Both interviews for the learners and the teacher were analysed using a thematic analysis through NVIVO software and SPSS was utilised to analyse a Likert scale questionnaire. Finally, pre- and post-speaking tests were administered to all of the participants in both groups (control and experimental) and were designed based on the TOEIC test. The data collected from the speaking tests were analysed using the CAF framework and subsequently computed through t-test to assess the differences between the two groups. The main findings of the research are that TBLT is more effective than the conventional teaching method in the EFL female Saudi Arabian university context. Regarding speaking challenges, the first interview revealed that some learners have several concerns when speaking (e.g. concerns about grammar or lack of vocabulary) despite demonstrating serious interest and awareness of speaking-development strategies. The results of the questionnaire and learners’ post-intervention interview revealed that learners have a positive attitude toward the use of TBLT, as they seem to believe it helps to increase motivational aspects, such as self-confidence, when interacting using the target language (TL). Likewise, the teacher also expressed a positive attitude toward TBLT, particularly because it encourages learners to use the TL in classrooms, which is in line with their learning goals. Meanwhile, the second post-intervention interview with the teacher also revealed a major concern surrounding the difficulty and time-consuming nature of the TBLT approach from the instructor’s standpoint. Finally, in terms of oral proficiency, the results of the pre- and post-test measurements showed that the experimental group experienced statistically significant improvements in several components of the CAF measurements (accuracy and fluency) compared to the control group. First, in terms of syntactic complexity, the experimental group showed significant reductions in the mean length of the C-unit and mean length of clauses, while the clauses per C-unit significantly increased. No significant changes appeared in lexical complexity, and the experimental group made significantly fewer errors and produced more errorless clauses post-intervention. Finally, regarding fluency, the number of silent pauses and repairs in the experimental group’s speech was reduced significantly, although the changes in filled pauses were not significant. Based on the above results, it has been concluded that the TBLT approach has a significant effect on developing EFL learners’ speaking skills, specifically, with regards to accuracy and fluency. Learners’ attitudes toward a particular pedagogical approach are essential in encouraging learners to participate in classrooms which should affect whether they develop the target language, such as speaking skills, or not. In this experimental study, the TBLT approach was shown to develop learners’ speaking skills. The study was, however, limited by the small sample size and brief duration. Therefore, it is recommended that the study be replicated with a larger sample over a longer intervention period. Furthermore, the effect of TBLT on learners at different proficiency levels is also worth exploring further.
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    Werte.Sprache.Integration – Zur Konstruktion von Werten in DaZ- Lehrmaterialien
    (University College Cork, 2022) Hofer-Robinson, Michael; Siller, Barbara; Inci, Dirim; Irish Research Council
    Since the foundation of the State Secretariat for Integration and its relocation to the Federal Chancellery, both the vocabulary and direction of integration policy in Austria have changed steadily. While there is still a strong focus on the importance of learning the German language, the new Integration Act of 2017 now includes values as part of compulsory German courses. Several textbooks have been published that are recommended by the Austrian Integration Fund (OIF) for use in 'German Courses with Value and Orientation Knowledge'. The present study examines the possibilities and perspectives established by the didactic material and enquires how values are constructed in the teaching material, how learners (and teachers) are (or can be) addressed by this material, which ideas of social reality and subjects can be reconstructed, and which social positions are suggested towards learners. In the first part of the study, previous scholarly work on values in the context of integration are discussed in order to make clear the objectives and research questions addressed by the present study, as well as its relevance for the wider subject. Values represent the starting point of the research project, but this is not a study of values, not an attempt to define values, even though an examination of value theories, formation and education is necessary to approach the research questions. In the second part, an analytical perspective informed by migration pedagogy, racism criticism and subjectivation is taken and interlinked with thematic discourse analysis in order to reconstruct knowledge from the value material. Relying on these theoretical and methodological presuppositions, three textbooks recommended by the ÖIF are analyzed and typical forms of address and of constructions of reality are reconstructed. The analysis shows that, on the one hand, textbook knowledge reproduces a racist order of difference that demands that learners, who are anticipated to be deficient and problematic, assimilate to a superior mainstream culture, i. e. that the social reality constructed in the materials has to be learned and recognized as 'normal' and 'right'. On the other hand, the teaching of values can be recognized as a practice that can be summarized with the term 'domestication'. This draws attention to the utilization of 'others by migration', which is at the fore in the concept of integration and in the teaching materials. The teaching of values in its current form reinforces a separation between a national-ethno-cultural 'us' and 'not-us' and demands imagined learners 'become who we would like to be' (cf. Heinemann 2017) – a discursive examination of values, however, does not take place.
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    Bildung and the feminine: an investigation into three major works by Goethe
    (University College Cork, 2021-11-22) Bezerra de Albuquerque, Juliana; Hofmann, Gert; Salice, Alessandro; University College Cork
    The subject of this thesis is the relationship between gender and the notion of Bildung in three major works by J.W. von Goethe, namely: Iphigenie auf Tauris (1786), Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre (1795-96) and Die Wahlverwandtschaften (1809). One of the central ideas throughout Goethe’s work is that of Bildung or the formation of the individual. This is a scientific and anthropological idea which was already current amongst some of Goethe’s contemporaries, but which Goethe applies in his literary works by means of analogy in relation to the achievement of self-knowledge and the harmonious integration of the different parts of one’s nature. The question addressed in the thesis is whether for Goethe the women in his fiction can be said to be potentially able to achieve the same the degree of Bildung as their male counterparts. In answering this question, the thesis contends that in studying the development of Goethe’s literary works it is important to pay attention also to the way in which his ideas on nature are reflected in his fictional creations. The thesis argues that given Goethe’s emphasis in his scientific writings on themes such as evolution and morphology, i.e. the theory of the formation and transformation of living organisms, the way he perceives nature as a whole, and human nature in particular, is very much dynamic and open-ended. All living organisms, in Goethe’s universe, are conceived as striving to develop and at the same time as being compelled to respond as well as they can to the limitations inherent in their own nature, the injuries inflicted upon them in the course of life, and the obstacles encountered in their environment, whether physical or, in the case of human beings, also cultural and social. Goethe’s notion of Bildung is not primarily moral in the traditional sense of this word but reflects a psychological and naturalistic perspective on the human condition, something that has been noted by other scholars such as T.J. Reed, Matthew Bell, Jane K. Brown and Astrida Orle Tantillo. Chapter One of the thesis deals with the relation between Bildung, gender and sexual difference in Goethe’s work by suggesting in which ways his ideas can be said to challenge the prejudices of his time on these issues. Chapter Two deals with the play Iphigenie auf Tauris. Chapter Three offers an interpretation of the novel Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre with an emphasis on the differences and similarities between the characters of Natalie and the Beautiful Soul. Chapter Four is an analysis of Die Wahlverwandtschaften.
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    Viewing as if in a female network: towards a reparative reading of post-crash female-centred US TV series
    (University College Cork, 2020-11-25) Laugalyte, Marija; Magshamhráin, Rachel; De La Garza, Armida; University College Cork
    This thesis explores and advocates for an imaginative and creative way of viewing screen texts where the purpose is to come up with alternatives for the images and narratives onscreen. This approach involves a deliberate focalisation at the level of viewing that solicits the liberation of characters from the images and narratives onscreen by way of considering what could be onscreen instead of what is onscreen. Focusing on my own viewing activity as the object of study, and my feminist commitments, I direct this strategy to post-crash US female-centred television series of the 2010s. I do so to experiment with this viewing strategy more generally but also to consider what alternatives I can come up with, and how I can come up with them, to resist the images and narratives of the individualistic white working-woman who is so often placed as the symbol of feminism in popular culture. Using Parks and Recreation (2009-2015), Girls (2013-2017), Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life (2016), Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (2015-2019) and The Bold Type (2017- ) as the series on which I experiment with this strategy of imagining alternatives, I do so in relation to my feminist commitments whereby I hope to bring new awareness to the relationship between viewer and the text. Because of my particular use of this strategy (to imagine feminist alternatives to the screen) and because of where I find the most relevant examples of it (the work of Ned Schantz), I have named this strategy ‘viewing as if in a female network’, an adaptation of what Schantz calls ‘reading as if in a female network’ (2008). I use Schantz’s proposed way of reading as a jumping off-point to articulate and develop my own, I argue, more radical way of viewing texts. This reading is also proposed as an antidote and alternative to forms of feminist academic analysis focused on critiquing gender representation; this mode of viewing proposes instead imagining what is lacking. Like the reparative reading style of Eve Sedgwick which introduces hope and joy into a text, this speculative reading focuses on constructing and producing nourishing alternatives to the screen where, as a feminist viewer, I am unsatisfied with what is on the screen. Thus, this thesis asks and illustrates what an imaginative viewing practice looks like that 1) addresses the pre-domination of whiteness and capitalist ideologies and 2) on the level of reception, repairs the damage through imaginative departure from the screen by way of considering alternatives to the screen, i. e. what might be onscreen instead. The results of this experimental study includes 1) a ‘toolbox’ of different ways that this strategy can be implemented that I offer to other viewers to take up and use; 2) the alternative images, narratives and meanings I conceive of by using this strategy that I call “viewing as if in a female network”; and 3) the address of the ethical questions and issues that arise when this viewing strategy is employed. I argue that this practice is a politicised strategy of viewing, especially when aligned with one’s political commitments and when our offscreen alternatives are conceived in line with our preferred visions of the world.
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    Dynamics of self-discovery in Hermann Hesse’s novels (1919–43): an analysis of the influence of Jung, Freud and Nietzsche on Hesse
    (University College Cork, 2019) Linehan, Uschi; Hofmann, Gert; Magshamhráin, Rachel
    My thesis explores the protagonists’ developmental sequences in five novels by Hermann Hesse, namely, Demian (1919), Siddhartha (1922), Der Steppenwolf (1927), Narziß und Goldmund (1930) and Das Glasperlenspiel (1943). These five novels place more emphasis on the ongoing process of personal self-discovery than any other works by Hermann Hesse. I examine the influence of Jungian and Freudian psychoanalytical patterns of thought on the specific narrative composition of Hesse’s novels and also how Nietzsche’s psychology of self-composition (cf. Graham Parkes, Composing the Soul: Reaches of Nietzsche’s Philosophy, 1994) and his ideas of philosophy as autobiography have impacted on Hesse’s interpretation of the Entwicklungsroman (i.e. “novel of personal development”) genre of literature. Hesse started to read Nietzsche at the age of eighteen in 1895, and later began to read psychoanalytical books by Jung and Freud whilst simultaneously undergoing a mid-life crisis. Hesse had three separate periods of Jungian psychoanalysis sessions during his life: 1916–18, 1921 and 1925–26, and seems to have been more attracted to Jung’s concern with imaginative and aesthetic processes in the human psyche than Freud’s clinical psychoanalytic approach. Like Hesse, Jung talks about the development of the Self in a creative way in his psychoanalytical theories. The main difference between Jung’s idea of the Self and that of Hesse is that Jung saw the Self as reaching a static point in self-realisation, whilst Hesse saw the Self as something that was being constantly reinvented. This is immediately redolent of Nietzsche’s concept of the Self as involving dynamic processes of Dionysian self-excess. My interpretative perspective focuses on how Hesse’s protagonists undergo processes of self- discovery in certain transitional periods of their lives. Processes of self-discovery and self-composition are thematised and examined both in Jung’s psychoanalytical theories and Nietzsche’s philosophy of life. My analysis suggests that Hesse’s works became more Nietzschean than Jungian in nature as his oeuvre progressed, as is particularly evident in his last two novels, Narziß und Goldmund and his magnum opus Das Glasperlenspiel