Welcome to SPACE, our adult continuing education program which offers interactive monthly courses for personal enrichment! Learn more here.

Dr. Isaac Schendel

Signum Clubs PreceptorSPACE Preceptor

West Germanic Philologist and Modern German Teacher

Isaac S. Schendel is a Signum Academy Preceptor for Old English Translation Club and for German Conversation Club. He is also a preceptor for Old English, Middle High German, Old Saxon, and Conversational German at Signum University’s SPACE Program. [see full bio...]

All Modules

Conversational German 1

This 8-session introduction to German is intended to give the students a basic acquaintanceship with the German language and enough information for further study. This first module covers the alphabet, basic verb conjugation, important verbs like Haben and Sein, pronouns, grammatical gender, nominative vs. accusative cases, forming questions, and giving dates and times. Some specific vocabulary content is given in the session breakdown, but the individual entries are not meant to be either restrictive or exhaustive.

Session Breakdown:

1. The alphabet and sounds; the present tense of regular verbs; colors and numbers

2. Haben und Sein; nominative pronouns; noun gender; Was studieren Sie (what do you study?) and Wo wohnen Sie (where do you live?);

3. Fragewörter (question words) and forming questions; yes/no questions; “Interview” game

4. Coordinating conjunctions; describing your field of study; the verb mögen (to like)

5. Die Wochentage (days of the week); Die Uhrzeiten (time); Der Wochenplan (weekly schedule)

6. Planning a meeting with a friend (combination of Der Wochenplan and the “Questions” from Session 3); negation (Nicht and Kein)

7. The accusative case; description of rooms (Ich habe/Es gibt); accusative pronouns

8. Accusative prepositions; general review

Note: This list is not meant to be exhaustive and can change depending on student wishes.

Conversational German 2

This course continues along the track established by the first Conversational German Series module. This month, the topics are a bit more “fun,” focusing a great deal on “free time” activities and the students’ subjects of interests. Grammar is a bit more limited, but the biggest grammatical subject – modal verbs – are complicated enough to merit intense study. A final grammatical case, the dative, is introduced in the final two sessions. Because this module builds on the previous one, there is slightly more repetition in the sessions listed below.

Session Breakdown:

1. Introduction and review; nominative and accusative case; conjugation of regular conjugations

2. Der Alltag (the normal day); Irregular and Stem-changing verbs in the present; the German breakfast;

3. More practice with “irregular” verbs; Einkaufen gehen (going shopping); repetition of modal verbs; gern; Obst und Gemüse

4. Freizeit; modal verbs; review of Wochenplan vocabulary (date and time); repetition of coordinating conjunctions

5. Kleider (clothing); Musik hören (listening to music);

6. Sport treiben (exercise); evaluating hobbies (adjectives like entspannend “relaxing” or interessant “interesting”); Restaurant vocabulary

7. General review of cases; indirect objects and the dative case for nouns.

8. The dative case for pronouns; dative prepositions.

Note: This list is not meant to be exhaustive and can change depending on student wishes.

Conversational German 3

This module continues along the track established by Conversational German 1 and 2.

The cohort of the current iteration of Conversational German has asked to focus on speaking practice, so specific topics of instruction will be determined on an ad hoc basis. Any topics listed in the Conversational German 1 and 2 modules that have not yet been covered will be discussed, but the instructor will also introduce new subject matter. Possible subjects, time permitting, include:

Session Breakdown:

1. Imperatives and Requests

2. Separable Prefixes

3. The Conversational Past tense (The Present Perfect)

4. Irregular and Strong Verbs

5. Meals and Evening Activities

6. Travel Vocabulary

7. Vacation

8. Holidays and Festivals

Note: This list is not meant to be exhaustive and can change depending on student wishes.

Conversational German 4

This module continues along the track established by Conversational German modules 1-3.

The current iteration of Conversational German 4 continues to focus on speaking practice, which means that (as with Conversational German 3) the instructor determines specific topics on an ad hoc basis. If we have not yet covered topics listed in previous modules, we will cover them in this session while the instructor concomitantly introduces new subject matter. Possible subjects include:

Session Breakdown:

1. The Comparative and Superlative

2. Careers and Dream Jobs

3. Possessive Adjectives

4. Family Vocabulary

5. Months and Seasons

6. A Review: The Conversational Past

7. Separable Prefixes

8. Gesundheit

Note: This list is not meant to be exhaustive and can change depending on student wishes.

Conversational German Series

This is the landing page for Dr. Isaac Schendel's Conversational German Series. For more information check out the module links below.

Also: Please wishlist this page if you are interested in taking Dr. Schendel's Conversation German Series when we offer it next.

Middle High German 1: An Epic Introduction

Middle High German (MHG) is the umbrella term for the German dialects used in the Holy Roman Empire from about 1050 to 1350. Its written form was the language of the court, and most MHG poetry embraces chivalric intellectual interests – adventure, romances, and courtly love! In our epic introduction to the language, we begin with a poem on subject matter that Old English and Old Norse students will immediately recognize: Das Nibelungenlied, the story of Siegfried (Sigurd) the dragon slayer, who we all know from the Völsunga Saga, the Poetic Edda, and (as his father Sigmund) Beowulf.

This module requires absolutely no modern German, but you may find that the course awakens that bit of “school German” you remember from high school. We will read our text – the 14th “Adventure” of The Nibelungenlied – slowly, as a small reading group. The benefit of the Nibelungenlied’s style is that enjambment is rare and each line can be treated as a single sentence.

Middle High German 2: An Epic Continuation

This module is a continuation of Middle High German 1 with the plan to continue with the 14th âventiure of the Nibelungenlied until we complete it. After that, we will switch to some Arthuriana - Iwein, by Hartmann von Aue, the German “translation” of Chrétien de Troyes’[s] Yvain, the Knight of the Lion. Also, if the students want to read something else, your preceptor is all ears!

Middle High German 3: The Return of Brünhilde

This module, a continuation of the Middle High German series, picks up where the previous module left off (ie. Middle High German 2: An Epic Continuation). Although each MHG cohort learns and reads at different speeds, this module will probably continue with the 14th Âventiure of the Nibelungenlied and then switch to Hartmann von Aue’s Iwein, the German adaptation of Chrétien de Troyes’[s] Yvain, the Knight of the Lion.

As always, students are welcome to make suggestions if they would prefer a different text or even a different genre – farces, courtly epics, sermons or even legal texts are just a few examples of what we could read.

Middle High German Beginning Series

This is the landing page for Dr. Isaac Schendel's Middle High German Series which consists of two modules: Middle High German 1: An Epic Introduction and Middle High German 2: An Epic Continuation. For more information check out the module links below.

Also: Please wishlist this page if you are interested in taking Dr. Schendel's Middle High German series when we offer it next.

Middle High German Series: A Month of Minnesang

During the 12th and 13th centuries, the Provençal tradition of courtly love poetry spread to Germany, where it became the lyrical genre known as Minnesang. It quickly took on a life of its own and developed into a medieval literary scene of the best type—complete with rivalries, drama, and satire! Come join us for a month of reading a selection of poems from this almost inexhaustible literary field.

This class is simultaneously meant as a literary survey and as language practice for Signum’s growing cohort of Middle High German enthusiasts. For every iteration, Dr. Schendel chooses a selection of poetry from the Early, Classical, and Late periods based on student interest. The shorter length of these poems makes them perfect reading material for beginning-, intermediate-, and even advanced-level MHG readers and will allow for an in-depth discussion of the poems.

The reading texts (which vary by iteration) will be supplied from a number of anthologies and editions according to the Fair Use doctrine, but Dr. Schendel will also provide ISBN numbers so students can buy their own copies. After all, who wouldn’t like to impress their houseguests with a hardcover copy of Des Minnesangs Frühling on the coffee table?

Old English 1

Ready to begin learning Old English? This series of modules introduces students to the vocabulary and structure of the earliest recorded form of the English language. One year of modules prepares the student to read texts from over a thousand years ago! Each one-month module builds on the previous one, so students ready to learn Old English will communicate with our Director and Professor Swain to make the right placement for everyone.

Old English 2

Ready to begin learning Old English? This series of modules introduces students to the vocabulary and structure of the earliest recorded form of the English language. One year of modules prepares the student to read texts from over a thousand years ago! Each one-month module builds on the previous one, so students ready to learn Old English will communicate with our Director and Professor Swain to make the right placement for everyone.

Old English 3

Ready to begin learning Old English? This series of modules introduces students to the vocabulary and structure of the earliest recorded form of the English language. One year of modules prepares the student to read texts from over a thousand years ago! Each one-month module builds on the previous one, so students ready to learn Old English will communicate with our Director and Professor Swain to make the right placement for everyone.

Old English 4

Ready to begin learning Old English? This series of modules introduces students to the vocabulary and structure of the earliest recorded form of the English language. One year of modules prepares the student to read texts from over a thousand years ago! Each one-month module builds on the previous one, so students ready to learn Old English will communicate with our Director and Professor Swain to make the right placement for everyone.

Old English 5

Ready to begin learning Old English? This series of modules introduces students to the vocabulary and structure of the earliest recorded form of the English language. One year of modules prepares the student to read texts from over a thousand years ago! Each one-month module builds on the previous one, so students ready to learn Old English will communicate with our Director and Professor Swain to make the right placement for everyone.

Old English 6

Ready to begin learning Old English? This series of modules introduces students to the vocabulary and structure of the earliest recorded form of the English language. One year of modules prepares the student to read texts from over a thousand years ago! Each one-month module builds on the previous one, so students ready to learn Old English will communicate with our Director and Professor Swain to make the right placement for everyone.

Old English 7

Ready to begin learning Old English? This is the last module in a 7-part series which introduces students to the vocabulary and structure of the earliest recorded form of the English language. Read texts from over a thousand years ago! Each one-month module builds on the previous one, so students ready to learn Old English will be able to communicate with our Director and Professor Swain to make the right placement for everyone.

Old English Series

Ready to begin learning Old English? This series of modules introduces students to the vocabulary and structure of the earliest recorded form of the English language. One year of modules prepares the student to read texts from over a thousand years ago! Each one-month module builds on the previous one, so students ready to learn Old English will communicate with our Director and Professor Swain to make the right placement for everyone.

Readings in Middle High German: Das Eckenlied

This module, which builds on the skills taught in the previous Middle High German Modules, looks at a representative of the Medieval German aventiurehafter Dietrichepik, or legendary stories of the mythical King Dietrich von Bern (Theoderic the Great?). This song, equal parts romance and epic, tells the stories of the wannabe knight Ecke, the foolhardy giant who seeks out Dietrich von Bern and perishes in the duel, and of Dietrich von Bern’s subsequent quest to return Ecke’s disembodied head to his (Ecke’s) home of Seburg.

This module, like the other Readings in Middle High German, will both look at the poem as literature and as a chance for interested students to continue perfecting their Middle High German reading skills. We will read selections of the text in Middle High German and translate them into English. Once translated, we will then discuss the segments both in isolation and in connection with the poem as a whole. Although no English translation of the Eckenlied exists, a summary of the complete poem will be supplied.

Questions discussed in the module will include questions of genre and the relationship of the poem to oral poetry, characterization of ambiguous heroes like Ecke and his brothers, perceptions of the so-called “Heroic Age” during Medieval Europe, intertextual relationships between Dietrichepen and other heroic poems, and gender in the past-within-the-past.

The language of the Eckenlied is roughly equivalent to the language of the Nibelungenlied, so completion of the Middle High German 1 and 2 modules are strongly encouraged. If you have any questions or need help, please feel free to contact Dr. Schendel.

Readings in Middle High German: Diu Klage

This module, which builds on the skills taught in the previous two Middle High German modules, focuses on the “concluding poem” of the Nibelungen Mythos, Diu Klage (The Lamentation), a 4360-line epic in rhyming couplets devoted to the aftermath of the slaughter in Etzel’s Hall. We will devote ourselves to both a close, philological reading of selected lines (about 20 lines per hour) and a general discussion of the entire work in English translation (German material can be consulted, of course, but the language of instruction is in English).

This session is intended both for veterans of the Middle High German modules and for beginners. If any beginners enroll, the discussion of MHG verse will focus a bit more on foundational grammatical concepts, but there will still be enough to interest and challenge advanced MHG readers.

Discussions of the text will look at it from a variety of perspectives, including: The “Heroic Age” in a High Medieval perspective, investigations of emotion in Middle High German verse, and intertextuality (both within German literature and across Germanic tradition). Students are, of course, welcome to bring their own expertise and interest – feel free to take up contact with the instructor ahead of time with your input!

Readings in Middle High German: Herzog Ernst

This module, which builds on the skills taught in the previous Middle High German Modules, looks at another representative of the Medieval German so-called Spielmannsdichtung (pseudo-minstrel tales). It tells the story of the Duke Ernest, who after unsuccessfully waging an assassination attempt and civil war against his misled step-father (and Holy Roman Emperor) flees to the Far East as a crusader, encountering mythical creatures and far-off places reminiscent to anyone who has read the Old English Wonders of the East.

We will follow the methods used in other Middle High German modules and look at the Herzog Ernst poem both as literature and as a chance for interested students to continue perfecting their Middle High German reading skills. We will read selections of the text in the original language and translate them into English. Since it’s not entirely feasible to assume that everyone has access to a modern English translation, we will primarily discuss the translated sections, although a summary of the poem in general will be given.

Questions discussed in the module will include questions of genre (as always) and the connection between the frame story and the second narrative, monsters and the bridal-quest, the medieval political philosophy and the HRE (Holy Roman Empire), crusade poetry, and more.

The language of Herzog Ernst is roughly equivalent to the language of the Nibelungenlied, so completion of the Middle High German 1 and 2 modules are strongly encouraged. If you have any questions or need help, please feel free to contact Dr. Schendel.

Readings in Middle High German: König Rother

This module, which builds on the skills taught in the previous Middle High German modules, focuses on a poem that combines fairy tales, crusader epics, heroic poetry, and farces into a single masterpiece representative of the so-called Spielmannsdichtung (pseudo-minstrel tales) genre: König Rother. In this epic, the eponymous hero King Rother is in desperate need of a wife in order to secure political stability for his empire. Calling together his warriors and some violent, yet very endearing giants, he sets off for the Byzantine Empire, ready to kidnap (or free?) the princess from her overprotective (and maybe a bit incestuous) father Constantine.

The poem is a fun adventure and, for all the silliness inherent to the plot, a good window into Western Europe’s perceptions of the Byzantine Empire, its own political systems, and the idea of the miles Christianus.

In this module, we will follow the pattern of other MHG reading modules and look at König Rother both as literature and as an opportunity for language practice. We will read selections of the text in the original language and translate them into English. Questions discussed in the module will include (but are not limited to) questions of genre, the bridal-quest, and the interplay between heroic and crusader poetry.

The language König Rother is a bit more advanced than that of most MHG poetry, so completion of the Middle High German 1 and 2 modules are strongly encouraged. If you have any questions or need help, please feel free to contact Dr. Schendel.

Readings in Middle High German: Orendel

This module, which builds on the skills taught in previous Middle High German Modules, looks at a representative of the Medieval German so-called Spielmannsdichtung genre of short epics: Orendel. The titular hero of the epic, distantly related to the Old Norse Aurvandill, is a King with a fairy-tale mission to woo the beautiful Bride. He undergoes a number of adventures, including the discovery of Christ’s Tunic, in a paradigmatic example of a medieval Bridal Quest.

This module will both look at the poem as literature and as a chance for interested students to continue perfecting their Middle High German reading skills. We will devote ourselves to a close, philological reading of the most important passages in the text.

This module is intended both for veterans of Middle High German and for beginners. If any beginners enroll, the discussion of MHG verse will focus a bit more on foundational grammatical concepts, but there will still be enough to interest and challenge advanced MHG readers.

Discussions of the text will also look at it from a variety of perspectives, including: What is the Spielmannsdichtung genre? How do the Christian Faith and Bridal Quest narratives, which spring from two different cultural traditions, mesh? Does Orendel actually resemble in any way Aurvandill, or should questions of “Germanic origin” be put to bed? And are there any intertextual connections between this poem and other monuments of Medieval Literature?

Readings in Middle High German: Parzival

This module, yet another entry in Signum’s SPACE Middle High German curriculum developed by Dr. Schendel, is dedicated to the most complex and possibly best romance of the High Middle Ages: Wolfram von Eschenbach’s Parzival, a retelling of the Grail story. With this text, which reaches nearly 25,000 lines, Wolfram von Eschenbach completes the legend originally brought to life by Chrétien de Troyes. Parzival succeeds in the Grail Quest, heals the Fisher King, and fathers the famous Swan Knight, Lohengrin. Simultaneously, Parzival’s cousin Gawan (=Gawain) succeeds in a number of quests in defense of the honor of secular knighthood. Join us for a journey through the vibrant storytelling of the Middle Ages and meet a number of fascinating characters, like Parzival’s father Gachmuret, the noble Muslim knight Feirefiz, the African Queen Belakane, and Parzival’s wife, Condwiramurs. Well-known figures like King Arthur, Kay, and the infamous Red Knight also make an appearance.

This module is dedicated to the unique language of Wolfram von Eschenbach, but we will study it by reading excerpts of Parzival. We will begin with a short overview of the life of Gachmuret, Parzival’s father. We will then continue at the pace at which the group feels most comfortable, with occasional excursions into different elements of Medieval Culture when appropriate.

Readings in Middle High German Series

This series will help introduce students to the breadth and depth of texts available for study in Middle High German. Each month, Dr. Isaac Schendel surveys the group to see which text students are most interested in exploring next.

Some of the texts we could explore in a given month include:
Diu Klage
Das Eckenlied
Herzog Ernst
König Rother
Orendel
Parzival

Note: Please refer to the Required Texts section on a month's iteration page to see which texts the group has decided upon for a given month.

Readings in Old English: The Battle of Maldon & Group Reading

The Battle of Maldon is the title given to a short (325 lines) alliterative poem commemorating a battle between the Anglo-Saxons and Scandinavian invaders on the english River Blackwater in 991. It describes the tragic fate of the ealdorman Byhrtnoð and his levy of Anglo-Saxon warriors after they agree to let the Vikings cross the river and fight with them on equal footing. The result is, predictably, a disaster, but the poem’s ambiguous language and positive depictions of Byhrtnoð and his retinue leave room for debate about the nature of the poem. Is it a criticism of foolhardiness and overconfidence? Is it a commemorative poem, a eulogy, or perhaps even a piece of wartime propaganda meant to rally the English to resist the Norse invaders? In this module, we will both read the poem in depth and discuss current scholarship on this poem.

The Old Saxon for Old English Readers

Old Saxon, the continental cousin to Old English, was the language spoken in Northern Germany from the ninth to the twelfth century. It is closely related to and mutually intelligible with Anglo-Saxon, so Old English students will easily be able to read and understand it. The language boasts a number of smaller texts, but the Hêliand, an epic poem of nearly 6,000 lines, remains its most prestigious literary monument. It tells the story of Jesus Christ (the “Hêliand,” meaning “Savior”) reimagined as a Saxon lord with a retinue of twelve thanes, and it is comparable to the Old English Beowulf. In this module, we will read and discuss selections of this poem. Some familiarity with Old English is required.
If you have any questions about the SPACE program, please reach out to [email protected].