Liselotte Gumpel

Image of Lisa Gumpel in front of a bookshelf

Liselotte “Lisa” Gumpel was an Associate Professor of German from 1968-1997. When Gumpel was hired she was one of a handful of women faculty members at UMN Morris. In addition to teaching, Gumpel’s interest in language and linguistics informed her research endeavors. She published two books, was honored with awards, participated in conferences, and gave lectures around the world. Lisa enjoyed teaching and writing, and her students were motivated by her enthusiastic embrace of life and work. A generous UMN Morris donor, Lisa established the Gumpel Endowed Scholarship for students interested in foreign language and classical studies.


born in Berlin, Germany on January 31

sent to London on a Kindertransport train

arrived in the United States on March 29

graduated from San Francisco State with a BA in German

received her MA in German from Stanford University

appointed Assistant Professor of German Language and Literature at UMN Morris

received her PhD in German Linguistics from Stanford University

received the Helen Cam Visiting Fellowship to Girton College of Cambridge University in England

promoted to Professor of German at UMN Morris

retired as Professor Emeritus at UMN Morris

died in St. Louis Park, MN at Parkshore Senior Campus on October 22

Personal Life

Liselotte Gumpel was born in Berlin, Germany on January 31, 1926 to Karl Gumpel and Gretchen Philipps. She enjoyed a comfortable childhood until the Nazi Party assumed power. After living a few years under Nazi oppression, the family was forced to flee Germany. Lisa and her two sisters fled in 1935 and stayed with a Jewish family in Czechoslovakia, and their parents followed a year later. With the Nazi invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1939 the family was again at risk.[1] 
Lisa and her sisters Laura and Rosemarie were among the thousands of Jewish children taken in by the citizens of the United Kingdom as part of the Kindertransport in June of 1939, just before the outbreak of World War II.[2] The girls were able to remain together and were taken in by Miss Harder, a woman in her early fifties with a confectionery and tobacco shop in London. They soon were reunited with their father, whose permit to enter England was expedited as he was a political exile. After Miss Harder’s death in January of 1940, the girls were sent to foster families, as their father was not allowed to work. Their father died in 1946, and their mother never managed to escape and likely died sometime in 1943.[3]
Gumpel attended boarding school at Stoatley Rough School in Haslemere, England. An excellent student, Liselotte was encouraged to train as an x-ray technician at the Birmingham Children’s Hospital in the 1940s. After completing her training, she emigrated to the United States in 1954. She worked as an x-ray technician in New York and then San Francisco before deciding to change fields and attend college. She attended San Francisco State University, earning her BA in German in 1964. She then went on to complete a Master’s degree in German at Stanford University in 1965. As a student at Stanford, she received the Stanford Wilson Dissertation Fellowship.[4]


Research and Teaching

Gumpel’s research focused on the construction of language and poetry. Her MA thesis and PhD dissertation both focussed on metaphor, and her later book Metaphor Reexamined: A Non-Aristotelian Perspective published in 1984 shows a continued interest in the topic.[5] Metaphor Reexamined was well received and was nominated for the James Russell Lowell Prize of the Modern Language Association.[6] She also published on German poetry, including a book Concrete Poetry from East and West Germany: The Language of Exemplarism and Experimentalism in 1976.[7] 
Liselotte Gumpel was highly regarded in her field and was the recipient of the Helen Cam Visiting Fellowship to Girton College of Cambridge in 1977. This honor was “designated for a senior woman scholar in the arts recognized by her colleagues as one of the most distinguished in her field.” She used the time in Cambridge to “investigate the influence of Kantian aesthetics on contemporary literary theory.”[8]

Campus Contributions

Liselotte Gumpel was a highly regarded teacher and scholar. Although esoteric, her work in linguistics was important and highly esteemed by scholars in the field and helped burnish the school’s reputation for scholarly excellence. Throughout her career at UMN Morris she remained committed to the importance of language study and considered it a source of bridging capital with the potential to undermine parochial allegiances. Dedicated to the UMN Morris mission she proved an especially generous donor and benefactor.

After UMN Morris

After retirement, Liselotte became a volunteer at the Minnesota Historical Society, translating German language manuscripts in the Society’s collections. She established the Gumpel Endowed Scholarship for UMN Morris students. In 2008, she donated six watercolors by 20th century artist Katerina Wilczynski to the permanent collection of the Weisman Museum at the University of Minnesota.[9] Lisa was working on publishing a linguistics textbooks, with the working title “Between You and Me.”

Mary P. Klauda
Stephen Gross (Editor)
Naomi Skulan (Editor)


[1] Laura Selo, Three Lives in Transit, (London: Excalibur Press of London, 1992)
[2] “Bits and Pieces,” UMMRA Info: volume 14, number 1, Summer 2011.
[3] Laura Selo, Three Lives in Transit, (London: Excalibur Press of London, 1992)
[4] Laura Selo, Three Lives in Transit, (London: Excalibur Press of London, 1992)
[5] Her MA thesis was titled “Metaphors of Cynicism and Their Dramatic Function in Dantons Tod” (1965) and her PhD dissertation was titled “Metaphor as Nominalized Meaning: a Phenomenological Analysis of the Lyrical Genre” (1971)
[6] “Gumpel Receives Fellowship Award,” Morris Weekly (Morris, MN), April 5, 1977.

[7] Liselotte Gumpel, Concrete Poetry from East and West Germany: The Language of Exemplarism and Experimentalism, (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1976)
[8] Gumpel Receives Fellowship Award,” Morris Weekly (Morris, MN), April 5, 1977.
[9] University Relations, “Liselotte Gumpel, professor emeritus of German, honored at Weisman Art Museum reception,” Profile (Morris, MN), Spring 2008.

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