Professors Brandes (Chair), Martin, and Rogowski‡; Associate Professor Gilpin; Lecturer Schrade.
‡ On leave spring semester 2017-18.
The German experience, both in its sublime achievements and its tragic derailments, provides students with crucial insights as they strive to become global citizens. The Department of German endeavors to be a resource for enriching the international and cross-cultural awareness of all Amherst College students, in order to prepare them for global interaction within their future professional and scholarly fields. The courses we teach in English, often interdisciplinary in focus, are open to all students and do not require any prior knowledge of German. Placement in courses taught in German is determined on the basis of proficiency, in consultation with the instructor.
Major Program. The German-speaking countries form the motor of one of the world’s most powerful economies and are at the heart of Europe’s intellectual and cultural heritage. Majoring in German can lead to a variety of careers in education, government, business, international affairs, and the arts. The German Studies Major is broadly humanistic and cross-cultural. It develops language and cultural literacy skills and provides a critical understanding of the cultural and literary traditions of the German-speaking countries: The Federal Republic of Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. The Department offers effective preparation for graduate study in German literature and language while also opening up a broad range of interdisciplinary perspectives.The major requires GERM 210 (or its equivalent), GERM 315 and 316 (German Cultural History), and a minimum of five further German courses. Three of these must be courses in German culture and literature, conducted in German. Majors are advised to broaden their knowledge of other European languages and cultures and to supplement their German program with courses in European history, politics, economics, and the arts.Students who major in German are expected to enroll in at least one German course per semester. The Department faculty will help majors develop individual reading lists as they prepare for a Comprehensive Examination administered during each student’s final semester.
Study Abroad. German majors are strongly encouraged to spend a summer, semester, or year of study abroad as a vital part of their undergraduate experience. The Department maintains a regular student exchange program with Göttingen University in Germany. Each year we send students to that university in exchange for two German students who serve as Language Assistants at Amherst College. Faculty can also advise students on a variety of other options for study in a German-speaking country.
Departmental Honors Program. In addition to the courses required for a rite degree in the major, candidates for Honors must complete GERM 498 and 499 and present a thesis on a topic chosen in consultation with an advisor in the Department. The aim of Honors work in German is (1) to consolidate general knowledge of the history and development of German language, culture, and history; (2) to explore a chosen subject through a more intensive program of readings and research than is possible in course work; (3) to present material along historical or analytical lines, in the form of a scholarly thesis.Honors students who major with a concentration in German Studies are encouraged to consult early with their faculty advisor about a possible thesis topic. Depending on the topic chosen, their thesis committee will be comprised of Amherst College German Studies faculty who may or may not invite faculty from other departments, or from the Five Colleges to participate as readers. The thesis committee will be chaired by the student’s Department of German thesis advisor. The quality of the Honors thesis, the result of the Comprehensive Examination, together with the overall college grade average, will determine the level of Honors recommended by the Department.
Elementary German I
Our multimedia course acquaints students with present day life and culture in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Authentic documents and interviews with native speakers from all walks of life serve as a first-hand introduction to the German-speaking countries. An interactive learning software, as well as related Internet audio-visual materials emphasize the mastery of speaking, writing, and reading skills that are the foundation for further study. Three hours a week for explanation and demonstration, one hour a week in small TA- sections.
Fall and spring semesters. Lecturer Schrade.Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Spring 2022, Fall 2022, Spring 2023, Fall 2023
Elementary German II
A continuation of GERM 101, with increased emphasis on reading of selected texts. Three class meetings per week plus one additional conversation hour in small sections.
Requisite: GERM 101 or equivalent. Fall and spring semesters. Lecturer Schrade.Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Spring 2022, Fall 2022, Spring 2023, Fall 2023
Systematic review of grammar, aural and speaking practice, discussion of video and television programs, and reading of selected texts in contemporary German. Stress will be on the acquisition and polishing of verbal, reading, writing, and comprehension skills in German. Three hours per week for explanation and structured discussion, plus one hour per week in small sections for additional practice with German language assistants.
Requisite: GERM 102 or two years of secondary-school German or equivalent. Fall semester: Professor Gilpin. Spring semester: Lecturer Schrade.Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Spring 2022, Fall 2022, Spring 2023, Fall 2023
Advanced Composition and Conversation
Practice in free composition and analytical writing in German. Exercises in pronunciation and idiomatic conversation. Supplementary work with audio and video materials. Oral reports on selected topics and reading of literary and topical texts. Conducted in German. Three hours per week, plus one hour per week in small sections for additional practice with German language assistants.
Requisite: GERM 205 or equivalent, based on departmental placement decision. Spring semester. Professor Gilpin.Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Spring 2022, Spring 2023, Fall 2023
Advanced Reading, Conversation, and Composition
This Advanced Reading, Conversation and Composition course evolves around sites of memory related to German history. It is based on discussion, and close analysis of a wide range of cultural materials, including selections from all types of media. Materials will be analyzed both for their linguistic features and as cultural documents. Textual analysis includes study of vocabulary, style, and selected points of advanced grammar. Round-table discussions, oral reports and structured composition exercises that enable students to navigate German language and culture successfully. Conducted in German. Three class hours per week, plus an additional hour in small TA-sections.
Requisite: GERM 210 or equivalent. Omitted 2017-18. Lecturer Schrade.2023-24: Not offered
German Cultural History to 1800
An examination of cultural developments in the German tradition, from the Early Middle Ages to the rise of Prussia and the Napoleonic Period. We shall explore the interaction between socio-political factors in German-speaking Europe and works of “high art” produced in the successive eras, as well as Germany’s centuries-long search for a cultural identity. Literature to be considered will include selections from Tacitus’ Germania, the Hildebrandslied, a courtly epic and some medieval lyric poetry; the sixteenth-century Faust chapbook and other writings of the Reformation Period; Baroque prose, poetry, and music; works by Lessing and other figures of the German Enlightenment; Sturm und Drang, including early works by Goethe, Schiller, and their younger contemporaries. Selected audio-visual materials will provide examples of artistic, architectural, and musical works representative of each of the main periods. Conducted in German.
Requisite: GERM 210 or equivalent. Fall semester. Professor Rogowski.Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2017, Fall 2018, Fall 2019, Fall 2020, Fall 2021, Fall 2023
German Cultural History from 1800 to the Present
A survey of literary and cultural developments in the German tradition from the Romantic Period to contemporary trends. Major themes will include the Romantic imagination and the rise of nationalism in the nineteenth century, the literary rebellion of the period prior to 1848, Poetic Realism and the Industrial Revolution, and various forms of aestheticism, activism, and myth. In the twentieth century we shall consider the culture of Vienna, the “Golden Twenties,” the suppression of freedom in the Nazi state, issues of exile and inner emigration, and the diverse models of cultural reconstruction after 1945. Authors represented will include Friedrich Schlegel, Brentano, Heine, Büchner, Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche, Heinrich and Thomas Mann, Kafka, Brecht, Grass, Wolf, and Handke. Music by Schubert, Wagner, Mahler, and Henze; samples of art and architecture. Conducted in German.
Requisite: GERM 210 or equivalent. Spring semester. Professor Brandes.Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Spring 2022, Spring 2023
This course invites you to journey into the world of German fairy tales, sagas, and legends. Castles and humble huts, enchanted forests and crumbling ruins are the topographies of our critical inquiry into bewitching, at times haunting tales of power struggles, family conflicts, the rise from “rags to riches,” as well as cruel acts, punishments, and rewards. Our focus will be on folk and literary tales, chief among them the tales of the brothers Grimm. We will also examine other European traditions of storytelling and their continuing relevance as literary, cultural, and social documents for today. Conducted in German.
Requisite: GERM 210 or equivalent. Omitted 2017-18.
The Age of Goethe
Classical German literature and music, from the 1780s to the 1830s, has influenced German and Western culture until today. While considering music and art, this course will focus primarily on the greatest writers of the period: Goethe, Schiller, and Hölderlin. Placing their literature in the philosophical and political contexts of Idealism and of German enlightened absolutism, we will distinguish this “high art” from contemporary early romantic concepts as well as from German Jacobine activism, which was strongly influenced by the French Revolution. We will also examine the legacy of this rich cultural era in its impact on Western romantic, transcendentalist, and symbolist movements--and its influence on the rise of the myth of the Germans as a “nation of poets and thinkers.” Readings will include Goethe’s Faust I, Egmont, Iphigenie, and Römische Elegien; Schiller’s Die Räuber and Maria Stuart; Hölderlin’s Hyperion and selected poems; essays and manifestos by Kant, Fichte, and Forster. Listening assignments include Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte and selected Lieder of the period. Conducted in German.
Requisite: GERM 210 or equivalent. Fall semester. Professor Brandes.2023-24: Not offered
“Willkommen, Bienvenue, Welcome” to Berlin, Europe’s youngest metropolis. Virtually exploding in the early 1900s into a creative and influential urban center, the new Berlin reacted to the political challenges of imperialism, war, revolution, and inflation with wit, sarcasm, and radical politics—the perfect proving ground for those seeking personal freedom and political change, including artists, amateurs, reformers, and revolutionaries. We will trace the beginnings and flowering of urban modernism in Berlin public life, architecture, the fine arts and theater in the 1920s, through the Nazi virulent attacks on modern art and urban lifestyles as “degenerate” in the 1930s, the ill-fated German-Jewish symbiosis, WWII, and the slow beginnings of democracy in the late 1940s and 1950s, including the cultures of the two German post-war states. The course will end with the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the jubilant celebrations of German reunification in 1990. Course materials focus on the changes from pre-modern to urban metropolis; the alternative ways of life in the social and cultural spaces of the city; the celebration of the exotic; new concepts of sexuality and the body; ethnicity and difference; and the political upheavals still visible in the architecture of the city. Readings and viewings include novels, plays, films, essays, design, architecture, theater, cabaret, jazz, and montage in the arts. Conducted in German.
Requisite: GERM 210 or equivalent. Omitted 2017-18. Professor Brandes.2023-24: Not offered
Cold War German Culture, East and West
How did post-war Germany respond to the dilemma of being the frontier between Communism and the Free World? How did the two German societies develop their own identities and adapt, rebel, or acquiesce culturally in regard to the powers in control? We will situate major literary and cultural developments within the context of political and social history. Topics include coming to terms with the Nazi past; political dissent, democratization, and economic affluence; reactions to the Berlin Wall; the student revolt and feminism; the threat to democracy and civil rights posed by terrorism; the peace movement in the East and the West. Readings in various genres, including experimental literary texts. Authors include Heinrich Böll, Günter Grass, Peter Schneider, and Peter Weiss in the West and Volker Braun, Heiner Müller, Ulrich Plenzdorf, and Christa Wolf in the East. Conducted in German.
Requisite: GERM 210 or equivalent. Omitted 2017-18. Professor Brandes.2023-24: Not offered
Modernism and Its Discontents
This course will trace the impact of early twentieth-century modernization on the cultural consciousness of artists and politicians. We will first study classical modernism in the context of European and Western avant-garde movements, with emphasis on art and society in Germany. Topics include the effect of rapid urbanization and the rise of modern mass culture; modern constructions of gender and nature; the emergence of visual culture and mass media; the aesthetic revolt and literary visions of Futurism, Dada, and Expressionism; and the radical activism of proletarian didactic art. We will then trace the anti-modernist responses, such as Kaiser Wilhelm’s retrogressive push for national art; the socialist realist doctrine of Stalin’s cultural policies; Hitler’s prohibition of modernist art as “degenerate”; and finally the censorship and self-censorship of certain modernist artists, in the name of political progress. Texts by Hofmannsthal, Hauptmann, Schnitzler, Wedekind, Heinrich Mann, Kafka, Hesse, Rilke, Benjamin, Brecht, and Anna Seghers; selected art by Modersohn-Becker, Kirchner, and Kollwitz; samples of architecture, early radio, films, and music. Conducted in German.
Requisite: GERM 210 or equivalent. Spring semester. Professor Brandes.2023-24: Not offered
Since the overwhelming success of his first novel The Tin Drum (1959), his Nobel Prize in Literature (1999), and his admission that as a 17-year old, he joined the Nazi-SS (2006), Grass has been one of the most original and provocative contemporary writers. He was also an outspoken public intellectual. Often headily evocative in his rhythmic prose, the author has probed the development of Germany from Nazism through Cold War division to unification with a relentlessly vivid eye. We will read Grass primarily as a novelist, but also trace the correlations between his political engagement and his fiction, poetry, and art. Readings include The Tin Drum, Cat and Mouse, Dog Years, Writing After Auschwitz, and The Call of the Toad. Selections from his poetry, art and movies. Conducted in German.
Requisite: GERM 210 or equivalent. Omitted 2017-18. Professor Brandes.
2023-24: Not offered
(Offered as GERM 344 and FAMS 326) From Fritz Lang’s thrilling detective mysteries to Tom Tykwer’s hip postmodern romp Run Lola Run, from Ernst Lubitsch’s satirical wit to the gender-bending comedies of Katja von Garnier, this course explores the rich legacy of popular and genre films in the German-speaking countries.
Topics to be covered include adventure films, comedies, and costume dramas of the silent period, including Fritz Lang’s Spiders (1919) and Joe May’s The Indian Tomb (1920); the musical comedies of the Weimar Republic and the “dream couple” Lilian Harvey and Willy Fritsch; Nazi movie stars and the “non-political” entertainment films of the Third Reich, such as Josef von Baky’s blockbuster Münchhausen (1943); the resurgence of genre films in the 1950s (“Heimatfilme,” romantic comedies, melodramas, etc.); the Cold War Westerns in the West (based on the novels by Karl May) and in the East (starring Gojko Mitic); the efforts to produce audience-oriented films in the politicized climate of the 1960s and 1970s; the big budget quasi-Hollywood productions by Wolfgang Petersen; and the recent spate of relationship comedies.
We will discuss the work of, among others, actors and performers Karl Valentin,Heinz Rühmann, Zarah Leander, Hans Albers, Heinz Erhardt, Romy Schneider, Loriot, and Otto,and directors including Ernst Lubitsch, Fritz Lang, Joe May, Wilhelm Thiele, May Spils, Katja von Garnier, Detlev Buck, Tom Tykwer, and Doris Dörrie. Conducted in English, with German majors required to do a substantial portion of the reading in German. Two class meetings of 80 minutes plus screenings.
Omitted 2017-18. Professor Rogowski.2023-24: Not offered
(Offered as GERM 348 and FAMS 325) This course examines the vital role cinema played in sustaining the totalitarian Nazi system. From the visually stunning “documentaries” of Leni Riefenstahl to the tearful melodramas starring Swedish diva Zarah Leander, from the vicious anti-Semitic diatribes of propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels to the ostensibly apolitical “revue films” featuring Hungarian dancer-chanteuse Marika Rökk, the cinema of the Third Reich (1933-45) is fraught with contradiction and complexity. How did the German film industry cope with the exodus of Jewish (or politically suspect) talent after Hitler came to power? What tensions arose between a centralized bureaucracy pursuing an ideological agenda and an industry geared toward profit maximization? How do genre films of the period negotiate the conflict between official notions of a “racially homogeneous” body politic on the one hand and audiences’ pervasive fascination with the exotic on the other? What does the popularity of stars such as Hans Albers, Heinz Rühmann, Lilian Harvey, and Kristina Söderbaum tell us about the private dreams and aspirations of German audiences at the time? Were there pockets of resistance to censorship? Can there be artistic freedom under a totalitarian regime? To answer questions such as these, we will examine films from a wide range of directors, including Willi Forst, Veit Harlan, Helmut Käutner, Wolfgang Liebeneiner, Leni Riefenstahl, Reinhold Schünzel, Detlef Sierck/Douglas Sirk, and Hans Steinhoff. Conducted in English, with German majors required to do a substantial portion of the reading in German.
Omitted 2017-18. Professor Rogowski.
2023-24: Not offered
The course will explore the rich legacy of one of the greatest poets of the twentieth century. We will examine Rilke’s peculiar background in the German-speaking minority in Hapsburg Prague; his situation in the literary world of fin-de-siècle Munich; the significance of his encounter with Lou Andreas-Salomé; the intellectual experiences that shaped his outlook on life and on poetry (Nietzsche; Russia and Tolstoy; Paris and Rodin); his artistic breakthrough in the two-volume New Poems (1907) and the concept of the "Ding-Gedicht"; the existential crisis reflected in the modernist novel The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge (1910); his reflections on the role of poetry in a modern world of uncertainty in texts such as A Letter to a Young Poet (1903); his artistic crisis of the 1910s; and the extraordinary double achievement of 1922, The Duino Elegies and The Sonnets to Orpheus. Conducted in English (no knowledge of German required), with German majors required to do a substantial portion of the reading in German.
Omitted 2017-18. Professor Rogowski.2023-24: Not offered
Nietzsche and Freud
Modern thinking has been profoundly shaped by Nietzsche’s radical questioning of moral values and Freud’s controversial ideas about the unconscious. The course explores some of the ways in which German literature responds to and participates in the intellectual challenge presented by Nietzsche’s philosophy and Freud’s psychoanalysis. Readings include seminal texts by both of these figures as well as works by Rilke, Thomas Mann, Hermann Hesse, Musil, Schnitzler, and Expressionist poets. Conducted in English, with German majors required to do a substantial portion of the reading in German.
Omitted 2017-18. Professor Rogowski.2023-24: Not offered
(Offered as GERM 360, ARCH 360, EUST 360 and FAMS 316) What is performance? What constitutes an event? How can we address a phenomenon that has disappeared the moment we apprehend it? How does memory operate in our critical perception of an event? How does a body make meaning? These are a few of the questions we will explore in this course, as we discuss critical, theoretical, and compositional approaches in a broad range of multidisciplinary performance phenomena emerging from European--primarily German--culture in the twentieth century. We will focus on issues of performativity, composition, conceptualization, dramaturgy, identity construction, representation, space, gender, and dynamism. Readings of performance theory, performance studies, gender studies, and critical/cultural studies, as well as literary, philosophical, and architectural texts, will accompany close examination of performance material. Students will develop performative projects in various media (video, performance, text, online) and deliver a number of critical oral and written presentations on various aspects of the course material and their own projects. Performance material will be experienced live when possible, and in text, video, audio, digital media and online form, drawn from selected works of Dada and Surrealism, Bauhaus, German Expressionism, the Theater of the Absurd, Tanztheater, and Contemporary Theater, Performance, Dance, Opera, New Media, and Performance Art. A number of films, including Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari, Oskar Schlemmer’s Das Triadische Ballett, Fernand Léger’s Ballet Mécanique, and Kurt Jooss’ Der Grüne Tisch, will also be screened. Conducted in English, with German majors required to do a substantial portion of the reading in German.
Limited to 18 students. Fall semester. Professor Gilpin.2023-24: Not offered
Architectures of Disappearance
(Offered as GERM 364, ARCH 364, and EUST 364) This course will address a number of developments and transformations in contemporary urban architecture and performance from an international perspective. We will explore issues including, but not limited to, trauma, memory, absence, perception, corporeality, representation, and the senses in our examination of recent work in Germany and elsewhere, and read a number of texts from the fields of philosophy, critical theory, performance studies, and visual and architectural studies, in an attempt to understand how architecture is beginning to develop compositional systems in which to envision dynamic and responsive spaces in specific cultural contexts. We will focus our research on the work of a number of German and international architects, performance, and new media artists, including Jochen Gerz, Renata Stih and Frieder Schnock, Horst Hoheisel, Micha Ullman, Shimon Attie, Daniel Libeskind, Peter Eisenman, Rem Koolhaas, Greg Lynn, Mark Goulthorpe, R & Sie(n), Axel Kilian, Paul Privitera, Hani Rashid and Lise-Ann Couture, Herzog and de Meuron, Archigram, William Forsythe, Jan Fabre, Rachel Whiteread, Rebecca Horn, Sasha Waltz, Richard Siegal, Michael Schumacher, Robert Wilson, the Blix Brothers of Berlin, Pina Bausch, Granular Synthesis, Sponge, Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Toni Dove, and many others. Conducted in English, with German majors required to do a substantial portion of the reading in German.
Limited to 15 students. Enrollment requires attendance at first class meeting. Omitted 2017-18. Professor Gilpin.2023-24: Not offered
(Offered as GERM 365, ARCH 365, and EUST 365) This is a course about what happens to difficult memories: memories that are intensely personal, but made public, memories that belong to communities, but which become ideologically possessed by history, politics, or the media. How are memories processed into memorials? What constitutes a memorial? What gets included or excluded? How is memory performed in cultural objects, spaces, and institutions? What is the relationship between the politics of representation and memory? Who owns memory? Who is authorized to convey it? How does memory function? This course will explore the spaces in which memories are “preserved” and experienced. Our attention will focus on the transformation of private and public memories in works of architecture, performance, literature, and the visual arts, primarily in Germany, Europe, and the United States. Preference given to German majors and European Studies majors, as well as to students interested in architecture/design, performance, the visual arts, interactive installation and/or the environment. Conducted in English, with German majors required to do a substantial portion of the reading in German.
Limited to 20 students. Omitted 2017-18. Professor Gilpin.Other years: Offered in Fall 2012, Fall 2016, Fall 2021
Fall and spring semesters. The Department.Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Spring 2022, Fall 2022, Spring 2023, Fall 2023
Senior Departmental Honors
Spring semester. The Department.Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Spring 2022, Spring 2023
(Offered as GERM 368, ARCH 368, EUST 368, and FAMS 368) This research seminar will explore conceptions of space as they have informed and influenced thought and creativity in the fields of cultural studies, literature, architecture, urban studies, performance, and the visual, electronic, and time-based arts. Students will select and pursue a major semester-long research project early in the semester in consultation with the professor, and present their research in its various stages of development throughout the semester, in a variety of media formats (writing, performance, video, electronic art/interactive media, installation, online and networked events, architectural/design drawings/renderings), along with oral presentations of readings and other materials. Readings and visual materials will be drawn from the fields of literature and philosophy; from architectural, art, and film theory and history; from performance studies and performance theory; and from theories of technology and the natural and built environment. Emphasis on developing research, writing, and presentation skills is a core of this seminar.
Preference given to German majors and European Studies majors, as well as to students interested in architecture/design, performance, film/video, interactive installation, and/or the environment. Conducted in English. German majors will select a research project focused on a German Studies context, and will do a substantial portion of the readings in German. Part of the Global Classroom Project. The Global Classroom Project uses videoconferencing technology to connect Amherst classes with courses/students outside the United States.
Limited to 15 students. Enrollment requires attendance at the first class meeting. Spring semester. Professor Gilpin.2023-24: Not offered