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Amherst College Courses

Amherst College Courses

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German

Professors Martin* and Rogowski‡; Associate Professor Gilpin (Chair); Assistant Professors Hunter-Parker and Rosenbrück; Senior Lecturer Schrade.

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. Majoring in German can lead to a variety of careers in education, government, business, international affairs, and the arts. Our majors attend leading graduate programs, teach or take jobs in German-speaking countries and win domestic and international scholarships. 

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, 316 (German Cultural History) and GERM 495 (Senior Research Seminar), and a minimum of four further German courses, two of which 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. German majors are expected to enroll in at least one German course per semester.

Study Abroad. German majors are encouraged to spend a summer, semester, or year of study abroad as a vital part of their undergraduate experience. The Department maintains an annual student exchange program with University of Göttingen in Germany, which has been in place since 1975. Each year we send two students to that university in exchange for two University of Göttingen students who serve as German Language Assistants at Amherst College. The Amherst College-University of Göttingen exchange program is academically outstanding and financially advantageous. Please also check out the Study Abroad Opportunities link for further program information. Department faculty can also advise on 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, theoretical, or analytical lines, in the form of a scholarly or creative 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 (or GERM 495), together with the overall college grade average, will determine the level of Honors recommended by the Department.

‡ Emeritus beginning January 1, 2024.

* On leave 2023-24.

101 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 semester: Professor Hunter-Parker. Spring semester: Professor Hunter-Parker.

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, Spring 2024, Fall 2024

102 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 semester: Senior Lecturer Schrade. Spring semester: Senior 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, Spring 2024, Fall 2024

205 Intermediate German

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: Senior Lecturer Schrade. Spring semester: Senior 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, Spring 2024, Fall 2024

210 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.

Fall semester: Senior Lecturer Schrade. Spring semester: Senior Lecturer Schrade.

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, Spring 2024, Fall 2024

220 Kafka and Nietzsche

(Offered as GERM 220 and EUST 219) What do we mean when we call something “Kafkaesque?” Why is “Nietzsche” considered the name of not only one of the greatest philosophers of all time but also a kind of shorthand for a danger associated with, variously, the end of modernity, fascism, or a “post-truth” age? In this class, we will respond to these questions by staging a confrontation between Kafka and Nietzsche centered on four themes: (1) the question of suffering, power, and interpretation, including how facts relate to truth and fiction; (2) the connection between guilt, the law, and morality, including the challenge of so-called “greatness;” (3) the question of genealogy and tradition, in particular as it relates to Jewish history; (4) the limits of humanness, especially as they might be found in animals (of which we will encounter monkeys, dogs, snakes, donkeys, eagles, and panthers, to name just a few). Our approach to these two thinkers will be crucially shaped by postcolonial and feminist thinkers, and will include readings from critics such as Frantz Fanon, Aimé Césaire, Luce Irigaray, Walter Benjamin, Hannah Arendt, Judith Butler, Donna Haraway, and Michel Foucault. Conducted in English, with German majors required to do a substantial portion of the reading in German.

Fall semester: Professor Rosenbrück.

Pending Faculty Approval

2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2023

222 Fictions of America

(Offered as GERM 222, AMST 222 and EUST 217) What happens when we try to see the U.S. from abroad, from elsewhere? Might the American Dream and its successes and failures appear in a different light when seen by, say, a German-Jewish writer in exile in 1940s L.A.? Beginning with Franz Kafka’s first novel, titled Amerika, which misdescribes the Statue of Liberty as carrying a “sword” instead of a torch, this class investigates “America” as a place of desire, hope, attraction, and fascination but also confusion, suspicion, rejection, and despair in various discourses stemming from the Germanophone sphere and beyond. Some of the interrelated themes through which these non-American thinkers approach the U.S. include: (1) a critique of consumer society and capitalism; (2) the “frontier” mentality, settler colonialism, and indigeneity; (3) U.S. cultural imperialism during the Cold War era; (4) U.S.-American Blackness and the Civil Rights Movement. In addition to literature (Karl May, Franz Kafka, Bertolt Brecht, Thomas Mann, Peter Handke, Ingeborg Bachmann) and philosophy (Hannah Arendt, Theodor W. Adorno), we will consider film (Wim Wenders, Werner Herzog, Percy Adlon) and pop culture (e. g. Rammstein) as important modes of imagination and critique. Contemporary scholarship from Indigenous Studies, Black Studies as well as queer and feminist theory will help us reconfigure the texts studied. Conducted in English, with German majors required to do a substantial portion of the reading in German.

Spring semester: Professor Rosenbrück.

2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2024

230 Race and Migration in German Cinema

(Offered as GERM 230, EUST 239 and FAMS 270) How to talk about “race” in a culture where the concept is taboo? The “racial state” of the Third Reich has discredited the concept in public discourse, yet racialized assumptions continue to permeate German culture. What is the impact of historically and culturally determined preconceptions on the challenges posed by an increasingly demographically diverse society? Who defines who does and who doesn’t belong to the “national community,” and on what basis?  If German identity is implicitly associated with “whiteness,” for instance, where does this leave people perceived as “non-white"? Our course explores how German filmmakers, both those with and without what is now called a “migration background,” tackle questions of belonging, assimilation, inclusion and exclusion in feature films. Works by filmmakers such as Thomas Arslan, Fatih Akin, Mo Asumang, Pepe Danquart, Doris Dörrie, R. W. Fassbinder, M. W. Kimmich, Angelina Maccarone, Branwen Okpako, Burhan Qurbani, Jan Schuette, R. A. Stemmle, and Simon Verhoeven will be discussed in a variety of historical and social contexts. Screenings will be supplemented by readings on questions of non-white German national identity from scholars and writers such as Tina Campt, Fatima El-Tayeb, Ika Hügel-Marshall, Hans Massaquoi, Katharina Oguntoye, Damani Partridge, and Alexander Weheliye.

Conducted in English, with German majors required to do a substantial portion of the reading in German.

Sophomores will have priority. Omitted 2023-24.

2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2013, Spring 2023

250 Chivalry: The Life, Death, and Legend of a Medieval Cultural Code

“Chivalry is dead?” Does the current fascination with Game of Thrones indicate that medieval chivalrous codes of conduct are as relevant today as ever? Defenders and critics may argue if and why, and still agree that the time of gallant knights and gentle ladies is long gone. But was chivalry ever alive to begin with? How did medieval societies understand chivalry, and would they recognize its representations today? This course examines the historical literary sources of an enduring cultural concept, and charts the routes of its transmission into the present. Students will be introduced to key narrative traditions such as the chanson de geste, heroic epic and courtly romance from the twelfth through the fifteenth centuries, as well as the conditions for their survival, reception, and adaptation in later centuries. The course objective will be to explore how fictional narratives of the past can be used to critique and historicize received cultural concepts today, from MMORPGs and histo-tainment to contemporary political discourse. In counterpoint, the course also examines how current theoretical discussions can foster more nuanced readings of medieval texts and contexts. Readings include Pfaffe Konrad, Rolandslied; Nibelungenlied; Hartmann von Aue, Iwein; Gottfried von Straßburg, Tristan; Wolfram von Eschenbach, Parzival; Ulrich von Liechtenstein, Frauendienst; Theuerdank. Conducted in English, with German majors required to do a substantial portion of the reading in German.

Omitted 2023-24. Professor Hunter-Parker.

2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2020

252 Witches, Saints, and Whores: Representing Gender in Premodern Europe

(Offered as GERM 252, EUST 252 and SWAG 222)  “I'm a bitch, I'm a lover/ I'm a child, I'm a mother/ I'm a sinner, I'm a saint.” Centuries before the Billboard hit single, women were called all these things and more. Witches, whores, and holy women abound in the cultural productions of premodern Europe. But how did it all begin? What truths or untruths lie behind the labels? Through these three figures, this course explores the lives of womxn in Europe before circa 1600, as well as emergent discourses on gender and sexual difference during this time. Primary readings draw on a range of sources, including sacred texts, courtly romance, chronicles, trial records, saints’ lives, witchcraft treatises, conduct manuals, erotic and satirical literature. Conducted in English (no knowledge of German required), with German majors required to do a substantial portion of the reading in German.

Omitted 2023-24. Professor Hunter-Parker.

2024-25: Not offered

260 Race, Place, Research

(Offered as GERM 260, ARCH 260 and EUST 260) This research-based sophomore seminar will explore the often dynamic representations of race and place in works of primarily German and European performance, narrative, the graphic novel, architecture and landscape design, and the visual and electronic arts. We will focus on developing research and presentation skills within a multidisciplinary and international context, learn how to formulate good questions, refine critical reading and writing skills, and practice oral and written presentations of individual and/or collaborative research projects in development. Students will select a research topic in consultation with the professor early in the semester and develop their research through frequent in-class workshops, writing, and oral presentations throughout the semester. We will focus on the work of creative writers, performers, choreographers, artists, designers, urban planners, and architects, as well as international theorists and philosophers who have critically engaged questions of race, place, otherness, difference, identity, performativity, xenophobia, migration, inclusion, and belonging. Emphasis on developing research, writing, and presentation skills is a core of this seminar.

Conducted in English, with German majors required to do a substantial portion of the reading in German. No prior knowledge of German language or culture required. Sophomores will have priority. 

Limited to 15 students. Enrollment requires attendance at first class meeting. Spring semester: Professor Gilpin.

Other years: Offered in Spring 2024

315 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. Small-group discussion and reflective writing practice will develop students' speaking and writing in German, while a range of audio-visual materials will strengthen reading and listening skills. 

Requisite: GERM 210 or equivalent.

Fall semester: Professor Hunter-Parker.

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, Fall 2024

316 German Cultural History from 1800 to the Present

A survey of literary and cultural developments in the German-speaking tradition from the Romantic Period to contemporary trends. The class is organized around the idea of “Germany de-centered,” where we will mainly study works of canonical importance that were written outside of the confines of Germany “proper.” Major themes will include the question of world literature and Germany’s place in it, the rise of nationalism and antisemitism, various revolutions (aesthetic, poetic, political) as well as the questions of guilt, morality, fascism, colonialism, exile, feminism, psychoanalysis, and myth. Germanophone authors studied may include Goethe, the Grimm brothers, Heine, Marx, Nietzsche, Freud, Kafka, Brecht, Seghers, Arendt, Bachmann; anglophone authors whose ties to Germanophone cultures will be investigated include Angela Davis, Audre Lorde, and Abdulrazak Gurnah; samples of art and architecture; films by Fassbinder. Conducted in German.

Requisite: GERM 210 or equivalent.

Spring semester: Professor Rosenbrück.

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, Spring 2024

320 German Fables from Aesop to Zarathustra

Short, sweet, and smart, fables are one of the oldest and most successful genres in Western literature, if not the world. Since the eighteenth century, fable collections were the most-read books in the German language after the Bible. Fanciful creatures and a simple moral work to educate and delight audiences. But with these stories’ long success, the question of who gets credit is anything but simple. What is a fable and what is not? Who writes fables, who reads them, and why? How do they reach their audience? Is there such a thing as German fable, or is it all just Aesop redux? Through readings in and on the genre, this course introduces students to key authors and movements in the history of German literature. Students will deepen interpretive skills through discussions of representative historical texts and contexts between the Enlightenment and early-Modernism. Authors include Martin Luther, Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, Sophie von la Roche, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Heinrich von Kleist, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, Adalbert Stifter, Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach, and Friedrich Nietzsche. Conducted in German.

Requisite: GERM 210 or equivalent.

Spring semester: Professor Hunter-Parker.

2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2024

322 Borders, Migration, Gender: Contemporary Germany since 1989

What happens when a wall crumbles and borders disappear? Since 1989, this question has been at the center of contemporary German cultural and political life. When the Wall dividing East from West Germany fell, Germans sought to reconstitute themselves as one “reunified” nation. However, this unity has proven fragmentary, fragile, and contentious, most recently at the height of the Refugee Crisis in 2015 which triggered intense debates around German identity. Our class will investigate three fault lines that, since the disappearance of the Wall and its Cold War binary, have cut through Germany’s tenuous sense of unity in the intervening decades: first, the continued East/West divide, particularly attempts to come to terms with the legacy of East German authoritarianism in the present. Second, we will explore the role of race, migration, and refugees in shaping what has come to be called “Multikulti” Germany, in opposition to a closed-off “Fortress Europe.” Third, and inflecting both of these dividing lines, we will consider the gendered dimension of debates around notions of belonging, including the continued force of oppositions such as man/woman and gay/straight that are seen to bisect German social life. We will focus in these explorations primarily on short pieces of post-1989 literature, but the course will also draw on materials from history, film, and pop culture. Authors may include Olivia Wenzel, Sasha Marianna Salzmann, Jenny Erpenbeck, Rainald Goetz, Antje Rávik Strubel, Emine Sevgi Özdamar, and Elfriede Jelinek. Additionally, students will acquire crucial conceptual tools from the tradition of critical theory and political philosophy, which deepen our understanding of contemporary and historical phenomena such as belonging, exclusion, walls, and “internal borders.” Small-group work and frequent writing exercises will allow students to develop their oral and written fluency in German. Conducted in German.

Omitted 2023-24. Professor Rosenbrück.

Other years: Offered in Fall 2022, Fall 2024

324 Literature after Fascism: 1945 to 1989

(Offered as GERM 324 and SWAG 324) Can there be literature “after Auschwitz”? This class investigates how German literature attempts to come to terms with the atrocities committed under National Socialism and produce a new understanding of German identity after 1945. If Nazi politics centered on a “purification” of the German nation along racial, sexual, and gendered lines, we will then ask how post-war Germany reworked notions of racialization, gender, and nationhood to overcome fascist legacies. How did literary works contribute to the construction of a post-fascist nation and its transition to a liberal democratic state? To answer this, we will explore the various ways in which German-language authors after 1945 articulated new notions of “Germanness,” masculinity and femininity, as well as normative and non-normative sexualities. Throughout, our focus will be on the possibilities and limits of literature in participating in these processes.Literary works may include texts by Wolfgang Koeppen, Günter Grass, Ingeborg Bachmann, Paul Celan, Anna Seghers, Christa Wolf, Gerhard Fritsch, and Thomas Bernhard. In addition to literary and historical research, writers of critical theory, political philosophy, and psychoanalysis will help us think through fascism and its aftermath, in particular Walter Benjamin, Theodor W. Adorno, Hannah Arendt, Klaus Theweleit, and Alexander and Margarete Mitscherlich. Small-group work and frequent writing exercises will allow students to develop their oral and written fluency in German. Conducted in German.

Omitted 2023-24. Professor Rosenbrück

2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2023

330 Green Germany

Is Germany’s reputation as a global leader in environmental issues warranted? Can a modern industrial nation deliver on the promise, made in 2011, to abandon nuclear energy? This course examines the history of German environmentalism, focusing on, among other topics, the nature worship of the Romantics; the discomfort with nineteenth century industrialization; the Lebensreform efforts around 1900; the “blood and soil” ideology of the Nazis; post-World War II pacifism; the emergence of the Green Party in the 1980s; current initiatives in sustainability practices; as well as the impact of major environmental disasters such as Chernobyl (1986) and Fukushima (2011). Readings by authors such as Hans Magnus Enzensberger, Max Frisch, Peter Härtling, Hermann Hesse, Monika Maron, and Christa Wolf. Films by directors such as Doris Dörrie, Peter Fleischmann, Oliver Haffner, Werner Herzog, and Herbert Selpin. Conducted in German.

Requisite: GERM 210 or equivalent.

Omitted 2023-24. 

2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2020

338 Modern Drama

Why is drama an art form of such tremendous importance to Germans, Austrians, and the Swiss? Few cultures can boast a similar preoccupation with, interest in, and public support of, the theater. This course examines the rich legacy of dramatic innovation and experimentation from about 1890 to the present day, ranging from the scandals surrounding Frank Wedekind’s exposition of sexual hypocrisy to the iconoclastic provocations of present-day Regietheater. We will read and discuss selected plays by authors such as Gerhart Hauptmann, Arthur Schnitzler, Georg Kaiser, Bertolt Brecht, Marie-Luise Fleisser, Peter Weiss, Heinar Kipphardt, Friedrich Dürrenmatt, Max Frisch, Botho Strauß, Marlene Streeruwitz, Elfriede Jelinek and others. Readings will be supplemented by audiovisual materials on artists like Pina Bausch, Johann Kresnik, and Heiner Müller. Conducted in German.

Requisite: GERM 210 or equivalent.

Omitted 2023-24.

2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2009, Spring 2019, Fall 2021

347 Weimar Cinema: The "Golden Age" of German Film

(Offered as GERM 347 and FAMS 323) This course examines the German contribution to the emergence of film as both a distinctly modern art form and as a product of mass culture. The international success of Robert Wiene’s Expressionist phantasmagoria, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920), heralded the beginning of a period of unparalleled artistic exploration, prior to the advent of Hitler, during which the ground was laid for many of the filmic genres familiar today: horror film (F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu), detective thriller (Fritz Lang’s M), satirical comedy (Ernst Lubitsch’s The Oyster Princess), psychological drama (G.W. Pabst’s Pandora’s Box), science fiction (Lang’s Metropolis), social melodrama (Pabst’s The Joyless Street), historical costume film (Lubitsch’s Passion), political propaganda (Slatan Dudow’s Kuhle Wampe), anti-war epic (Pabst’s Westfront 1918), a documentary montage (Walther Ruttmann’s Berlin – Symphony of a Big City), and the distinctly German genre of the “mountain film” (Leni Riefenstahl’s The Blue Light). Readings, including works by Siegried Kracauer, Walter Benjamin, Lotte H. Eisner, Béla Balázs, and Rudolf Arnheim, will address questions of technology and modernity, gender relations after World War I, the intersection of politics and film, and the impact of German and Austrian exiles on Hollywood. Conducted in English, with German majors required to do a substantial portion of the reading in German.

Omitted 2023-24.

2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2010, Spring 2012, Spring 2015, Spring 2020

348 Nazi Cinema

(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.

Omitted 2023-24.

2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2016, Spring 2021

350 Rilke

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 Habsburg 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 2023-24.

2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2010, Spring 2013, Spring 2016, Fall 2019

360 Performance

(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, race, 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 15 students. Enrollment requires attendance at first class meeting.

Omitted 2023-24. Professor Gilpin.

2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2014, Fall 2017, Fall 2020, Spring 2023

363 Traumatic Events

(Offered as GERM 363, ARCH 363, EUST 363, and FAMS 370) How is memory constructed and represented? How is it possible to bear witness, and what exactly is involved? Who is authorized to testify, to whom, when? Whose story is it? Is it possible to tell "the story" of a traumatic event? What are the disorders of testimony, and how and where do they emerge? This course will observe the workings of trauma (the enactment and working-through of collective and individual symptoms of trauma), memory, and witnessing in various modes of everyday life. We will examine notions of catastrophe, disaster, accident, and violence, and explore the possibilities and impossibilities of bearing witness in many forms of cultural production: in fiction, poetry, architecture, critical theory, oral and written testimonies, visual art, monuments, memorials, philosophy, science, cartoons, film, video, theater, social media, and performance, online and in our public and domestic spaces. We will study various representations of trauma, paying particular attention to events in Germany and Europe from the twentieth century, as well as to 9/11, the Covid-19 pandemic and inter/national events of 2020. Material to be examined will be drawn from the work of Pina Bausch, Joseph Beuys, Christian Boltanski, Cathy Caruth, Paul Celan, Marguerite Duras, Peter Eisenman, Shoshana Felman, Florian Freund, Jochen Gerz, Geoffrey Hartman, Rebecca Horn, Marion Kant, Anselm Kiefer, Ruth Klüger, Dominick LaCapra, Claude Lanzmann, Dori Laub, Daniel Libeskind, W.G. Sebald, Art Spiegelman, Paul Virilio, Peter Weiss, Wim Wenders, Elie Wiesel, Christa Wolf, and others. Conducted in English with German majors required to do a substantial portion of the reading in German.

Omitted 2023-24. Professor Gilpin.

2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2008, Fall 2010, Fall 2014, Fall 2018

364 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, Mariam Kamara, R & Sie(n), Axel Kilian, Paul Privitera, Diébédo Francis Kéré, Hani Rashid and Lise-Anne Couture, Ini Archibong, Herzog and de Meuron, Archigram, David Adjaye, William Forsythe, Jan Fabre, Rachel Whiteread, Rebecca Horn, Mario Gooden, Sasha Waltz, Richard Siegal, Michael Schumacher, Mwanzaa Brown, Robert Wilson, the Blix Brothers of Berlin, Maya Lin, Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Pina Bausch, Granular Synthesis, Sponge, Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Miku Dixit, Toni Dove, Chris Parkinson and Tessa Kelly, and many others. Students will develop projects in various media (video, performance, text, design, online) and deliver a number of critical oral and written presentations on various aspects of the course material and their own projects. Emphasis on developing research, writing, and presentation skills is a core of this seminar. 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 2023-24. Professor Gilpin.

Other years: Offered in Fall 2013, Spring 2016, Spring 2019, Fall 2022

365 Making Memorials

(Offered as GERM 365, ARCH 365, EUST 365 and FAMS 384) 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, film, and the visual arts, primarily in Germany, Europe, and the United States in the twentieth century, including also 9/11, the COVID-19 pandemic, and inter/national events of 2020+. Preference given to German majors and European Studies majors, as well as to students interested in architecture/design, film/video, 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.

Spring semester: Professor Gilpin.

2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2012, Fall 2016, Fall 2021, Spring 2024

368 SPACE

(Offered as GERM 368, ARCH 368, EUST 368, and FAMS 380) 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; architectural, art, and film theory and history; performance studies and performance theory; and 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. 

Enrollment requires attendance at the first class meeting.

Omitted 2023-24. Professor Gilpin.

Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2018, Spring 2022, Fall 2024

490 Special Topics

Independent reading course.

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, Spring 2024, Fall 2024

495 Senior Research Seminar

The Senior Research Seminar fulfills the comprehensive requirement for the German major. We will focus on developing research and presentation skills within a multidisciplinary and international context, learn how to formulate good questions, refine critical reading and writing skills, and practice oral and written presentations of individual or collaborative research projects in development. This seminar is designed for German majors to reflect, integrate, and apply what they have learned and accomplished in their major coursework, and to conduct independent research. Students will select and pursue a 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 (including 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. Students writing a thesis may choose to focus their individual research project on their thesis research. Conducted in English and/or German, with an additional weekly research workshop/discussion section in German for German speakers. German majors will select a research project focused on a German Studies context and do a substantial portion of their research and writing in German.

Throughout, we will identify strategies for framing research questions, for gathering and digesting research materials from various sources, and for employing this research in projects of writing and creation according to individual student interest. We will examine how writers, artists, dancers, performers, filmmakers, and architects employ research in the development of their work, and students will explore and articulate the ways in which they can perform their research in all forms of writing, performance, design, and the visual and electronic arts according to their own interests and experience. 

Please note: This course does not replace GERM-498, the Senior Departmental Honors Tutorial, which covers students’ independent work under the tutelage of a thesis advisor.

Limited to 18 students. Open to seniors and juniors. Fall semester: Professor Gilpin.

Other years: Offered in Fall 2022, Fall 2023, Fall 2024

498, 499 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, Spring 2024