German Studies Department

Associate Professors: Günter Klabes, Jeffrey Schneider (Chair), Silke von der Emde; Assistant Professor: Elliott Schreiber; Visiting Instructor: Peggy Piesche.

All courses are conducted in German except for German 101, 235, 265, and 275.

Requirements for Concentration: 12 units: 8 units of German above the introductory level. Students can choose from German 210, 211, 230, 239, 260, 269, 270, 301, and 355. Majors must take all 8 units in German. After declaring a concentration in German Studies, no courses taken under the Non-Recorded Option serve to fulfill the requirements. Students can take a maximum of 4 units approved by the German department in related fields. Upon the approval of the department, a maximum of 2 units from the Münster and 4 additional units from other programs abroad can be substituted for the 200-level courses.

Senior Year Requirement: German 301 and 355. Students who wish to be considered for departmental honors must complete a thesis (German 300).

Recommendations: Vassar summer program in Münster, Germany; Junior Year Abroad, study at accredited summer schools.

Vassar Summer Program in Germany: Vassar College conducts a summer program in Münster, Germany. Students who successfully complete the program receive 2 units of Vassar credit. Minimum requirements are the completion of German 105-106, 109 (or the equivalent), and the recommendation of the instructor.

Correlate Sequence in German: Students majoring in other programs may complement their study by electing a correlate sequence in German. Course selection should be made in consultation with the department.

Correlate Requirements: 6 graded units, 4 of which must be taken above the 100 level. Students can choose from German 210, 211, 230, 239, 260, 269, 270, 301, and 355. All students must also complete either German 301 or 355. Upon the approval of the department, a maximum of 2 units from the Münster or other abroad programs can be substituted for the 200-level courses. No courses in English may count towards the correlate sequence.

Advisers: The department.

I. Introductory

101a. Vampires, Lunatics, and Cyborgs: Exploring the Uncanny Recesse of the Romantic Consciousness (1)

From the fairytales of the Brothers Grimm to E.T.A. Hoffmann’s “Nutcracker and the King of Mice,” German Romanticism has populated the modern imagination with a multitude of uncanny creations. This course examines the evolution of figures such as vampires, witches, golems, mad scientists, and cyborgs through German culture from their origins in the nineteenth century to their afterlife in the present, including film. In addition, we pursue their reception and development outside of Germany, for instance in Disney’s versions of Grimms’ tales and Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite. Mr. Schreiber.

Readings and discussions in English.

Satisfies college requirement for a Freshman Writing Seminar.

105a-106b. Beginning German: The Stories of Childhood (1)

This course offers a year-long introduction to the study of German language and culture through literature, fairy tales, and films for and about children. Since these materials tend to be linguistically easier, they are ideal for beginning language learning. Moreover, their role in socializing a new generation makes them important sources for understanding a culture’s fundamental values and way of looking at the world. Materials range from classic texts, such as fairy tales by the Brothers Grimm, to contemporary stories, films, and television shows. In addition to offering a systematic introduction to German grammar and vocabulary, classroom activities promote practical and active oral and written communication. No prior experience with German required. Ms. von der Emde and Mr. Schneider.

Four 50-minute periods and four 30-minute drill sessions.

109b. Intensive Beginning German (2)

A single-semester study of the German language, equivalent to German 105-106. Intensive training in the fundamental language skills. Designed for beginning students who wish to accelerate their learning of German. Mr. Klabes.

Open to all classes; five 75-minute periods, four 30-minute drill sessions, and computer-assisted instruction.

II. Intermediate

210a. Intermediate German I: Identity in Contemporary Germany (1)

Low-intermediate language study through short texts and research topics on questions of national identity in contemporary Germany. Strong emphasis is placed on developing vocabulary and reviewing grammar as well as developing oral and written expression. The course uses an online educational environment and may involve an exchange with learners at another college. Ms. Piesche.

Prerequisite: German 106, 109 or the equivalent.

211b. Intermediate German II: Space in Weimar Germany (1)

Intermediate language study through texts and research topics on questions of space in Weimar Germany at the time of the “Roaring Twenties.” Strong emphasis is placed on developing vocabulary and reviewing grammar as well as developing oral and written expression. The course uses an online educational environment and may involve an exchange with learners at another college. Ms. Piesche.

Prerequisite: German 210 or the equivalent.

230a. Intermediate German III: Contemporary German Culture and Media (1)

Advanced-intermediate language study through an examination of debates about media (film, radio, journalism and rock music) in twentieth-century German culture. Strong emphasis is placed on developing vocabulary and reviewing grammar as well as developing oral and written expression. The course may involve an exchange with native speakers of German. Ms. von der Emde.

Prerequisite: German 211 or the equivalent.

235a. Introduction to German Cultural Studies. (1)

Introduction to the methodological questions and debates in the field of German Cultural Studies. Strong emphasis on formal analysis and writing.

Topic for 2008/2009: Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud. Marx, Nietzsche and Freud are three of the most influential German thinkers of the modern era. We associate their names with different, even antagonistic agendas ranging from political systems (socialism and communism), entire disciplines (psychoanalysis), and even the death of God. Yet all three were pivotal in developing a “hermeneutics of suspicion,” in which “reality” turned out to be hiding darker and more powerful forces: economic motives, unconscious desires, or the will to power. This course examines their writings in the context of nineteenth-century Germany and Austria and assesses their contributions to our postmodern understanding of language, truth and modern subjectivity. In addition to reading works by these three thinkers, the course explores their connections to a range of German writers and artists, such as Lou Andreas-Salomé, Brecht, Heine, Kafka, Th. Mann, Schnitzler, Wagner, as well as various filmmakers. Special attention is also paid to the efforts of subsequent theorists, such as Adorno, Arendt, Butler, Derrida, Foucault, Elizabeth Grosz, Heidegger, Sarah Kofman, Lacan, Luhmann, and Žižek, to criticize, refine, or synthesize their ideas. Mr. Schreiber.

Readings and discussions in English. Open to all classes. German majors see German 239.

Two 75-minute periods.

239. Introduction to German Cultural Studies for Majors (1)

Students in this course attend the same seminar meetings as in German Studies 235 but do the readings in the original, attend a separate discussion class, and take separate exams. Mr. Schreiber.

Prerequisite: German Studies 230 or the equivalent or permission from the instructor.

260b. Developments in German Literature (1)

This course offers an overview of selected historical developments in German literature from the last three centuries.

Topic for 2008/09: Criminal Fascination: Crime Stories in German Literature, Film, and Television. This course explores the crime genre (Krimi) in German literature, film, and television of the post-war period. In addition to contextualizing the genre within the premiere crime of the twentieth century—the Holocaust—the course explores its function as a meditation on the role of evil, the power of the law, and the tension between society and its individuals or marginalized groups. The German fascination with crime encompasses a variety of criminals ranging from Nazi parents, the state, and the Stasi to terrorists, foreigners, women, and even Americans. Texts and films may be drawn from works by Jakob Arjouni, Heinrich Böll, Horst Bosetzky, Friedrich Dürrenmatt, Uta-Maria Heim, Ingrid Noll, and Helga Schubert. Ms. Piesche.

Two 75-minute periods.

Prerequisite: German 230, 239 or the equivalent.

265b. German Film in English Translation (1)

This course offers an overview of selected historical and formal developments in German films from the silent period to the present.

Topic for 2008/09: What Comes after “New”?: Filmmaking in the Post-New German Cinema Era. Recently German film celebrated international successes with Run Lola Run, Goodbye Lenin, Head On, Sophie Scholl, The Downfall and The Lives of Others, while German actors such as Franka Potente, Ulrich Mühe and Martina Gedeck have been sought after around the globe. Since the 1990s, a new, energetic generation of producers, writers, actors, and directors has begun to discover the cinema as its own form of expression. As they adapt, revise, and react against earlier representational models, these films engage in a sustained dialogue with the historical legacies of the Cold War, the German-German division, and the 1968-generation as well as with aesthetic traditions of Weimar film, New German Cinema and Hollywood. In addition to big international releases, the course will examine other recent trends in German film, such as the Nouvelle Vague Allemande, the Berlin School, comedy films, and children’s films. Ms. von der Emde.

Readings and discussions in English. Open to all classes. German majors see German 269.

Two 75-minute periods.

269b. German Film for Majors (1)

Students in this course attend the same seminar meetings as in German Studies 265 but do readings in German, attend a separate discussions class, and take separate exams. Ms. von der Emde.

Prerequisite: German Studies 230, 239 or the equivalent.

270a. Aesthetic Forms, Texts, and Genres (1)

In-depth study of one or more literary and non-literary genres in their historical and cultural contexts. Examples may be drawn from drama, poetry, autobiographies, manifestos, or essays.

Topic for 2008/09: German Fairytale and Folklore in Literature, Art, and Music. Great literature, art, and music of all ages have borrowed fairytale motifs. This course approaches fairytales as works of art and explores their rich symbolism, social functions, and structural dynamics across the disciplines and in the context and taste of different eras. The course includes fairytales and legends by the Grimms and others and explores the impact on composers like Wagner and Humperdinck as well as on artists of the Romantic and Expressionist schools. Mr. Klabes.

Prerequisite: German Studies 230, 239 or the equivalent.

Two 75-minute periods.

275a. Advanced Topics in German Cultural Studies (1)

This course offers an extended analysis of one of the major issues in German Cultural Studies. Topics may include memory and the Holocaust, Nazi culture, issues of transparency in political culture, or lesbian and gay culture.

Topic for 2008/09: From the Weimar Republic to Millenial Berlin: Toward a Culture of Transparency in Literature, Cinema, Music and the Arts. With Berlin as focal point, this course traces the German struggle for cultural and political identity spanning from the Weimar Republic and the Third Reich to the decades of the Cold War and post-wall United Germany. Rife with contradictions between the dark undercurrents of Germany’s totalitarian history and its utopian aspirations as a new international locus of culture, Berlin’s current overriding metaphor is transparency which is best symbolized by the enormous glass dome of the Reichstag. As Berlin radically restructures its urban fabric, it is integrating its unreconcilable past into the glitter of its millennial architecture. Once an isolated cold-war outpost, Berlin is now reinventing itself as the cultural and political capital of reunited Germany in a new Eruope. Works include classics by Bertolt Brecht, Thomas Mann, Günter Grass, Christa Wolf as well as by artists, composers and filmmakers like Kurt Weill, R.W. Fassbinder, and Anselm Kiefer.

Classroom instruction is complemented by trips to New York galleries and stage performances as well as guest lectures from other disciplines. Mr. Klabes.

Readings and discussions in English. Open to all classes.

Two 75 minute periods.

[286b. At Home on the Road: Tracing the African Diaspora in Germany] (1)

Though people of African descent have lived in Germany for more than a century, their existence has largely been overlooked by scholars and the German public alike. Yet their history has much to tell us about the construction of race and racial politics in German identity as well as the vagaries of the African Diaspora in Europe. From Hans-Jürgen Massaquoi’s time in the Hitler Youth to black feminist and lesbian organizing in contemporary Berlin, this course examines the efforts by Germans of African descent to document their experiences and articulate a black subjectivity. Special attention will also be paid to the representations of blackness and the Black Diaspora that have circulated in German films, comics, music videos and photography over the past two centuries. Readings will be drawn from such authors as May Ayim, Raja Lubinetzki, Ika Hügel-Marshal, Aisha Blackshire-Belay, Maisha Eggers, Fatima El-Tayeb, Tina Campt, Leroy T. Hopkins, Etienne Balibar and Paul Gilroy.

Readings and discussions are in English.

Open to all classes.

Not offered in 2008/09.

298a or b. Independent Work (1/2 or 1)

Permission required.

III. Advanced

For advanced work in German, students must complete the following: German 230, 239, 260, 269, and 270 or their equivalent.

300a or b. Senior Thesis (1)

Open only to majors. The department. Permission required.

301a. Senior Seminar (1)

An examination of selected topics in German literature and culture. May be taken more than once for credit when topic changes.

Topic for 2008/09: German Romanticism: Poetic and Pictorial Images. This course examines the strategies of writers and artists struggling to find meaning in a time of revolutionary political and cultural change. Particular attention is paid to changes in cultural aesthetics and new literary and artistic forms with a view toward their legacy in twentieth-century Germany. Course may include works by Novalis, Tieck, Kleist, Guenderode, E.T.A. Hoffmann as well as by artists from the German Romantic School like C.D. Friedrich and Runge. Mr. Klabes.

302a-303b. Senior Thesis (1/2)

Open only to majors. The department.

Permission required.

355b. Advanced Seminar (1)

An examination of selected topics in German literature and culture. May be taken more than once for credit when topic changes.

Topic for 2008/09. Verboten: Censorship and Cultural Production in Germany and Austria. What effect does censorship have upon cultural production? Does it necessarily limit such production, or can it also paradoxically spurn cultural innovation? This course investigates particular state policies of censorship in German-speaking Europe from the absolutist and authoritarian states of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, through the totalitarian regimes of the twentieth to the present-day Federal Republic. We study the casualties these policies have incurred, but also focus on the imaginative ways in which writers, artists, and filmmakers have subverted the censor’s gaze.  In addition, we consider whether, as Freud has posited, the psyche is continually subject to its own self-censorship, and what consequences this might hold for the creative process.  Readings may be drawn from Lessing, Kant, Nestroy, Heine, Marx, Schnitzler, Brecht, Mann, and Wolf. Mr. Schreiber.