Courses

Fall 2020

Reading and Composition Courses
Readings and discussions in English. Fulfills the second half of the university’s Reading & Composition Requirement (equivalent to English 1B, Comp. Lit. 1B, etc.).

German R5A. Reading and Composition (4)

Section 1: Harris
“Only Human: Science Fiction and Us”
Millions turn to science fiction (sci-fi) for a break from their reality, whether in dystopian novels, alternate history videogames, films about robotic uprisings like The Terminator, or utopian space exploration series like Star Trek. Though it can be enjoyed purely as entertainment, sci-fi also enables a deeper analysis of taboo or uncomfortable topics by creating distance from the readers’ or viewers’ experiences. By setting a story in a strange world – whether a voyage to space, a parallel reality, or one impacted by a life-changing technology – sci-fi explores themes much closer to home, such as class, race, gender, and morality, and has historically served as a medium of social commentary, allowing authors to critique governments, oppressive regimes, and social norms under the cover of fiction. In texts ranging from Frankenstein to Black Mirror, this course examines classic sci-fi tropes including monsters, AI, and androids to examine how the far-flung stories of sci-fi can help us better understand ourselves.

Section 2: Salehi
“Red Germany”
Germany, the self-anointed land of poets and thinkers, is the birthplace of communism. This course will survey the legacy of communism in German literature and culture, from Karl Marx’s famous 1848 manifesto through the tumultuous first half of the 20th century and up to the end of the socialist project in East Germany. In addition to Marx himself, this R5A invites students to engage critically with literary and theoretical texts by such luminaries of Marxism and communism in the German tradition as the novelist Christa Wolf, the philosopher Theodor W. Adorno, the filmmaker Rainer Werner Fassbinder, the political activist Rosa Luxemburg, and the poet and playwright Bertolt Brecht.

All readings and written assignments are in English. The primary purpose of this course, which satisfies the first half of the Reading and Composition requirement, is to help students cultivate the research, vocabulary, and argumentation skills necessary to write convincing academic papers.

Section 3: Swensen
“Forms of the Self: Identity and Confession in Essay, Memoir and Autobiography”
This class will stake out a broad territory of memoir and autobiography, aiming to sharpen our techniques of literary analysis and composition by reading widely across the genre. We will ask what we can learn about identity and that amorphous notion of ‘the self’ from a diverse set of texts ranging from St Augustine’s Confessions, to Nora Krug’s Belonging, to Christa Wolf’s Patterns of Childhood, to Frederick Douglass’ Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass . Pursuing this genre across national boundaries, we will aim for a capacious sense of what constitutes memoir and ask what kind of truth-telling we can expect from our narrators in their various forms. While exploring the short essay, the confession and the memoir, we will also find less traditional forms of autobiography or confession as they might appear in poetry or other ‘hybrid’ genres. While probing the possibilities of narration and reflection in constructing literary selfhood, we will also be focused on pursuing our own writing skills, composing and revising three academic essays. Throughout, our attention will be on treating the essay and the memoir as a literary object and learning how to construct strong academic theses and analytic arguments about the texts under discussion.

Section 4: Felder
“Encounters with the Uncanny”
In this course we will explore Freud’s notion of the ‘uncanny’ in literature, film, and every-day life. According to Freud, the uncanny “belongs to the realm of frightening, of what evokes dread and fear.” Yet, he noted, it arises from “something that was long familiar to the psyche and was estranged from it only through being repressed.” Using his 1919 essay as a steppingstone, students will acquaint themselves with the most common examples of the uncanny (the ‘double’, or ‘Doppelgänger’; lifelike dolls and automatons, telepathy and other supernatural phenomena) and will be challenged to identify these motif in the works of authors such as E.T.A. Hoffmann, and Daphne du Maurier, as well as in films like Vertigo (1958), Eyes without a Face (1960), and Westworld (1973).

Section 5: Sacia-Bonicatto
“Gender Equality in Germany”
This course will focus on the recent history of gender equality in Germany from the second half of the 20th century to the present day. We will examine traditional gender roles in postwar Germany, differences in expectations of women in the German Democratic Republic and the Federal Republic of Germany, second wave feminism, changes that came about after the reunification, LGBTQ rights, and women’s current representation in the government and workforce.


German 24 (1) Freshman Seminar. Feldman
Twists, Turns, and Tropes: Analyzing Political Speech. 

In this seminar, students will learn to become critical readers of—and listeners to—political rhetoric, drawing on the arsenal of rhetorical tropes and figures developed by classical orators. Each week, students will focus on one or more figures, learning to identify them, understand how they function, and analyze the ways in which they continue to be mobilized to persuade, mislead, energize, and otherwise influence audiences today. Assignments will expose students to a number of political speeches from our current political moment as well as the recent past. By the end of the course, students will have a nuanced understanding of the continued importance of rhetoric in political speech and be well-equipped to answer the question, “Why should studying rhetorical figures matter to us now?” 

Note:  No knowledge of the German language is required for this course!


German 160C (4) A Divided Nation: 1945-Present. Richter

This course offers an introduction to the history and culture of divided Germany in the era of the Cold War. It will look at the different ways the two states dealt with the country’s pre-1945 history, and the relations to the Allied Powers, and the major cultural shifts which eventually created a watershed in the history of German mentalities. We will explore various kinds of sources, including texts, film, photography, sound and material culture. Major national debates will be touched upon, such as breaks and continuities within the national elites, re-armament and pacifism, the student movement, the rise of new social movements, and opposition and conformity under Socialism. The course will also provide insights and discuss the problems and opportunities of re-unification.  Taught in English.


Hum 100 (4) Compass Course. Balint
World Cities: Shangahie- St. Petersburg- Berlin

This course explores three world cities located across the breadth of Asia and Europe, retracing the stories, myths, symbols and fantasies which Shanghai, St. Petersburg and Berlin have inspired. Does each of these cities have its own story? What were its cultural forms? How did these cities come to embody the thrills and challenges of modern life? Were they able to satisfy the hopes and aspirations of a large and diverse urban citizenry? How did urban culture and national history become intertwined? In what ways did each city become a cradle of mass politics, shaping the major political and economic systems of the twentieth century: capitalism, communism, and fascism? Over the semester we will examine representations of each city and the cultural production of its inhabitants, across two centuries, in multiple genres ranging from literature and cinema to architecture, monuments, and memoirs. “New” cities on “old” continents, Shanghai, St. Petersburg and Berlin speak to us of our modern times, from the everyday life of ordinary citizens of the metropolis to the extremities of war and revolution.