Fall 2021

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 2: Salehi, K.

“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 excerpts from 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 vocabulary and argumentation skills necessary to write convincing academic papers.”


Section 3: Durlacher, C.

Personal Knowledges: Science, Writing, and Everyday Life

“The good thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it.” So goes the meme that has been circulating lately based on a statement by astrophysicist and science communicator Neil deGrasse Tyson. This quip, originally delivered offhand on a late night talk show, raises some burning questions. How has science become so bound up with words like “trust” and “faith”? What does “believing” do, and does it really have no effect on whether or not something is true? And if, in the post-COVID world, we’re spending so much of our time reading and writing about it – even molding our behavior according to its dictates – how does science relate to the written word? In this writing-intensive course, we will encounter a selection of literary writing, often from a German-language tradition, that explores the diversity of kinds of thinking, doing, and communicating that make up the messy process we call science. The overall aim of this writing-intensive course is to deepen your ability to use writing to clarify and elaborate thought. As we use these texts to think about what science means, what it involves, who does it and why, we will also be thinking intently about our own knowledge production practices: in specific, our process of writing. We’ll become sensitive to the ways that forms of knowledge – personal or scientific, literary or conceptual – often blend into one another. And, as you will experience in this course, our knowledge production – and our best thinking – often takes place in and through writing.


Section 4: Bonicatto-Sacia, L.
21st Century Challenges and their Impact on German Society

This writing course will explore issues that are particularly relevant in the 21st century. By examining narratives from a variety of sources, we will focus on a range of issues such as gender equality and LGBTQ rights, racial equality, immigration, climate change, and activism and social movements.


Section 5: Sandberg, M.

Excessive stimulation, extreme disorientation, uncontrollable anxiety, and existential malaise – welcome to this course! This semester we will be examining nervous breakdowns in late 19th and early 20th century literature and film.

The 19th century witnessed the intense emergence of psychophysiology – or what we might today understand as an early form of neuroscience and chemical biology – which increasingly conceptualized human existence and experience as a bundle of nerves, reflexes, and chemical processes. This reevaluation of the human subject carried such cultural weight that nearly all other spheres of society, including the arts, were compelled to contend with the field’s research. As a result, words—and diagnoses—like “nervousness,” “fatigued nerves,” “neurasthenia,” and “nervous breakdown” became part of the larger cultural vocabulary in, but certainly not limited to, Germany and Scandinavia.

Broadly, this course explores what is at stake when science gains a strong foothold in cultural and aesthetic spheres. How might scientific methodology impact the way we understand the self, other, and society? How is this methodology adopted, challenged, or problematized in aesthetics? How do literature and film push us to think beyond “the bare science”? By taking the nervous breakdown as a narrower phenomenon, we can ask: How did artistic media register and comment upon the political and/or cultural importance of the nervous breakdown? In short, what were the stakes of the nervous breakdown?

This course satisfies the first half of the Reading and Composition requirement

German 130AC (4) American Culture. Gokturk

“Cultures of Migration”

Who is a migrant? Who claims belonging in a country as a native? Can migrants achieve the status of “native” through settlement and assimilation? And if so, why is settlement a condition for full membership and participation in society? Which environmental transformations are associated with migration? Is there any hope for solidarity? Does art hold any promise for imagining a more equitable future?

This course will stimulate students to question assumptions about collective identities based on remembrance and forgetting. We will think comparatively across space and time, considering the role that migration, border control, and structures of racial hierarchy have played in the cultural formation of societies. Focusing on both movement and entrapment, students will examine political rhetoric and policies regulating human mobility through the lens of creative interventions from literature, cinema, video, and music. Case studies from the US and Germany will convey a nuanced understanding of assigned and assumed identities that transcend census categories of diversity. This comparative perspective on race, ethnicity, and citizenship will enable students to recognize patterns and repetitions in common arguments brought forward against the presence of “foreigners.”  Taught in English.

German 157A (4) Luther, Kant, Hegel. Feldman

This course offers an introduction to several central concepts in the thought of Luther, Kant and Hegel by way of close readings of short texts by each author. We will focus on the relationship between religion and history in each thinker, paying special attention to how religion fits into their very different concepts of human freedom and morality. Within these parameters, the course will follow points of theoretical continuity and discontinuity between these authors–e.g. how does Kant’s theorization of obligation relate to Luther and the ‘inner man’? How does Hegel conceive of morality in contrast to Kant? We will pay special attention to how Luther, Kant and Hegel frame their thought in explicit contrast to Judaism. We will also look at the significance of these authors in the work of other major authors, including Karl Marx and Friedrich Nietzsche. All readings and discussions are in English, no German is required.  All readings and discussions are in English, no German is required.

German 160A (4) Century of Extremes. Richter


 This lecture will explore Germany’s political and cultural history from 1914 to the reunification of the two German states in 1990. This period was marked by the rise and fall of the first German democracy during the Weimar Republic, the First and the Second World War, the rise of extreme ideologies, the Cold War, and the fall of the Iron Curtain. Against the background of these developments we will focus on continuities and ruptures in German society during the Weimar Republic, National Socialism, the two Republics after 1949 (FRG and GDR), and the (unified) Federal Republic of Germany. By comparing the various dimensions and characteristics of Germany’s radical transformations this course introduces students to major political, social, and cultural changes, emphasizing questions of gender, class, religious identities and milieus; the impact of total war; and the roots of dictatorship and democracy. Course materials will include primary sources in translation and state-of-the-art scholarship on German history, self narratives, as well as contemporary literature, popular images, music and films. Taught in English.