Courses in English for Spring 2024

German R5B- Reading and Composition Courses (4 units): Feldman in charge
(Taught in English)

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 R5B Section 2: Blough

“Art as Expression, Art as Technique”.  This course will explore shifting historical ideas about making art. Our focus will be notions of expression and technique and how they predominate and interact from around 1800 through the early 20th century. Key to the course will be questioning the extent to which these notional shifts align with art-making practices themselves, i.e. what artists (and critics) understand themselves to be doing vs. the methods they use. Our discussion of expression will range from sentimental literature to Expressionist poetry, while our discussion of technique will encompass compositional techniques of literature, painting, music, and film and the way they are foregrounded or obscured. This will include both the formal elements of artworks – e.g. rhythm and rhyme, narration and description, sound and staging – and the historical circumstances surrounding specific artistic developments. Engaging with these works will introduce you to strategies of reading and the craft of writing in college. 

All readings will be in English, and no prior knowledge of the materials is required. 

This course offers a survey of modern German literary, cultural, and intellectual currents, as well as an introduction to argumentation and analysis. Students will examine numerous issues and questions central to defining the complexity of modern German culture. R5A satisfies the first half of the Reading and Composition requirement, and R5B satisfies the second half.

German R5B Section 4: Krueger

“Memory’s Afterlife: History and the Present in Literature”
.  In Germany, museums and memorials commemorating victims of World War II violence and destruction are ubiquitous. Stolpersteine, or stumbling stones, dot the streets in a public initiative that strives to ensure that memory of the past is quite literally built into the structure of the everyday environment. Since 1945, Holocaust memory has become a cornerstone of German civic identity and the nation’s efforts to come to terms with Nazi violence and ensure its crimes are never forgotten – what in German is called Vergangenheitsbewältigung, or coming-to-terms-with-the past – are touted as exemplary.

In this course, we’ll look at texts that deal with questions of 20th-century historical memory in Germany. These works will serve as a jumping-off point to think about questions that have urgent relevance in a variety of places, times, and contexts: Is there a best way to remember traumatic or violent events? What makes an attempt at reckoning with history a success or a failure? What are the responsibilities of individuals, governments, or other institutions for keeping historical memories alive? How does thinking about history inform our understanding of the present?

German R5B Section 5: Lambert

“Gimmicks, Tricks, Special Effects”.  What can we learn from analyzing cinematic techniques and devices? In this class, students will practice crafting arguments and using evidence by looking at ubiquitous, though curiously under-analyzed cinematic techniques: special effects. Can special effects be used artistically, or are they just cheap spectacle? Do they express ideas, or are they merely background, part of plot or setting? Do special effects raise cinema to the status of a “high art” on par with literature, or do they show that cinema is merely entertainment? Are special effects unique to cinema, or can we see similar devices in theater, poetry, novels and paintings? Students will debate these ideas and more, in writing and discussion, while researching the history and technology of special effects. Students will also dive deep into film history, as we discuss examples from the heyday of German silent cinema (Metropolis, Nosferatu, The Student of Prague) to contemporary Hollywood blockbusters (Avatar, Inception, Life of Pi). 

All readings will be in English, and no prior knowledge of the materials is required. 

This course offers a survey of modern German literary, cultural, and intellectual currents, as well as an introduction to argumentation and analysis. Students will examine numerous issues and questions central to defining the complexity of modern German culture. R5B satisfies the second half of the Reading and Composition requirement, and R5A satisfies the first half.

German 39S (4) Freshman/Sophomore Seminar. Shannon
(Taught in English)

“Language Origins and Development- From Myth to Science”

Throughout history, the origins and development of language have engaged the minds and imaginations of myth-makers and scholars alike. And yet many of the basic questions surrounding our unequalled ability to communicate continue to raise serious challenges and much controversy among researchers in numerous, diverse fields. In this seminar we will consider the long history of thought on this topic in the Western tradition, starting from the Bible and the Greeks, through later thinkers such as Dante, Rousseau and Darwin, down to present-day scholars like Noam Chomsky, Sue Savage-Rumbaugh, and Michael Tomasello. Although this course is offered in the German Department, it not a course in or about German. All readings will be in English, as will classroom discussion.

German C39Z (3) Freshman/Sophomore Seminar- Tang
(Taught in English)

“Great Books of World Civilizations”. What is a life worth living? What is a community, how does a community work, and how should a community work? How can we resolve political, moral, and spiritual conflicts? Facing such fundamental questions, we have perhaps no better source for guidance and advice than the time-tested “great books” – books that provide enduring ideas, narratives, and visions. Great books are the crystallization of millennia of vastly diverse human experiences on our planet. As such, they prove to be an invaluable resource for humanity in creating a shared future. This seminar turns to some of the greatest works written in the mid-first millennium BCE – Greek tragedy and philosophy, Hebrew scriptures, ancient Indian and Chinese philosophy and literature – to probe two interrelated, equally vexing issues: the nature of political community and the quandaries of individual existence. Whereas these great books of ancient civilizations raise surprisingly similar questions, they differ markedly in approach and offer radically different answers. Both what they share in common and what set them apart resonate until today, helping us make sense of our present age.

This seminar is participating in the Food For Thought program.

German 109 (2) Compact Seminar. Harzl
(Taught in English)

“Compact Seminar in Austrian Studies: The Russia-Ukraine Conflict in European Perspective(s), Austrian and Central European History, Politics, and Law”

This intensive course explores selected but profound issues pertaining to legal, political and historical aspects of the conflict in Ukraine. The Russian aggression against Ukraine, launched in February 2022 – or, as argued by some, already in 2014 with the annexation of Crimea – embodies the peak of an escalation in the tumultuous relationship between two former Soviet Republics: Russia and Ukraine. The gaping fissures in this relationship date back to the early 1990s, when the Soviet Union dissolved to create a post-Soviet, in a way post-colonial, order in the region.

This course will employ interdisciplinary approaches to trace the origins of the Russia-Ukraine conflict from historical, political and legal perspectives. The course will begin by exploring – from a comparative vantage point – the key issues in the legal and political developments of 12 of the 15 successor states to Soviet Union: Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Moldova, the Southern Caucasian states Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan, and the five Central Asian states Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan. A comprehensive treatment of the most salient issues that these countries have faced since the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991 will be examined: state and nation building, democratization, constitutional developments, security challenges, relations with the EU, conflict management, and changing gender relations. The course will then shift its focus to the relationship between Russia and Ukraine. Drawing on its historically dictated position in-between the West and the East since the Austrian Habsburg monarchy, the steps which signaled Ukraine’s aspirations of integration into the European and North Atlantic alliances and the Russian responses thereto will be discussed. Returning to the present context, the course will lay out the central legal and policy-oriented aspects of the war on Ukraine. Departing from Ukraine’s bid for EU membership, the course will finally probe into the conditions and obstacles in Ukraine’s path. At the same time, the potential of the country to move the European Union towards assuming a transformational role as an actual global player will be considered. This course is taught in English, with all readings in English.

Note: This seminar only meets for 5 Fridays starting 01/17-02/14/2024.

German 160C (4) A Divided Nation. Lenhard
(Taught in English)

“Politics and Culture in 20th-Century Germany: A Divided Nation. Politics and Culture 1945 to the Present”

This course provides an introduction to the history of Germany after 1945, with a broad overview discussing the major turning points in this history up to the present. A special thematic focus is on how Germans have dealt with their past and to what extent these debates about historical memory have influenced national politics. A methodological emphasis is placed on the critical analysis and historical contextualization of primary sources. At the same time, the most important research literature and more recent approaches in history and cultural studies are presented. Students learn how to deal critically with sources and how to formulate decent research questions. During the semester, students write their own research paper based on primary and secondary sources.

Class description: German history after 1945 is a story of dramatic change, from post-war reconstruction to the transitions following the fall of the Berlin Wall and the founding of the European Union. Using primary sources and recent research literature, this lecture will examine the historical challenges and problems that followed Germany’s military and moral defeat in May 1945. With reference to the founding of the two German states, the Federal Republic of Germany and the German Democratic Republic, we will focus on a comparison between West and East German history. Topics will include the issues of reconstruction, re-education, and restitution; efforts at denazification and democratization; the development of distinct societies and independent polities during the Cold War; the awakening of 1968 and the protest movements of the 1970s and 1980s; the arrival of guest workers and the challenges of integration; and reunification in 1989-90 and the dispute over national memory to the present.

German 185 (4) “Thinking in Images- Siegfried Kracauer”- Baer
(Taught in English)

This course focuses on one of the most important and influential of all film commentators, Siegfried Kracauer, whose career extended from 1920s Germany to 1960s America. We will examine Kracauer’s wide-ranging writings on topics such as gender, stardom, and consumer mass culture; fascist propaganda and national psychology; realist aesthetics and film experience; and time, history, and memory. Each week, we will discuss texts by Kracauer and his commentators in relation to significant works from the global history of cinema. Not least, we will explore what insights Kracauer’s work offers into our contemporary media and political environment.