Courses in English for Spring 2022

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 3: Salehi, K.

“Is there something objectively good about great art? What does it mean to say that taste is subjective? What is the purpose of art – and does it even need one? What does the media we consume say to us? What does it say about us? In the mid-18th century, the German philosopher Alexander Baumgarten coined the term “aesthetics” to designate a theory of sensibility that produces a certain kind of knowledge, that is, knowledge derived from our sensual perceptions. This course will survey the next 200 years in the German tradition of aesthetics and the philosophy of art, exploring its central concerns about the relationship of art and entertainment to truth and how our interaction with media reflects and even shapes the way we experience reality as a whole.
At each meeting we will analyze a short excerpt from theories of art by poets, playwrights, novelists, filmmakers, and philosophers. The research component will familiarize students not only with secondary scholarship, but also with artworks by these theorists and their contemporaries. Students will come out of the course having cultivated the research, vocabulary, and argumentation skills necessary to write convincing academic papers. 

All readings and written assignments are in English. R5B satisfies the second half of the Reading and Composition requirement.


German R5B Section 4: Strouss, E.

Writing Feelings: The Melodrama

The gasp, the cry, the sigh – these are some of the most recognizable expressive gestures of the melodrama. Today, this is a label popularly wielded as a pejorative, in order to designate a text as over-the-top when it casts aside realistic representation in a quest to stir the emotions of those who are subjected to it. This course seeks to offer a corrective to these derisive constructions, treating melodrama seriously as a mode in its own right. Our focus will be on the ways in which so-called melodramatic texts represent and perform feelings. As we consult literary examples of the melodrama – from its origins in the sentimental literature of the 18th century to our present day – we will identify how emotions are written therein: what do feelings look like? What do they sound like? When does language fail in that expression? Who gets to feel? What role do we – the readers or the audience members – play in witnessing these feelings? 

As a Reading & Composition course, we will place extended attention on developing critical reading and writing skills. Students will complete several analytical writing assignments throughout the semester, in addition to regular bCourses discussion posts. A good deal of course time will be dedicated to writing workshops and peer review. Texts will be drawn primarily from the German-language tradition in English translation and our syllabus will include theatrical, narrative, and filmic works.


German R5B Section 5: Schierenberg, B.

Working Through Work. Literature, Film, Theory of the 20th & 21st c.

The way rhythms of work structure time, the hierarchies working engenders, and the networks it brings into play not only profoundly determine the experience of life as it is, but also shape how we imagine its transformation. In this course you will get to know a range of mostly German-language writers, artists, filmmakers, and theorists of the 20th and 21st century that have investigated the topic in their art.

We will dedicate our attention to the ways in which literary and cultural production since the beginning of the 20th century registers major shifts in systems of racial capitalism and their aesthetic effects: in what ways does story-telling engage these phenomena? How does thinking about work when we read lead us to consider racialized, sexualized, gendered, and other forms of exploitation, as well as aspirations, and possibilities of community? How do cultural artefacts dream of work, or its end? Thinking critically and aesthetically about how work makes our world will strengthen students’ practice in methodically discerning and developing a specific topic of interest in a given cultural text.  

This R5B course will encourage regular and effective practice of thinking, writing and reading about matters of intellectual complexity. Building a portfolio over the course of the semester, students develop their abilities to handle close reading, analysis, and research paper formats. The course will stress the loopy nature of thinking, reading and writing by emphasizing modular assignments, interaction with sources, peer review and revisions. Readings will be in English. All materials and updated schedules are accessible on our bCourses site.

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

“Language Origins and Development”

It is often said that language is what makes humans human. In fact, it is practically impossible to imagine our society without language. 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 ability to communicate in such rich ways remain largely unanswered, or are at least controversial. 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 modern thinkers such as Rousseau, Darwin, and Saussure, down to present-day scholars like Noam Chomsky and Steven Pinker.

Some of the issues that will interest us include the following. What is language? How and when did language emerge? In what steps or stages? Was there one (if so, which one?) or more than one original language? How can the great diversity of the ca. 7000 current-day languages be accounted for? What is the relation between language and thought? Is language a species-specific possession of humans and how does it compare to communication among other species? Is there a specific “faculty” or “organ” of language in the mind?

NB: 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 C60V (4) Moral Provocations. Feldman
(Taught in English)

How do we know what the “moral” of a story is? We will focus on three biblical narratives that have frequently been interpreted as teaching moral lessons: the story of Job, the story of Abraham and the binding of Isaac, and the story of Moses giving the law. These stories have been interpreted variously in moral terms–e.g. as demonstrating the virtues of faith, obedience, mercy, and forgiveness, and as teaching us about guilt, punishment, reward, and human frailty. They have also been analyzed as existential parables, psychological dramas, and political allegories. The goal of this class is to examine how a range of different, and often provocative, interpretations of these stories’ moral lessons rest on particular ways of reading.

German 160B (4) Fascism and Propaganda. Richter
(Taught in English)

This course will explore the methods, effects and history of propaganda using the example of National Socialism (1933-1945) and will focus on the relationship between politics, propaganda and public opinion. It will highlight practices of persuasion, manipulation and attempts to shape perceptions as well as direct behavior to achieve the responses intended by the National Socialists. We will discuss the role that propaganda played in the National Socialists’ rise to power. Central institutions, organizational structures and actors will be introduced as well as practices and media such as films, newspapers, posters, exhibitions, photos, commemoration days and speeches. Besides the methods and intended effects we will also explore sources which provide insights into reactions of the public to the major themes and into the reception of campaigns by the State. This course is taught in English.

German 184/Film 125 (4)  Documentary Cinemas. Gokturk
(Taught in English)

This course surveys the history, theory and practice of the genre called documentary cinema in a transnational horizon. We will explore what this amorphous and vague term means and examine the ways its forms and ethics have changed from the beginning of cinema to recent digital production and online exhibition. Major modes of documentary filmmaking will be covered, including cinema verité, direct cinema, investigative documentary, ethnographic and travel film, agit-prop and activist media, autobiography and the personal essay as well as recent post-modern forms that question relationships between fact and fiction such as docudrama, archival film, and “mockumentary.” Through formal analysis, we will examine the “reality effects” of these works, focusing on narrative structures, visual style, and audience address. We will ask: How do these films shape notions of truth, reality, and point of view? What are the ethics and politics of representation? Who speaks for whom when we watch a documentary? Who stages whom for whom and to what end? What do documentaries make visible or conceal? What, if anything, constitutes objectivity? And by the way, just what is a document anyway?

NOTE: This course has an additional Film Screening section on Wednesdays from 7-9pm.