Courses in English for Spring 2021

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 1: Harris, S.

“Self-Reflections: Speculative Fiction and Social Commentary”. 

Speculative fiction is read and viewed by millions each day, whether fantasy series like The Lord of the Rings, dystopian films such as The Hunger Games, or science fiction tv shows including Star Trek and Westworld. Set in an alternate reality – whether due to magic, variant social structures, or a life-changing technology – speculative fiction often comments on real-world themes and experiences, such as race, gender, class, and what it means to be human. Although the genre can be appreciated purely as entertainment, speculative fiction has also served as a method of social commentary, with authors using the distancing effect of foreign and fantastic settings to critique governments, oppressive regimes, and social norms under cover of fiction. This course’s thematic materials will specifically focus on utopias as well as science fiction, a subtype of speculative fiction, which often uses technology from an imagined future to explore issues in the author’s present. 

German R5B Section 2: Felder, V.

“The Uncanny Self: Identity and Gender in Stories of the Fantastic”

In this course we will explore Freud’s notion of the uncanny and connect it to themes of identity and gender in literature and film. 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 “doppelganger”; lifelike dolls and automatons; telepathy and other supernatural phenomena) and will be challenged to identify these motifs in the work of authors such as Leonora Carrington, Amparo Dávila, Daphne du Maurier, and Shirley Jackson. With a special focus on female authors and protagonists, we will discuss how the uncanny, as a literary device, is used to address broader issues of gender inequality and identity conflict.

German R5B Section 3: Sacia-Bonicatto, 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, access to education, and activism and social movements.

German R5B Section 4: Salehi, K.

German 24 (1) Freshman Seminar. Feldman
(Taught in English)

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 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 160C (4) Cold War Stories.  Balint
(Taught in English)

What was the Cold War? How does contemporary literature remember the conflict between East and West? Why does the battle between socialism and capitalism matter today?
While the political landscape of the world has changed drastically since the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Cold War and state socialism have been popular objects of artistic production. Examining literary and filmic narratives from Germany and countries of the former “East,” the course offers an in-depth study of the socialist period through its remembrance. Our attention will be dedicated to forms of memory and modes of historical storytelling. We will also ask how these fictional works engage larger issues such as social justice and utopia; ideas of individualism, freedom and community; state violence and repression; as well as possibilities of revolt and resistance. Authors include: Herta Müller, Ingo Schulze, László Krasznahorkai, Wioletta Greg, Jenny Erpenbeck. No German required. Readings, discussion, coursework in English.

German 160F (4)  Holocaust and Memory. Richter
(Taught in English)

This seminar introduces self narratives of Holocaust survivors as historical sources. The course will start with central events between 1933 and 1945 and historical narratives of the Holocaust. We will interpret and discuss secondary and primary sources including diaries, letters, memoirs, autobiographies and images. The course will in particular take age and gender into account and will also focus on the intergenerational transmission of memory. Three field trips (two virtual field trips, one in-person field trip in Berkeley) will introduce students to central archival resources.  What are special features of self narratives as historical sources? How do we interpret and analyze texts and images which are so profoundly shaped by experience, subjectivity, memory and trauma? How do we grapple with faked autobiographies and respond to Holocaust denial? Today a minority of first generation survivors is still alive: how can their voices be preserved? What is the impact of the intergenerational transmission of memory? What features representations of the second and third generation? 

German C160G (4) Ideas of Education. Balint
(Taught in English)

Ideas of Education: From Goethe to Dear White People:

What is the purpose of education? Should the university prepare students for the job market or emphasize the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake? Is knowledge a value in itself? This course explores these questions, among others, while concentrating on the German idea of Bildung. It introduces students to the classical idea of education and self-formation by reading a wide range of texts from German philosophy, intellectual history, and literature. Furthermore, the course traces the history of this idea by exploring how Bildung informs contemporary literary works and film. Emphasis will be on issues of class, race, and gender. Readings, discussions, and coursework in English; no German necessary.