Featured Courses

Fall 2023:

German 39H (4) Freshman Seminar. Balint
“Robots, Monsters, Operating Systems: Technology and the Cultural Imagination”.

Both literature and film are rife with fantastic creatures. But what gives rise to figures such as the monster in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818), the vampire in Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897), and the artificial intelligence program in Spike Jonze’s science fiction-cum-romantic-drama Her (2013)? And what ensures our enduring fascination with them? New technology not only sparks excitement about future possibilities, everyday conveniences, and large-scale social, political, and cultural change, but also spurs fears about its purported capacity to fundamentally reshape many, if not all, aspects of our lives. This course examines seminal works of literary fiction and film, along with some musical examples, to explore the ways technology animates both age-old hopes and anxieties related to humanity, gender, sexuality, race, and the future. How is technology negotiated in the cultural imagination, and how, in turn, does new technology enable and affect new modes of cultural expression (in literature and other media)? Course materials include works by Mary Shelley, E.T.A. Hoffmann, Sigmund Freud, Karl Marx, W.E.B. Du Bois; Octavia Butler, among others; films such as Metropolis by Fritz Lang, Blade Runner by Ridley Scott, A.I. by Steven Spielberg; Her by Spike Jonze; and music and performance by Sun Ra and Beyoncé.

Note: This class will be taught in “English”.

German 130AC (4) “Cultures of Migration”
Professor Deniz Gokturk

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.”

Note: This class will be taught in “English”.

German 157D (4) “Adorno, Benjamin, Habermas”.
Professor Nicholas Baer

The so-called Frankfurt School of Critical Theory was a unique assembly of German intellectuals known for their analytical critique of modern mass culture, society, and politics. Their interest in the cultural and political life around them has produced major theoretical work that still resonates today. This course will study Benjamin’s enigmatic and complex reflections on art, and Adorno’s views on using art for political purposes. We will examine other themes including Enlightenment, history, and mass culture.

Note: This class will be taught in “English”.

German 160A (4) Century of Extremes.
Professor Philipp Lenhard


 This course will survey the political, economic, social, and cultural development of Germany since 1914. Special attention will be paid to the impact of World War I; problems of democratization under the impact of defeat, inflation, and depression; National Socialist racism and imperialism; the evolution of the German Federal Republic and the German Democratic Republic; unification and its problems; and modern Germany’s role in Europe.

Perhaps most importantly, you will learn to question and evaluate historical sources and evidence, in the process becoming informed thinkers and critical readers, rather than just passive recipients. You will also develop a sense of how historians analyze and interpret the past, and through the writing of a historical research paper, try your hand at the craft of history. Class sections are collaborative enterprises, so please complete the assigned reading beforehand and come prepared with questions, concerns, or ideas you would like to discuss. It is the student’s responsibility to have prepared for each session accordingly. All assigned reading is due weekly on the Monday before class begins.

Note: This class will be taught in “English”.

German 179 (4) “The World of Yesterday: Vienna at the Turn of the Century”
Professor Elaine Tennant

Note: This class will be taught in English.

At the end of the nineteenth century, Vienna witnessed an extraordinary flowering of the arts, politics, philosophy, and industry. As the capital of Austria-Hungary in this period, Vienna was a city of great variety, contrasts, and contradictions—ethnic, social, linguistic, religious, political, and economic. It was both splendid and squalid, progressive and decadent. Emperor Franz Josef maintained the aristocratic, Catholic tradition of the Dual Monarchy through social policies that were alternately repressive and enlightened. Artists, intellectuals, and businessmen converged on the imperial capital from Hungary, Galicia, Bohemia, and beyond. They met in the coffeehouse culture that gave rise to the Austrian Art Nouveau, the Zionist movement, the theory of psychoanalysis, and even the Russian Revolution. At the same time refugees from pogroms in the East and economic hardship in the hinterlands streamed into the city looking for food, shelter, and work. This was the world of Freud and Herzl, Hofmannsthal and Schnitzler, Bruckner and Mahler, Otto Wagner and Adolf Loos, Klimt and Schiele, and also of Karl Lueger. A society that valued feeling and style, it was also deeply infused with class, cultural, and racial prejudice. On the eve of the Great War, it was beginning to pull itself apart.
The seminar will explore the remarkable aesthetic production and the conflicted social climate of Vienna around 1900 primarily through the work of literary and journalistic writers of the period. But we will also sample the work of some the great painters and decorative artists who contributed to the unique, cosmopolitan, prewar atmosphere. The syllabus is likely to include works by authors Arthur Schnitzler, Hugo von Hofmannsthal, Theodor Herzl, Franz Kafka, and Joseph Roth as well as visual designers Joseph Hoffmann, Otto Czeschka, and Adolf Loos. It may also include films by Max Ophüls, Fritz Lang, and István Szábo.

Lively interest in or curiosity about some aspect of the material to be covered in the course. Instruction is in English. Readings are in German. Most are also available in English for students who are not able to read texts in the original language.

German 184 (4) “Documentary Cinema”
Professor Deniz Gokturk

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 a film screening section please check with Instructor.  

Note: This class will be taught in “English”.

Undergraduates are welcome to join this graduate seminar!

German 204 (2) Compact Seminar.  “Narrative der Sorge”
Professor Zumbusch

This seminar, open to graduate and undergraduate students, will address the topic of care, i.e., Sorge. Drawing on a range of German literary texts across several centuries, we will investigate the narration and narratibility of caring practices and the difficult mix of emotions attached to it. We will study excerpts of Goethe, Keller, Stifter, and Kafka, and also examine feminist theories of care developed in the fields of philosophy and sociology.

Literary texts and discussion will be mainly in German.

Note: This 2 unit class will meet for only 5 Fridays starting on 08/25/23-09/22/23.

Yiddish 101A (4) Elementary Yiddish. 
Instruction mode: (ONLINE)
Instructor: Alec Burko

In this beginners’ course students will learn to speak, read, and write Yiddish, the original language of East European Jews. Using the communicative method and the new textbook In Eynem, students will focus in class on speaking by playing out short dialogues. Grammar will be taught inductively, through examples. The course will introduce Yiddish culture through a variety of songs, stories, film clips, and illustrations.