Courses Spring 2020

Please check OCI for course schedules and up-to-date information.

Exploring Contemporary German Culture

GMAN 151 (L5, taught in German)

Advanced German course focusing on vocabulary expansion through reading practice; stylistic development in writing; and development of conversational German. Critical analysis of selected aspects of contemporary German culture, such as Green Germany, social movements from the 60s to today, the changing “Sozialstaat,” and current events.

The Afro-German Experience

GMAN 163 (L5, taught in German)

Theresa Schenker

Investigation of the history and culture of Afro-Germans. Topics include pre-colonial contacts between Africans and Germans, German colonies in Africa, and the Afro-German fate during and after the Nazi regime. Strong focus on the experience of Afro-Germans in contemporary Germany as seen in Afro-German fictional and non-fictional texts and media. Course culminates in an analysis of the image of people of color and questions of racism in Germany today

Introduction to German Literature: Narratives of the Uncanny

GMAN 176 (L5, taught in German)

Thiti Owlarn

An advanced language course addressing key works and authors of the German narrative tradition, organized around the concepts of the hidden, the unfamiliar, the inexplicable, and the uncanny. Development of advanced reading comprehension, writing, and speaking skills. Readings from short stories, novellas, narrative poems, films, and an opera. Authors include Goethe, Schiller, Tieck, Kleist, ETA Hoffmann, Wagner, Storm, Thomas Mann, Freud, Kafka, Lang, and Herzog.

Goethe’s Wilhelm Meister (graduate/undergraduate)

GMAN 247 / GMAN 710

Kirk Wetters

A detailed study of Goethe’s 1795/96 Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship – the first novel of the nineteenth century and the prototypical novel of education (Bildungsroman); engagement with critical and scholarly reception starting with Schiller and Schlegel, theories of the novel and transformations of modern society.

The Death Sentence: When the State Kills

GMAN 316 / HUMS 317

Paul North & Nica Siegel

The political, economic, and philosophical figure of the “death sentence,” although it has archaic roots, continues to haunt the 21st century. “Capital punishment,” often understood as the paradigmatic, final, and ultimate form of sovereign power, will form only the starting point of our inquiry. If it is the case that, as John Locke writes quoting Cicero, salus populi suprema lex esto (the safety and salvation of the people is the highest good), and if, furthermore, this maxim extends in the name of national security up to and including the point where the lives of certain people and populations are thrown into question, then all instances where the state kills, sanctions killing, or benefits directly or indirectly from the killing of its own citizens must be in question in the course. It may seem strange–modern politics, economics, and philosophy all begin from death sentences. The French revolution depended on bloody executions that were “necessary” for founding a new polity. The Atlantic slave trade condemned millions of Africans to death, under economic reasoning, for the benefit of world capitalism. Athens killed the philosopher Socrates because he was dangerous to the polis, and philosophy has enshrined this death sentence as its mythical origin and its most modern moment. We will investigate the stories and logics these events have in common.

Why does the state kill its own? Why are death sentences necessary for the current complex of state-nation-capital? Why did “barbaric” practices not end with enlightenment, the critique of religion, scientific rationalism, modernization, capitalism? Answers to these questions come from texts in political theory, philosophy, history, and the social sciences.

Landscape, Film, Architecture

GMAN 344 / FILM 344

Fatima Naqvi

How do we move through particular landscapes and what does this movement do for our understanding of them? How do we come to reflect on our emplacement in specific geographies or topographies? What kinds of aesthetic responses to landscape have films and novels offered, especially in the period after the end of World War II, when the widespread scale of destruction attuned people to questions regarding the built environment and land usage.

In this course, we look at visual and verbal means utilized by artists to expand on philosophical, historical, economic and sociological inquiries into how places are inhabited and experienced. We explore real and imaginary spaces in works by filmmakers, architects, sculptors, photographers, and writers. We begin with the “insulted landscape” of the immediate decades after 1945; we continue with ways of experiencing landscape that are class and gender based; we ask what the end of the Anthropocene holds in store for humans’ experience in the future.

Films by Wim Wenders, Werner Herzog, Michael Haneke, Christian Petzold, Ulrike Ottinger, Nikolaus Geyrhalter, Ulrich Seidl, Valeska Grisebach; texts by Ingeborg Bachmann, Peter Handke, Thomas Bernhard, Elfriede Jelinek. Additional readings by Michel de Certeau, Michel Foucault, J.B. Jackson, Lucius Burckhardt, Kevin Lynch, Christopher Alexander, Anette Freytag.

The German Novel in the 20th and 21st Century

GMAN 365 / LITR 460

Rüdiger Campe

The course discusses exemplary novels in German language after 1945 from West and East Germany, Germany after Reunification, from Austria, and from Switzerland. Part I, “Zero Hour - or Not,” on political critique of Nazi Germany and the attempt of aesthetic clean break (e.g., Gunther Grass, Wolfgang Koeppen, Ingeborg Bachmann, Max Frisch); Part II “1968: Revolution or New Interiority,” on social protest versus aesthetic internationalism (e.g., Peter Handke, Christa Wolf, Hubert Fichte, Thomas Bernhard); Part III, “The Attempt of Being Contemporary,” on German and German speaking societies in the global world (e.g., Elfriede Jelinek, Daniel Kehlmann, Yoko Tawada, Rainald Goetz). While “contemporaneity” is the particular mark of the last section, all works desire to critically intervene in their moment and their place in time. Giving an account of this desire is the goal of the course.

Ernst Cassirer. Form as Function (graduate)

GMAN 705 / HSAR 530 / CPLT 851

Rudiger Campe & Nicola Suthor

Cassirer’s philosophy of the “symbolic form”—foundational for the art historical method of iconography as well as structural analysis in literature and art—is reexamined for its validity. Cassirer’s revolutionary concept of function as opposed to substance, developed in the Neo-Kantian context of hermeneutics and modern science, is the point of departure for our new engagement with his work. We center on Cassirer’s theory of form in art and literature and repercussions in Aby Warburg, Erwin Panofsky, Edgar Wind, Walter Benjamin, George Kubler, and others. Cassirer’s philosophy of myth and the political gives further importance to the “symbolic form.”