GERM-393 Writing Our Selves, Writing Our Times (Friederike Eigler)
This course focuses on autobiographical writings in the three distinct genres of diaries, letters, and reflective essays, both through readings and through creative writing in these genres. All three genres have a particularly rich tradition in German culture in the 19th and 20th century. By selecting topics representative of a particular period, by including writers who pursued diverse intellectual and professional pursuits, and by providing multiple perspectives on a range of social, ethical, and artistic issues, the course aims to provide a richly textured understanding of a person and his or her time. (Authors include the philosopher Hannah Arendt, the writer Franz Kafka, and the theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, among others.) At the same time, students will gain awareness of the complex dialogic nature of autobiographical writings. The course fosters this insight through careful textual analysis, the discussion of pertinent scholarship on autobiographical genres, and through engaging students in their own creative writing with the goal of helping them to develop a voice of their own in German.
Graduate students will read and present on an additional primary text and write a longer research paper.
GERM-421 Decolonizing the Museum (Katrin Sieg)
Museums emerged from the collections European royalty had amassed during the age of exploration. As dynasties were overthrown and nation-states founded on the principle of mass sovereignty, formerly private cabinets of curiosities became the property of the people and museums assumed the task of educating the citizenry and empowering it for governing itself. Implementing scientific insights and methods, European museums mapped out the world for their visitors, and showed them, by walking and looking, how to understand their place in relation to the past and to places and cultures far away. The museum was key to producing cognitive maps that were nationalist and imperialist, and implicitly supportive of colonial rule. The weakening of colonialism after the first world war, and its collapse after the second, prompted museums to redefine their mission. The project to imagine a postcolonial museum, however, that could actively assist in imagining multi-ethnic national histories, peaceful and egalitarian international relations, indigenous revival and sovereignty, and cultural diversity along with minority rights, is fairly recent. The transformation of museums into institutions supportive of indigenous people and ethnic minorities as authors of their own, long-suppressed stories, was a result of fierce struggles that occurred differently in the former colonies than they did in the former metropolitan centers. But in the last few years, museums in Germany and Austria in particular have begun to respond to demands of repatriating parts of their collections, to serve more demographically diverse constituencies, and perform new civic functions.
GERM-445/GERM-545 Fundamentals of Teaching towards Advanced Literacy in a Foreign Language (Joe Cunningham)
This graduate-level seminar focuses on developing requisite foundational knowledge and critical awareness of various practical approaches to foreign language instruction in the American educational context, particularly at the college level (e.g., communicative, task-based, ecological-semiotic, etc.). Students become informed about (1) cognitive, socio-cultural, linguistic, and affective factors influencing the principles and processes of learning, particularly instructed second language learning; (2) the historical, educational, institutional, and curricular context within which instruction takes place; (3) pedagogical approaches to developing adult learners’ second language ability; and (4) the roles they could and should take on as teachers in order to enhance student learning.
GERM-504 19th Century German Literature (Peter C. Pfeiffer)
The 19th century is often overshadowed by the outsized attention focused on other periods of German-language cultural production. It is framed by German Enlightenment, Classicism, and the early Romantics which dominated the second half of the 18th century, on the one hand, and, on the other, by the creative outpouring after the turn of the century in Vienna/Habsburg and, later, the Weimar Republic when modernists were at their prime.
This graduate-level reading course familiarizes students with major aspects of the fascinating literary production of the nineteenth century. While being cognizant of the overlapping presence of many of the key figures – Goethe published Faust II as late as 1832! – we will concentrate on major literary periods such as late Romanticism, Young Germany, Biedermeier, Realism, Naturalism, and Symbolism. The surprising breadth of literary genres and media – for example, the beginnings of cartoon and graphic narratives – will be showcased as well as the full reach of authors from different areas of the German-speaking world.
The following graduate courses were offered in recent semesters.
GERM-403 Ich und die Welt (Peter C. Pfeiffer)
The course investigates the particular contribution of the German literary tradition to the exploration of the self. In contrast to other European traditions, German literature can be viewed as focusing more pointedly on the experience of the individual rather than on depicting society at large. It is this perspective embedded in Germany’s cultural tradition that will guide the readings in this course which are drawn exclusively from canonical works of modern German literature.
The course provides students with a traditional literary historical perspective to provide students with the opportunity to familiarize themselves with canonical works in the German tradition and with some of Germany’s major underlying cultural traditions. The goal is to hone interpretive skills within a historical and systematic context and to have students develop the necessary written and spoken German to communicate such interpretation and their contexts in a convincing and appropriately complex style.
This is a seminar-style, reading intensive course that will focus its classroom activities on structured discussions of the texts while developing a broader historical/aesthetic framework for such readings. Frequent presentations by students on particular issues — such as comparisons between aspects of two works, introduction of additional works with reference to the ones read in class etc. — will provide additional starting points for student engagement.
GERM-455 Scandalous Tales: The German Novella (Mary Helen Dupree)
In German novellas of the 18th through the 20th centuries, authors have found a space to explore and dramatize what Goethe once termed "unheard-of events" (unerhörte Begebenheiten), from war stories to murder mysteries to Gothic and fantastic narratives. Eschewing the lengthy psychological studies and extended dialogues typical of its close cousin, the German Roman, the German novella delights and confounds its readers with condensed accounts of mysterious and scandalous events. In fact, the word "novella" (German Novelle) is etymologically related to the word for "news" in many Romance languages. So, in a sense, novellas are the original "fake news!" In this course for graduate students and advanced undergraduates, we will analyze and compare novellas by German, Swiss, and Austrian authors from the 18th through the 20th centuries. Our discussions will focus on formal and experimental as well as thematic aspects of the novella: what sets it apart from other prose genres, such as the generally much lengthier novel (Roman), the less specific Erzählung and the more idiosyncratic Märchen? Particular emphasis will be placed on how novellas approach the question of difference, as figured for example in depictions of outsiders, "exotic" settings, women, and the uncanny. We will also discuss how these texts depict disruptions to the social order and their resolution, and how they advance concepts of "world literature" and the cosmopolitan.
GERM-461 Contemporary German Literature (Peter C. Pfeiffer)
This seminar-style course is designed to familiarize students with various aspects of contemporary German literature since 1945, focusing on the relationship between literary form and social/historical context. The focus will be the pleasure of reading some outstanding examples of post-war German-language literature and the interpretive frameworks literature provides for readers. Thus, the course is a first encounter with the literary tradition as it is part of the educated discourse in German-speaking societies today. The topical focus of the course is supported by the development and honing of writing and presentational skills through regular short papers on the readings and presentations on additional books.
GERM-510 Theorizing Culture (Katrin Sieg)
GERM 510 is one of the core courses in the MAGES program. The course is designed to introduce students to the major concepts, thinkers, and debates concerning European cultural identity formation. We will examine the historical emergence of national identity in the context of modern mass-produced print culture; trace the construction of a post-national, multicultural democracy in contradistinction to the colonial, imperialist, fascist, and communist past through a consideration of museums and memorials; and explore the appeal and perils of a cosmopolitan Europe in relation to visual media. Each module comprises theoretical readings and an application of the theories to cultural texts and objects. It is designed to make you more astute interpreters of cultural objects, and encourage you to integrate cultural analysis into your individual areas of concentration. In addition, the course will introduce you to certain genres of academic writing and oral presentation, enabling you to become more skilled at textual analysis, strengthen your abilities to conduct independent and collaborative research, and communicate succinctly and effectively. This version of “Theorizing Culture” will focus primarily on a concrete example of how concepts of division and unity are culturally mediated in post-war Germany, or, to put it the other way around, how the political notions of division and unity are infusing cultural productions. The course will take a multi-disciplinary approach to understanding the complex and often contradictory forces which shaped the post-war Germanies. These issues will be embedded in a broad historical context highlighting the importance of the "question of unity" throughout German history.
GERM-521/321 Systemic Functional Linguistics (Marianna Pankova)
Linguists, language educators and researchers of literature and culture conduct discourse analysis for a variety of purposes: to capture writing and literacy development, to characterize teacher-student classroom interaction, to describe social practices at various institutions, or to reveal aspects of an author’s style. This course introduces students to the socioculturally-oriented analysis of language using Hallidayan systemic functional linguistics (SFL) as an approach that enables discourse analysts to systematically account for the connections between grammar, discourse, and social activity no matter what their research data are: learner written texts, spoken conversations, institutional documents, or literary discourse. The course will cover the fundamental conceptual and methodological tools the SFL approach makes available for such an analysis.
The course will start with the overarching assumptions about the SFL model of language as social semiotic and then explore its specific theoretical constructs, such as genre, register, metafunctions, and the grammatical systems that are used to encode them. Three fundamental questions will underlie our exploration: How is language structured for use? What choices do language users make? How do these choices function in various contexts of use? Throughout the course, participants will be discussing studies that demonstrate how the analytical constructs and tools can be applied to the analysis of language data in various contexts. We will examine studies of oral and written texts in diverse registers and genres, aspects of second language acquisition at various educational and performance levels, second/foreign language pedagogy, curriculum development, teacher education, and assessment. Those interested in literary texts will discover how the approach can shed new light on the study of literature as a phenomenon of languaging in a particular way.
GERM-542 Classical Drama (Mary Helen Dupree)
This graduate seminar will engage in a threefold examination of drama in the long eighteenth century: as a site of theoretical inquiry, as a field of literary praxis and as a mode of theatrical performance. Through analyses of texts from the early Enlightenment to the so-called Classical period, the seminar will address the following questions: Why does drama hold such pride of place in eighteenth-century aesthetics (and in accounts of eighteenth-century literary history)? How do eighteenth-century intellectuals think through the relationship between dramatic form and the social world? How, when, and why do they call upon (or abandon) Aristotelian drama theory? What are the consequences of theoretical and practical interventions such as the banning of the Hanswurst, the establishment of standing theaters, and the publication of Lessing's Hamburgische Dramaturgie? Finally, how do eighteenth-century dramas generate, critique, and transform images of gender and the family?
GERM-543 Cultural Turns (Max Kade guest professor Dr. Doris Bachmann-Medick)
The contemporary emphasis on “culture“ and the “cultural“ in the humanities and social sciences is not the result of an all-encompassing Cultural Turn but rather the result of a chain of various cultural turns. With links to changing socio-political conditions and theoretical shifts, these “turns“ have lead to significant alterations of research foci. By developing interdisciplinary analytical concepts “turns“ have triggered fruitful methodological impulses in a wide variety of disciplines. In literary studies, too, they have resulted in new approaches for the interpretation of literary texts. This course will introduce some of the most relevant turns and will try to put these approaches into an inspiring conversation with literary texts and their re-interpretation in the light of these turns.
GERM-546 Telecollaboration: From Theory to Practice (Joe Cunningham)
Telecollaboration involves Internet-mediated exchange between geographically distant parties of different national/cultural backgrounds for the purposes of language and cultural learning. An additional distinguishing feature of telecollaboration is the opportunity for learners to develop “online literacies” that emphasize cooperation, participation, and reciprocity. The rise of telecollaboration thus marks a shift towards new approaches and contexts for language and intercultural learning, requiring a critical examination of its place in the foreign language curriculum. In this graduate-level seminar, we will investigate the theoretical underpinnings of telecollaboration, considering ways in which telecollaborative praxis is based on and emerges from an understanding of second language acquisition processes. We will examine various models of telecollaboration and how they differentially facilitate languacultural development. At the same time, and in recognition of the challenges common to telecollaboration, we will evaluate strategies for mitigating potential problem areas. The ultimate goal is to prepare course participants to plan and conduct telecollaborative exchanges that are linked to a specific curricular context and that result in measurable learning outcomes.
GERM-565 Aesthetics and Politics: Kleist (Mary Helen Dupree)
In recent years, Heinrich von Kleist's oeuvre has attracted renewed attention among scholars for its philosophically and aesthetically sophisticated engagement with questions of politics, war, terror and revolution. This course will interrogate the links between aesthetics and politics in Kleist’s literary works in the context of the profound cultural, social, and political upheavals of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. We will read novellas, plays, letters and journalistic writings by Kleist in tandem with theoretical, critical, and philosophical texts from the seventeenth century to the present. In addition, we will explore the implications for Kleist’s work of more recent interventions in aesthetic and political theory (W. Kittler, Rancière, Buck-Morss). Following an introductory unit on aesthetics and political theory around 1800, the course will be divided into three units. The first will focus on the relationship between power and aesthetic representation in Kleist’s plays, with special emphasis on theories of the political and legitimation. In the second unit, we will concentrate on the depiction of war, terrorism and social upheaval in Kleist's novellas and plays, with emphasis on Kleist's own political activities. The third unit will explore questions of colonialism and historical change through readings of Kleist's novellas Das Erdbeben in Chili and Die Verlobung in St. Domingo.
GERM-567 Literarische Ökonomik in der deutschen Literatur 1800-1900 (Peter C. Pfeiffer)
Traditionally, literature/arts and economics were thought to be separate, even conflicting areas of human thought and social organization. While some sort of representation of economic activities has been a facet of art since the very beginning, coherent and sustained scholarly exploration of the “economy of literature,” to use the famous title of Marc Shell’s groundbreaking 1978 study, ensued only in the latter part of the 20th century. In many ways, only at the end of the century did some of the research really come to fruition as Jochen Hörisch’s Kopf oder Zahl (1996) firmly established the field in Germany, and Martha Woodmansee and Mark Osten published their wide-ranging collection of essays, The New Economic Criticism (1999). Since then, partially inspired by financial crises, economic upheaval, and rapidly changing contexts for and meanings of work, there has been a steady stream of significant contributions by thinkers like Richard T. Gray, Joseph Vogl, Franziska Schößler, Birger P. Priddat, Fritz Breithaupt, and Christine Künzel, to name just a few. As a seminar-style course, “Literarische Ökonomik” combines extensive readings in primary sources with a selection of contemporary theoretical treatise and some seminal research articles. It combines two foci – money as semiotic/semantic system and work as productive practice – the first well-researched in economic criticism, the latter less well attended to.
GERM-573 From Luther to Lessing (G. Ronald Murphy)
The purpose of this course is to explore, read, and enjoy the new relationship between religion and literature which arose in German letters in the period between the Middle Ages and the Enlightenment—the baroque time of the Reformation, Humanism, Counter-Reformation, and the Thirty Years War. We will examine the mythopoetic mirror which the poets held up to give dynamic image to the persistent tension between Catholic and Protestant, Glaube and Frau Welt, heaven and earth, picture and text, seriousness and comedy, that produced the perhaps unexpected but nonetheless touching and brave image of the human being of the age—the fool, and its modern echo: Brecht’s Mutter Courage und ihre Kinder.
GERM-580 Autobiographical Fiction (Friederike Eigler)
This reading-intensive graduate seminar explores a pervasive trend in contemporary literature: the blurring of the distinction between fictional and autobiographical texts. Following a brief introduction to the history of autobiography in German literature (Goethe, Jean Paul), the course covers works by important contemporary authors and explores how, in the narration of individual life stories, these authors rely on the rhetorical tools of fiction.
The course considers the social and political contexts of the literature presented in class, especially as they pertain to the way the authors represent aspects of 20th century German history when writing (their?) life stories. Students will also be introduced to contemporary literary criticism and theory pertinent to the discussion of autobiographical fiction. Issues that we will address include: authorship & the subject, gender & genre, history & memory, language & representation.
GERM-585 Private Lives, Public Virtues (Mary Helen Dupree)
Scholars have long focused on the ‘long eighteenth century’ in Europe as a time of radical social transformation and reconfiguration of both public and private life. The notion of the public sphere articulated in Kant’s Was ist Aufklärung? helped to facilitate a new understanding of Öffentlichkeit that was distinct from older models of representative public space associated with aristocracy and the court. As Reinhart Koselleck has argued in his groundbreaking Kritik und Krise, in the eighteenth century, seemingly ‘private’ institutions such as the coffeehouse, the Masonic lodge, and the salon became the basis of bourgeois public life and the forerunners of middle-class public institutions. Meanwhile, in popular literary works of the era, ideals of domestic life and private virtue from England and France quickly gained currency and helped to define the self-image of the culturally and socially ambitious German Bürgertum. The Europe-wide cult of sensibility and the homegrown religious strains of Pietism also colluded to produce new ways of conceiving of the individual’s place in the family and society. Through an examination of literary and philosophical texts together with historiography, works of critical theory, and cultural documents, this course seeks to frame and implement new ways of thinking about the public/private distinction and the relationship between cultural norms and individual experience in the eighteenth century and beyond.
GERM-590 The German Novel in the Long 18th Century (Mary Helen Dupree)
In eighteenth-century Germany, the novel emerged as a key site of both generic innovation and the negotiation of cultural and social norms. As literacy rates rose and the publishing industry flourished, the disenfranchised middle classes sought out literature, and the novel in particular, as a means of asserting their cultural and social identity. The international success of epistolary novels of virtue rewarded, such as Richardson's Pamela and Rousseau's La nouvelle Heloïse, inspired numerous translations and imitators in the German-speaking world. The ready availability of novels, many of them with romantic story lines, to young female readers in particular led to fears about "Lesewut" and the capacity of literature to corrupt young minds. Female authors such as Sophie von la Roche attempted to counteract this trend by using the novel as a means of educating young women about the dangers of seduction. Meanwhile, authors such as Karl Philipp Moritz used the novel as an experimental space in which to test out ideas about psychology and human development. The psychological and experimental potential of the novel was explored more fully by Goethe; in Wilhelm Meistes Lehrjahre, Goethe established a blueprint for the Bildungsroman, and in Die Wahlverwandtschaften, he reinvented the novel as an experimental space in which different characters combine, separate, and reconnect like atoms in a molecule. Finally, Romantic authors such as Novalis and E.T.A. Hoffmann offered counter-models to the Bildungsroman while performing brilliant and wildly inventive interventions in narrative stucture.
Following a brief theoretical introduction, we will engage in close readings of several important novels of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Individual class discussions will focus on relevant issues such as authorship; narrative structure and theory; translation and international cultural transfer; issues of class, gender, religion, and sexuality; intertextuality; print culture; visuality and aesthetics; and connections to other genres such as the drama and the essay.
GERM-602 Cultural Theory and German Popular Culture (Katrin Sieg)
Over the last forty years, the study of culture in the humanities, including literature and language departments, has embraced an expanded notion of culture that opened up the canon to include a much larger range of popular and mass-produced texts, objects, and practices. Interpreting them requires substantial methodological retooling compared to a Germanistik focused almost exclusively on literary analysis. Cultural studies responds to the simple fact that in modernity, technologies of mass production (from the printing press, the camera, and radio) assume a key role in nation-building by organizing the consent required to govern democratic polities. Theorists of mass culture have debated whether the rise of mass cultural industries threatened or fostered the production of an enlightened, mündige citizenry capable of democratic self-governing. The field has approached that question from the sides of both production and consumption: On the one hand, technological changes, specifically the evolution from one-way forms of communication (cinema, radio, television) to today’s highly interactive media, have been interpreted as evidence of increasing democratization. On the other, changing views of cultural reception have shifted from passive (“consuming”) to active (“using”) modes of decoding (or even recoding) cultural texts and products. If early theorists regarded the consumer as mere dupe of capitalist culture industries who is taught to unquestioningly accept her lot, later scholars attended more closely to strategies of resistant reading, and to users’ “subversions” and “transgressions” of normative practices.
The course is divided in three units: (1) Frankfurt School to Cultural Studies: theories of mass culture and new media; (2) Reconsidering the User: the Ethnographic Turn; (3) Culture, Capitalism and State Institutions. The units follow a roughly chronological sequence that reflects changes in the modes of cultural production and consumption. If the early and mid-century Fordist organization of culture industries as economies of scale meant catering to (and constructing) homogenous masses of consumer-citizens, what of those groups not addressed by mass cultural products—e.g., women, queer people, racial minorities? What could be learned from their interaction with mass culture, about the construction of identity, agency, and resistance within capitalist democracies?
GERM-652 German Realist Novel (Peter C. Pfeiffer)
In this course, we will study major novels of the second part of the nineteenth century and the early twentieth century. This was a time when rapid changes in the social and economic make-up of the German lands, sciences, technology, administrative practices, and ideological outlook (nationalism; historicism) forced people to cope in new ways with their changing environments. These challenges are woven into the texts of the realist novels of the time, among them some of the most famous in German literature. We will read and analyze these novels (some of them in excerpted form) as aesthetic responses to and against the backdrop of contemporary theoretical discussions and developments, fostering an understanding of some of the major intellectual debates of the time and how the novels participated in those debates.
GERM-654 Narrating Space (Friederike Eigler)
Discussions of space and spatiality are no longer confined to cultural geography and urban studies but have entered a range of other disciplines, including cultural and literary studies in recent years. This graduate seminar asks what is behind this fascination with space, how scholars conceptualize the relationship of space to time/memory/ history, and power relations, and how recent discourses on space pertain to the analysis of literature.
Students will engage with two distinct areas of scholarship: first, narrative theories that examine the representation of space in (literary) texts; and second, recent discourses on space in cultural studies and the social sciences (often termed “Spatial Turn”). The seminar also considers the potential of literature (and film) to contribute to -- rather than just benefit from -- these ongoing debates on space. To this end, selected literary texts and films (by Eichendorff, Büchner, Kafka, Kracauer, Döblin, Wenders, Erpenbeck, among others) will be discussed in class.
Throughout the course, students will be introduced to pertinent scholarly discourses and academic genres, all of which are building blocks for the concluding project. The course will encourage students to draw connections between discourses on space in a range of disciplines and their main object of study (literary and cultural texts). In the last part of the semester, students will work on an independent research project and present preliminary results to the class.
GERM-655 Fluchtgeschichten (Friederike Eigler)
Unlike the relative dearth of scholarship (and contrary to the myth of a “taboo”), post/memories of flight and expulsion have been the subject of literary representations ever since the early post-war period. The genre of the novel lends itself for multi-voiced approaches to these historical events and their effects on individuals. This graduate seminar will examine how literature presents us with changing counter-discourses to politicized and divisive public discourses on flight and expulsion. While a few examples of post-war literature will be covered, the main emphasis will be on novels that appeared in the past 20 years. Some of these recent texts begin to address the legacies of flight and expulsion in transnational European contexts.
GERM-660 Performing Race (Katrin Sieg)
Germans have thought of themselves as a post-racial society even longer than Americans, and even today are often not comfortable speaking about race and racism. Yet the presence of an Afro German minority culture that is becoming increasingly established and visible, and the prominence of Afro German artists in German and European pop culture, especially in music and television, make it important to reflect on the history of race in Germany and Europe. How has race been mapped onto human bodies, and how did notions of race change from the times of “scientific racism,” which climaxed in colonial atrocities and genocide, to the postwar, post-racial present? How have the activities of black Europeans—activists and artists—affected how we think about race in our multicultural, hypermediated culture, in which we think of identity as virtual and performative? How have American and German/European discourses of race touched and influenced each other during the Jazz Age, the Civil Rights Movement, and our contemporary moment?
GERM-720 Writing for Publication (Katrin Sieg)
This course is a writing intensive, works-in-progress seminar for graduate students interested in preparing an article for publication. It will explore the everyday challenges of writing and introduce students to the professional practices and protocols of journal publication. During the term, you will read and comment on the work of your peers, learn how to interpret and generate feedback in the form of ‘reader’s reports,’ revise and present your own essay, and explore potential publication venues. The final act of the course will entail submitting your essay for publication in the journal of your choice.
In addition, the course will offer a unique opportunity to explore the relationship between disciplinary and interdisciplinary scholarship, to expand your understanding of key debates in fields not your own, and to consider current transformations in the practices of knowledge production in higher education more widely. We will therefore be interested in how objects of study are constituted by specific methodological practices and reading protocols, including those organized by frameworks as (cultural) theory, literature, visual culture, language pedagogy, and linguistics. Each constitutes its textual object in very distinct ways.
The course is designed for graduate students who want to focus on the process of producing a ‘stand alone,’ article-length publication, [or for the conversion of a dissertation chapter for journal publication].
GERM-727 Representations of Work (Peter C. Pfeiffer)
“Work” is one of the defining aspects of modern life, at the same time highly regarded and despised as either the most important way for humans to be in and interact with the world or to be alienated from their true selves. Given the centrality of work for the modern self, the relative lack of representations in literature seems surprising. In part, this can be explained by the strong tradition of idealist aesthetics (Kant, Schiller) where Spiel is contrasted with a negatively connoted notion of labor/work. The course will give an overview of the uses and abuses of work and how it is variously conceptualized in theories and literature. The focus will be on the aesthetics of representations in the German tradition from around 1800 to the 21st century. Literary readings will be embedded in broader discussions of economic and political discourses. Theoretical anchors will be relevant excerpts from Friedrich Schiller’s Über die ästhetische Erziehung des Menschen, Karl Marx’ Das Kapital, Max Weber’s Die protestantische Ethik und der 'Geist' des Kapitalismus, and Hannah Arendt’s Vita activa oder Vom tätigen Leben.
GERM-730 GDR Culture (Katrin Sieg)
GDR literary/cultural histories that dismissed the accomplishments of East German artists and declared them aesthetically and ideologically “immature”; academic discourses thus echoed the denigration of socialist society in the economic and political realms. In very recent years, however, new approaches have tended to stress not the Otherness (and “behindness”) of GDR culture, but have emphasized instead commonalities between socialist people’s republics and the democratic cultures that flourished in western nation-states, both of which appear to (have) become similarly obsolete. Such an approach opens a new perspective on GDR culture and the way in which it conceptualized individual agency and collective sovereignty. The theoretical tension between the two approaches I have sketched here is the starting point for our exploration of GDR culture and its afterlife. We will sort through some of the GDR cultural texts and debates in order to assess whether they can productively contribute to a more complex understanding of modernity—but also to see where “things went wrong.”