Graduate Courses

This page contains synopses of Fall 2021 course offerings. For a full schedule and more detailed F21 course information, please visit the list of classes.

We also offer a list of past graduate course offerings.

Fall 2021

GERM 421 – Decolonizing the Museum (Katrin Sieg)
Museums have become prime venues for promoting a newly self-reflective colonial memory culture, and raising questions about the obligations former imperial powers have for the places and people they colonized. The course will survey the transformation of museums into institutions supportive of indigenous people and ethnic minorities as authors of their own, long-suppressed stories. Both in settler colonial nations such as the United States and Canada, and former European colonial powers, museums have begun to respond to demands of repatriating parts of their collections, to serve more demographically diverse constituencies, and perform new civic functions. 

This class will examine the agents of decolonizing the institution, the politics of repatriation, apology, and reparations, and the role of museums for instigating larger processes of economic and social justice and repair.

The course is divided into three parts: the first will introduce students to the role of museums in the colonial era; the second will examine their transformation into engines of diversity; and the third will explore recent exhibitions as case studies for decolonizing museology. Here we pay special attention to the work of artists. Students will investigate representations of violent colonial pasts at museums in the region in their own research projects.

GERM 445/545 – 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 567 – Literarische Ökonomik in der deutschsprachigen 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 708 – Remembering ‘Heimat’ in Contemporary Germany (Friederike Eigler)
The multi-faceted notion of ‘Heimat’ is considered to be central to German social and cultural  history since the early 19th century. Harking back to Herder’s notion of Germanness the term was traditionally linked to a specific geographical place or region and tied to collective identities rooted in a shared language, culture, history, ethnicity and race. The appropriation of ‘Heimat’ for the Blut and Boden ideology during National Socialism has illustrated the highly problematic, exclusionary dimension of the concept. Postwar and contemporary uses of the term vary greatly, ranging from recent conservative and far-right appropriations of ‘Heimat’ to alternative, inclusive reformulations of the concept – or rejections of the concept altogether. The arts, especially literature and film, play a crucial role in these developments.

This graduate course explores how notions of ‘Heimat’ evolved over the course of the second half of the 20th century (in the aftermath of World War II and the Holocaust) and into the new millennium. Special attention will be given to changing representations of ‘Heimat’ in literature, film, and culture in the pre- and post-unification periods (1980s to the present). 

Past Courses

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 430 – Literature and Culture in the Weimar Republic (Peter C. Pfeiffer) (upper/under)
This seminar-style course explores the incredible artistic and intellectual vitality of the Weimar Republic, the time between the end of World War I and the rise of National Socialism in Germany. Many of the works of architecture, art, literature, film, and philosophical thought that were created back then remain a standard for us today. 

We will read literature and essays, view films and consider artistic developments within the context of three interlocking spheres of experiences that characterize the Weimar Republic. First, we will look at the immediate post-war and revolutionary period with its often messianic understanding of future possibilities and pragmatic approaches to building a republic. Then we will look at the experience of socio-economic upheaval and instability caused by both hyper-inflation and mass unemployment. Finally, we will focus on political radicalization and increasingly violent conflicts within the political system.

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 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 longer novels, the German novella delights and confounds its readers with condensed accounts of mysterious and scandalous events. In fact, the word “novella” (in 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. 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. Through an in-depth exploration of a key genre of German literary history, students will learn to recognize formal and stylistic differences in literary texts from different time periods, while expanding specialized vocabulary. Students will be expected to build on existing knowledge of German history and culture and make convincing arguments that relate aspects of literary texts to larger social, historical, and cultural trends.

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.

GERM 510 – Theorizing Culture (Katrin Sieg)
Culture is one of the most complex concepts in the humanities and social sciences, including policy studies. Its uses range from an understanding of culture as an arena of struggle over contested meanings and identities, and culture as a way of life, to culture as art and creative expression. The course tracks the transformation of Europe from an assemblage of warring nations to an integrationist, peace-building project. While the first part of the course will pay special attention to theories that help explain the role of culture for engineering national cohesion, often at the cost of cementing racial and gendered hierarchies, the second part turns to approaches that regard culture as key to democratization, conflict alleviation, and the fostering of inclusion, equity, and diversity in an integrating Europe, while the third examines cultural diplomacy as an aspect of international relations. We will study the cultural policy frameworks and infrastructures that emerged in the mid-20th century, in order to understand what motivates governments and non-governmental organizations to prioritize culture in projects of cooperation, regional integration, and transatlantic alliance. Combining critical theory with policy analysis and case studies allows us to ask what happens when culture becomes operationalized for diplomacy, conflict management, and nation branding, economic development, and urban revitalization. Studying cultural policy within a theoretical framework will enable students to not only design or implement (cultural) policies, but investigate their underpinnings and raise awareness about sometimes unintentional outcomes. The course not only addresses diversity and cultural awareness as policy goals, but also considers the ethics and efficacy of using culture to manage political conflicts, social tensions, and economic inequality.

GERM 521 – 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 540 – Gender and Postcolonial Perspectives in German Literature (Max Kade visiting professor Dr. Andrea Geier)
Methodical pluralism in literary studies includes analytical approaches in gender studies and postcolonial studies that focus on the perception and construction of different forms of otherness and processes of ‘othering.’ New interpretations of gender relations and cultural contacts in canonical texts such as Goethe’s “Iphigenie auf Tauris,” Kleist’s “Die Verlobung in St. Domingo” or Fontane’s “Effi Briest” show in particular how productive both areas are, and also how they work together in an intersectional perspective. In the seminar we will read selected theoretical texts, e.g., from Judith Butler and Edward W. Said, and ask: How can these theories be turned into useful tools for the analysis of aesthetic phenomena? How can we make sense of specific  themes and aesthetic phenomena with the help of these theories?

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 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 574 – Cultural Turns (Mary Helen Dupree)
This course aims to help graduate students become conversant in recent “cultural turns” in the humanities and social sciences, with special emphasis on their impact on German studies in the U.S.  The interdisciplinary analytical concepts developed in each of these “turns” have been fruitful for a wide variety of disciplines. We will explore four of the most significant “turns” since the 1960s: the linguistic and interpretative turns, the performative turn, the postcolonial turn, and the iconic turn. Students will examine these key “turns” in light of their respective historical contexts and theoretical and methodological impacts, focusing on the following questions: What constitutes a cultural “turn?” How can these “turns” be made productive for the interpretation of literary texts as well as performances, films, visual materials, and works in other modes/genres? How can students profit from these “turns” in their own research projects?

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 588 – Computer Assisted Language Learning and Teaching (Joe Cunningham)
As computer-based technologies have taken on an increasingly central role in foreign language instruction, Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL) is no longer a specialty area. Accordingly, this course serves as an introduction to the broader field of CALL and various techno-pedagogical applications that fall under this umbrella. Students will understand the growth of CALL in foreign language (L2) instruction, examine the pedagogical rationale for utilizing CALL, and evaluate various applications for L2 instruction. In addition to critical examination of learning technologies, students will develop their own abilities to utilize and apply technologies relevant to L2 instruction. There will be three major course assignments, and they will be showcased on a jointly-constructed class website. This course is taught in English and cross-listed with LING/SPAN 588.

GERM 589 – Theodor Fontane at 200 (Peter C. Pfeiffer)
This seminar is designed to explore the works of Theodor Fontane, the most famous German writer of the second half of the nineteenth century whose 200th birthday anniversary will be celebrated in 2019. Guiding principles will be the (changing) relationship between social and historical reality and literary realism, and, more specifically, how historical and contemporary reality is represented in Fontane’s novels and other writings.

The premise of the course is that Fontane used different genres to represent the history of the German Reich in different ways. First, he wrote his three histories of the wars that lead to unification in 1870/71 as master narratives of political history. In parallel with that, he wrote the same history as local histories in his extensive Wanderungen (1862-1889). Thirdly, he wrote the history of German unification in a series of novels, starting with Vor dem Sturm (1878) which is set just before the beginning of the Napoleonic Wars. In addition, the particular aestheic challenges of long novels (Der Stechlin), and of cinematographic and literary adaptations are the main themes of the course. Readings will be diverse and include novels, novellas, ballades, travel writings, and literary criticism.

GERM 612 – Coordinates of Modernism (Verena Kick)
Modernism can be defined temporally, spanning as little as a few decades or up to 100 years, and spatially, as an international phenomenon. Most of all, however, modernism can be understood as a search for adequate forms that support the interpretative task that an intense period of unprecedented experiences and radical changes imposed on art. The response of literature and visual arts to such experiences was not a mimetic one anymore. Rather, the task of art was to make this new and changing world accessible and understandable by creating literary and visual forms that were able to grasp the new experiences caused by increased industrialization, urbanization and new technologies: new forms of poetry (Trakl, Benn), a new form of the novel (Rilke, Kafka, Döblin), or new forms in filmmaking (Ruttmann, Lang, Pabst). 

This graduate course focuses on literature and films in German modernism of the early 20th century. After an introduction to modernism and its relationship to the classical avant-garde, including covering the various “isms” at the beginning of the 20th century, we will follow a loose chronological order from 1900 to the 1930s, when we explore modernism via various themes including Sprachkrise, Kunstkrise, Identitätskrise, Bilder des Krieges, Metropolis und Montage, Technologie und Sexualität, und Die Neue Frau.

At the end of the course, we will reflect on the coordinates of modernism by discussing its international traces and by looking both at its starting point in the late-19th century and examining its afterlife in post-war Germany.

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 720 – Writing Toward Publication (Friederike Eigler and Marianna Pankova)
This course is a writing intensive, works-in-progress seminar for graduate students seeking to prepare 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 semester, participants will analyze the genres of an academic research article and article abstract and their most salient features, explore potential publication venues, read and comment on the work of their peers, learn how to interpret and generate feedback in the form of ‘reader’s reports,’ and revise and present their own essay. The final task of the course entails submitting your essay for publication in the journal of your choice (graduate student journal or a regular professional journal).

By offering the course to PhD students from several programs and areas of specialization, the course provides a unique opportunity to explore the relationship between disciplinary and interdisciplinary scholarship, to expand your understanding of key debates in a range of fields, and to consider current transformations in the practices of knowledge production in higher education more widely. This dimension of the course will be further enhanced by the instructors’ disciplinary expertise in Applied Linguistics (Ryshina-Pankova) and Literary Studies (Eigler). By engaging with a range of research projects, students will explore how objects of study are constituted by specific methodological practices and reading protocols, including those organized by frameworks of (cultural) theory, literature, visual culture, discourse analysis, language pedagogy, and applied linguistics.

The course is designed for graduate students who already have a substantive research paper (of 12-20 pages in length) and who want to focus on the process of producing a ‘stand alone,’ article-length publication based on the existing paper. 

GERM 730 – GDR Culture and Cinema (Katrin Sieg)
Thirty years after its official dissolution, the history and culture of the German Democratic Republic continues to be a topic of lively scholarly interest, and in the last few years, a number of new studies have tackled the as-yet unappreciated Otherness of GDR culture without falling back into cold war paradigms of evaluation (we’re modern, they’re behind). In particular, GDR cinema has continued to attract attention.

In this course, we shall take inspiration from this new generation of scholars, and attempt a fresh look at some of the works that have become canonical for grasping what living and dreaming in the German socialist state was like, and some that expose us to the strangeness of its culture.  We will concentrate on the study of one cultural institution, the cinema, with brief forays into theater, literature, and music. While we will begin by tracing changing and antagonistic scholarly positions on GDR culture, we will seek to arrive at our own interpretations through close readings of selected cinematic texts and the analytical literature about them. These readings are organized around two themes: (1) Artists in the antifascist state; GDR culture features a particularly rich set of debates about the role of artists and intellectuals, and about the issues of power, resistance, and complicity—they make an important contribution to any discussion of the ethics of social elites. (2) Social stagnation and the power of utopia: the new woman.  From the sixties onward, women assumed an important symbolic and social function in embodying the New Socialist Person at a time when progress appeared to have come to a standstill; conversely, the oppression of women became a privileged site for working through political injustices.

Course goals:

  • Develop critical vocabulary, interpretive skills for reading cinematic texts
  • Gain overview of key critical terms, issues, and debates within and about GDR culture and politics
  • Diagnose and evaluate historic shifts in the study of GDR culture in the GDR, Germany, and the United States.