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German & Scandinavian Studies, Deparment of Languages and Literatures

Courses

Undergraduate Courses
Current Course Schedule

Graduate Courses

The following are some of the courses that have been taught recently by German and Scandinavian Studies Faculty at UMass

German 797T: Transnationalizing German Culture
Prof. Ela Gezen
This seminar will focus on the transnational in German culture. We will engage with literary texts published in the last three decades, and investigate literature as site of cultural exchange and transnational encounter. On the one hand, we will focus on texts that create connections to literary texts outside of the German literary canon through implicit and explicit intertextual references. On the other hand, we will discuss literary texts that cross national borders through the trope of travel, as well as texts that reimagine Germany transnationally within and outside of German literature. Questions we will address throughout this course are: How does literature stage border crossings—geographical, ideological, canonical, and cultural? How do the literary texts restructure debates about the constitution of the canon in a global age, the effects of migration on literature, and literature’s ability to transgress national boundaries? In addition to the primary sources, course materials include theoretical texts on concepts of Orientalism, World Literature, Transnationalism, and Cosmopolitanism. Conducted in English.

German 775: 20th Century Drama
Conducted in English
Prof. Barton Byg

German 597A: Old Norse
Prof. Frank Hugus
This course is a basic introduction to the language of the Vikings and of the Old Norse sagas and Eddas. By the end of the semester, students will have acquired a basic reading knowledge of Old Norse. No prior knowledge of Old Norse or of modern Icelandic is required. Conducted in English.

German 697X: 19th Century German Thought
Prof. Andy Donson
The course is a survey of the great German thinkers of the long nineteenth century (1789-1914).  The readings are selections of original writings by Immanuel Kant, G.W.F. Hegel, Karl Marx, Max Weber, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Sigmund Freud, supplemented with secondary sources chosen for their clarity and aid in reading these mostly difficult texts.  The course does not require any previous knowledge.  The approach to these thinkers is analytic in the tradition of Anglo-American philosophy—that is, students will evaluate the coherence of the arguments.  The central concerns of these thinkers were the Enlightenment and its critique, especially the role and proper place in human affairs of rationality, labor, history, freedom, religion, and economic and political liberalism. Conducted in English.

German 717: The Courtly Epic
Prof. Robert Sullivan
A general introduction to some of the canonical works of medieval German literature, that is those works an educated German-speaker is encouraged, sometimes assumed, to have read and assimilated.  The notion of any canon is highly problematic, a medieval one particularly so.  What we now think of as important and essential to understanding the Middle Ages is usually strongly mediated by the seminal studies produced by German nationalist scholars, beginning in the early 19th century, and of course by contemporary concerns and values.  In short, some of the works we will read are part of a modern canon that does not necessarily reflect medieval judgments and values.  In this class we will read and discuss some of these important works, attempting to see them in their medieval historical and social context, but at the same time continually reflecting on the history of their interpretations and use and abuse in modern German cultural and political discourse. Conducted in English.

German 697 MV: Interrogating Germanness-Minority Voices in Germany, 1960s-Present
Prof. Ela Gezen
This seminar focuses on thematizations of German culture and history by minority writers moving beyond critical paradigms, which emphasize in-betweenness, identity politics, and marginality. A central question concerns how texts by minorities from different backgrounds—as for example Turkish, Japanese, Italian, Jewish, Spanish, and Syrian—not only voice alternative perspectives on Germany’s present, but also develop unique ways of accessing and reconstructing its past. While the main focus is on literature, and music will be considered as well. Course materials will be theorized as staging various cultural, national, ethnic, and political contexts thereby altering the parameters of established discourses, on key issues such as integration, German national identity, memory and remembrance.. Furthermore, we will investigate how minorities construct textual means of accessing, challenging and corroborating German public political discourse. In addition to the primary sources, course materials include theoretical texts on concepts of diaspora, exile, and transnationalism as well as secondary sources on minority writing, music, and the history of labor migration. Conducted in German.

German 579D: Documentary Film
Conducted in German
Prof. Barton Byg

German 697J: Jews and German Culture
Prof. Jonathan Skolnik
An in-depth exploration of German-Jewish writers, thinkers, and filmmakers (including Freud, Heine, Kafka, Lasker-Schueler, Zweig) and the representation of Jews in German-language culture from the Enlightenment to the post-Holocaust present. Topics include assimilation, dissimilation, anti-Semitism, Zionism, exile, Holocaust, and Jews in post-Holocaust Germany and Austria.

German 697K: Debates and Issues in Modern German History
Prof. Andy Donson
This historiography seminar introduces students to the various interpretations of modern Germany’s troubled past, with an emphasis on the controversies and competing historical approaches.  Topics include conformity and dissent in the German Democratic Republic; Vergangenheitsbewältigungen (coming to terms with the Nazi past), the intentionalist vs. the structural-functionalist interpretations of the Nazi state; the place of victims, bystanders, collaborators, and perpetrators in the Holocaust; the crisis of classical modernity during the Weimar Republic; debates over the Sonderweg, or Germany’s alleged peculiar development in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries; the assimilation and identity issues of German Jews; and the comparability of German colonial experiences.  Discussion is in English.  All readings are available in English but students are encouraged to read the original German.  Papers may be written in English or German.  Crosslisted with History 609.

German 584: History of the German Language
Prof. Frank Hugus
The origins and history of the German language, its relation to the Indo-European language family, particularly in relation to English. Prerequisite: German 240 or equivalent. Conducted in English.

German 697F: DEFA/GDR Films
Prof. Barton Byg

German 691B: Exile in L.A.
Prof. Jonathan Skolnik
An interdisciplinary seminar on the aesthetics of antifascist refugees in 1940s Los Angeles, exploring tensions between high modernism, classical tradition, and mass culture. Films by Fritz Lang, Billy Wilder and Edgar G. Ulmer; music by Schoenberg and Eisler; literature by Thomas Mann and Bertolt Brecht,; cultural theory by Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer.

German 601: Middle High German
Prof. Robert Sullivan
The goal of this course is to develop a thorough knowledge of the Middle High German language and to introduce students to medieval literature, culture, and society and some basis concepts and procedures of linguistics.  While an understanding of any language obviously includes familiarity with larger contexts, we will nonetheless always begin with the philological details.  Our method will consist of a careful study of basic MHG phonology and especially grammar based on selected texts.  From our interpretations of these texts we will try to draw some conclusions about the wider context of the Middle Ages.

German 793A: Expressionism and its Cinematic Legacy
Film / Literature / Poetry / Music / Dance / Painting / Architecture
Prof. Barton Byg
German Expressionism is the most influential form of modernism in the arts produced by German culture in the 20th Century. The course will concentrate primarily on films which have become part of the canon of this movement, but will also give substantial attention to other arts: drama, dance, painting and architecture, music, poetry and prose. In addition, we will consider the philosophical and theoretical underpinnings of Expressionism, its relation to historical reality (WWI, leftist movements, Nazism, urbanism and mass culture, etc.), and its legacy after 1945, for example in “Abstract Expressionism,” comic book art, /film noir/ and horror cinema, the “New German Cinema,” and in contemporary phenomena such as the Broadway musical “Spring Awakening,” animation and neo noir. Recommended prior reading: Kracauer, From Caligari to Hitler; Eisner, The Haunted Screen; Pinthus, Menschheitsdämmerung (Dawn of Humanity). Conducted in English.

German 716: Courtly Lyric Poetry
Prof. Robert Sullivan
A general introduction to some of the canonical works of medieval German literature, that is those works an educated German-speaker is encouraged, sometimes assumed, to have read and assimilated.  The notion of any canon is highly problematic, a medieval one particularly so.  What we now think of as important and essential to understanding the Middle Ages is usually strongly mediated by the seminal studies produced by German nationalist scholars, beginning in the early 19th century, and of course by contemporary concerns and values.  In short, some of the works we will read are part of a modern canon that does not necessarily reflect medieval judgments and values.  In this class we will read and discuss some of these important works, attempting to see them in their medieval historical and social context, but at the same time continually reflecting on the history of their interpretations and use and abuse in modern German cultural and political discourse.

German 691F: Graduate Intro. to German Film Studies
Prof. Barton Byg
This course provides an overview of the principal critical and historical issues treated by German film studies as the field has developed since the 1970s. The "canon" of film movements and critical/historical texts will be introduced, as well as challenges to the idea of a "canon" or of a national cinema as a principal focus of study. The field of film studies itself will also be discussed as a phenomenon of cultural history. By studying a variety of film genres, students will gain practice in key methodological approaches (historical, psychoanalytic, feminist, formalist, queer, semiotic, etc.), and will become familiar with the resources and methods available to create their own undergrad film course syllabi. In fall 2009 a number of special events will provide valuable contemporary material for study, such as expected visits to the region by filmmakers Ulrike Ottinger, Harun Farocki, and Andreas Dresen, as well as the Wende Flicks film series and other commemorations of the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Conducted in English. Undergraduates admitted by permission of the instructor.

German 697SV: Schrift und Volk: Literature and the Naton in 19th-Century Germany
Prof. Jonathan Skolnik
This course explores German literature in the age of modern nationalism, investigating intersections of culture and ideology while we read key works by Berthold Auerbach, Theodor Fontane, Georg Foster, Goethe, Heine, Hölderlin, Kleist and others.

German 697K: Modern German History
Prof. Andrew Donson

German 697L: 1968 and Film
Prof. Barton Byg