German

As the official language of the Federal Republic of Germany, Austria, Liechtenstein, and portions of several other European countries—and with linguistic enclaves in the Americas and Africa—German is today the native tongue of close to 120 million people. For advanced-degree programs in fields such as art history, music history, philosophy, and European history, German is still a required language. And whether the motivation for study is business, culture, travel, friendship, or heritage, a knowledge of German can add inestimable depth to a student’s landscape of thought and feeling.

Students should ideally plan to study German for at least two years. First- and second-year German courses aim to teach students how to communicate in German and acquire grammatical competency through exercises that demand accuracy and also encourage free expression. While conference work in Beginning German consists of intensive grammar work with the German assistant (both group and individual conferences), intermediate-level students work on their cultural competency by reading German literature (fairy tales, novellas, poems) and working on class, group, or individual research projects (e.g., writing a short story or screenplay in German, exploring German cities online, reading newspaper articles on current events). Advanced German is a cultural-studies seminar. Students solidify their cultural competency by studying German history and culture from the late 18th century to the present. A special emphasis is placed on 20th-century German history and culture, including contemporary German literature and film.

Many students of German spend a semester or year studying in Germany. Students have the opportunity to take a five-week summer seminar in Berlin (six credits), where they will take a German cultural-studies seminar with an emphasis on the history and culture of Berlin and a class in art/architecture, dance, or the German language (taught at Neue Schule in Berlin).

German 2021-2022 Courses

Advanced German: The Literature of Exile

Advanced, Small Lecture—Spring | 5 credits

Human history has always been characterized by the forced or voluntary migration of individuals or groups of people. In this lecture, we will analyze the dialectical relationship between the concepts of “home” and “exile” in a series of works, ranging from the Bible and medieval poems to German literary texts of the 20th century, a century whose upheavals led to different waves of voluntary or forced migration. Essays by Edward Said will provide us with some critical vocabulary to speak and write about the interconnectedness of notions of home, flight, diaspora, migrants, and refugees, while the primary works will invite us to analyze these themes in various fictional and autobiographical forms. Our historical range will help us uncover the voices of those who were displaced from their communities but also the modes through which many authors transformed the punitive experience of exile into more empowering perspectives and positions of distance. We will begin with selected stories from the Old Testament (Pentateuch) and Old English exile poems, while later readings will include works by Ovid, Dante, Goethe, and Herman Hesse. We will conclude with Anna Segher’s novel about the dilemma of refugees being stuck in Marseille in 1942 and a story of four emigrants by the preeminent writer Sebald. Students will attend weekly group conferences that will be conducted in German. We will review some essential German grammar and read shorter texts that also address questions of home, exile, and emigration.

Faculty

Beginning German

Open, Seminar—Year | 10 credits

This course concentrates on the study of grammar, vocabulary, and pronunciation in order to secure the basic tools of the German language. In addition to offering an introduction to German grammar and vocabulary, classroom activities and the production of short compositions promote oral and written communication. This class will meet three times (90 minutes each session) per week. Ms. Mizelle will also meet with students individually or in small groups for an extra conference. Course materials include the textbook, Neue Horizonte, along with a workbook and a graded German reader that will allow students to start reading in German after the first week. We will hopefully cover 12 chapters from the textbook—all of the basic grammar and vocabulary that students will need to know in order to advance to the next level. There will be short written tests at the end of each chapter. Students will also be introduced to contemporary German culture through authentic materials from newspapers, television, radio, or the Internet.

Faculty

Intermediate German

Intermediate, Seminar—Spring | 5 credits

This course places strong emphasis on expanding vocabulary and thoroughly reviewing grammar, as well as on developing oral and written expression. The aim of the course is to give students more fluency and to prepare them for a possible junior year in Germany. Readings will consist of short stories from several different 20th-century authors and of fairy tales by the Grimm brothers. All materials are linguistically accessible and promote an understanding of the culture’s fundamental values and way of looking at the world. A solid grammar review, based on the book German Grammar in Review, will help students improve their speaking and writing skills during both semesters. Regular individual conferences with Ms. Mizelle will supplement class work, help improve fluency and pronunciation, and emphasize conversational conventions for expressing opinions and leading discussions.

Faculty

Being Totalitarian: Making Hitler’s Germany, Mussolini’s Italy, and Stalin’s Soviet Union

Open, Seminar—Fall

The Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, in power from 1922 until 1945, famously declared that he wanted to create “the fascist man.” Adolf Hitler in Germany and Josef Stalin in the Soviet Union had similar aspirations to reshape not only the political structure of their states but also to alter the very being of their citizens. In different ways and to different degrees, class, age, race, and gender—Mussolini did not accidentally speak of the “fascist man”—were crucial to this new kind of being. In this course, we will look into the ideologies and practices that formed the basis of “being totalitarian,” as well as the resistance to them. Bigger and smaller acts of resistance to those regimes’ claims on their citizens meant that their totalitarian aspirations were never quite achieved. In light of the increased frequency with which the terms “fascist” and “totalitarian” are being used in today’s political debates, the course—in its comparative approach and focus on the construction and practice of totalitarianism—will offer students tools to approach these terms in all of their complexity. The course will provide new perspectives on both the past and the present. Together, we will read political programs and speeches, diaries, letters, and memoirs. We will look at school books and propaganda posters and watch movies. We will also engage with the long historiography on these three regimes. Scholarly debates on the nature of fascism and totalitarianism have their own history and politics, which have shaped our use of the two terms as much as the history of the three states themselves. Being Totalitarian will thus be a simultaneous study of both history and historiography.

Faculty

Nazis on Screen: The Third Reich in Film, From The Great Dictator to Inglorious Basterds

Open, Seminar—Spring

Movies shape the way we see the world. They also shape the way we think about history. Holocaust, the miniseries of 1978, did more to sensitize the American public, as well as the German public, toward the mass murder of European Jews—and also popularized the term—than most books written about The Holocaust until then. Fifteen years later, Schindler’s List once more confronted audiences with the very personal histories of Jewish victims during The Holocaust while, at the same time, introducing the figure of the “good German.” While films about the Third Reich and The Holocaust continue to be reliable box-office hits, both as blockbusters and as art-house movies (Alone in Berlin, Operation Valkyrie, The Fall, and Inglorious Basterds are just a few examples from the 2000s), attempts to visualize the Third Reich from outside began during its existence. This course seeks to investigate the changing representations of the Third Reich. The films literally put changing views about its history on the screen and shaped the public’s idea about the Third Reich. Over the course of the semester, we will analyze the range of genres and approaches to the topic in their historical and national context. Most of the movies will be from the United States and Germany, with forays into Eastern European and Israeli representations of the Third Reich. This is not a film-studies course but, rather, one that explores the legacy and memory of the Third Reich through film. The movie screenings will be accompanied by weekly readings. By the end of the semester, students will have familiarized themselves with the different and historically contingent ways in which the Third Reich was and is viewed. Students will be introduced to the use of films as historical sources, the influence of movies on public history, as well as the legacy of the Third Reich in postwar politics.

Faculty

Theatre and the City

Open, Large Lecture—Year

Athens, London, Paris, Berlin, New York...the history of Western theatre has always been associated with cities, their politics, their customs, their geography, their audiences. This course will track the story of theatre as it originates in the Athens of the fifth-century BCE and evolves into its different expressions and practices in cities of later periods, all of them seen as "capitals" of civilization. Does theatre civilize, or is it merely a reflection of any given civilization whose cultural assumptions inform its values and shape its styles? Given that ancient Greek democracy gave birth to tragedy and comedy in civic praise of the god Dionysos—from a special coupling of the worldly and the sacred—what happens when these genres recrudesce in the unsavory precincts of Elizabethan London, the polished court of Louis XIV, the beer halls of Weimar Berlin, and the neon “palaces” of Broadway? Sometimes the genres themselves are challenged by experiments in new forms or by performances deliberately situated in unaccustomed places. By tinkering with what audiences have come to expect or where they have come to assemble, do playwrights like Euripides, Brecht, and Sarah Kane destabilize civilized norms? Grounding our work in Greek theatre, we will address such questions in a series of chronological investigations of the theatre produced in each city: Athens and London in the first semester; Paris, Berlin, and New York in the second.

Faculty

The Literature of Exile

Open, Small Lecture—Spring

Human history has always been characterized by the forced or voluntary migration of individuals or groups of people. In this lecture, we will analyze the dialectical relationship between the concepts of “home” and “exile” in a series of works ranging from the Bible and medieval poems to German literary texts of the 20th century, a century whose upheavals led to different waves of voluntary or forced migration. Essays by Edward Said will provide us with some critical vocabulary to speak and write about the interconnectedness of notions of home, flight, diaspora, migrants, and refugees, while the primary works will invite us to analyze these themes in various fictional and autobiographical forms. Our historical range will help us uncover the voices of those who were displaced from their communities but also the modes through which many authors transformed the punitive experience of exile into more empowering perspectives and positions of distance. We will begin with selected stories from the Old Testament (Pentateuch) and Old English exile poems, while later readings will include works by Ovid, Dante, Goethe, and Herman Hesse. We will conclude with Anna Segher’s novel about the dilemma of refugees being stuck in Marseille in 1942 and a story of four emigrants by the preeminent writer Sebald.

Faculty

Words and Music

Open, Small Lecture—Fall

In this course, we will examine and try to understand the magic that happens when words and music combine in song. Song will be defined broadly. Most of our repertoire will be drawn from Western music history, and the range of compositions will be extraordinary: from the chants of Hildegard von Bingen to the often esoteric and intricate motets of the Ars Nova, from the late Renaissance madrigals to early and romantic opera, and from the art songs of Schubert and Debussy to experimental contemporary works. There may also be some in-class performances. Participants will be responsible for regular listening and reading assignments, listening exams, and group presentations. There will be no conferences, but we will have regular individual and group consultations to help prepare presentations and papers.

Faculty

Being and Time

Sophomore and Above, Seminar—Fall

In this seminar, we will study closely one of the most influential books of 20th-century philosophy: Being and Time, by German philosopher Martin Heidegger (1889-1776). Among the founding texts of existentialism and phenomenology, Being and Time (1927) offers an existential analysis of the human condition, including what it means to be in the world, to be with others, and to be toward death, as well as the difference between authentic and inauthentic modes of being. This work revolutionized some of the most deep-seated assumptions in philosophy, psychology, and science, inspiring new movements in psychoanalysis, feminism, linguistics, political theory, literary theory, and other fields.

Faculty