German

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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 5-week summer seminar in Berlin (6 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).

2019-2020 Courses

German

Beginning German

Open , Seminar—Year

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) 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 cover at least 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—Year

Prerequisite: Beginning German at Sarah Lawrence College or another institution of higher learning or at least four semesters of German in high school.

This course places strong emphasis on expanding vocabulary and thoroughly reviewing grammar, as well as 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 in the fall will consist of fairy tales, short stories, poems, and three novellas by the Austrian writer Stefan Zweig. Students will give several oral presentations—on a fairy tale, a German city, a German artist or intellectual. In the spring semester, we will use Im Spiegel der Literatur, a collection of short stories written by some of the most famous German writers, such as Thomas Mann and Bertolt Brecht. 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 further improve their speaking and writing skills. Regular conferences with Ms. Mizelle will supplement class work, help improve fluency and pronunciation, and emphasize conversational conventions for expressing opinions and leading discussions.

Faculty

Postwar German Literature and Film

Advanced , Seminar—Fall

This seminar is conducted entirely in German. Students must demonstrate advanced language skills during registration in order to be permitted into this class.

In this seminar, we will focus on postwar German literature from 1945 to the present. As we read poems, plays, prose fiction, and essays by writers such as Anonyma, Borchert, Böll, Celan, Dürrenmatt, Max Frisch, Peter Weiss, Bernhard Schlink, and others, we will give special attention to: (1) social and cultural problems in Germany right after the war; (2) how German writers have dealt with National Socialism and the Holocaust; (3) German reunification; and (4) German-Turkish issues. We will also watch films such as Mörder unter uns, one of the earliest movies in Germany after World War II; Deutschland, bleiche Mutter, a film about life in Germany during and after World War II; Das Leben der Anderen, a film about the secret police in East Germany; Gegen die Wand, a movie that explores the lives of German-Turkish citizens in Germany and in Turkey; and Walk on Water, an Israeli-German production about the legacy of the Holocaust for young Israelis and Germans. This course consists of three equally important components: Students will have one seminar with Mr. Dollinger, who will discuss the class materials with students in German; one seminar with Ms. Mizelle, who will work with students collectively on various grammar and vocabulary issues; and one biweekly individual conference with Mr. Dollinger.

Faculty

Advanced German: Exile and Emigration, 1933–1950

Advanced , Seminar—Spring

This seminar is conducted entirely in German. Students must demonstrate advanced language skills during registration in order to be permitted into this class.

In this course, we will explore the lives and works of several prominent German and German-Jewish intellectuals and writers who escaped from Nazi Germany. We will study the existential situation and meaning of “being in exile” and how the topos of “exile” is reflected in the works of those German refugees. We will also look at the networks (or lack thereof) that German and German-Jewish exile writers built with native New Yorkers. Reading excerpts from German exile newspapers, The New York Times, and various other publications will help us undertand the historical context of life in New York City between 1933 and 1950. Several trips to relevant museums and archives in New York City will give students the opportunity to learn the practical work of historical and literary research. This course consists of three equally important components: Students will have one seminar with Mr. Dollinger, who will discuss the class materials with students in German; one seminar with Ms. Mizelle, who will work with students collectively on various grammar and vocabulary issues; and one biweekly individual conference with Mr. Dollinger.

Faculty

The Third Reich: Its History and Its Images

Open , Lecture—Fall

Ever since the defeat of the Third Reich, the term “Nazi” has served as a term to mark political enemies—though in the 1980s the term also acquired a more ironic edge, think of Seinfeld’s “soup Nazi.” The accusation, as well as the ascription of the moniker today, is as much grounded in historical reality as in mythmaking. But today, when real neo-Nazis are marching in the streets—for example, Charlottesville—and the “Death of Democracy” is debated, it has become paramount to understand the actual history of the Third Reich: the policies, culture, and appeal, as much as the deeds and destruction of National Socialism. This lecture begins with the crisis of Weimar democracy and ends with the aftermath of World War II and the attempts to (re)establish a democratic order in Europe. Students will be introduced to the policies of the Third Reich, both from the angle of National Socialists and from that of their victims. This history is a story of exclusion and inclusion; it is also a history of images. From the very beginning, the Third Reich used film to present itself in more or less subtle forms of propaganda. But films also played an important role in defining the Third Reich from the outside. Thus, in addition to the lectures, one weekly film screening will be held at which we will watch movies from the era produced by the Third Reich or its opponents. We will discuss these films in the context of the lectures during our group conferences.

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Postwar: Europe on the Move

Open , Lecture—Spring

When World War II ended, Europe was a continent of displaced peoples. It was a continent on the move: returning POWs, emigrating Displaced Persons, refugees, and arriving occupation soldiers. The postwar period is sometimes dubbed a history of the unwinding of populations, the return or resettlement following the logic of nation states. Yet the assumption that, once that was done and the Cold War started, populations stayed put until 1989 is misleading. Successive attempted revolutions in the East begot more political refugees. Decolonization and industrialization resulted in the immigration and recruitment of non-native European populations, as well as the return of European colonial settlers. In addition, Europeans moved to the cities, turning the continent from one in which almost half the population lived in the countryside in 1950 into a predominantly urbanized one within the span of 30 years. Political crisis abroad, Europeanization, the fall of the Iron Curtain, and globalization led to still more mobility. The so-called migration crisis of 2015 is thus but one of a series of migratory events—and by far not the largest. This lecture introduces students to the history of Europe, both Eastern and Western, since 1945. The movements of peoples and borders will provide students with insight into political, cultural, and social developments of the continent following the defeat of the Third Reich. In order to avoid an undue Euro-centrism and remain critical of the language that we use to talk and think about migration, the lectures will be twinned with a number of group conferences that are conducted jointly with Partibhan Muniandy and his class on Lexicons of (Forced-)migrations.

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History and Memory 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. The miniseries Holocaust of 1978 did more to sensitize not only the American but also the German public toward the mass murder of European Jews—and also popularized the term—than most books written about the Holocaust until then. Schindler’s List, 15 years later, 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 already 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 screen and shape 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 using films as historical sources and to the influence of movies on public history, as well as to the legacy of the Third Reich in postwar politics. Having taken the fall 2019 lecture, The Third Reich, is helpful but not mandatory.

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Democracy and Emotions in Postwar Germany

Sophomore and above , Seminar—Fall

The passion of the people has been treated as both the foundation of democracy and its greatest threat. Groups of people, not least women, were denied the vote because of their supposedly too emotional nature. More recently, in light of decreasing voter turnout and frustration with the political process, politicians, pundits, and the press have made contradicting appeals to the hearts—but also the minds—of citizens across democratic societies. This seminar explores the ambivalent connection of emotions and democracy in the case of post-1945 Germany. While the focus lies on the Federal Republic, the claim of the German Democratic Republic to be a different kind of democracy is taken seriously. Both East and West tried to formulate new rules for political feelings following the rise and defeat of the Third Reich. For both states, the connection of bodies, spaces, and practices in the attempt to establish democratic sentiments will be examined. The course combines a chronological account, with a typology of different feelings and practices. The role of architecture—for example, for the connection between governing and governed—will be discussed, as will be the role of guilt and its different expressions in establishing democratic communities in East and West. By the end of the semester, students will have gained familiarity with the political history of postwar Germany and with the history of emotions.

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First-Year Studies: German Cultural Studies From 1871–Present

Open , FYS—Year

In this course, students will learn about the major cultural and historical developments in Germany since the late 19th century through an in-depth analysis of many masterpieces of modern German literature (novels, stories, plays), philosophy, psychoanalysis, and film. Germany has seen five different political systems since its modern inception as a nation state in 1871: an aristocracy ruled by the German emperor; the Weimar Republic; the Nazi dictatorship; a divided Germany with a socialist government in the East; and the creation of a reunified Germany after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1990. While this is not a history course, students will be required to accompany their analyses of literary, cinematic, and intellectual works with a reading of a history book about modern Germany. In the fall semester, we will cover the period between 1871 and 1945; in the spring semester, the emphasis will be on the period between 1945 and today. Among the writers, intellectuals, and filmmakers whose works we will study in the first semester are Rainer Maria Rilke, Thomas Mann, Hermann Hesse, Franz Kafka, Sigmund Freud, C. G. Jung, Remarque, Bertolt Brecht, Irmgard Keun, Leni Riefenstahl, and Martin Heidegger; in the spring semester, Wolfgang Staudte, Heinrich Böll, Alfred Andersch, Anna Seghers, Wolfgang Borchert, Friedrich Dürrenmatt, Max Frisch, Bernhard Schlink, Judith Hermann, W. G. Sebald, Günther Grass, Helga Sanders-Brahms, and F. Henckel von Donnersmarck. The course will combine one-on-one conference work with group activities and exercises designed to help students make the transition from high school to college life, learn the ins and outs of Sarah Lawrence College, prepare students to succeed academically, and foster a sense of community spirit among our FYS class.

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Comparative Literary Studies and Its Others

Open , Seminar—Fall

As a discipline that defines itself as an inherently interdisciplinary, cross-cultural, and transnational enterprise, comparative literature occupies a distinct place in the humanities. Many locate the origins of “comp lit” in Goethe’s conception of Weltliteratur, according to which the literary imagination transcends national and linguistic borders even as it views every work of literature as historically situated and aesthetically unique. Since its beginnings, comparative literature has foregrounded the dynamic tensions between text and context, rhetoric and structure—comparing different works within and across genre, period, and movement in their original language. By balancing theoretical readings in/about comparative literature with concrete examples of close textual analyses of poems, short stories, and novels, this course will also expose students to the ways in which comparative literature has expanded from its previous classically cosmopolitan and fundamentally Eurocentric perspectives to its current global, cultural configurations. Comparative literature is continually reframing its own assumptions, questioning its critical methodologies, and challenging notions of center and periphery—therefore, subverting traditional definitions of the canon and which writers belong in it. Today, it is impossible to study comparative literature without engaging its relation to translation studies, postcolonial and diaspora studies, and globalization, as well as to the ongoing concerns and various approaches of language-rich literary criticism and theory.

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