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 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).

2018-2019 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. Through grammar exercises in class, dialogues, and short compositions, students will learn the fundamental skills to speak, read, and write in German. This class will meet three times (90 minutes) per week: twice with Mr. Dollinger and once with Ms. Mizelle, who 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 learn basic facts about Germany today.

Faculty

Intermediate German

Intermediate , Small 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 stresses speaking, reading, and writing German and a thorough review of German grammar. 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, on a German city, on 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. A solid grammar review, based on the book German Grammar in Review, will help students improve their speaking and writing skills. Regular conferences with Ms. Mizelle will supplement class work.

Faculty

Advanced German: Postwar German Literature and Film

Advanced , Small 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 the 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: German Intellectuals and Writers in New York, 1933-1950

Advanced , Small 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

Specters of the Subject: Hauntologies of Ghosts, Phantasms, and Imaginings in Contemporary Life

Advanced , Seminar—Year

“The future belongs to the ghosts,” remarked the philosopher Jacques Derrida in 1996. As his interlocutor Bernard Stiegler phrases the main idea behind this statement, “Modern technology, contrary to appearances, increases tenfold the power of ghosts.” With the advent of the Internet, various forms of social media, and the ubiquity of filmic images in our lives, Derrida's observations have proven to be quite prophetic, such that they call for a new field of study—one that requires less an ontology of being and the real and more a “hauntology” (to invoke Derrida's punish term) of the spectral, the virtual, the phantasmic, the imaginary, and the recurrent revenant. In this seminar, we consider ways in which the past and present are haunted by ghosts. Topics to be covered include: specters and hauntings, figures and apparitions, history and memory, trauma and political crisis, fantasy and imagination, digital interfaces, and visual and acoustical images. We will be considering a range of films and video, photography, literary texts, acoustic reverberations, Internet and social media, and everyday discourses and imaginings. Through these inquiries, we will be able to further our understanding of the nature of specters and apparitions in the contemporary world in their many forms and dimensions. Students will be invited to undertake their own hauntologies and thus craft studies of the phenomenal force of specters, hauntings, and the apparitional in particular social or cultural contexts.

Faculty
Related Disciplines

First-Year Studies: (Making) World Literature

Open , FYS—Year

Translation is the lifeblood of literary culture. Translation can also have extraordinary political significance, especially in historical moments when worldviews narrow, borders expand, and difference is treated as a threat. In this seminar, we will read canonical works and celebrated contemporary novels from around the world by writers—including Jorge Luis Borges, Yoko Tawada, Gustave Flaubert, Ananda Devi, Franz Kafka, Samanta Schweblin, Roberto Bolaño, Valeria Luiselli, and many more—reflecting on the literary dimensions of these texts as we also think about questions of translation, circulation, creativity, and consecration. In the process, students will not only learn how to analyze literature, identifying tone or style and building arguments around plot elements or imagery but will also develop frameworks for thinking about which texts make their way into English and how they do so. The course will combine one-on-one conference work with group activities and exercises designed to introduce students to the resources available to them on campus, take advantage of New York City’s cultural offerings, and improve their analytic and expository writing skills with workshops.

Faculty
Related Disciplines

Translation Studies: Poetics, Politics, Theory, and Practice

Sophomore and above , Seminar—Year

Linguistic proficiency in a foreign language is strongly recommended.

Translation is the process by which meanings are conveyed within the same language, as well as across different languages, cultures, forms, genres, and modes. The point of departure for this course is that all interpretive acts are acts of translation, that the very medium that makes translation possible—language itself—is already a translation. Because difference, “otherness,” or foreignness is a property of language, of every language, perhaps some of the most interesting problems that we will address revolve around the notion of “the untranslatable.” What is it that escapes, resists, or gets inevitably lost in translation? And what is gained? Does linguistic equivalence exist? How do we understand the distinction between literal and figurative, formal and vernacular, expression? And what underlies our assumptions about the authenticity of the original text or utterance and its subsequent versions or adaptations? Although translation is certainly poetics, it is also the imperfect—and yet necessary—basis for all cultural exchange. As subjects in a multicultural, multilingual, and intertextual universe, all of us “live in translation”; but we occupy that space differently, depending on the status of our language(s) in changing historical, political, and geographic contexts. How has the history of translation theory and practice been inflected by colonialism and postcolonialism? How are translation and power linked in the global literary marketplace? Our readings will alternate between the work of theorists and critics who have shaped what we call translation studies and literary texts that thematize or enact the process of translation, beginning with Genesis and the Tower of Babel. In addition, a workshop component to this course, involving visiting members of the foreign-language faculty and other practitioners of translation, will engage students directly in the challenges of translating.

Faculty
Related Disciplines

A Kind of Haunting: A Poetry Workshop

Open , Seminar—Spring

In James E. Young’s essay, “Daniel Libeskind’s Jewish Museum in Berlin: The Uncanny Arts of Memorial Architecture,” Young describes Libeskind’s designing of the Jewish Museum in Berlin and how essential to its design was the folding in of fragment, void, interruption, and other iterations of rupture. Of Libeskind’s project, Young writes “His drawings for the museum thus look more like the sketches of the museum’s ruins, a house whose wings have been scrambled and reshaped by the jolt of genocide. It is a devastated site that would now enshrine its broken forms.” In this poetry workshop, we will examine the different ways in which poetry can allow for what cannot be articulated—either because there are simply no words to convey what must be said or because the speaker cannot utter what must be said—and how allowing space for the unspeakable can result in a kind of haunting in a poem. Each class will begin with the discussion of an outside text and then move on to the workshopping of students’ poems. Texts we will be reading and examining include James E. Young’s essay, as well as writings by Jacques Derrida, Mark Fisher, Darian Leader, excerpts from Laura Oldfield Ford’s ‘zines Savage Messiah, excerpts from films, contemporary artwork, and, of course, poetry. Readings from poetry may include work by Cathy Song, Fred Moten, Dionne Brand, Denise Riley, Helene Dunmore, Sean Bonney, Novalis, and the fragments of Hölderlin.

Faculty
Related Disciplines