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Courses

The following information is from the 2018-19 Vassar College Catalogue.

German: I. Introductory

101 Sex Before, During, and After the Nazis 1

This course offers an introduction to Germany's unique position in the history of sexuality. As early as the late nineteenth century, Germany and Austria were a hotbed for new thinking sexuality and sexual freedom, including the founding of psychoanalysis and the world's first homosexual emancipation movement. National Socialism, however, forever changed the way that Germans and non-Germans viewed every aspect of Germany's history and culture, including its sexual politics. This course examines some of Germany's most salient debates about sex from the late nineteenth century to the Nazi era and beyond, including the sexual revolution of the 1960s and 1970s. Materials include autobiographies, fictional works, plays, films, political tracts, and sexual case studies, as well as secondary texts representing a variety of disciplinary approaches. Eric Trump.

Satisfies college requirement for a First-Year Writing Seminar. Readings and discussions in English.

Not offered in 2018/19.

Two 75-minute periods.

105 Beginning German: The Stories of Childhood 1Semester Offered: Fall

This course offers a yearlong introduction to the study of German language and culture through literature, fairy tales, and films for and about children. Since these materials tend to be linguistically easier, they are ideal for beginning language learning. Moreover, their role in socializing a new generation makes them important sources for understanding a culture's fundamental values and way of looking at the world. Materials range from classic texts, such as fairy tales by the Brothers Grimm, to contemporary stories, films, and television shows. In addition to offering a systematic introduction to German grammar and vocabulary, classroom activities promote practical and active oral and written communication. No prior experience with German required. Karin Maxey and Silke von der Emde.

Yearlong course 105-GERM 106.

106 Beginning German: The Stories of Childhood 1Semester Offered: Spring

This course offers a yearlong introduction to the study of German language and culture through literature, fairy tales, and films for and about children. Since these materials tend to be linguistically easier, they are ideal for beginning language learning. Moreover, their role in socializing a new generation makes them important sources for understanding a culture's fundamental values and way of looking at the world. Materials range from classic texts, such as fairy tales by the Brothers Grimm, to contemporary stories, films, and television shows. In addition to offering a systematic introduction to German grammar and vocabulary, classroom activities promote practical and active oral and written communication. No prior experience with German required.  Lioba Gerhardi and Karin Maxey.  

Yearlong course GERM 105-106.

109 Intensive Beginning German 2Semester Offered: Spring

A single-semester study of the German language, equivalent to GERM 105-GERM 106. Intensive training in the fundamental language skills. Designed for beginning students who wish to accelerate their learning of German. Elliott Schreiber.

Open to all classes; five 75-minute periods, four 30-minute drill sessions, and computer-assisted instruction.

182 Lost in Translation?: Writing the New Self in a Different Language 1Semester Offered: Fall

(Same as CLCS 182) Eva Hoffmann, who emigrated from Poland to Canada at age thirteen, initially experienced the transition from Polish to English as "a dispossession of one's self." For her, adapting to a new language and culture involves a balancing act: "how does one bend toward another culture without falling over, how does one strike an elastic balance between rigidity and self-effacement?" This course seeks to study what it means (and has meant) for a variety of non-native speakers to write in English or another second language: from the politics of using "the language of the colonizers," to personal journeys of self-transformation and loss of identity, to the discovery new aspects of one's personality in another linguistic and cultural context. Readings include stories, essays, speeches and autobiographies in which authors reflect on what it means to write in a new "tongue." The course also explores aspects of second language acquisition, including the privilege of the non-native speaker, as well as academic essays on the relationship between language and personal identity. In addition to studying the stylistic conventions of academic writing in English, assignments give students the opportunity to reflect on their own experiences as non-native speakers writing in English and/or their experience working with communities of non-native speakers of English. Karin Maxey.

 

Open only to first-year students; satisfies the college requirement for a First-Year Writing Seminar. Readings and discussions in English.

Three 75-minute periods.

German: II. Intermediate

210 Intermediate German I: Identity in Contemporary Germany 1Semester Offered: Fall

Low-intermediate language study through short texts and research topics on questions of national identity in contemporary Germany. Strong emphasis is placed on developing vocabulary and reviewing grammar as well as developing oral and written expression. The course uses an online educational environment and may involve an exchange with learners at another college. Elliott Schreiber.

Prerequisite(s): GERM 106, GERM 109 or the equivalent.

211 Intermediate German II: Space in Weimar Germany 1Semester Offered: Spring

Intermediate language study through texts and research topics on questions of space in Weimar Germany at the time of the "Roaring Twenties." Strong emphasis is placed on developing vocabulary and reviewing grammar as well as developing oral and written expression. The course uses an online educational environment and may involve an exchange with learners at another college. Lioba Gerhardi.

Prerequisite(s): GERM 210 or the equivalent.

220 Turning a Phrase: Writing with Style in German 0.5

Achieving eloquent style in German requires more than knowledge of vocabulary and grammatical correctness. In this course students learn how to take their written German to the next level by focusing on stylistic conventions at the level of the sentence, paragraph and essay while developing their own voice in the language.  In addition to studying examples of published writing on a range of contemporary issues, the course combines an individualized review of German grammar with short writing assignments.  The course offers strong preparation for writing assignments at German universities or upper-level German classes at Vassar. Karin Maxey.

Not offered in 2018/19.

One 2-hour period.

221 Compelling Speech: German Conversational Skills 0.5

In this course, students deepen their oral proficiency in the language by studying various forms of spoken German on t.v. series, talk shows and other media and then honing their speaking skills in a variety of different contexts, such as classroom oral reports (Referate), debates, and interviews.  In addition to improving pronunciation, instruction emphasizes conversational conventions for expressing opinions, persuading, and leading discussions. The course offers strong preparation for studying abroad or upper-level courses at Vassar.  Karin Maxey.

Not offered in 2018/19.

One 2-hour period.

230 Contemporary German Culture and Media 1

Advanced intermediate language study through an examination of contemporary German culture and the role played by different media such as newspapers, television, radio, film, and the Internet. Strong emphasis is placed on developing vocabulary, reviewing grammar, as well as oral and written expression. The course may involve an exchange with native speakers of German. Silke von der Emde.

Prerequisite(s): GERM 211 or the equivalent.

Not offered in 2018/19.

235 Introduction to German Cultural Studies 1

(Same as STS 235)

Open to all classes.

Not offered in 2018/19.

Two 75-minute periods.

239 Introduction to German Cultural Studies for Majors 1

Students in this course attend the same seminar meetings as in GERM 235 but do the readings in the original, attend a separate discussion class, and take separate exams. 

Prerequisite(s): GERM 230 or the equivalent or permission of the instructor.

Not offered in 2018/19.

240 A Culture of Play: An Introduction to German Theater 1Semester Offered: Fall

Since the eighteenth century, drama and theater have held a vaunted place within Germany's language literary and cultural production. This course offers an introduction to that tradition through the study of specific authors, texts, and theories. Students have the opportunity to hone their speaking skills through performance activities, such as mounting scenes or an entire production. Strong emphasis is placed on developing vocabulary and reviewing grammar as well as developing written expression. Authors may include Brecht, Büchner, Dürrenmatt, Handke, Hauptmann, Jelinek, Loher, and Weiss. Eric Trump.

Prerequisite(s): GERM 211 or the equivalent.

Two 75-minute periods.

260 Developments in German Literature 1Semester Offered: Spring

Topic for 2018/19b: Expressing the Inexpressible: Lyric Poetry from Goethe to Tawada. Our explorations center around how lyric poetry radically pushes the conventions of language in an attempt to articulate experiences beyond the reach of words, be it the ecstasy of Romantic love, or the catastrophes of the twentieth century. We begin with the period of "Storm and Stress" in the eighteenth century, when the modern notion of "the lyric" was invented by the young Johann Wolfgang Goethe. We then follow the twists and turns of this genre's development up to the present, including its playful subversion in the Dada movement, its reinvention of in the wake of the Holocaust by poets such as Paul Celan, and its contemporary invigoration in the work of experimental, polyglot poets such as Yoko Tawada. Assignments include short analytic essays as well as creative writing and translation. Elliott Schreiber.

Prerequisite(s): GERM 230, GERM 240, or the equivalent.

Two 75-minute periods.

265 German Film in English Translation 1Semester Offered: Spring

(Same as FILM 265) Topic for 2018/19b: Cinema Behind the Wall: Films from East Germany. 30 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, films from the former GDR still offer a broad understanding of life during the Cold War in East Germany and the enduring legacy of this period in world history. The films from the state-owned DEFA studios are rich in themes, structures and styles; in beautifully crafted films, inventive filmmakers tested the limits of censorship and reflected on the political complexities of artistic production in the East Germany. The course explores a diversity of film genres and styles, including Westerns, musicals, and science fiction movies. We consider a variety of issues, such as continuities and breaks with Weimar cinema and the Nazi past; Communist Party politics and the succeses and failures of socialist realist aesthetics; gender and sexuality; consumer culture in a socialist context; the enduring cult power and nostalgia of DEFA films in Germany today; and questions of German "national" cinema after unification. Silke von der Emde.

Readings and discussions are in English, and all films have English subtitles.
Open to all classes.

Readings and discussions are in English, and all films have English subtitles. Open to all classes.

Two 75-minute periods.

269 German Film for Majors 1

Students in this course attend the same seminar meetings as in GERM 265 but do readings in German, attend a separate discussions class, and take separate exams.

 

Prerequisite(s): GERM 230, GERM 239 or the equivalent.

Not offered in 2018/19.

Two 75-minute periods.

270 Aesthetic Forms, Texts, and Genres 1

Not offered in 2018/19.

Two 75-minute periods.

287 Toy Stories: Histories, Narratives, and Theories of Toys and Play 1Semester Offered: Fall

(Same as MEDS 287) This course explores the development of the modern toy industry, beginning with the rise of mass-produced toys in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. We examine the history of a range of iconic toys and games—for instance, Lego blocks, Barbie dolls, and Monopoly—within the wider discursive context that helps give them meaning. This includes not only advertisements, but also literary and cinematic texts ranging from the fairy tale by E.T.A. Hoffmann, Nutcracker and the King of Mice, to the Toy Story series and recent Lego films. We ask how toys and games propagate norms such as those of gender and ethnicity, and how narratives about toys and play promote but also subvert such values. Of special concern is the discovery and development in both literary and psychological texts of the concept of imaginative or make-believe play, and the ways in which toy makers lay claim to promoting this kind of play. In addition to analytic essays, assignments include drafting a concept for a new toy or board game. Elliott Schreiber.

Two 75-minute periods.

290 Field Work 0.5 to 1

297 Readings In German 0.5

Not offered in 2018/19.

298 Independent Work 0.5 to 1Semester Offered: Fall or Spring

Permission required.

German: III. Advanced

300 Senior Thesis 1 to 2Semester Offered: Fall or Spring

The department.

Open only to majors. Permission required.

301 Senior Seminar 1Semester Offered: Fall

Topic for 2018/19a: Total War: Mobilizing the Sexes for Battle. From 1914 to 1918, the Great Powers of Europe fought one of the largest and deadliest wars in history. In addition to deaths in the tens of millions, the war drastically altered the European political landscape, bringing an end to the dynastic empires of Germany, Austro-Hungary, Russia and the Ottomans while unleashing new and more radical social and political forces. This course explores the cultural climate of militarism and peace activism in Germany leading up to the war as well as the cultural responses to total mobilization and defeat. In particular, we investigate the changing representations of heroism, warfare, and citizenship and the impact of war on Germany's gender, sexual, and aesthetic politics. Materials include autobiographies, fictional works, films, letters, military manuals, poetry, political tracts, and sexual case studies as well as secondary texts representing a variety of disciplinary approaches. Jeffrey Schneider. 

Prerequisite(s): GERM 260 or GERM 270, or the equivalent.

One 3-hour period.

302 Senior Thesis 0.5Semester Offered: Fall

The department.

Open only to majors. Permission required.

Yearlong course 302-GERM 303.

303 Senior Thesis 0.5Semester Offered: Spring

The department.

Open only to majors. Permission required.

Yearlong course GERM 302-303.

355 Advanced Seminar 1Semester Offered: Spring

Topic for 2018/19b: Dislocated Lives: Refugees and Displaced Persons after World War II. After 1945, around 10 million displaced persons were living in Europe, including survivors of concentration camps, slave laborers from Eastern Europe, and unaccompanied children. While the list of refugees who had been able to leave Germany included some famous people such as Albert Einstein and Hannah Arendt, most displaced people were unknown individuals, such as Sinto Heinrich Laubinger, whose wallet remains in the archive of the International Tracing Center in Germany. In this course we set out to understand what it meant to come to terms with experiences of displacement and loss and how to speak about this type of suffering. What role did gender play in this difficult situation? How did the allied forces support these people? What insights do their attempts to document and understand their lives as refugees offer contemporary efforts to work with refugees or understand the intersections of memory, trauma and narrative? In addition to analyzing personal accounts, memoirs, films, and novels, students work with original documents from the US Holocaust Memorial Museum and the International Tracing Service in Germany. Silke von der Emde.

 

Prerequisite(s): GERM 260 or GERM 270, or the equivalent.

Two 75-minute periods.

375 Advanced Topics in German Cultural Studies 1

Not offered in 2018/19.

399 Senior Independent Work 0.5 to 1