Go to navigation (press enter key)

Courses

The following information is from the 2017-18 Vassar College Catalogue.

German: I. Introductory

101a. 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 Freshman Writing Seminar. Readings and discussions in English.

Two 75-minute periods.

105a. Beginning German: The Stories of Childhood 1

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.

106b. Beginning German: The Stories of Childhood 1

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 GERM 105-106.

109b. Intensive Beginning German 2

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 1

(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 freshmen; satisfies the college requirement for a Freshman Writing Seminar. Readings and discussions in English.

Three 75-minute periods.

German: II. Intermediate

210a. Intermediate German I: Identity in Contemporary Germany 1

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. Lioba Gerhardi.

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

211b. Intermediate German II: Space in Weimar Germany 1

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. Silke von der Emde.

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.

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.

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.

235a. Introduction to German Cultural Studies 1

(Same as STS 235) Topic for 2017/18: Literary Science: Exploring the Fusion of Literature and the Natural Sciences. Departing from C.P. Snow's famous thesis that the sciences and the arts comprise two distinct cultures, this course investigates the border crossings between these domains, with an emphasis on literature and the natural sciences practiced in German-speaking Europe from the Enlightenment to the present.  We consider how and why scientists such as Georg Christoph Lichtenberg, Alexander von Humboldt, and Sigmund Freud cultivate a literary style in their evocations of nature or human psychology.  We also study how and why authors such as Johann Wolfgang von Goethe appropriate in their literary work principles derived from the natural sciences, and how and why authors such as Bertolt Brecht, Janna Levin, or Daniel Kehlmann (author of the best-selling novel Measuring the World) depict the lives of scientists and mathematicians such as Galileo, Humboldt, or Kurt Gödel.  In addition, we discuss the extent to which scientific methodology can be applied to literature.  Our overarching questions are: What have the modern arts and sciences learned from one another, and what can we in turn learn by studying literature and science in relation to one another? Other authors, scientists, artists, and mathematicians we may consider include Carl Friedrich Gauss, Georg Büchner, Frederic Edwin Church, Kurd Lasswitz, Werner Heisenberg, Robert Musil, Michael Frayn, and Rebecca Goldstein. Elliott Schreiber.

Open to all classes.

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 2017/18.

240a. A Culture of Play: An Introduction to German Theater 1

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. Lioba Gerhardi.

Prerequisite(s): GERM 211 or the equivalent.

Not offered in 2017/18.

Two 75-minute periods.

260 Developments in German Literature 1

Topic for 2017/18b: The Novella. From an inexplicable pregnancy to serial murders, from madness to amusing obsessions, the German novella covers various facets of human life condensed into "a strange, shocking incident," as Goethe puts it.  This course deals with some of Germany's most famous authors and their terse and dynamic narratives, often culminating in a surprising finale.  The taut and compact form of the novella has generated some of the finest examples of German writing and enjoys popularity to this day. Students refine their ability to read challenging texts and practice oral and writing skills by discussing and analyzing selected masterpieces of the genre.  This course also involves a creative writing component.  Authors include Kleist, E.T.A. Hoffmann, Droste-Hülshoff, Schnitzler, Mann, and Kafka. Lioba Gerhardi.

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

Two 75-minute periods.

265b. German Film in English Translation 1

(Same as FILM 265) This course offers an overview of selected historical and formal developments in German films from the silent period to the present.

Topic for 2017/18b: German War Film: Propaganda, Pacifism, and Processing the Past. War and its impact on the human condition has been a prominent topos of German film from the early years of movie production to this day. While the Nazis used war movies for propaganda purposes (Kolberg, 1945), Germany also produced powerful anti-war films both before and after World War II (Westfront 1918, 1930; The Bridge, 1959). In recent decades, German war film has offered entertainment and suspense (The Boat, 1981) as well as ways to process the country's painful past (Downfall, 2004; Generation War, 2013). This course examines war films in their historical, cultural, technical and aesthetic contexts. All films have English subtitles and classroom discussion is conducted in English. Directors include Pabst, Riefenstahl, Harlan, Petersen, Eichinger. Lioba Gerhardi.

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

Two 75-minute periods and two film screenings.

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 2017/18.

Two 75-minute periods.

270 Aesthetic Forms, Texts, and Genres 1

Not offered in 2017/18.

Two 75-minute periods.

280b. Foreign Language Learning and Teaching: Theory and Practice 1

(Same as EDUC 280) This course is designed for students who intend to teach language in the United States or abroad, and for those who wish to gain a deeper understanding of how second languages are learned and taught. In the course, we explore major topics in foreign language teaching and learning, including writing, speaking, listening, reading, culture, and grammar, addressing questions such as: Does explicit grammar instruction actually help students learn grammar? Can you really learn a second language the same way you learn your first one(s), as some language learning software ads claim? What does culture have to do with language, and why should (or shouldn't) we teach it? As we attend to these and other issues, students reflect on their own language learning experiences and become familiar with the history, scholarship, and practices within the fields of second language acquisition and foreign language pedagogy. Karin Maxey.

Two 75-minute periods.

290 Field Work 0.5 to 1

297 Readings In German 0.5

Not offered in 2017/18.

298a or b. Independent Work 0.5 to 1

Permission required.

German: III. Advanced

300a or b. Senior Thesis 1 to 2

The department.

Open only to majors. Permission required.

301 Senior Seminar 1

Topic for 2017/18a: Before the Law: Visions of Justice in German Literature and Culture. What is justice? Is it attainable? What is its relation to law? How effective is the intervention of "poetic justice"? German literature and culture offer some of the most original reflections on these questions. This course focuses on the rich literary exploration of justice that reaches a high point in Franz Kafka's fragmentary novel, The Trial. It also addresses how German writers and artists have responded to actual, highly contested trials, such as the trial in Jerusalem of the SS officer Adolf Eichmann, one of the prime architects of the Nazi genocide. Authors and filmmakers may include Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Heinrich von Kleist, Annette von Droste-Hülshoff, Bertolt Brecht, Hannah Arendt, Fritz Lang, and Bernhard Schlink. Elliott Schreiber.

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

One 3-hour period.

302a. Senior Thesis 0.5

The department.

Open only to majors. Permission required.

Yearlong course 302-GERM 303.

303b. Senior Thesis 0.5

The department.

Open only to majors. Permission required.

Yearlong course GERM 302-303.

355 Advanced Seminar 1

Topic for 2017/18b: Women in the Third Reich. The unprecedented freedom and progress women enjoyed during the Weimar Republic came to an abrupt end under the Nazis. Nevertheless, the experiences of women during the Third Reich was varied, revealing many perplexing paradoxes. For instance, while many German women were pushed into the traditional roles of mother, wife and homemaker, others had to toil as slave laborers in factories and on farms. And while the Nazis sought to restore the state as a male society, many women assumed leadership roles in women's organizations and concentration camps, and several, including the filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl and the singer and film star Zarah Leander, became famous symbols of Nazi society. This course analyzes women's contradictory roles as both perpetrators and victims, as apologists and resistance leaders. Materials include fictional works, autobiographies, films, songs, propaganda materials, and case studies, as well as secondary materials with a variety of disciplinary approaches. 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 2016/17.

399 Senior Independent Work 0.5 to 1