2017-2018 Catalog

GERM 370 Seminar on a Selected Topic

Bertolt Brecht and the Twenties

Bertolt Brecht is one of the most influential playwrights and aesthetic thinkers of the 20th century. In order to understand the scope and dimension of his work and its world wide influence, this course will focus on the artistic development of young Bertolt Brecht who, in the early 20's, moved to Berlin, the capital of newly founded democratic Weimar Republic, and one of the most important cultural centers of the 20th century, and participated in practically all innovative tendencies and art forms of the time, from Expressionism and Dadaism to New Objectivity, from experimental theatre to radio and film. Some of his great early works, such as the Three Penny Opera, will be seen in the context of the time, especially the very turbulent last years of the Weimar Republic before Hitler's rise to power. We will also look at Brecht's legendary film Kuhle Wampe, and visit at least one contemporary production of a Brecht play staged at a theatre in Los Angeles. 

Bertolt Brecht: The Great Plays

Brecht's great plays changed the stage of world theatre. In order to understand and appreciate their powerful and long lasting influence, all major plays written during Brecht's exile - i.e. in the years between 1933, when he was driven out of Germany, and 1948, when he returned to Switzerland and, ultimately, Berlin - will be discussed. Aside from detailed analyses of plays such as Mother Courage, The Good Woman of Sezuan, The Caucasian Chalk Circle, or Life of Galilei, Brecht's developing theory of epic theatre, and the general conditions and dilemmas of exile, will be discussed. We will also look at Brecht's role in Hollywood, his collaboration on the film Hangmen Also Die, and his successful attempts to direct his own plays on German and European stages after 1950. Students minoring in German or majoring in Group Languages or IPS will read most of the texts in the original language. 

Prerequisite for German minor and Group Language majors: GERM 202 or GERM 232. Open to all other non-first year students. The course is taught in English; no knowledge of German is required. 

Memory, Trauma, and Victim Culture

This course is concerned with the cultural politics of memory and trauma after the catastrophic events of the Holocaust and World War II. We will start with basic questions such as: whose memories are sought and commemorated in the public sphere? What problems do traumatic events present for those attempting to represent them? Is trauma a useful cultural concept? What are the differences between individual and collective memory? The first part of the course analyzes memory and trauma on both the individual level and the collective level, and turns, then, to the specific processes that occur when traumatic events are remembered by survivors, as well as the collective processes involved when memories of traumatic events, such as the Holocaust, are shared with an audience who has no first-hand experience of them. The second part of the course aims to identify the recent fascination, especially in European and American culture, with the phenomenon of trauma, suffering, and victimhood. We will study the cultural politics of trauma and memory in relation to two events - the Holocaust and German suffering during World War II. The unit "Holocaust, Victimhood, and American-Jewish identity" explores how the kitsch nature of popular culture representations of the Holocaust (from the Anne Frank movie, to the very successful TV-series Holocaust, to the Hollywood movie Schindler's List) created the paradigm for trauma culture at large. The unit "Germans in Collective Memory Between Perpetrators and Victims" discusses contemporary German memory discourse, which primarily focuses on the experience of German suffering as a consequence of the war and the Third Reich. However, to recast Germans as victim is highly problematic since the position of victim is already occupied by those people who were persecuted and murdered by the Germans/Nazis. Memory, trauma, and victimhood are crucial aspects of the experiences of Jews and Germans after 1945. A systematic exploration of these aspects (as manifested in a broad variety of cultural forms) promises important insights into recent history and culture. 

Nazi Culture

After the Nazis came to power in 1933, they took over control of all aspects of German life. One of the first tasks the new government undertook, upon their ascension to power, was a synchronization of all professional and social organizations with Nazi ideology and policy. Joseph Goebbels, Nazi Minister for Popular Enlightenment and Propaganda, began an effort to bring German arts and culture in line with Nazi goals. The government purged cultural organizations of Jewish persons and other officials alleged to be politically suspect, or who performed or created art works that Nazi ideologues labeled "degenerate." Some 650 works, by such renowned artists as Max Beckmann, Marc Chagall, Otto Dix, Wassily Kandinsky, and Paul Klee, were declared "degenerate art" and removed from German museums. The Nazi "cultivation of art" also extended to the modern field of cinema, theater, music, architecture, youth education, and even to the lower levels of popular culture. Throughout the duration of the Nazi regime, "culture," in all its manifestations, played a crucial role. Political rallies, military parades, sports events, open air festivals, and other skillfully organized events were used, from the beginning, to suggest a "national awakening" and the "revolutionary spirit" of the new regime. The efforts of the Nazis to regulate German culture corresponded to what historian George Mosse calls an effort "toward a total culture" - i.e. an effort to influence, at the most basic level, the lives and actions of all Germans. This course will explore the various forms of culture during this time and will raise the question as to what extent "Nazi culture," or culture under Nazi domination, was capable of stabilizing the regime until its very end in 1945. Students minoring in German or majoring in Group Languages will read some of the course material in its original German. 

Prerequisite for German minor and Group Language majors: GERM 202 or GERM 232.

Marx Freud and the Frankfurt School

This seminar will explore the origins of the world famous Frankfurt School, a group of German social philosophers and theoreticians, which emerged at the Institute for Social Research of the University of Frankfurt am Main in the 1920's. The group wanted: (1) to analyze the conditions of modern capitalism and its impact on society in general, on family and social structures, value systems, and mass culture; (2) critically review the theories of Karl Marx, Sigmund Freud, and Max Weber; and (3) to establish the principles and foundations of a "critical theory." We will read and discuss major works by Max Horkheimer, Theodor W. Adorno, Walter Benjamin, Herbert Marcuse, Erich Fromm, Siegfried Kracauer, Leo Loewenthal, and others. The seminar will focus on the "first phase" of the Frankfurt School, its beginnings and its work and development during the 30's and 40's - when the school relocated to New York and many of its collaborators lived in other American cities or abroad - and the immediate post WWII period. (A second seminar will follow next year and explore the school's development and its world wide impact in the 60's and 70's.) The course is taught in English. Students minoring or majoring in German will read some of the original texts (especially Marx, Freud, Benjamin, and Kracauer,) that are written in German. Same as CTSJ 370. Open only juniors and seniors.

The Frankfurt School 1945 to the Present

Social analysis, cultural theory, and political action. This seminar will explore the history of the Frankfurt School after World War II when it was re-established in Frankfurt and began to play a crucial role in the development of a "critical theory" of society and culture during the West German "economical miracle;" afterwards, with the onset of the German (and international) student movement of the mid-60's, it gained international reputation and impacted social, political, and cultural discourses in countries like France, Great Britain, Italy, and the United States. We will study, primarily, some of the major writings of Theodor W. Adorno (especially on art, music, cultural theory, and the lessons of Fascism), Herbert Marcuse (whose writings on social theory and aesthetics, "repressive tolerance," and "liberation" exerted a strong influence on the student movement), and of Jurgen Habermas, who became one of the most influential European intellectuals in the decades after 1970. This seminar is the continuation of an earlier class on the beginnings of the Frankfurt School and its history until 1945; participation in that earlier seminar is not required. The course is taught in English. Students minoring in German or majoring in Group Language or IPS will read some of the original texts in German.


4 units

Core Requirements Met

  • Fine Arts