This course explores the many facets of the Expressionist art movement within the broader context of German culture and history. A major cultural movement in early twentieth-century Germany and Austria, Expressionism was not confined to any one realm of aesthetic production. Not just in the visual arts, but also in drama, literature, poetry, and even architecture, music, and dance, artists developed innovative new styles and pursued an aesthetic focused on the inner life, on feeling and experience, and humankind's spiritual and intellectual development. Focusing on Germany, where the movement became intertwined with questions of national identity, we will learn about both the common features and the great diversity within the Expressionist movement. In studying Expressionism, we will also be investigating how it shaped and was in turn shaped by its surroundings, asking how this interdisciplinary movement sought to come to terms with a German culture undergoing rapid transformations due to modernization, war, and revolution.
The class includes four written essays, weekly oral presentations about a work of art, daily written work of moderate length, and participation in discussion. A final paper and presentation invites students to discuss something from contemporary culture that they regard as particularly Expressionistic or influenced by Expressionism.
This class is intended for students interested in learning about the Expressionist art movement and its both critical and celebratory responses to modern society, while also improving their German reading, writing, and speaking skills. Students interested in the cultural history of Germany, art history in general, and the critical art movements of the modern world are encouraged to enroll.
The class is a combination of discussion, lecture, student presentations, and art appreciation. The class also includes frequent visits to the University of Michigan Art Museum.