The following are some of the courses that have been taught recently by German Studies Faculty at Michigan:
Introduction to German Studies (v. Moltke) This course is designed as a hands-on introduction to the practice of cultural analysis and criticism. While it introduces and discusses several theoretical frameworks for doing cultural analysis — among them structuralism, narratology, Marxism — the emphasis is not on the theories themselves but on the concepts, knowledge and skills that these various approaches require, as well as on the insights they enable in practice. For the latter purpose, and because "no concept is meaningful for cultural analysis unless it helps us to understand the object better on its own terms" (Bal), we will be using three different primary "texts" — a novel, a feature film, and a poem — on which to test and develop the approaches we study. In various ways, each of these texts thematizes the demise of the former GDR; through close readings informed by the critical concepts presented in this seminar, we will explore the specific formal devices through which our primary texts give shape to this historical moment. Following Roland Barthes' dictum that "a little formalism turns one away from History, but a lot brings one back to it," the seminar is designed to help students generate a toolkit for formally concise and historically informed cultural analysis.
Aesthetics of Empire (Hell) This seminar explores the theory, history, and aesthetics of empire from a German-centered perspective. The premise of this seminar is: all imperial imaginaries are organized around the end of empire. That is, all imperial mimesis and all imperial imaginaries produce both scenarios of ruin gazing and (political and aesthetic) strategies designed to counter, or postpone, the end in ruins. The overarching goal of the course is to rethink the politics and aesthetics of National Socialism as imperial. To do so it traces the genealogy of theories of empire and imperial mimesis; of ruin gazing; and the modes of representation of these scopic scenarios. Readings include texts by Edward Gibbon, Francois de Volney, Heinrich von Kleist, Karl Marx, Oswald Spengler, Carl Schmitt, Gottfried Benn, Hannah Arendt; the seminar also studies painters (Caspar David Friedrich, Thomas Cole) and discusses films (Leni Riefenstahl).
Museums and Memory (Barndt) As theaters of memory, museums engage historical and aesthetic affect and intelligibility. In museums, time and space coalesce: visitors "experience" time through the encounter with choreographed objects that (re)construct the (hi)stories of a particular place, community, or nation. In this seminar, we study theories of memory and historical consciousness, as well as historio-graphical and museological literature that reflect upon the practice of the history museum, past and present. Germany's museum culture will be the main focus of investigation but we also consider institutions from the US, Poland, France, Great Britain, and New Zealand. Readings include texts by Jan Assmann, Mieke Bal, Walter Benjamin, Tony Bennett, Maurice Halbwachs, Andreas Huyssen, Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, Pierre Nora, Paul Ricoeur, and James E. Young.
German Social Theory (Steinmetz) SOC 505/GERMAN 821 is the first term of a year-long course surveying social theory and its uses in research. We trace the lineaments and genealogies of major theoretical approaches including Hegel / Marxism / Critical Theory / neo-Marxism / post-Marxism; structuralism / post-structuralism; Max Weber and neo-Weberian perspectives; and psychoanalytic social theory from Freud to Zizek. The course remains deliberately open-ended; it seeks to convey a sense of what 'doing theory' is all about, rather than envisioning a final theoretical or practical resolution. The course includes short orienting lectures, seminar-style class discussions, and student presentations of supplementary recommended readings. Students are required to write two papers and to present one supplementary reading to the class. This course is required of graduate students in Sociology.
Idealism (Amrine) This course covers a series of central texts in German Idealism, such as Kant's Critiques, Fichte's Wissenschaftslehre, Schiller's "Über die aesthetische Erziehung des Menschen," Goethe's "Metamorphose der Pflanzen," and Hegel's Phänomenologie. Background lectures situate these thinkers within the larger context of the history of philosophy. The focus of interest is on philosophical issues and arguments rather than rhetoric or social/political history. The language of instruction and discussion is English; texts are read in the original German if possible. Students are asked to write two 20-minute talks in lieu of the usual seminar paper, then present and defend them in mock conference sessions. Open to qualified undergraduates.
German Music and Its Others (Agnew) Germany is often thought of as a musical nation. German and Austrian composers dominate the classical music tradition, and music theorists and philosophers the intellectual one. By reading a range of sources spanning the late eighteenth to the early twentieth centuries — music travelogues and criticism, and philosophical, historiographical, and ethnomusicological texts — the course explores the ways in which such a nexus may have come about. In reconstructing the discourse on national identity, music and musical thought, we will interrogate ‘German music' as an ambiguous, oppositional category: it was defined at different historical points as, for example, not Italian, French, Semitic, or German colonial. We will find that claims about national specificity and universal intelligibility hinged on an engagement with musical difference that often served non-musical ends. The graduate seminar thus deals with the controversies over formalism and idealism, high versus low culture, the question of meaning and music's capacity to signify, exoticism, the idea of a colonial discourse of music, and music and race. Authors to be covered include Burney, Reichardt, Forkel, Herder, E.T.A. Hoffmann, Hanslick, Wagner, Hegel, Nietzsche, Schopenhauer, Adorno, Krämer, Hornbostel, Weber, Eichenauer, and Blume. In addition to listening to a number of guest speakers, students attend a series of concerts that complement the readings covered in class. Readings are in German and in translation.
Sex, Crime, and Culture (Spector) This course is intended as a case study in modern European cultural history. The syllabus favors the period around the turn of the nineteenth century and the region of German-speaking central Europe, but we also look at earlier and at more contemporary periods as well as other geographical sites (notably England, France, and America). The questions we explore concern the transformation in the late nineteenth century of notions of self and society, especially urban society; the ways in which these novel conceptions were concentrated in discourses of crime and sexuality; and, finally, the relationship of these tendencies to the production of modern European culture. We begin by reading texts that analyze the new urbanism of the period and the association of the city with cultural "decadence." The second topic are the new sciences of crime and the criminal that are developed in the same period, and the ways in which the criminal emerges as a figure or as a kind of identity. This is linked to the third topic, which engages knowledges of sexuality and the "problem" of sexual identity. The last topic relates to the association of sexuality and violence in cultural fantasy. Readings in the course are of three kinds. Roughly half of the books are secondary sources drawn mainly from history and literary studies. We also work with theoretical sources, including writings of Foucault and Freud. Finally, we work with some primary sources drawn from early criminology and sexual science, as well as works of literature. The main requirements of the course are vigorous class participation and a single final paper.
Critical Theory and the Interpretation of Culture (v. Moltke) This course explores seminal writings produced in the orbit of the "Frankfurt School" of Critical Theory; it inquires into the models for thinking about cultural production produced by such writers as Theodor W. Adorno, Max Horkheimer, Walter Benjamin, Herbert Marcuse, Ernst Bloch, Siegfried Kracauer, and Jürgen Habermas. As touchstones for exploring these approaches to the study of culture, we read literary texts that were central to the elaboration of Critical Theory (from Baudelaire to Beckett to Thomas Mann), and we view the films by Alexander Kluge, himself a student of Adorno's, and a Critical Theorist in his own right. The aim of the seminar is thus twofold: to chart the history of cultural theory from the early 20th century to the present; and to investigate its relevance by way of Kluge's work.
Heinrich von Kleist (Weineck) Kleist's literary texts are famously dense, demanding, generating, and resisting interpretation to an unusual degree, comparable only to the work of Hoelderlin and Kafka. Despite the many divergent readings they have engendered, however, over the last decades, a consensus has emerged that locates Kleist in the tension of enlightenment and post-enlightenment, precariously balanced between Kant and Nietzsche, exquisitely and desperately attuned to the catastrophe of secularization that has already begun to think, if not fully to articulate, the death of God. Readings: Michael Kohlhaas, Der Findling, Das Erdbeben in Chili, Die heilige Caecilie, Der Zweikampf, Die Marquise von O..., Amphitryon, Penthesilea, Das Kaethchen von Heilbronn, Die Verlobung in Santo Domingo, Ueber das Marionettentheater, Über die allmähliche Verfertigung der Gedanken beim Reden. We will consider seminal readings (structuralist, semiotic, psychoanalytic, deconstructive, etc.). Requirements: research paper.
Citizenship in Modern Germany (Canning) This course is aimed at graduate students who are specializing in modern German or European history, German or European literature or cultural studies. Its chronological time frame encompasses the period from the mid-nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century (from Kaiserreich through the Nazi period. Course readings include studies widely recognized as "classics," as well as more recent studies that are informing present-day discussions in the field. In this class we work conceptually as well as historiographically. This means that we read some theoretical texts, including theory from the time period we are studying, for the purpose of defining the conceptual parameters of state, social, citizenship and body, and the violence inflicted in the name of each (or upon each). Because this course considers histories of practices as well as languages, institutions as well as ideologies, our readings include texts in social, cultural and intellectual history. We also pay attention to the shifts in historical methodologies, from political and social history of the 1970s and 1980s, to more recent studies in cultural and intellectual history, gender and cultural studies.
Among the thematics that I explore in this course are: notions of time (continuities and ruptures) and their place in German history; the traditions of the German state as a disciplinary complex and its relationship to the sphere of the "social;" the place of gender, religion, ethnicity and nationalism in the expansion of the public sphere during the 1890s; recent scholarship on German colonialism and its impact on notions of citizenship and national belonging; the particularities of German militarism in WW1 and its legacies of violence for the aftermath of war; the reinvention of state and social body during the Weimar Republic; participatory citizenship from Weimar into the Nazi period; Germany's particular twentieth-century "modernity" and its affiliation with crisis; the social body in the Nazi racial state.
Course Requirements: One short mid-term essay, weekly or bi-weekly short bibliographies, and one longer paper at the end of the term. Each student will introduce the readings two or three times during the semester, depending on the size of the class. Readings will generally be in English with occasional recommended alternative readings for students who read German.
Problems in the Art of the 20th Century: Weimar Visual Culture and Theory (Biro) This seminar investigates the visual culture and theory of the Weimar Republic, Germany's first experiment with democracy, which lasted between 1918/19 and 1933. Although brief, the Weimar Republic witnessed a rich and diverse array of "high" and "popular" culture, including painting, photography, photomontage, performance, sculpture, film, theater, posters, illustrated books, and mass market magazines. Empowered by the breakdown of the established order, and with the firm belief that not only society but also the individual had to be remade from the ground up, the creators of Weimar visual culture engaged all the means at their disposal to visualize a new world and a new consciousness to go with it. This seminar examines various competing visions of the new individual and new society as they are presented in Weimar visual culture, and how fascist, socialist, and democratic forces battled to define the modern individual and society. In addition, the seminar situates the works we study in the context of the philosophic, social, and cultural theory produced at the time (Benjamin and Kracauer among others). Although the seminar focuses primarily on Weimar visual culture and theory, Graduate students from all disciplines are welcome, and the interests and disciplinary backgrounds of the participants are taken into account in the selection of seminar readings and paper topics. Seminar requirements consist of a short presentation and 20-page research paper.
Some topics: The End of Expressionism, Dada Art and the Mass Media, War and Photography, Neue Sachlichkeit and Social Reconstruction, The Design of Modern Life, Lustmord and Serial Murder, Montage and Revolutionary Consciousness, The Outsider, and The Mass Ornament.
Modern Theories of the Premodern (Puff) Core texts of twentieth-century criticism have consistently theorized modernity through figurations of that which came before. This comparative, if not genealogical, approach has set into motion powerful thought scenarios of inspiration and rejection, nostalgia and censure. In a series of readings, we work toward applying critical pressure on both the modern and the pre-modern by bringing their relationality to the fore. The syllabus features key texts from a variety of disciplines, including literary criticism, history, sociology, and art history. We discuss critics such as Auerbach, Benjamin, Bakhtin, Elias, and Foucault, among others.
Erich Auerbach: Humanist Scholar in Turkish Exile (Konuk) The Romance scholar Erich Auerbach (1892-1957) fled the Nazis in 1936 and spent eleven years chairing Istanbul University's new Faculty for Western Languages and Literatures. As one of the greatest humanist critics of his time, Auerbach gained prominence with the work he wrote during his tenure in Istanbul. "Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature", spans almost three thousand years of Western European literature — from Homer to Virginia Woolf — and was to pave the way for his career as one of the leading comparatists in the United States. Included among his methodological contributions was a new approach for studying the representation of reality through narrative style, an approach that greatly influenced a range of fields, including literary theory, history, comparative literature, and cultural history. His work influenced New Historicism through Stephen Greenblatt and Postcolonial Studies through Edward Said.
This seminar examines the epistemological implications of exile. We ask whether Istanbul was merely a recipient of Western knowledge or whether it also generated intellectual exchange. While some argue that Auerbach's groundbreaking work "Mimesis" re-creates a literary museum to a lost Europe (Levin; Damrosch; Said), others argue that "Mimesis" bears no traces of Auerbach's Istanbul experience (JanMohammed). Diverging from both viewpoints, we will examine Auerbach's oeuvre from the perspective of the scholar as European cultural emissary in Turkey.
Along with Auerbach's work, we read Homer, Dante, Goethe, Proust, and Woolf. The remaining material spans from essays about humanism, philology, historicism, realism, and literary history, to studies dealing with transnationalism, intellectual emigration, and the Jewish diaspora. This seminar is of particular interest to graduate students in Comparative Literature, German Studies, Romance Studies, Near Eastern Studies, and History.