Nineteenth- to twenty-first-century German literature, German Jewish culture, critical theory, literature and history, film.
Romanticism; idealist philosophy; literary and cultural theory; the relations between aesthetics, economics, and politics.
Michael Thomas Taylor
The Enlightenment; intellectual history; literature, theater, and the visual arts; gender and sexuality.
The German department’s curriculum provides a critical engagement with Germany’s intellectual and artistic legacy. All language courses are taught in German and include work in the language lab and tutorials with the language scholar. From the outset, we encourage students to explore cultural and historical materials in the original. The first year focuses on all four language skills. In the second year, we pursue a comprehensive approach to reading, writing, and speaking through the study of selected literary and sociopolitical themes. The advanced class in composition and conversation completes the language track in the third year.
Upper-level courses in the department are organized thematically and historically, often emphasizing interdisciplinary study. A flexible two-track program for majors explores a variety of perspectives on the analysis of texts. Students who select the concentration in literature may focus their thesis work on a particular author, period, or paradigm. They are also encouraged to consider broader questions about the nature of interpretation and criticism. The culture studies concentration gives students the opportunity to explore the German intellectual tradition through the methodological perspectives of a variety of fields, including philosophy, history, anthropology, and sociology. Students who pursue this track can take two of their required courses in other departments. In their thesis they may combine literary and nonliterary analyses or write on exclusively nonliterary problems. With both concentrations, it may be possible for students to work on particular areas of interest in an independent study. Details of the requirements for each track are listed below.
The German House on campus functions not only as a residence hall, but as the center of a variety of extracurricular activities, including film evenings, poetry and drama readings, lectures, and social gatherings.
The language scholar from the University of Munich, a yearly appointment, provides students with contact with a native speaker and assists the department in academic and cultural matters.
The department recommends strongly that students who wish to major in German literature spend a study year in Germany or a summer in a language school. Students are encouraged to participate in the college-sponsored programs at the University of Munich (yearlong), Freie University in Berlin (year or semester), the University of Tübingen (year or semester), or in a summer program at the University of Freiburg. Students who major in culture studies are strongly encouraged to avail themselves of Reed's program in Munich. Detailed information on these programs is available through the German department and the international programs office.
Students with a background in German may take a placement test to determine if they are prepared for second- or third-year classes. Placement tests are offered during orientation week and (online) over the summer.
Requirements for the Major
Concentration in Literature
- First- and second-year German (German 110, German 220), or the equivalent.
- German 311 or the equivalent in the Munich program.
- Six German literature courses in German at the 300 or 400 level. German 311 will not be accepted as one of the six courses. At least four of the six courses must be taken at Reed.
- Thesis (470).
- At least one semester or summer institute in Germany.
Recommended but not required:
- German or modern European history.
- German philosophy.
- Humanities 220.
Concentration in Culture Studies
- First- and second-year German (German 110, German 220) or the equivalent.
- German 311 or the equivalent in the Munich program.
- Six upper-division courses in the German department and related disciplines. (German 311 will not be accepted as one of these six courses.) Four of these must be upper-division offerings in the German department. Two of the selected courses must be taken in German. The remaining two courses can be selected from departments related to the German culture studies program, such as history, art history, and philosophy.
- One course in German or modern European history.
- Humanities 220.
- Thesis (470).
- One year of study abroad at the University of Munich program or another approved institution is strongly advised.
German 110 - First-Year German: A Foundation
Full course for one year. This class is an introduction to reading, writing, and speaking German. Grammar instruction is supplemented with cultural materials from German-speaking countries. Classroom activities include poetry readings, film clips, and internet research. Use of the language laboratory is integral to the course. The class is reserved for students with no background in the language. Conference.
German 220 - Second-Year German: Cultural and Literary Perspectives
Full course for one year. This class is designed to enhance one's skills in reading, writing, and speaking German. Along with a systematic grammar review, we explore literary, historical, and cultural topics, drawing on a variety of texts, including films, artworks, advertisements, and newspaper articles. One hour per week is spent in small conversation workshops, and students regularly complete listening comprehension exercises online. Prerequisite: German 110 or placement by examination. Conference.
German 311 - Advanced German: Contemporary German Cinema
Full course for one semester. This class is designed to help students develop advanced competence in written and spoken German. There are regular essay assignments, oral presentations, and group projects. This year’s thematic focus is contemporary German cinema. There will be weekly screenings of some of the most engaging and successful German films of the past 25 years. In addition, we will be reading twentieth- and twenty-first-century prose texts, including works by Kafka, Rilke, Heinrich Böll, Ilse Aichinger, and Christa Wolf. Prerequisite: German 220 or placement by examination. Conference.
German 330 - Gender and Sexuality in German Literature
Full course for one semester. This course combines readings of canonical literary works from the German tradition with important scholarship in the history and theory of gender and sexuality in western Europe and North America. Key areas of focus include patriarchy since the Reformation; the Enlightenment and the French Revolution; nineteenth-century norms and ideals of marriage and the family together with stigmatized and criminalized practices such as prostitution; the development of sexual science and psychoanalysis together with new norms and conceptions of sexual identity; and finally, twentieth-century conceptions of femininity and masculinity: ideals of motherhood, of the soldier, and of the “new woman,” as well as Nazi ideology and postwar debates about sex and gender in society. Throughout all of these topics, the intersection of gender and sexuality with other categories of identity will be one guiding theme, while another will be the relationships between sexual identity, gender, and discourses of eugenics, public health, and nationalist population policies. Literary works we will read include texts by G.E. Lessing, J.W. von Goethe, Heinrich Kleist, Theodor Fontane, Leopold von Sacher Masoch, Arthur Schnitzler, N.O. Body, Ernst Jünger, Irmgard Keun, and Bertolt Brecht. Conducted in English. Students taking the course for German literature credit will meet in extra sessions. Prerequisite for students taking the course for German credit: German 220 or consent of the instructor. Conference. Cross-listed as Literature 330.
German 332 - Classical and Avant-Garde Theatre in Postwar GermanyFull course for one semester. This course examines postwar productions of works by “canonical” German playwrights. These include the reopening of the Deutsches Theater in Berlin in September 1945 with a production of Lessing’s plea for religious tolerance, Nathan the Wise (1779); Gustaf Gründgens’ lifelong portrayals of Mephistopheles and his 1957/60 production of Goethe’s Faust, Part One (1808); Peter Zadek’s 1966 pop-art interpretation of Schiller’s The Robbers (1781/82); productions of Büchner’s Woyzeck (1836/1879); and Heiner Müller’s engagement with Shakespeare in his postmodernist Hamletmachine (1989/1990). These productions serve as a framework to investigate postwar performance practice and theory (from Brecht to “postdramatic” theater); the complicated legacy of “classical” ideals of humanity and humanism after the Holocaust; hermeneutic paradigms of fidelity and (textual) deconstruction; the intersection of countercultures and theatrical practice (“Bremen Style” and the ’68 generation); as well as the remaking of German theatrical canons and theater as a mode of cultural politics in both East and West Germany until reunification. In addition to these works and productions, the course examines theatrical theory and criticism (Schiller, Goethe, Brecht, Artaud, Adorno, Hans-Thies Lehmann, and reviews from Theater heute), recorded stagings, and adaptations for film and television. Conducted in English. Students taking the course for German literature credit will meet in extra sessions. Prerequisite for students taking the course for German credit: German 220 or consent of the instructor. Conference. Cross-listed as Literature 332.
German 334 - German Landscapes, New World HorizonsFull course for one semester. This course examines the perception, representation, and (re)construction of landscapes in the German-speaking world, as well as projections and displacements of this history onto the New World. Key moments in this German history include the eighteenth-century discovery of the Alps as both beautiful and sublime; romantic visions of nature; massive projects to transform topography (such as the draining of the Oder swamps or the straightening of the Rhine); and the significance of this history for twentieth-century movements such as Life Reform, New Objectivity, fascism, and postwar green politics. New World Horizons encompass German colonial explorers and naturalists, and the influence of German art on North American wilderness (in the Hudson Valley, the Rockies, and Oregon country) and on encounters with native Americans. These topics open up histories of aesthetics and science; German nationalism, (inner) colonialization, extermination, and emigration; industrialization, conquest, and reclamation; and the mainstream effects of countercultural movements that look to nature. In addition to recent historiography, this course examines literature, philosophy, painting, photography, and film. Conducted in English. Students taking the course for German literature credit will meet in extra sessions. Prerequisite for students taking the course for German credit: German 220 or consent of the instructor. Conference. Cross-listed as Literature 334.
Not offered 2014-15.
German 335 - Readings in Contemporary German Literature
Full course for one semester. This seminar focuses on literature written after the unification of Germany in 1990. We will explore literary reactions to unification, the reconsideration of the German past, new forms of multiculturalism, and the national and global dimensions of contemporary literature. Special attention will be paid to experimental forms of writing such as the prose poem, pop literature, the deconstruction of narrative patterns, and “the new storytelling.” Authors include Thomas Brussig, Ingo Schulze, Christian Kracht, Zafer Senocak, Barbara Honigmann, Herta Müller, Elfriede Jelinek, and Daniel Kehlmann. Prerequisite: German 311 or consent of the instructor. Conference.
German 345 - Literature and Love
Full course for one semester. The rise of the romantic love ideal around 1800 presented literary authors with a new question: Can love, one of the oldest and most familiar of literary themes, be written about at all? How can we communicate feelings that in their intensity and specificity seem necessarily to elude verbalization? In this course, we will read a range of poems and stories that confront this question. We will analyze a bourgeois Enlightenment discourse on individuality and sexual difference that still influences contemporary conceptions of love. Finally, we will examine the creation of a new semantics of love in literary modernism. Literary readings by Lessing, Goethe, Kleist, Schlegel, Eichendorff, Keller, Benn, Rilke, Lasker-Schüler, Th. Mann, Kafka, Bachmann. Theoretical readings by Plato, Freud, Foucault, Luhmann, and others. Conducted in German. Prerequisite: German 311 or consent of the instructor. Conference.
Not offered 2014-15.
German 358 - The Holocaust and the Limits of RepresentationFull course for one semester. Through a study of Holocaust film and literature, this course investigates the relations between history, trauma, and representation. How do authors and filmmakers describe events that shatter traditional forms of perception and comprehension? How do they portray human agency in an age of bureaucratically administered mass destruction? How do they relate history, memory, and imagination? We will study works from diverse cultural and religious backgrounds and explore a wide range of genres including documentaries, diaries, novels, poetry, drama, comics, and feature films. Primary sources will include works by Primo Levi, Jean Amery, Paul Celan, Nelly Sachs, Peter Weiss, Charlotte Delbo, Cynthia Ozick, Tadeusz Borowski, Aharon Appelfeld, Art Spiegelman, Alain Resnais, and Claude Lanzmann. Conducted in English. Students taking the course for German literature credit will meet in extra sessions. Prerequisite for students taking the course for German credit: German 220 or consent of the instructor. Conference. Cross-listed as Literature 358.
German 371 - The Laws of Lyric
Full course for one semester. This course is an introduction to German poetry. The goal of the course is to develop skills in interpreting individual texts and to reflect on poetry's status within the discourses of history, philosophy, and politics. The readings have been arranged by topic rather than chronologically or by author. We will study poems by Goethe, Schiller, Novalis, Hölderlin, Eichendorff, Heine, Mörike, George, Rilke, Trakl, Benn, Brecht, Celan, Eich, Bachmann, and others. Conducted in German. Prerequisite: German 220 or consent of the instructor. Conference.
Not offered 2014-15.
German 391 - German Theory I
Ideology and Imagination
Full course for one semester. This class explores romantic conceptions of poetic imagination and their importance for twentieth- and twenty-first-century debates about art and politics. We will focus on the relationship between literary and philosophical argument and on the implications of literary theory for Marxist discussion of ideology. Authors include Kant, Schlegel, Kleist, Marx, Freud, Benjamin, Adorno, and Zizek. Conducted in English. Students taking the course for German literature credit will meet in extra sessions. Prerequisite for students taking the course for German credit: German 220 or consent of the instructor. Conference. Cross-listed as Literature 391. Not offered 2014–15.
German 392 - German Theory II
Introduction to Critical Theory
Full course for one semester. This class explores post-Kantian conceptions of critique and their significance for the analysis of fascism, mass culture, and the politics of the artwork. We will focus on the notion of literature as a socially progressive force. We will also consider the intersections of psychoanalysis and Marxism. Authors include Kant, Schlegel, Hegel, Marx, Büchner, Freud, Benjamin, Adorno, Arendt, Celan, Müller, Derrida, and Kristeva. Conducted in English. Students taking the course for German literature credit will meet in extra sessions. Prerequisite for students taking the course for German credit: German 220 or consent of the instructor. Conference. Cross-listed as Literature 392. Not offered 2014–15.
Revolutions in Poetic Language
Full course for one semester. Between 1750 and 1850, virtually every assumption about poetry’s forms, powers, and goals underwent a series of radical transformations that would shape the modern understanding of art and literature. Reading lyric, dramatic, and prose works, as well as critical and philosophical essays, we will concentrate on developing skills in interpreting texts and formalizing the theoretical challenges they present. Authors will include Arnold, Büchner, Dickinson, Goethe, Hegel, Kleist, Lessing, Poe, Rousseau, and Schlegel. Conducted in English. Students taking the course for German literature credit will meet in extra sessions. Prerequisite for students taking the course for German credit: German 220 or consent of the instructor. Conference. Cross-listed as Literature 392.
German 400 - Introduction to Literary Theory: German
See Literature 400 for description.
Not offered 2014-15.
German 462 - Seminar
Readings in Thomas Mann
Full course for one semester. The course explores Thomas Mann’s early fiction (1890–1914) and two of his major novels, The Magic Mountain and Doktor Faustus, in light of the critical literature on these works. We will trace the continuity and change of themes and techniques, beginning with the stories from the Wilhelmine Era and ending with Mann’s experimental reconstruction of the Faust myth during the Third Reich. Selected readings by authors such as Friedrich Schlegel, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, and Adorno will provide the philosophical background. Students will acquaint themselves with major trends in Thomas Mann scholarship, including the recent emphasis on constructions of gender and sexuality. Conducted in English. Students taking the course for German literature credit will meet in extra sessions. Prerequisite for students taking the course for German credit: German 220 or consent of the instructor. Conference. Cross-listed as Literature 462. Not offered 2014–15.
Full course for one semester. This course offers an introduction to the works of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. We will read a limited selection of works from different genres, including the novel Die Leiden des jungen Werthers, early and late poetry, drama, natural scientific theory, and cultural criticism. The course will focus on the twentieth-century reception of Goethe’s works and life as the emblem for an age of German history that encompasses radically different cultural crosscurrents. We will also employ this perspective to situate Goethe’s work within conceptions of Europe and world literature, and to examine major traditions in twentieth-century literary criticism. Conducted in English. Students taking the course for German literature credit will meet in extra sessions. Prerequisite: sophomore standing or consent of the instructor; for students taking the course for German credit: German 311 or consent of the instructor. Conference. Cross-listed as Literature 462. Not offered 2014–15.
German 470 - Thesis
One-half or full course for one year.
German 481 - Independent Study
One-half or full course for one semester. Prerequisite: approval of instructor and division.