Reed College Catalog

Jake Fraser

Eighteenth- to twentieth-century German literature, media history and media theory, literature and science, psychoanalysis.

Katja Garloff

Twentieth- and twenty-first-century German literature, German Jewish culture, the Holocaust, literature and history, film and media studies.

Jan Mieszkowski

Romanticism, idealist philosophy, literary and cultural theory, classical political economy, military spectatorship and the aesthetics of war, the poetics of botany. On leave spring 2023.

The German department’s curriculum provides a critical engagement with the intellectual and cultural legacy of German-speaking countries. All language courses are taught in German and include weekly conversation sessions with the German language scholar. From the outset, we encourage students to explore cultural and historical materials in the original. The first year focuses on the full range of active and passive skills. In the second year, we pursue a comprehensive approach to reading, writing, and speaking through the study of selected literary and sociopolitical themes. Advanced classes in composition and conversation complete 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 offers 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 exclusively on nonliterary topics. 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.

German House
The German House on campus functions as both a residence hall and a center for extracurricular activities, including film screenings, poetry readings, lectures, and informal discussions.

Language Scholar
The language scholar from the University of Munich, a yearly appointment, provides students contact with a native speaker and assists the department with academic and cultural events.

Study Abroad
The department strongly recommends that students who wish to major in German spend a year or semester of study in Germany. Faculty-approved programs listed on the Reed web (reed.edu/ipo/International-Programs) at the University of Munich, the Free University of Berlin, and the University of Tübingen allow students to remain registered and enrolled at Reed, have their work approved in advance, and use financial aid if eligible. Students might also consider intensive language study during the summer offered at many German universities. Members of the department as well as the study abroad adviser can provide guidance.

Prerequisites
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 German Major with Concentration in Literature

  1. First- and second-year German (German 110, German 220) or the equivalent.
  2. German 311 or the equivalent.
  3. 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.
  4. Junior qualifying examination.
  5. Thesis (470).
  6. At least one semester or summer institute in Germany.

Recommended but not required:

  1. German or modern European history.
  2. German philosophy.
  3. Humanities 220.

Requirements for the German Major with Concentration in Culture Studies

  1. First- and second-year German (German 110, German 220) or the equivalent.
  2. German 311 or the equivalent.
  3. 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 courses 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.
  4. One course in German or modern European history.
  5. Humanities 220.
  6. Junior qualifying examination.
  7. Thesis (470).
  8. One year of study abroad at the University of Munich program or another approved institution is strongly advised.

A Minor in German
The goal of the German minor is to achieve proficiency in the German language and a strong understanding of literary and cultural studies. Regardless of prior proficiency, all students must complete one unit of advanced German (German 311), one additional unit of a 300-level German course, and either two additional 300-level German courses or additional language work.

Requirements for the Minor

  1. German 311.
  2. One additional unit of a 300-level German course.
  3. Depending on language proficiency, additional language courses or 300-level German courses (see chart below).

Starting Language Course

Language Courses

300-Level Courses

Total Units

German 110:

German 110, 220, 311

One additional unit of a 300-level German course.

Six

German 220:

German 220, 311

One additional unit of a 300-level German course.

Four

German 311:

German 311

Three additional units of 300-level German courses.

Four

 

German 110 - First-Year German: A Foundation

Two-unit yearlong course; one unit per semester. 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. The class is reserved for students with no background in the language. Conference.

German 220 - Second-Year German: Cultural and Literary Perspectives

Two-unit yearlong course; one unit per semester. 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 I: Twentieth-Century Art and Politics (Berlin)

One-unit semester course. This class is designed to help students develop advanced competence in written and spoken German. There will be regular essay assignments, oral presentations, and group projects. We will discuss twentieth-century German culture and history, primarily through literary and filmic representations of Berlin. We will explore the city as the center of emergent mass culture in the early twentieth century, the capital of National Socialism, the divided capital of the Cold War era, the symbol of the united Germany, and the multicultural core of contemporary German society. Prerequisite: German 220 or consent of the instructor. Conference.

German 312 - Advanced German II

One-unit semester course. This course is designed to further students’ advanced competence in written and spoken German. Students will participate in a literature course but will write short papers in German and complete weekly grammar assignments. Prerequisite: German 311 or consent of the instructor. Conference. 

Not offered 2022–23.

German 335 - Contemporary German Literature

One-unit semester course. This seminar focuses on literature written between 1990 and the present. We will explore topics such as the unification of Germany, multiculturalism, globalization, postfeminism, and the representation of the German past. 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 Ingo Schulze, Christian Kracht, Judith Hermann, Zafer Şenocak, Jenny Erpenbeck, W.G. Sebald, Katja Petrowskaja, Herta Müller, and Yoko Tawada. Conducted in German. Prerequisite: German 311 or consent of instructor. Conference. 

Not offered 2022–23.

German 346 - Introduction to Media Studies

One-unit semester course. Since Marshall McLuhan’s pronouncement that “the medium is the message,” scholars have studied the ways in which media technologies—from the printing press and the postal service to electric lighting and WiFi—support and transform our lives. This course offers and introduction to major theorists and debates in media studies through close analyses of films, literature, and theoretical texts. In keeping with McLuhan’s dictum, our focus will be not so much on understanding individual media, but on understanding from the perspective of media. Questions that will concern us include: What is (and isn’t) a medium? What do media do? To what extent do we create media, and to what extent do media create us? Readings from Plato, McLuhan, Kittler, Benjamin, Adorno, Heidegger, and Donna Haraway; art by Antonioni, Lang, Kafka, Hitchcock, Hoffman, H.D., Gertrude Stein, and Spike Jonze. 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 346 and Art 346. For 2022–23, the course is only offered as Literature and Art.

German 349 - Cinema and Politics

One-unit semester course. This course offers an introduction to German cinema, focusing on the question: “What makes a film political?” From expressionist film to new wave cinema to the contemporary Berlin school, the German cinematic tradition includes numerous films with a political agenda. The “political” may take on the form of critique: of authorities and hierarchies, of racism and anti-Semitism, of the repression of the Nazi past, of capitalism and consumer society. Or it may aid the creation of inclusive communities by expanding our sense of who can talk and be heard, what can be seen and felt. We will watch groundbreaking films by German and other European directors, including G.W. Pabst, Fritz Lang, Sergei Eisenstein, Leni Riefenstahl, Roberto Rossellini, Alain Resnais, Helke Sander, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Ulrike Ottinger, Fatih Akin, and Christian Petzold. Theoretical readings by Brecht, Benjamin, Adorno, Arendt, Mulvey, Rancière, and others. Conducted in English. No previous experience with film analysis is required. 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 equivalent or consent of instructor. Conference-screenings. Cross-listed as Literature 349.

Not offered 2022–23.

German 358 - Representing Genocide

One-unit semester course. This course asks how film and literature can help us recognize, explain, and respond to genocide, a crucial feature of twentieth-century history. In the first half of the semester, we will focus on representations of the Holocaust, asking questions such as: How do authors and filmmakers grapple with events that shatter traditional forms of perception and comprehension? How do they portray human agency in an age of bureaucratically administered mass destruction? In the second half of the semester, we will compare the Holocaust to other cases of genocide and mass violence, including American slavery and the genocides in Turkey, Cambodia, and Rwanda. Throughout, we will explore a wide range of genres and media, including testimonies, memoirs, fiction, graphic novels, and feature films. We will also discuss the representation of victims and perpetrators, different forms of witnessing, and the aesthetics of shock and horror. 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 372 - Psychoanalysis and Literature

One-unit semester course. Freud liked to joke that he invented psychoanalysis because it had no literature. He meant secondary or scientific literature, of course; this is why the foundational texts of psychoanalysis cite not academic essays or monographs but instead the works of Shakespeare and Sophocles, Heine and Hoffmann. This course offers an introduction to major concepts of psychoanalysis through close study of Freud’s work and the works of literature that it was inspired by. We will also consider some of the literature and film that Freud inspired in his turn. Throughout, our focus will be on understanding psychoanalysis not as a set of facts about infants, their development, and their desires, but instead as mode and practice of interpreting individuals and objects. Subjects to be studied include dreams, desire, sexual object choice, mourning, melancholia, and narcissism; authors will range from Sophocles, Ovid, and Kafka to Alfred Hitchcock, Hélène Cixous, and Chris Kraus. 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 372.

Not offered 2022–23.

German 375 - Thinking Machines: Androids and Automatons in Science and Literature

One-unit semester course. At the onset of modernity, the human being acquired a new kind of shadow: the android or machine-man, an automaton capable of replicating behaviors that had previously been the exclusive domain of humans. Since then, the question of what a human being is has been closely bound up with the question of what an automaton isn’t. This course tracks the interwoven fates of androids and humans from Descartes through to the present day, examining the ways in which machines have served as a foil for artists, scientists, and philosophers to understand what (if anything) is particularly human about human beings. Questions that will occupy us include: What abilities have historically been thought to distinguish humans from mere machines? And what happens when, as a result of scientific and technological progress, machines become capable of replicating human speech, motion, affection, thought, or labor? Texts and films from Diderot, Hoffmann, Freud, Kafka, Foucault, Marx, Lang, Turing, and Scott, among others. 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 equivalent or consent of instructor. Conference. Cross-listed as Literature 375.

German 391 - German Theory I

One-unit semester course. Variable topics. See specific listing for prerequisites. Conference. May be repeated for credit.

Plants and Politics
One-unit semester course. In the modern era, botany and colonialism have been inseparable. With the rise of European imperialism, plants became big business, and their study and cultivation were as much a part of trade and conquest as scientific inquiry. To create an empire meant remaking ecosystems abroad and at home. Botany has also been a preoccupation of modern artists, poets, and philosophers, who have asked why it is so difficult to represent plants and what it means that flowers are one of the most venerable models of language. In this course, we will explore the intimate relationships between aesthetic and scientific conceptualizations of the plant kingdom from the eighteenth century to the present, looking at works of poetry and prose, photography, and film. We will also consider attempts to envision a postcolonial botany. Authors will include Rousseau, Goethe, Kant, Hegel, Dickinson, Nietzsche, Benjamin, Freud, Rilke, Celan, Mayröcker, Kincaid, and Moten. 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.

Introduction to Critical Theory
One-unit semester course. This course explores the German philosophical tradition since Kant, focusing on the emergence of the modern notions of class, race, and gender. We will be particularly concerned with how these traditional concepts are being rethought in contemporary postcolonial studies, critical race theory, and Afropessimism. In addition to philosophical texts, we will be working with literature, film, and video art. Authors will include Kant, Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche, Freud, Benjamin, Heidegger, Arendt, Spivak, Mbembe, and Moten. 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 2022–23.

German 392 - German Theory II

One-unit semester course. Variable topics. See specific listing for prerequisites. Conference. May be repeated for credit.

Revolutions in Poetic Language
One-unit semester course. 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 Büchner, Dickinson, Gilroy, Goethe, Hegel, Heidegger, Kleist, Marx, Mörike, Poe, Rousseau, F. Schlegel, C. Smith, and Wheatley. 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 2022–23.

German 470 - Thesis

Two-unit yearlong course; one unit per semester.

German 481 - Independent Study

Variable (one-half or one)-unit semester course. Prerequisite: approval of instructor and division.