Complete Course Descriptions

The German department's wide variety of courses illustrate its commitment to teaching and exploring the complexities of German-speaking communities.

All Courses and Descriptions

In addition to the first and second semesters of Beginning or Elementary German, taught in fall and spring semesters of each academic year, respectively, we offer a variety of courses that combine German language and culture, and/or are devoted to themes in or periods of German literature and culture. Each semester, we teach one course in English translation to provide opportunities for non-German speakers. These courses also contribute to General Education Requirements at Bowdoin.

Intermediate German I: Germany within Europe

GER 2203
(varying instructors: Klenner, Smith, Tautz; each fall)
Continued emphasis on the understanding of German culture through language. Focus on social and cultural topics through history, literature, politics, popular culture, and the arts. Three hours per week of reading, speaking, and writing. One hour of discussion and practice with teaching assistant. Language laboratory also available. Equivalent of German 1102 is required.

Intermediate German II: German History through Visual Culture

GER 2204
(varying instructors: Klenner, Smith, Tautz; each spring)
Continues work began in Intermediate German I: Germany within Europe. Ger 2203 and 2204 can be taken in reversed order.

Advanced German Texts and Contexts: Youth Culture

GER 2205
(varying instructors: Klenner, Smith, Tautz; each fall)
Designed to explore aspects of German culture in depth, to deepen the understanding of culture through language, and to increase facility in speaking, writing, reading, and comprehension. Topics include post-war and/or post-unification themes in historical and cross-cultural contexts. Particular emphasis on post-1990 German youth culture and language. Includes fiction writing, film, music, and various news media. Weekly individual sessions with the teaching fellow from the Johannes-Gutenberg-Universität-Mainz. Equivalent of German 2204 is required.

(Not) Lost in Translation: German Across the Disciplines

GER 2262/Ger 3362
(Birgit Tautz)
Designed to explore aspects of contemporary German language and culture beyond literature and film, such as in the contexts of business, politics and law, environmental policy and science. Students acquire cultural competence through specialized linguistic and interpretive skills and appropriate techniques of translation. Focus on discipline-specific genres and discourses (report, prospectus, analysis and briefing papers, etc.) and across media (columns, blogs, television, news, statistics). Combines in-class forms of assessment (quizzes, presentations) with writing assignments and one discipline-specific translation project. All readings, writing, and discussion in German. Meets with German 3362. German 2205 is recommended. Equivalent of German 2204 is required. German 2262 eets with German 3362.

Introduction to German Literature and Culture

GER 3308
(varying instructors: Klenner, Smith, Tautz)
Designed to be an introduction to the critical reading of texts by genre (e.g., prose fiction and nonfiction, lyric poetry, drama, opera, film) in the context of German intellectual, political, and social history. Focuses on various themes and periods. Develops students’ sensitivity to generic structures and introduces terminology for describing and analyzing texts in historical and cross-cultural contexts. Weekly individual sessions with the teaching fellow from the Johannes-Gutenberg-Universität-Mainz. All materials and coursework in German.

German Culture Studies: Made in Germany

GER 3310
(varying instructors: Klenner, Smith)
An examination of the most influential “products” made in Germany. From technological developments to musical innovations, many things made in Germany have had an enduring, global impact. Explores the context in which these products were made or ideas were developed, the process of their worldwide dissemination, as well as the ways in which they shape the national and cultural imagination. Designed to be an introduction to methods of cultural analysis through an examination of diverse materials. Expands students’ knowledge of German culture, history, and language while also developing skills, including close reading, visual analysis, and contextualization. All materials and coursework in German.

German Classicism: Geist(er) des 18.Jahrhunderts

GER 3313
(Birgit Tautz)

Focus on the mid-to late eighteenth century as an age of contradictory impulses (e.g., the youthful revolt of Storm and Stress against the Age of Reason). Examines manifestations of such impulses -- e.g., ghosts, love, and other transgressions -- in the works of major (e.g., Goethe, Schiller) and less well known (e.g., Karsch, Forster) authors. Beginning with discussions of transparency, examines the ghostly and spiritual moments of "Faustian bargains" (Goethe's “Urfaust”), transgressive desires in poetry, travel texts, and love letters as well as in secret societies, and concludes with emergent, phantasmic technologies (Schiller's “Geisterseher”) and manifestations of the irrational in nature's chaos (“Kleist Das Erdbeben in Chili”). Investigation of texts in their broader cultural context with appropriate theory and illustrated through film and drama on video, statistical data, developments in eighteenth-century dance, music, and legal discourse. All materials and coursework in German. This course alternates with

German Classicism and its Other

GER 3313
(Birgit Tautz)

Realism and Revolution in Nineteenth-Century German Literature and Culture

GER 3315
(Jill Smith)
What is revolution? What forms has it taken within German-speaking society and culture? Examines a variety of literary, cultural, and social texts from 1830 to 1900 in their broader cultural, artistic, philosophical, and political contexts. Beyond discussing the effects (both positive and negative) of the Industrial Revolution, discusses three other forms of revolution that emerge in nineteenth-century German discourse: (1) political revolution (the formation of German national identity; the rise of the socialist movement); (2) artistic revolution (the search for an artistic direction at the end of the Age of Goethe; the tensions between social realism and romanticism); (3) sexual revolution (scientific interest in normal versus abnormal sexual behavior; the advent of the women’s movement and the questioning of gender roles). Authors/artists may include Heine, Büchner, Hebbel, Hauptmann, Andreas-Salomé, Fontane, Wagner, Marx and Engels, Bebel, Simmel, Kollwitz, Krafft-Ebing.
*This course alternates with Realismus: Birth of the Nation and with Realismus, Nation and das Popular Communities  Ger 3313 (Birgit Tautz)

German Modernism -- Urbanity, Interiority, Sexuality

GER 3316
(Jill Smith)
Examines works of modern German literature, art, music, and film in their historical and social contexts. Analyzes the narrative modes used to deal with the interiority of modern protagonists and explores the particular urban settings in which works were conceived: Munich, Prague, Zurich, and Berlin. Familiarizes students with the intellectual history of the period by discussing the extent to which modernist writers were influenced by Nietzschean and Freudian thought and the questions of morality, sexuality, and pleasure raised by both of these thinkers. Asks why modernism is (or is perceived to be) rooted in urban settings, and how modernism became politicized during the Weimar Republic, as writers witnessed and sought to respond to the rise of Fascism. Contemporary artistic movements such as Expressionism, Dadaism, and Neue Sachlichkeit; literary texts by Brecht, Wedekind, Kafka, Mann, Rilke, Lasker-Schüler, and Kästner; musical works by Berg, Schoenberg, and Weill; and relevant films of the period.

German Literature and Culture since 1945

GER 3317
(Jens Klenner)
An exploration of how successive generations have expressed their relationship to the catastrophe of the Nazi past. Examines representative texts of East and West German writers/filmmakers in Cold War and post-unification contexts. A discussion of German identity from several critical perspectives, including Vergangenheitsbewältigung, the political and cultural influence of the United States and the Soviet Union, gender in the two Germanys, and the politics of migration and citizenship. Authors may include Grass, Böll, Borchert, Brussig, Özdamar, Schlink, and Wolf. Films by Fassbinder, von Trotta, Schlöndorff, Akin, and Levy.

The Great War in German Culture and Society

GER 3390
(not currently offered)
A study of the First World War and the Weimar period in German history and culture with a focus on artistic representations of this tumultuous era. Traces key movements in literature as well as visual art and film, with attention to the way artists responded to social, political, and cultural shifts in early twentieth-century Germany. Readings thematize issues of art and politics, nationalism and militarism, gender and sexuality, and practices of memorialization. Authors may include Remarque, Jünger, Benn, Lasker-Schüler, Trakl, Toller, Brecht, Döblin, Luxemburg, and Keun. All materials and coursework in German.

Mapping Germany: Nature and Knowledge

GER 3391, ENVS 3391
(Jens Klenner)
Considers how German terrain and culture were mapped or charted through representations of nature and the wilderness in a diverse range of texts. Examinations of discourses about nature and landscape reveal how Germany constitutes itself as a nation with a particular relationship to the environment. A comparison of Austrian, German, and Swiss novels, short stories, films, and artworks emphasize the varied but powerful place of nature in the German imagination. Possible works, among others, by Kant, Goethe, Humboldt, Fanck, Ransmayr, Kehlmann, Jelinek, Richter. All materials and coursework in German.

Contemporary Austrian Literature, Drama, and Film

GER 3394
(Jens Klenner)
Examines essential works of post-1945 Austrian literature, drama, and film. Explores how Austrian artists attempt to come to terms with the collapse of the Habsburg Empire and the legacy of collaboration with the Nazi regime. Also considers how works of art both support and call into question Austria’s cultural and national identity in terms of gender and ethnicity. Texts by Bachmann, Bernhard, Handke, Jelinek, and Mayröcker, films by Glawogger, Haneke, Kusturica, and Spielmann. All materials and coursework in German.

Myths, Modernity, Media

GER 3395, CINE 3395
(Birgit Tautz)
Explores the important role that myths have played in German cultural history. While founding myths of Germanic culture (e.g., Nibelungen) are considered, focuses especially on myth in relation to fairy tales, legends (including urban legends of the twentieth century), and borderline genres and motifs (e.g., vampires, witches, automatons), as well as on questions of mythmaking. Examines why modern culture of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, which seemingly neglects or overcomes myths, heavily engages in mythicization of ideas (e.g., gender roles, the unnatural) and popularizes myths through modern media (film, television, the Internet), locations (e.g., cities), and transnational exchange (Disney; the myth of the Orient). Aside from short analytical or interpretive papers aimed at developing critical language skills, students may pursue a creative project (performance of a mythical character, design of a scholarly Web page, writing of a modern fairy tale). Note: Fulfills the film theory and non-US cinema requirements for cinema studies minors.

Global Germany?

GER 3397
(Jill Smith)
The fall of the Berlin Wall and the concomitant end of the Cold War ushered in what many cultural critics call the era of globalization. An exploration of how contemporary German culture (1990-present) grapples with both the possibilities and uncertainties presented by globalization. Examines a myriad of cultural texts -- films, audio plays, dramas, short fiction, novels, photographs, websites -- as well as mass events (i.e., the Love Parade, the 2006 World Cup) within their political, social, and economic contexts to show how Germany’s troubled past continues to affect the role it plays on the global stage and how its changing demographics -- increased urbanization and ethnic diversity -- have altered its cultural and literary landscape. Critically considers issues such as migration, terrorism and genocide, sex tourism, the formation of the European Union, and the supposed decline of the nation-state. Frequent short writings, participation in debates, and a final research project based upon a relevant topic of individual interest are required. All materials and course work in German.

Colors: Signs of Ethnic Difference 1800/1900/2000

GER 3398
(Birgit Tautz)
In German culture, color/hue has played an important role in marking ethnic difference. Investigates the presence of color--metaphorical and actual, as provocative rhetoric and residual thought--in Germany today (e.g., around 2000), before exploring to what extent this presence is a lingering effect of the cultures around 1900 and 1800. In German culture color marks not only “racial difference” (e.g., “black” vs. ”white”), but also geographical difference (“tropical colors”) or diversity (“Bunte Republik Deutschland”). Considers changing discourse on color and ethnic difference in literary texts and films, all of which serve to illuminate the broader cultural context at three historical junctures: 1800, 1900, and 2000. Considers texts and films in conjunction with non-fiction, including examples from the visual arts (paintings, photographs, “Hagenbecks Völkerschauen”), medical and ‘scientific,’ encyclopedic entries, policy statements and advertisements (“Reklamemarken,” commercials), and popular music (hip-hop, lyrics), recognizing, in the process, how German culture (“national identity”) defines itself through and against color. Taught in German.

Narrating Crisis and Catastrophe

GER 3399
(Jens Klenner)
Studies the ubiquity of images and ideas of crises and catastrophes in modern culture. Natural disasters, accidents, financial collapse, wars, and terror permeate the media; crises legitimize political and legal interventions; catastrophic scenarios are central to disaster films. To be imagined and processed, catastrophes must be narrated. Consequently, different models and functions of such narratives from Austria, Germany, and Switzerland since 1800 are investigated; media and formats examined; social and political dimensions explored; and concepts like trauma, survival, prophecy, testimony, or sovereignty scrutinized. All materials and coursework in German.

The Literary Imagination and the Holocaust

GER 1151, CINE 1151
(not currently offered)
An examination of the literary treatment of the Holocaust, a period between 1933 and 1945, during which eleven million innocent people were systematically murdered by the Nazis. Four different literary genres are examined: the diary and memoir, drama, poetry, and the novel. Three basic sets of questions are raised: How could such slaughter take place in the twentieth century? To what extent is literature capable of evoking this period and what different aspects of the Holocaust are stressed by the different genres? What can study of the Holocaust teach with regard to contemporary issues surrounding totalitarianism and racism? No knowledge of German is required.

Berlin: Sin City, Divided City, City of the Future

GER 1152, CINE 1152
(Jill Smith)
An examination of literary, artistic, and cinematic representations of the city of Berlin during three distinct time periods: the “Roaring 20s,” the Cold War, and the post-Wall period. Explores the dramatic cultural, political, and physical transformations that Berlin underwent during the twentieth century and thereby illustrates the central role that Berlin played, and continues to play, in European history and culture, as well as in the American cultural imagination. For each time period studied, compares Anglo-American representations of Berlin with those produced by German artists and writers, and investigates how, why, and to what extent Berlin has retained its status as one of the most quintessentially modern cities in the world. No knowledge of German is required. Note: Fulfills the non-US cinema requirement for cinema studies minors.

Into the Wild

GER 1155, ENVS 1155
(Jens Klenner)
An examination of the mix of conflicting ideas that shape the many conceptions of “wilderness.” Among other questions, explores the ideas of wilderness as a space without or preceding culture and civilization, as a mental state, and as an aesthetic experience. Considers the place of wilderness in the ‘urban jungle’ of cities. Puts Anglo-American and European theories and images of the wilderness into dialogue by comparing literary works, film, artworks, and philosophical texts. No knowledge of German is required.

Nazi Cinema: Propaganda or Entertainment?

156c - ESD, VPA.
(Birgit Tautz)
A study of selected films made in Germany under the auspices of the Nazis (1933–1945).
Illustrates that Nazi cinema was as much entertainment as it was overt propaganda in the service of a terror regime; therefore, includes examples of science fiction, adventure films, and adaptations of literature, as well as anti-Semitic and pro-war feature films and documentaries. Examines three interrelated areas: (1) how Nazi cultural politics and ideology defined the role of cinema; (2) how the films produced in Germany between 1933 and 1945 supported and/or undermined the Nazi regime; and (3) how politics, manipulation, and propaganda work through entertainment. Includes comparisons to representations of Nazi cinema today (e.g.,
Inglorious Basterds). No knowledge of German is required.

Making Sex a Science: Sexology and its Cultural Representation from Krafft-Ebing to Kinsey

GER 2251, GLS 2251, GWS 2258
(Jill Smith)
Traces the development of sexual science, or sexology, from its roots in late nineteenth-century Austria and Germany to its manifestations in twentieth-century Great Britain and the United States. Examines ideas of key figures within sexual science and the myriad ways they sought to define, categorize, and explain non-normative sexual behaviors and desires. Explores how claims of scientific authority and empirical knowledge were used to shape social attitudes toward sexual difference. Analyzes cultural works that either influenced or were influenced by these thinkers. Includes works by the sexologists Krafft-Ebing, Hirschfeld, Ellis, and Kinsey, as well as cultural texts by Boyle, Praunheim, and Sacher-Masoch.

Terrorists and Spies, Borders and Bridges: Highlights of German Cinema since 1980

(VPA, IP) Ger 2252/CINE 2290
(Birgit Tautz)
Studies the development and plurality of German film in the aftermath of New German Cinema (NGC). Examines the particular ways in which the cinematic medium constructs protagonists of mass appeal (terrorists, spies, slackers, etc.) while moving beyond the limits and possibilities of a national cinematic tradition and towards a European (and global) cinematic language. Pays special attention to (1) historical development, over the past four decades, of material conditions of film production, distribution, reception (including the divided cinema of East and West Germany, Austrian Cinema, and up to Babelsberg as European Film City and film within digital cultures); and (2) development of cinematic genres, techniques, and effects that cinema has on other art forms. Fulfills international requirement for Cinema Studies. Filmmakers/Films may include but are not limited to von Trotta (Marianne and Juliane), von Donnersmarck (Lives of Others), Wolf (Solo Sunny), Taught in English.

From Flowers of Evil to Pretty Woman: Prostitutes in Modern Western Culture.

German 27 {1027}c.
(Jill Smith)
Explores the myriad ways that prostitutes have been represented in modern western culture from the middle of the 19th century to the present. By analyzing literary texts, visual artworks, and films from Europe and the United States, examines prostitution as a complex urban phenomenon and a vehicle through which artists and writers grapple with issues of labor, morality, sexuality, and gender roles. Introduces students to a variety of literary, artistic, musical, and filmic genres, as well as to different disciplinary approaches to the study of prostitution. Authors, artists, and film directors may include Baudelaire, Toulouse-Lautrec, Kirchner, Wedekind, Pabst, Marshall, Scorsese, Spielmann, and Sting. (Same as Gay and Lesbian Studies 27 {1027} and Gender and Women’s Studies 27 {1027}.

Comediennes, Historians, and Storytellers: Women Filmmakers in the German-Speaking Countries

GER 1029, CINE 1029, GWS 1029, GLS 1029
(Birgit Tautz)
1st Year Seminar
Examines the work of women filmmakers in the German-speaking countries since the 1960s. Explores key interests of these directors: the telling of stories and (German, European, global) histories; the exploration of gender identity, sexuality, and various waves of feminism; the portrayal of women; the participation in the cinematic conventions of Hollywood as well as independent and avant-garde film; spectatorship. Analyzes a range of films and cinematic genres to include narrative cinema, biography, documentary, and comedy. Also introduces students to film criticism; includes weekly film screenings. No knowledge of German is required. Note: Fulfills the film theory requirement and the non-US cinema requirement for cinema studies minors. Film viewing Tuesday 7:00-9:00pm in HL-Media Commons Screening Room.