Introduction to German Studies

Unit Code: GERM10013
Unit Director: Dr Mark Allinson
Unit Teachers: Dr Mark Allinson, Dr Steffan Davies, Dr Claire Hyland, Dr Nils Langer, Professor Robert Vilain
Teaching Block: One and Two
Credit Points: 40


This unit is mandatory for all students EXCEPT for students reading Law and

German, History with German, and for students doing German at Ab initio level.

This unit aims to introduce to you a variety of aspects of German studies currently being taught in (y)our department. Consequently it consists of a number of different components, all of which will be assessed separately. They comprise:

3 lecture series: 1) Landeskunde, 2) German History, and 3) Faust

2 seminar series (from a selection of 4 – see below)

In TB1 you will have 3 contact hours per week for this unit and in TB2 you will have 2 contact hours per week. 

Lecture course: In TB1 you will attend the Landeskunde (i.e. cultural and political aspects of Germany and Austria) lecture series, which also incorporates some study skills sessions. This part of the course is delivered in German by the language teaching team, and is assessed by a group project. You will also attend lectures on the foundations of German history, to be delivered by Dr Allinson. This part will be assessed by an exam.

In TB2 you will attend lectures on the ‘Faust’ legend and its various manifestations from the chapbook of 1587 through Goethe’s Faust up to contemporary references. This part of the course will be assessed by an exam.

For detailed lecture timetables, see the Blackboard site.

Seminars: In addition to the lecture courses you will attend one seminar hour a week in each TB, giving you the opportunity to study two topics in some depth. You will be allocated to a seminar group by us, and your group will determine which two topics you take. Each seminar will be assessed by an essay or commentary of approximately 1,500 words, and your seminar tutor will provide further information on this.

In the current academic session (2010/11) the following seminars will be offered:

Dr Steffan Davies:  “Mehr Licht!” The German Aufklärung

“Habe Mut, dich deines eigenen Verstandes zu bedienen!” Immanuel Kant’s rallying-cry echoes and defines the core belief of the Enlightenment, the intellectual revolution that swept eighteenth-century Europe and has lost none of its relevance today. The authority of dogma was challenged by the reason of the individual; new forms and forums emerged for the exchange of ideas; religious doctrine perceived as narrow was challenged by a new spirit of tolerance. This course will focus on two key texts of the Aufklärung in Germany: Kant’s short essay Was ist Aufklärung? (1784), and Gotthold Ephraim Lessing’s drama Nathan der Weise (1779). The drama, set in Jerusalem during the Crusades, unites on stage the Jew Nathan, the Muslim ruler Saladin and a hot-headed Christian Templar, yet its message is complex: in the spirit of Kant’s demand, it invites its audience and readers to ask what tolerance is, and whether it can truly be achieved.

Text for purchase (other texts will be provided):

G.E. Lessing, Nathan der Weise (Reclam)

ISBN 978-3150000038

Optional accompanying volume:

Erläuterungen und Dokumente: G.E. Lessing, Nathan der Weise (Reclam)

ISBN 978-3150081181

Both books will be available from the University branch of Waterstones.

Assessment: One essay of 1,500 words.

Professor Robert Vilain:  Romantic Poetry

In these seminars we will study a selection of poetry from the Romantic period of German literature (the early 19th century), by a variety of authors including Arnim, Brentano, Chamisso, Droste-Hülshoff, Eichendorff, Heine, Lenau, Mörike, Novalis, Rückert and Uhland. The aim is to gain a sense of what it meant to be a Romantic, and the seminars will approach this by looking at some of the major themes and preoccupations of the period (love (both passionate and unrequited), death, nature and the seasons, youth/old age, dreams, spirituality, etc.) and at some characteristic forms (the folksong, the ballad, etc.). The seminars will proceed by analysis of individual poems and will develop skills of close reading and an awareness of some of the major features of German verse writing.

Set texts: All texts will be provided in a course booklet available via Blackboard.

Assessment: one essay of approximately 1,500 words.

Dr Claire Hyland: Perceptions of the East

It has been more than two decades since the Berlin Wall fell, yet questions about how the East should be remembered continue to resonate in contemporary Germany. This is demonstrated in part by the considerable number of autobiographical texts which have been published since unification by easterners wishing to share their own perceptions of life in the GDR. In this series of seminars we will explore autobiographical texts published by easterners born in the 1970s, a group which often expresses a strong sense of east Germanness despite the fact that they have spent the majority of their adult lives in unified Germany. The main text for the seminars is Jana Hensel’s Zonenkinder (2003), in which she tells the story of her own childhood in the GDR and the way that she experienced unification. The impact of the text was such that in 2004 a collection of responses to it, entitled Die Zonenkinder und wir was published. We will contextualise Hensel’s text within broader perceptions of the East and compare it to other autobiographical works as well as primary interview material which offer different understandings of childhood in the GDR. Drawing from this range of material, we will consider how experiences of socialism and the unification process have impacted 1970s generation easterners.

Set text: Jana Hensel, Zonenkinder (Rowohlt), available in Blackwells on Park Street.

Assessment: One essay of approximately 1,500 words.

Dr Nils Langer: German Linguistics

To be confirmed.


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