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Unit information: Contemporary Politics and Popular Culture in the German-speaking Media in 2017/18

Unit name Contemporary Politics and Popular Culture in the German-speaking Media
Unit code GERM20036
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Debbie Pinfold
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of German
Faculty Faculty of Arts


This Unit will be taught by Dr Katharina Karcher

“Alle reden vom Wetter. Wir nicht.”

Angela Merkel’s decision to open the German borders to hundreds of thousands of refugees in September 2015 sparked a heated public debate. While some praised the German “Willkommenskultur”, others condemned Merkel’s “open-door” refugee policy in the strongest terms. How have the media in the German-speaking world responded to the refugee crisis and other key issues of our time? And what are the potentials and limitations of media coverage of current affairs? This unit introduces students to key institutions and players in the media landscape in the German-speaking world, and provides them with the theoretical tools to contextualise and critically assess media debates on a range of current issues. Week by week we will explore media debates on major political issues alongside media coverage on sports events and other aspects of popular culture. Themes addressed include: immigration and integration; music events and festivals; terrorism and political violence; elections and political debates; popular TV series and internet platforms.

Unit Aims:

- To enhance students’ knowledge of key institutions and players in the media landscape in the German-speaking world; - To familiarise students with different readings of and approaches to popular culture; - To develop students’ ability in critical analysis and academic writing, and their oral presentation skills; - To enhance students’ critical understanding of contemporary Germany in advance of the year abroad.

Intended learning outcomes

By the end of the unit, successful students will have:

  1. Demonstrated, to a standard appropriate to level I, a knowledge of the media landscape in the contemporary German-speaking world;
  2. Acquired and deployed appropriate skills to analyse media debates across a range of materials and outlets;
  3. Developed the ability to articulate, in a range of formats, a critical understanding of a significant aspect of contemporary life;
  4. Demonstrated skill in the selection, synthesis and evaluation of relevant material;
  5. Demonstrated the ability to respond to problems by presenting independent judgements in an appropriate style and at a high level of complexity;
  6. Demonstrated the ability to make an individual contribution to a collaborative group project.

Teaching details

1 x 2h seminar weekly

Assessment Details

1 group presentation and individual write-up (30%), testing ILOs 1-6

1 essay of 2,500 words (70%), testing ILOs 1-5

Reading and References

Boothroyd, Steffi: “The media landscape” in James, Peter. 2002. Modern Germany: Politics, Society and Culture. London/New York: Routledge.

Hecken, Thomas. 2012. Theorien der Popula╠łrkultur. 'Dreißig Positionen von Schiller bis zu den Cultural Studies. Bielefeld: Transcript.

Students are expected to read articles in German-speaking newspapers and on German-speaking online platforms on a regular basis.