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Unit information: Dangerous Bodies: The Body as a Site of Control and Resistance in German History in 2017/18

Unit name Dangerous Bodies: The Body as a Site of Control and Resistance in German History
Unit code GERM20037
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
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

At the end of the 20th century, the body became a central topic of historiographical research. Drawing on new notions of and approaches to the body, historians have offered fascinating insights into the ways in which political authorities have tried to police and control bodies, and into the embodied nature of political protest and resistance.

This unit draws on historical documents, films, and ground-breaking work in body history and cultural theory to explore the fascinating and controversial role of the body in German history and culture. It introduces students to different approaches to the body and bodily experience and enables them to define and apply key concepts in cultural theory such as gender, race, (dis)ability, and sexuality.

Starting with the witch trials in Early Modern Europe and leading right up to the present, we explore how the lines between normal or beautiful and deviant or dangerous bodies were drawn at different moments in German history. The unit will be taught through a mixture of informal lectures, student presentations, and seminar discussions.

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 different theories of the body and approaches to bodily experience.

(2) Acquired and deployed appropriate skills to analyse historical discourses on and representations of the body from an intersectional perspective.

(3) Developed the ability to articulate a critical understanding of gender, race, (dis)ability, and sexuality, and other key concepts in Cultural Theory;

(4) Demonstrated skill in the selection, synthesis and evaluation of primary and secondary sources;

(5) Demonstrated the ability to respond to problems by presenting independent judgements orally and in writing, in an appropriate style and at a high level of complexity.

Teaching details

1 x 2-hour seminar weekly

Assessment Details

1 commentary of 1,000 words (25%, testing ILOs 1-5)

1 presentation, with supporting documentation (for group tasks, including documentation of individual contribution) (25%, testing ILOs 1-5)

1 essay of 2,000 words (50%, testing ILOs 1-5)

Reading and References

Introductory Reading

- Porter, Roy. “The history of the body reconsidered”, in Peter Burke (ed.) New Perspectives on Historical Writing. 2nd ed. Cambridge: Polity, 2001. - Fraser, Mariam, and Monica Greco. The Body: A Reader. Routledge Student Readers. London: Routledge, 2005. - Edgar, Andrew, and Peter R. Sedgwick. Cultural Theory: The Key Concepts. 2nd ed. Routledge Key Guides. London: Routledge, 2007.


Leni Riefenstahl, Olympia (parts 1 and 2, 1938)