Introduction

Introduction

Back

German

Professors Martin and Rogowski; Associate Professor Gilpin (Chair); Assistant Professor Hunter-Parker; Senior Lecturer Schrade‡; Visiting Lecturer Rizo Lenshyn.

The German experience, both in its sublime achievements and its tragic derailments, provides students with crucial insights as they strive to become global citizens. The Department of German endeavors to be a resource for enriching the international and cross-cultural awareness of all Amherst College students, in order to prepare them for global interaction within their future professional and scholarly fields. The courses we teach in English, often interdisciplinary in focus, are open to all students and do not require any prior knowledge of German. Placement in courses taught in German is determined on the basis of proficiency, in consultation with the instructor.

Major Program. Majoring in German can lead to a variety of careers in education, government, business, international affairs, and the arts. Our majors attend leading graduate programs, teach or take jobs in German-speaking countries and win domestic and international scholarships. 

The German Studies Major is broadly humanistic and cross-cultural. It develops language and cultural literacy skills and provides a critical understanding of the cultural and literary traditions of the German-speaking countries: The Federal Republic of Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. The Department offers effective preparation for graduate study in German literature and language while also opening up a broad range of interdisciplinary perspectives.

The major requires GERM 210 (or its equivalent), GERM 315 and 316 (German Cultural History), and a minimum of five further German courses. Three of these must be courses in German culture and literature, conducted in German. Majors are advised to broaden their knowledge of other European languages and cultures and to supplement their German program with courses in European history, politics, economics, and the arts.

Students who major in German Studies are expected to enroll in at least one German course per semester. The Department faculty will help majors develop individual reading lists as they prepare for a Comprehensive Examination administered during each student’s final semester.

Study Abroad. German majors are encouraged to spend a summer, semester, or year of study abroad as a vital part of their undergraduate experience. The Department maintains a regular student exchange program with Göttingen University in Germany. Each year we send two students to that university in exchange for two German students who serve as Language Assistants at Amherst College. Faculty can also advise on a variety of other options for study in a German-speaking country. Please also check out the Study Abroad Opportunities link for further program information.

Departmental Honors Program. In addition to the courses required for a rite degree in the major, candidates for Honors must complete GERM 498 and 499 and present a thesis on a topic chosen in consultation with an advisor in the Department. The aim of Honors work in German is (1) to consolidate general knowledge of the history and development of German language, culture, and history; (2) to explore a chosen subject through a more intensive program of readings and research than is possible in course work; (3) to present material along historical or analytical lines, in the form of a scholarly thesis.

Honors students who major with a concentration in German Studies are encouraged to consult early with their faculty advisor about a possible thesis topic. Depending on the topic chosen, their thesis committee will be comprised of Amherst College German Studies faculty who may or may not invite faculty from other departments, or from the Five Colleges to participate as readers. The thesis committee will be chaired by the student’s Department of German thesis advisor.

The quality of the Honors thesis, the result of the Comprehensive Examination, together with the overall college grade average, will determine the level of Honors recommended by the Department.

‡ On leave spring semester 2021-22.

101 Elementary German I

Our multimedia course acquaints students with present day life and culture in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Authentic documents and interviews with native speakers from all walks of life serve as a first-hand introduction to the German-speaking countries. An interactive learning software, as well as related Internet audio-visual materials emphasize the mastery of speaking, writing, and reading skills that are the foundation for further study. Three hours a week for explanation and demonstration, one hour a week in small TA sections.

Fall semester: Lecturer Schrade. Spring semester: Professor Hunter Parker. 

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Spring 2022

102 Elementary German II

A continuation of GERM 101, with increased emphasis on reading of selected texts. Three class meetings per week plus one additional conversation hour in small sections.

Requisite: GERM 101 or equivalent. Fall and spring semesters. Visiting Lecturer Rizo Lenshyn. 

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2009, Spring 2010, Spring 2011, Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Spring 2022

205 Intermediate German

Systematic review of grammar, aural and speaking practice, discussion of video and television programs, and reading of selected texts in contemporary German. Stress will be on the acquisition and polishing of verbal, reading, writing, and comprehension skills in German. Three hours per week for explanation and structured discussion, plus one hour per week in small sections for additional practice with German language assistants.Requisite: GERM 102 or two years of secondary-school German or equivalent. Fall and Spring semester: Professor Gilpin.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Spring 2022

210 Advanced Composition and Conversation

Practice in free composition and analytical writing in German. Exercises in pronunciation and idiomatic conversation. Supplementary work with audio and video materials. Oral reports on selected topics and reading of literary and topical texts. Conducted in German. Three hours per week, plus one hour per week in small sections for additional practice with German language assistants.

Requisite: GERM 205 or equivalent, based on departmental placement decision.

Fall semester: Lecturer Schrade. Spring semester: Professor Hunter-Parker.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2009, Spring 2010, Spring 2011, Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Spring 2022

250 Chivalry: The Life, Death, and Legend of a Medieval Cultural Code

“Chivalry is dead?” Does the current fascination with Game of Thrones indicate that medieval chivalrous codes of conduct are as relevant today as ever? Defenders and critics may argue if and why, and still agree that the time of gallant knights and gentle ladies is long gone. But was chivalry ever alive to begin with? How did medieval societies understand chivalry, and would they recognize its representations today? This course examines the historical literary sources of an enduring cultural concept, and charts the routes of its transmission into the present. Students will be introduced to key narrative traditions such as the chanson de geste, heroic epic and courtly romance from the twelfth through the fifteenth centuries, as well as the conditions for their survival, reception, and adaptation in later centuries. The course objective will be to explore how fictional narratives of the past can be used to critique and historicize received cultural concepts today, from MMORPGs and histo-tainment to contemporary political discourse. In counterpoint, the course also examines how current theoretical discussions can foster more nuanced readings of medieval texts and contexts. Readings include Pfaffe Konrad, Rolandslied; Nibelungenlied; Hartmann von Aue, Iwein; Gottfried von Straßburg, Tristan; Wolfram von Eschenbach, Parzival; Ulrich von Liechtenstein, Frauendienst; Theuerdank. Conducted in English, with German majors required to do a substantial portion of the reading in German.

Omitted 2021-22. Professor Hunter-Parker.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2020

312 Advanced Reading, Conversation, and Composition

This course revolves around sites of memory related to German history – “Erinnerungsorte deutscher Geschichte.” It is based on discussion and close analysis of a wide range of cultural materials, including selections from all types of media. Materials will be analyzed both for their linguistic features and as cultural documents. Textual analysis includes study of vocabulary, style, and selected points of advanced grammar. The class includes round-table discussions, oral reports, and structured composition exercises that enable students to navigate German language and culture successfully. Conducted in German. Three class hours per week, plus an additional hour in small TA-sections. Requisite: GERM 210 or equivalent.

Omitted 2021-22. Lecturer Schrade.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2020

315 German Cultural History to 1800

An examination of cultural developments in the German tradition, from the Early Middle Ages to the rise of Prussia and the Napoleonic Period. We shall explore the interaction between socio-political factors in German-speaking Europe and works of “high art” produced in the successive eras, as well as Germany’s centuries-long search for a cultural identity. Literature to be considered will include selections from Tacitus’ Germania, the Hildebrandslied, a courtly epic and some medieval lyric poetry; the sixteenth-century Faust chapbook and other writings of the Reformation Period; Baroque prose, poetry, and music; works by Lessing and other figures of the German Enlightenment; Sturm und Drang, including early works by Goethe, Schiller, and their younger contemporaries. Small-group discussion and reflective writing practice will develop students' speaking and writing in German, while a range of audio-visual materials will strengthen reading and listening skills. 

Requisite: GERM 210 or equivalent.

Fall semester. Professor Hunter-Parker.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2017, Fall 2018, Fall 2019, Fall 2020, Fall 2021

316 German Cultural History from 1800 to the Present

A survey of literary and cultural developments in the German tradition from the Romantic Period to contemporary trends. Major themes will include the Romantic imagination and the rise of nationalism in the nineteenth century, the literary rebellion of the period prior to 1848, Poetic Realism and the Industrial Revolution, and various forms of aestheticism, activism, and myth. In the twentieth century we shall consider the culture of Vienna, the “Golden Twenties,” the suppression of freedom in the Nazi state, issues of exile and inner emigration, and the diverse models of cultural reconstruction after 1945. Authors represented will include Friedrich Schlegel, Brentano, Heine, Büchner, Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche, Heinrich and Thomas Mann, Kafka, Brecht, Grass, Wolf, and Handke. Music by Schubert, Wagner, Mahler, and Henze; samples of art and architecture. Conducted in German.

Requisite: GERM 210 or equivalent.

Spring semester: Professor Rogowski.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2009, Spring 2010, Spring 2011, Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Spring 2022

320 Deutsche Fabeln: Fables in German Literature from Aesop to Zarathustra

Short, sweet, and smart, fables are one of the oldest and most successful genres in Western literature, if not the world. Since the eighteenth century, fable collections were the most-read books in the German language after the Bible. Fanciful creatures and a simple moral work to educate and delight audiences. But with these stories’ long success, the question of who gets credit is anything but simple. What is a fable and what is not? Who writes fables, who reads them, and why? How do they reach their audience? Is there such a thing as German fable, or is it all just Aesop redux? Through readings in and on the genre, this course introduces students to key authors and movements in the history of German literature. Students will deepen interpretive skills through discussions of representative historical texts and contexts between the Enlightenment and early-Modernism. Authors include Martin Luther, Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, Sophie von la Roche, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Heinrich von Kleist, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, Adalbert Stifter, Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach, and Friedrich Nietzsche. Conducted in German.

Requisite: GERM 210 or equivalent.

Omitted 2021-22. Professor Hunter-Parker.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2019, Spring 2021

330 Green Germany

Is Germany’s reputation as a global leader in environmental issues warranted? Can a modern industrial nation deliver on the promise, made in 2011, to abandon nuclear energy? This course examines the history of German environmentalism, focusing on, among other topics, the nature worship of the Romantics; the discomfort with nineteenth century industrialization; the Lebensreform efforts around 1900; the “blood and soil” ideology of the Nazis; post-World War II pacifism; the emergence of the Green Party in the 1980s; current initiatives in sustainability practices; as well as the impact of major environmental disasters such as Chernobyl (1986) and Fukushima (2011). Readings by authors such as Hans Magnus Enzensberger, Max Frisch, Peter Härtling, Hermann Hesse, Monika Maron, and Christa Wolf. Films by directors such as Doris Dörrie, Peter Fleischmann, Oliver Haffner, Werner Herzog, and Herbert Selpin. Conducted in German.

Requisite: GERM 210 or equivalent.

Omitted 2021-22. Professor Rogowski.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2020

338 Modern Drama

Why is drama an art form of such tremendous importance to Germans, Austrians, and the Swiss? Few cultures can boast a similar preoccupation with, interest in, and public support of, the theater. This course examines the rich legacy of dramatic innovation and experimentation from about 1890 to the present day, ranging from the scandals surrounding Frank Wedekind’s exposition of sexual hypocrisy to the iconoclastic provocations of present-day Regietheater. We will read and discuss selected plays by authors such as Gerhart Hauptmann, Arthur Schnitzler, Georg Kaiser, Bertolt Brecht, Marie-Luise Fleisser, Peter Weiss, Heinar Kipphardt, Friedrich Dürrenmatt, Max Frisch, Botho Strauß, Marlene Streeruwitz, Elfriede Jelinek and others. Readings will be supplemented by audiovisual materials on artists like Pina Bausch, Johann Kresnik, and Heiner Müller.
Conducted in German.

Requisite: GERM 210 or equivalent.

Fall semester: Professor Rogowski.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2009, Spring 2019, Fall 2021

347 Weimar Cinema: The "Golden Age" of German Film

(Offered as GERM 347 and FAMS 323) This course examines the German contribution to the emergence of film as both a distinctly modern art form and as a product of mass culture. The international success of Robert Wiene’s Expressionist phantasmagoria, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920), heralded the beginning of a period of unparalleled artistic exploration, prior to the advent of Hitler, during which the ground was laid for many of the filmic genres familiar today: horror film (F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu), detective thriller (Fritz Lang’s M), satirical comedy (Ernst Lubitsch’s The Oyster Princess), psychological drama (G.W. Pabst’s Pandora’s Box), science fiction (Lang’s Metropolis), social melodrama (Pabst’s The Joyless Street), historical costume film (Lubitsch’s Passion), political propaganda (Slatan Dudow’s Kuhle Wampe), anti-war epic (Pabst’s Westfront 1918), a documentary montage (Walther Ruttmann’s Berlin – Symphony of a Big City), and the distinctly German genre of the “mountain film” (Leni Riefenstahl’s The Blue Light). Readings, including works by Siegried Kracauer, Walter Benjamin, Lotte H. Eisner, Béla Balázs, and Rudolf Arnheim, will address questions of technology and modernity, gender relations after World War I, the intersection of politics and film, and the impact of German and Austrian exiles on Hollywood.
Conducted in English, with German majors required to do a substantial portion of the reading in German.

Omitted 2021-22. Professor Rogowski.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2010, Spring 2012, Spring 2015, Spring 2020

348 Nazi Cinema

(Offered as GERM 348 and FAMS 325) This course examines the vital role cinema played in sustaining the totalitarian Nazi system. From the visually stunning “documentaries” of Leni Riefenstahl to the tearful melodramas starring Swedish diva Zarah Leander, from the vicious anti-Semitic diatribes of propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels to the ostensibly apolitical “revue films” featuring Hungarian dancer-chanteuse Marika Rökk, the cinema of the Third Reich (1933-45) is fraught with contradiction and complexity. How did the German film industry cope with the exodus of Jewish (or politically suspect) talent after Hitler came to power? What tensions arose between a centralized bureaucracy pursuing an ideological agenda and an industry geared toward profit maximization? How do genre films of the period negotiate the conflict between official notions of a “racially homogeneous” body politic on the one hand and audiences’ pervasive fascination with the exotic on the other? What does the popularity of stars such as Hans Albers, Heinz Rühmann, Lilian Harvey, and Kristina Söderbaum tell us about the private dreams and aspirations of German audiences at the time? Were there pockets of resistance to censorship? Can there be artistic freedom under a totalitarian regime? To answer questions such as these, we will examine films from a wide range of directors, including Willi Forst, Veit Harlan, Helmut Käutner, Wolfgang Liebeneiner, Leni Riefenstahl, Reinhold Schünzel, Detlef Sierck/Douglas Sirk, and Hans Steinhoff.

Omitted 2021-22. Professor Rogowski.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2016, Spring 2021

350 Rilke

The course will explore the rich legacy of one of the greatest poets of the twentieth century. We will examine Rilke’s peculiar background in the German-speaking minority in Habsburg Prague; his situation in the literary world of fin-de-siècle Munich; the significance of his encounter with Lou Andreas-Salomé; the intellectual experiences that shaped his outlook on life and on poetry (Nietzsche; Russia and Tolstoy; Paris and Rodin); his artistic breakthrough in the two-volume New Poems (1907) and the concept of the "Ding-Gedicht"; the existential crisis reflected in the modernist novel The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge (1910); his reflections on the role of poetry in a modern world of uncertainty in texts such as A Letter to a Young Poet (1903); his artistic crisis of the 1910s; and the extraordinary double achievement of 1922, The Duino Elegies and The Sonnets to Orpheus. Conducted in English (no knowledge of German required), with German majors required to do a substantial portion of the reading in German.

Omitted 2021-22. Professor Rogowski.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2010, Spring 2013, Spring 2016, Fall 2019

360 Performance

(Offered as GERM 360, ARCH 360, EUST 360 and FAMS 316) What is performance? What constitutes an event? How can we address a phenomenon that has disappeared the moment we apprehend it? How does memory operate in our critical perception of an event? How does a body make meaning? These are a few of the questions we will explore in this course, as we discuss critical, theoretical, and compositional approaches in a broad range of multidisciplinary performance phenomena emerging from European—primarily German—culture in the twentieth century. We will focus on issues of performativity, composition, conceptualization, dramaturgy, identity construction, representation, space, gender, and dynamism. Readings of performance theory, performance studies, gender studies, and critical/cultural studies, as well as literary, philosophical, and architectural texts, will accompany close examination of performance material. Students will develop performative projects in various media (video, performance, text, online) and deliver a number of critical oral and written presentations on various aspects of the course material and their own projects. Performance material will be experienced live when possible, and in text, video, audio, digital media and online form, drawn from selected works of Dada and Surrealism, Bauhaus, German Expressionism, the Theater of the Absurd, Tanztheater, and Contemporary Theater, Performance, Dance, Opera, New Media, and Performance Art. A number of films, including Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari, Oskar Schlemmer’s Das Triadische Ballett, Fernand Léger’s Ballet Mécanique, and Kurt Jooss’ Der Grüne Tisch, will also be screened. Conducted in English, with German majors required to do a substantial portion of the reading in German.

Limited to 16 students.

Omitted 2021-22. Professor Gilpin.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2009, Spring 2011, Spring 2014, Fall 2017, Fall 2020

363 Traumatic Events

(Offered as GERM 363, ARCH 363, EUST 363, and FAMS 370) How is memory constructed and represented? How is it possible to bear witness, and what exactly is involved? Who is authorized to testify, to whom, when? Whose story is it? Is it possible to tell "the story" of a traumatic event? What are the disorders of testimony, and how and where do they emerge? This course will observe the workings of trauma (the enactment and working-through of collective and individual symptoms of trauma), memory, and witnessing in various modes of everyday life. We will examine notions of catastrophe, disaster, accident, and violence, and explore the possibilities and impossibilities of bearing witness in many forms of cultural production: in fiction, poetry, architecture, critical theory, oral and written testimonies, visual art, monuments, memorials, philosophy, science, cartoons, film, video, theater, social media, and performance, online and in our public and domestic spaces. We will study various representations of trauma, paying particular attention to events in Germany and Europe from the twentieth century, as well as to 9/11, the Covid-19 pandemic and inter/national events of 2020. Material to be examined will be drawn from the work of Pina Bausch, Joseph Beuys, Christian Boltanski, Cathy Caruth, Paul Celan, Marguerite Duras, Peter Eisenman, Shoshana Felman, Florian Freund, Jochen Gerz, Geoffrey Hartman, Rebecca Horn, Marion Kant, Anselm Kiefer, Ruth Klüger, Dominick LaCapra, Claude Lanzmann, Dori Laub, Daniel Libeskind, W.G. Sebald, Art Spiegelman, Paul Virilio, Peter Weiss, Wim Wenders, Elie Wiesel, Christa Wolf, and others. Conducted in English with German majors required to do a substantial portion of the reading in German.

Omitted 2021-22. Professor Gilpin.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2008, Fall 2010, Fall 2014, Fall 2018

365 Making Memorials

(Offered as GERM 365, ARCH 365, and EUST 365) This is a course about what happens to difficult memories: memories that are intensely personal, but made public, memories that belong to communities, but which become ideologically possessed by history, politics, or the media. How are memories processed into memorials? What constitutes a memorial? What gets included or excluded? How is memory performed in cultural objects, spaces, and institutions? What is the relationship between the politics of representation and memory? Who owns memory? Who is authorized to convey it? How does memory function? This course will explore the spaces in which memories are “preserved” and experienced. Our attention will focus on the transformation of private and public memories in works of architecture, performance, literature, and the visual arts, primarily in Germany, Europe, and the United States in the twentieth century, including also 9/11, the COVID-19 pandemic, and inter/national events of 2020. Preference given to German majors and European Studies majors, as well as to students interested in architecture/design, performance, the visual arts, interactive installation and/or the environment. Conducted in English, with German majors required to do a substantial portion of the reading in German.

Limited to 20 students. Professor Gilpin.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2009, Fall 2012, Fall 2016, Fall 2021

368 SPACE

(Offered as GERM 368, ARCH 368, EUST 368, and FAMS 380) This research seminar will explore conceptions of space as they have informed and influenced thought and creativity in the fields of cultural studies, literature, architecture, urban studies, performance, and the visual, electronic, and time-based arts. Students will select and pursue a major semester-long research project early in the semester in consultation with the professor, and present their research in its various stages of development throughout the semester, in a variety of media formats (writing, performance, video, electronic art/interactive media, installation, online and networked events, architectural/design drawings/renderings), along with oral presentations of readings and other materials. Readings and visual materials will be drawn from the fields of literature and philosophy; architectural, art, and film theory and history; performance studies and performance theory; and theories of technology and the natural and built environment. Emphasis on developing research, writing, and presentation skills is a core of this seminar.

Preference given to German majors and European Studies majors, as well as to students interested in architecture/design, performance, film/video, interactive installation, and/or the environment. Conducted in English. German majors will select a research project focused on a German Studies context, and will do a substantial portion of the readings in German. 

Limited to 18 students. Enrollment requires attendance at the first class meeting. Spring semester. Professor Gilpin.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2015, Spring 2018, Spring 2022

490 Special Topics

Independent reading course.

Fall and spring semesters. The Department.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Spring 2022

498, 499 Senior Departmental Honors

Fall semester. The Department.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2017, Fall 2018, Fall 2019, Fall 2020, Fall 2021

About Amherst College

About Amherst College

Back

German

Professors Martin and Rogowski; Associate Professor Gilpin (Chair); Assistant Professor Hunter-Parker; Senior Lecturer Schrade‡; Visiting Lecturer Rizo Lenshyn.

The German experience, both in its sublime achievements and its tragic derailments, provides students with crucial insights as they strive to become global citizens. The Department of German endeavors to be a resource for enriching the international and cross-cultural awareness of all Amherst College students, in order to prepare them for global interaction within their future professional and scholarly fields. The courses we teach in English, often interdisciplinary in focus, are open to all students and do not require any prior knowledge of German. Placement in courses taught in German is determined on the basis of proficiency, in consultation with the instructor.

Major Program. Majoring in German can lead to a variety of careers in education, government, business, international affairs, and the arts. Our majors attend leading graduate programs, teach or take jobs in German-speaking countries and win domestic and international scholarships. 

The German Studies Major is broadly humanistic and cross-cultural. It develops language and cultural literacy skills and provides a critical understanding of the cultural and literary traditions of the German-speaking countries: The Federal Republic of Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. The Department offers effective preparation for graduate study in German literature and language while also opening up a broad range of interdisciplinary perspectives.

The major requires GERM 210 (or its equivalent), GERM 315 and 316 (German Cultural History), and a minimum of five further German courses. Three of these must be courses in German culture and literature, conducted in German. Majors are advised to broaden their knowledge of other European languages and cultures and to supplement their German program with courses in European history, politics, economics, and the arts.

Students who major in German Studies are expected to enroll in at least one German course per semester. The Department faculty will help majors develop individual reading lists as they prepare for a Comprehensive Examination administered during each student’s final semester.

Study Abroad. German majors are encouraged to spend a summer, semester, or year of study abroad as a vital part of their undergraduate experience. The Department maintains a regular student exchange program with Göttingen University in Germany. Each year we send two students to that university in exchange for two German students who serve as Language Assistants at Amherst College. Faculty can also advise on a variety of other options for study in a German-speaking country. Please also check out the Study Abroad Opportunities link for further program information.

Departmental Honors Program. In addition to the courses required for a rite degree in the major, candidates for Honors must complete GERM 498 and 499 and present a thesis on a topic chosen in consultation with an advisor in the Department. The aim of Honors work in German is (1) to consolidate general knowledge of the history and development of German language, culture, and history; (2) to explore a chosen subject through a more intensive program of readings and research than is possible in course work; (3) to present material along historical or analytical lines, in the form of a scholarly thesis.

Honors students who major with a concentration in German Studies are encouraged to consult early with their faculty advisor about a possible thesis topic. Depending on the topic chosen, their thesis committee will be comprised of Amherst College German Studies faculty who may or may not invite faculty from other departments, or from the Five Colleges to participate as readers. The thesis committee will be chaired by the student’s Department of German thesis advisor.

The quality of the Honors thesis, the result of the Comprehensive Examination, together with the overall college grade average, will determine the level of Honors recommended by the Department.

‡ On leave spring semester 2021-22.

101 Elementary German I

Our multimedia course acquaints students with present day life and culture in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Authentic documents and interviews with native speakers from all walks of life serve as a first-hand introduction to the German-speaking countries. An interactive learning software, as well as related Internet audio-visual materials emphasize the mastery of speaking, writing, and reading skills that are the foundation for further study. Three hours a week for explanation and demonstration, one hour a week in small TA sections.

Fall semester: Lecturer Schrade. Spring semester: Professor Hunter Parker. 

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Spring 2022

102 Elementary German II

A continuation of GERM 101, with increased emphasis on reading of selected texts. Three class meetings per week plus one additional conversation hour in small sections.

Requisite: GERM 101 or equivalent. Fall and spring semesters. Visiting Lecturer Rizo Lenshyn. 

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2009, Spring 2010, Spring 2011, Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Spring 2022

205 Intermediate German

Systematic review of grammar, aural and speaking practice, discussion of video and television programs, and reading of selected texts in contemporary German. Stress will be on the acquisition and polishing of verbal, reading, writing, and comprehension skills in German. Three hours per week for explanation and structured discussion, plus one hour per week in small sections for additional practice with German language assistants.Requisite: GERM 102 or two years of secondary-school German or equivalent. Fall and Spring semester: Professor Gilpin.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Spring 2022

210 Advanced Composition and Conversation

Practice in free composition and analytical writing in German. Exercises in pronunciation and idiomatic conversation. Supplementary work with audio and video materials. Oral reports on selected topics and reading of literary and topical texts. Conducted in German. Three hours per week, plus one hour per week in small sections for additional practice with German language assistants.

Requisite: GERM 205 or equivalent, based on departmental placement decision.

Fall semester: Lecturer Schrade. Spring semester: Professor Hunter-Parker.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2009, Spring 2010, Spring 2011, Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Spring 2022

250 Chivalry: The Life, Death, and Legend of a Medieval Cultural Code

“Chivalry is dead?” Does the current fascination with Game of Thrones indicate that medieval chivalrous codes of conduct are as relevant today as ever? Defenders and critics may argue if and why, and still agree that the time of gallant knights and gentle ladies is long gone. But was chivalry ever alive to begin with? How did medieval societies understand chivalry, and would they recognize its representations today? This course examines the historical literary sources of an enduring cultural concept, and charts the routes of its transmission into the present. Students will be introduced to key narrative traditions such as the chanson de geste, heroic epic and courtly romance from the twelfth through the fifteenth centuries, as well as the conditions for their survival, reception, and adaptation in later centuries. The course objective will be to explore how fictional narratives of the past can be used to critique and historicize received cultural concepts today, from MMORPGs and histo-tainment to contemporary political discourse. In counterpoint, the course also examines how current theoretical discussions can foster more nuanced readings of medieval texts and contexts. Readings include Pfaffe Konrad, Rolandslied; Nibelungenlied; Hartmann von Aue, Iwein; Gottfried von Straßburg, Tristan; Wolfram von Eschenbach, Parzival; Ulrich von Liechtenstein, Frauendienst; Theuerdank. Conducted in English, with German majors required to do a substantial portion of the reading in German.

Omitted 2021-22. Professor Hunter-Parker.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2020

312 Advanced Reading, Conversation, and Composition

This course revolves around sites of memory related to German history – “Erinnerungsorte deutscher Geschichte.” It is based on discussion and close analysis of a wide range of cultural materials, including selections from all types of media. Materials will be analyzed both for their linguistic features and as cultural documents. Textual analysis includes study of vocabulary, style, and selected points of advanced grammar. The class includes round-table discussions, oral reports, and structured composition exercises that enable students to navigate German language and culture successfully. Conducted in German. Three class hours per week, plus an additional hour in small TA-sections. Requisite: GERM 210 or equivalent.

Omitted 2021-22. Lecturer Schrade.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2020

315 German Cultural History to 1800

An examination of cultural developments in the German tradition, from the Early Middle Ages to the rise of Prussia and the Napoleonic Period. We shall explore the interaction between socio-political factors in German-speaking Europe and works of “high art” produced in the successive eras, as well as Germany’s centuries-long search for a cultural identity. Literature to be considered will include selections from Tacitus’ Germania, the Hildebrandslied, a courtly epic and some medieval lyric poetry; the sixteenth-century Faust chapbook and other writings of the Reformation Period; Baroque prose, poetry, and music; works by Lessing and other figures of the German Enlightenment; Sturm und Drang, including early works by Goethe, Schiller, and their younger contemporaries. Small-group discussion and reflective writing practice will develop students' speaking and writing in German, while a range of audio-visual materials will strengthen reading and listening skills. 

Requisite: GERM 210 or equivalent.

Fall semester. Professor Hunter-Parker.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2017, Fall 2018, Fall 2019, Fall 2020, Fall 2021

316 German Cultural History from 1800 to the Present

A survey of literary and cultural developments in the German tradition from the Romantic Period to contemporary trends. Major themes will include the Romantic imagination and the rise of nationalism in the nineteenth century, the literary rebellion of the period prior to 1848, Poetic Realism and the Industrial Revolution, and various forms of aestheticism, activism, and myth. In the twentieth century we shall consider the culture of Vienna, the “Golden Twenties,” the suppression of freedom in the Nazi state, issues of exile and inner emigration, and the diverse models of cultural reconstruction after 1945. Authors represented will include Friedrich Schlegel, Brentano, Heine, Büchner, Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche, Heinrich and Thomas Mann, Kafka, Brecht, Grass, Wolf, and Handke. Music by Schubert, Wagner, Mahler, and Henze; samples of art and architecture. Conducted in German.

Requisite: GERM 210 or equivalent.

Spring semester: Professor Rogowski.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2009, Spring 2010, Spring 2011, Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Spring 2022

320 Deutsche Fabeln: Fables in German Literature from Aesop to Zarathustra

Short, sweet, and smart, fables are one of the oldest and most successful genres in Western literature, if not the world. Since the eighteenth century, fable collections were the most-read books in the German language after the Bible. Fanciful creatures and a simple moral work to educate and delight audiences. But with these stories’ long success, the question of who gets credit is anything but simple. What is a fable and what is not? Who writes fables, who reads them, and why? How do they reach their audience? Is there such a thing as German fable, or is it all just Aesop redux? Through readings in and on the genre, this course introduces students to key authors and movements in the history of German literature. Students will deepen interpretive skills through discussions of representative historical texts and contexts between the Enlightenment and early-Modernism. Authors include Martin Luther, Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, Sophie von la Roche, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Heinrich von Kleist, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, Adalbert Stifter, Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach, and Friedrich Nietzsche. Conducted in German.

Requisite: GERM 210 or equivalent.

Omitted 2021-22. Professor Hunter-Parker.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2019, Spring 2021

330 Green Germany

Is Germany’s reputation as a global leader in environmental issues warranted? Can a modern industrial nation deliver on the promise, made in 2011, to abandon nuclear energy? This course examines the history of German environmentalism, focusing on, among other topics, the nature worship of the Romantics; the discomfort with nineteenth century industrialization; the Lebensreform efforts around 1900; the “blood and soil” ideology of the Nazis; post-World War II pacifism; the emergence of the Green Party in the 1980s; current initiatives in sustainability practices; as well as the impact of major environmental disasters such as Chernobyl (1986) and Fukushima (2011). Readings by authors such as Hans Magnus Enzensberger, Max Frisch, Peter Härtling, Hermann Hesse, Monika Maron, and Christa Wolf. Films by directors such as Doris Dörrie, Peter Fleischmann, Oliver Haffner, Werner Herzog, and Herbert Selpin. Conducted in German.

Requisite: GERM 210 or equivalent.

Omitted 2021-22. Professor Rogowski.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2020

338 Modern Drama

Why is drama an art form of such tremendous importance to Germans, Austrians, and the Swiss? Few cultures can boast a similar preoccupation with, interest in, and public support of, the theater. This course examines the rich legacy of dramatic innovation and experimentation from about 1890 to the present day, ranging from the scandals surrounding Frank Wedekind’s exposition of sexual hypocrisy to the iconoclastic provocations of present-day Regietheater. We will read and discuss selected plays by authors such as Gerhart Hauptmann, Arthur Schnitzler, Georg Kaiser, Bertolt Brecht, Marie-Luise Fleisser, Peter Weiss, Heinar Kipphardt, Friedrich Dürrenmatt, Max Frisch, Botho Strauß, Marlene Streeruwitz, Elfriede Jelinek and others. Readings will be supplemented by audiovisual materials on artists like Pina Bausch, Johann Kresnik, and Heiner Müller.
Conducted in German.

Requisite: GERM 210 or equivalent.

Fall semester: Professor Rogowski.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2009, Spring 2019, Fall 2021

347 Weimar Cinema: The "Golden Age" of German Film

(Offered as GERM 347 and FAMS 323) This course examines the German contribution to the emergence of film as both a distinctly modern art form and as a product of mass culture. The international success of Robert Wiene’s Expressionist phantasmagoria, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920), heralded the beginning of a period of unparalleled artistic exploration, prior to the advent of Hitler, during which the ground was laid for many of the filmic genres familiar today: horror film (F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu), detective thriller (Fritz Lang’s M), satirical comedy (Ernst Lubitsch’s The Oyster Princess), psychological drama (G.W. Pabst’s Pandora’s Box), science fiction (Lang’s Metropolis), social melodrama (Pabst’s The Joyless Street), historical costume film (Lubitsch’s Passion), political propaganda (Slatan Dudow’s Kuhle Wampe), anti-war epic (Pabst’s Westfront 1918), a documentary montage (Walther Ruttmann’s Berlin – Symphony of a Big City), and the distinctly German genre of the “mountain film” (Leni Riefenstahl’s The Blue Light). Readings, including works by Siegried Kracauer, Walter Benjamin, Lotte H. Eisner, Béla Balázs, and Rudolf Arnheim, will address questions of technology and modernity, gender relations after World War I, the intersection of politics and film, and the impact of German and Austrian exiles on Hollywood.
Conducted in English, with German majors required to do a substantial portion of the reading in German.

Omitted 2021-22. Professor Rogowski.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2010, Spring 2012, Spring 2015, Spring 2020

348 Nazi Cinema

(Offered as GERM 348 and FAMS 325) This course examines the vital role cinema played in sustaining the totalitarian Nazi system. From the visually stunning “documentaries” of Leni Riefenstahl to the tearful melodramas starring Swedish diva Zarah Leander, from the vicious anti-Semitic diatribes of propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels to the ostensibly apolitical “revue films” featuring Hungarian dancer-chanteuse Marika Rökk, the cinema of the Third Reich (1933-45) is fraught with contradiction and complexity. How did the German film industry cope with the exodus of Jewish (or politically suspect) talent after Hitler came to power? What tensions arose between a centralized bureaucracy pursuing an ideological agenda and an industry geared toward profit maximization? How do genre films of the period negotiate the conflict between official notions of a “racially homogeneous” body politic on the one hand and audiences’ pervasive fascination with the exotic on the other? What does the popularity of stars such as Hans Albers, Heinz Rühmann, Lilian Harvey, and Kristina Söderbaum tell us about the private dreams and aspirations of German audiences at the time? Were there pockets of resistance to censorship? Can there be artistic freedom under a totalitarian regime? To answer questions such as these, we will examine films from a wide range of directors, including Willi Forst, Veit Harlan, Helmut Käutner, Wolfgang Liebeneiner, Leni Riefenstahl, Reinhold Schünzel, Detlef Sierck/Douglas Sirk, and Hans Steinhoff.

Omitted 2021-22. Professor Rogowski.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2016, Spring 2021

350 Rilke

The course will explore the rich legacy of one of the greatest poets of the twentieth century. We will examine Rilke’s peculiar background in the German-speaking minority in Habsburg Prague; his situation in the literary world of fin-de-siècle Munich; the significance of his encounter with Lou Andreas-Salomé; the intellectual experiences that shaped his outlook on life and on poetry (Nietzsche; Russia and Tolstoy; Paris and Rodin); his artistic breakthrough in the two-volume New Poems (1907) and the concept of the "Ding-Gedicht"; the existential crisis reflected in the modernist novel The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge (1910); his reflections on the role of poetry in a modern world of uncertainty in texts such as A Letter to a Young Poet (1903); his artistic crisis of the 1910s; and the extraordinary double achievement of 1922, The Duino Elegies and The Sonnets to Orpheus. Conducted in English (no knowledge of German required), with German majors required to do a substantial portion of the reading in German.

Omitted 2021-22. Professor Rogowski.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2010, Spring 2013, Spring 2016, Fall 2019

360 Performance

(Offered as GERM 360, ARCH 360, EUST 360 and FAMS 316) What is performance? What constitutes an event? How can we address a phenomenon that has disappeared the moment we apprehend it? How does memory operate in our critical perception of an event? How does a body make meaning? These are a few of the questions we will explore in this course, as we discuss critical, theoretical, and compositional approaches in a broad range of multidisciplinary performance phenomena emerging from European—primarily German—culture in the twentieth century. We will focus on issues of performativity, composition, conceptualization, dramaturgy, identity construction, representation, space, gender, and dynamism. Readings of performance theory, performance studies, gender studies, and critical/cultural studies, as well as literary, philosophical, and architectural texts, will accompany close examination of performance material. Students will develop performative projects in various media (video, performance, text, online) and deliver a number of critical oral and written presentations on various aspects of the course material and their own projects. Performance material will be experienced live when possible, and in text, video, audio, digital media and online form, drawn from selected works of Dada and Surrealism, Bauhaus, German Expressionism, the Theater of the Absurd, Tanztheater, and Contemporary Theater, Performance, Dance, Opera, New Media, and Performance Art. A number of films, including Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari, Oskar Schlemmer’s Das Triadische Ballett, Fernand Léger’s Ballet Mécanique, and Kurt Jooss’ Der Grüne Tisch, will also be screened. Conducted in English, with German majors required to do a substantial portion of the reading in German.

Limited to 16 students.

Omitted 2021-22. Professor Gilpin.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2009, Spring 2011, Spring 2014, Fall 2017, Fall 2020

363 Traumatic Events

(Offered as GERM 363, ARCH 363, EUST 363, and FAMS 370) How is memory constructed and represented? How is it possible to bear witness, and what exactly is involved? Who is authorized to testify, to whom, when? Whose story is it? Is it possible to tell "the story" of a traumatic event? What are the disorders of testimony, and how and where do they emerge? This course will observe the workings of trauma (the enactment and working-through of collective and individual symptoms of trauma), memory, and witnessing in various modes of everyday life. We will examine notions of catastrophe, disaster, accident, and violence, and explore the possibilities and impossibilities of bearing witness in many forms of cultural production: in fiction, poetry, architecture, critical theory, oral and written testimonies, visual art, monuments, memorials, philosophy, science, cartoons, film, video, theater, social media, and performance, online and in our public and domestic spaces. We will study various representations of trauma, paying particular attention to events in Germany and Europe from the twentieth century, as well as to 9/11, the Covid-19 pandemic and inter/national events of 2020. Material to be examined will be drawn from the work of Pina Bausch, Joseph Beuys, Christian Boltanski, Cathy Caruth, Paul Celan, Marguerite Duras, Peter Eisenman, Shoshana Felman, Florian Freund, Jochen Gerz, Geoffrey Hartman, Rebecca Horn, Marion Kant, Anselm Kiefer, Ruth Klüger, Dominick LaCapra, Claude Lanzmann, Dori Laub, Daniel Libeskind, W.G. Sebald, Art Spiegelman, Paul Virilio, Peter Weiss, Wim Wenders, Elie Wiesel, Christa Wolf, and others. Conducted in English with German majors required to do a substantial portion of the reading in German.

Omitted 2021-22. Professor Gilpin.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2008, Fall 2010, Fall 2014, Fall 2018

365 Making Memorials

(Offered as GERM 365, ARCH 365, and EUST 365) This is a course about what happens to difficult memories: memories that are intensely personal, but made public, memories that belong to communities, but which become ideologically possessed by history, politics, or the media. How are memories processed into memorials? What constitutes a memorial? What gets included or excluded? How is memory performed in cultural objects, spaces, and institutions? What is the relationship between the politics of representation and memory? Who owns memory? Who is authorized to convey it? How does memory function? This course will explore the spaces in which memories are “preserved” and experienced. Our attention will focus on the transformation of private and public memories in works of architecture, performance, literature, and the visual arts, primarily in Germany, Europe, and the United States in the twentieth century, including also 9/11, the COVID-19 pandemic, and inter/national events of 2020. Preference given to German majors and European Studies majors, as well as to students interested in architecture/design, performance, the visual arts, interactive installation and/or the environment. Conducted in English, with German majors required to do a substantial portion of the reading in German.

Limited to 20 students. Professor Gilpin.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2009, Fall 2012, Fall 2016, Fall 2021

368 SPACE

(Offered as GERM 368, ARCH 368, EUST 368, and FAMS 380) This research seminar will explore conceptions of space as they have informed and influenced thought and creativity in the fields of cultural studies, literature, architecture, urban studies, performance, and the visual, electronic, and time-based arts. Students will select and pursue a major semester-long research project early in the semester in consultation with the professor, and present their research in its various stages of development throughout the semester, in a variety of media formats (writing, performance, video, electronic art/interactive media, installation, online and networked events, architectural/design drawings/renderings), along with oral presentations of readings and other materials. Readings and visual materials will be drawn from the fields of literature and philosophy; architectural, art, and film theory and history; performance studies and performance theory; and theories of technology and the natural and built environment. Emphasis on developing research, writing, and presentation skills is a core of this seminar.

Preference given to German majors and European Studies majors, as well as to students interested in architecture/design, performance, film/video, interactive installation, and/or the environment. Conducted in English. German majors will select a research project focused on a German Studies context, and will do a substantial portion of the readings in German. 

Limited to 18 students. Enrollment requires attendance at the first class meeting. Spring semester. Professor Gilpin.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2015, Spring 2018, Spring 2022

490 Special Topics

Independent reading course.

Fall and spring semesters. The Department.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Spring 2022

498, 499 Senior Departmental Honors

Fall semester. The Department.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2017, Fall 2018, Fall 2019, Fall 2020, Fall 2021

Admission & Financial Aid

Admission & Financial Aid

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German

Professors Martin and Rogowski; Associate Professor Gilpin (Chair); Assistant Professor Hunter-Parker; Senior Lecturer Schrade‡; Visiting Lecturer Rizo Lenshyn.

The German experience, both in its sublime achievements and its tragic derailments, provides students with crucial insights as they strive to become global citizens. The Department of German endeavors to be a resource for enriching the international and cross-cultural awareness of all Amherst College students, in order to prepare them for global interaction within their future professional and scholarly fields. The courses we teach in English, often interdisciplinary in focus, are open to all students and do not require any prior knowledge of German. Placement in courses taught in German is determined on the basis of proficiency, in consultation with the instructor.

Major Program. Majoring in German can lead to a variety of careers in education, government, business, international affairs, and the arts. Our majors attend leading graduate programs, teach or take jobs in German-speaking countries and win domestic and international scholarships. 

The German Studies Major is broadly humanistic and cross-cultural. It develops language and cultural literacy skills and provides a critical understanding of the cultural and literary traditions of the German-speaking countries: The Federal Republic of Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. The Department offers effective preparation for graduate study in German literature and language while also opening up a broad range of interdisciplinary perspectives.

The major requires GERM 210 (or its equivalent), GERM 315 and 316 (German Cultural History), and a minimum of five further German courses. Three of these must be courses in German culture and literature, conducted in German. Majors are advised to broaden their knowledge of other European languages and cultures and to supplement their German program with courses in European history, politics, economics, and the arts.

Students who major in German Studies are expected to enroll in at least one German course per semester. The Department faculty will help majors develop individual reading lists as they prepare for a Comprehensive Examination administered during each student’s final semester.

Study Abroad. German majors are encouraged to spend a summer, semester, or year of study abroad as a vital part of their undergraduate experience. The Department maintains a regular student exchange program with Göttingen University in Germany. Each year we send two students to that university in exchange for two German students who serve as Language Assistants at Amherst College. Faculty can also advise on a variety of other options for study in a German-speaking country. Please also check out the Study Abroad Opportunities link for further program information.

Departmental Honors Program. In addition to the courses required for a rite degree in the major, candidates for Honors must complete GERM 498 and 499 and present a thesis on a topic chosen in consultation with an advisor in the Department. The aim of Honors work in German is (1) to consolidate general knowledge of the history and development of German language, culture, and history; (2) to explore a chosen subject through a more intensive program of readings and research than is possible in course work; (3) to present material along historical or analytical lines, in the form of a scholarly thesis.

Honors students who major with a concentration in German Studies are encouraged to consult early with their faculty advisor about a possible thesis topic. Depending on the topic chosen, their thesis committee will be comprised of Amherst College German Studies faculty who may or may not invite faculty from other departments, or from the Five Colleges to participate as readers. The thesis committee will be chaired by the student’s Department of German thesis advisor.

The quality of the Honors thesis, the result of the Comprehensive Examination, together with the overall college grade average, will determine the level of Honors recommended by the Department.

‡ On leave spring semester 2021-22.

101 Elementary German I

Our multimedia course acquaints students with present day life and culture in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Authentic documents and interviews with native speakers from all walks of life serve as a first-hand introduction to the German-speaking countries. An interactive learning software, as well as related Internet audio-visual materials emphasize the mastery of speaking, writing, and reading skills that are the foundation for further study. Three hours a week for explanation and demonstration, one hour a week in small TA sections.

Fall semester: Lecturer Schrade. Spring semester: Professor Hunter Parker. 

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Spring 2022

102 Elementary German II

A continuation of GERM 101, with increased emphasis on reading of selected texts. Three class meetings per week plus one additional conversation hour in small sections.

Requisite: GERM 101 or equivalent. Fall and spring semesters. Visiting Lecturer Rizo Lenshyn. 

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2009, Spring 2010, Spring 2011, Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Spring 2022

205 Intermediate German

Systematic review of grammar, aural and speaking practice, discussion of video and television programs, and reading of selected texts in contemporary German. Stress will be on the acquisition and polishing of verbal, reading, writing, and comprehension skills in German. Three hours per week for explanation and structured discussion, plus one hour per week in small sections for additional practice with German language assistants.Requisite: GERM 102 or two years of secondary-school German or equivalent. Fall and Spring semester: Professor Gilpin.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Spring 2022

210 Advanced Composition and Conversation

Practice in free composition and analytical writing in German. Exercises in pronunciation and idiomatic conversation. Supplementary work with audio and video materials. Oral reports on selected topics and reading of literary and topical texts. Conducted in German. Three hours per week, plus one hour per week in small sections for additional practice with German language assistants.

Requisite: GERM 205 or equivalent, based on departmental placement decision.

Fall semester: Lecturer Schrade. Spring semester: Professor Hunter-Parker.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2009, Spring 2010, Spring 2011, Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Spring 2022

250 Chivalry: The Life, Death, and Legend of a Medieval Cultural Code

“Chivalry is dead?” Does the current fascination with Game of Thrones indicate that medieval chivalrous codes of conduct are as relevant today as ever? Defenders and critics may argue if and why, and still agree that the time of gallant knights and gentle ladies is long gone. But was chivalry ever alive to begin with? How did medieval societies understand chivalry, and would they recognize its representations today? This course examines the historical literary sources of an enduring cultural concept, and charts the routes of its transmission into the present. Students will be introduced to key narrative traditions such as the chanson de geste, heroic epic and courtly romance from the twelfth through the fifteenth centuries, as well as the conditions for their survival, reception, and adaptation in later centuries. The course objective will be to explore how fictional narratives of the past can be used to critique and historicize received cultural concepts today, from MMORPGs and histo-tainment to contemporary political discourse. In counterpoint, the course also examines how current theoretical discussions can foster more nuanced readings of medieval texts and contexts. Readings include Pfaffe Konrad, Rolandslied; Nibelungenlied; Hartmann von Aue, Iwein; Gottfried von Straßburg, Tristan; Wolfram von Eschenbach, Parzival; Ulrich von Liechtenstein, Frauendienst; Theuerdank. Conducted in English, with German majors required to do a substantial portion of the reading in German.

Omitted 2021-22. Professor Hunter-Parker.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2020

312 Advanced Reading, Conversation, and Composition

This course revolves around sites of memory related to German history – “Erinnerungsorte deutscher Geschichte.” It is based on discussion and close analysis of a wide range of cultural materials, including selections from all types of media. Materials will be analyzed both for their linguistic features and as cultural documents. Textual analysis includes study of vocabulary, style, and selected points of advanced grammar. The class includes round-table discussions, oral reports, and structured composition exercises that enable students to navigate German language and culture successfully. Conducted in German. Three class hours per week, plus an additional hour in small TA-sections. Requisite: GERM 210 or equivalent.

Omitted 2021-22. Lecturer Schrade.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2020

315 German Cultural History to 1800

An examination of cultural developments in the German tradition, from the Early Middle Ages to the rise of Prussia and the Napoleonic Period. We shall explore the interaction between socio-political factors in German-speaking Europe and works of “high art” produced in the successive eras, as well as Germany’s centuries-long search for a cultural identity. Literature to be considered will include selections from Tacitus’ Germania, the Hildebrandslied, a courtly epic and some medieval lyric poetry; the sixteenth-century Faust chapbook and other writings of the Reformation Period; Baroque prose, poetry, and music; works by Lessing and other figures of the German Enlightenment; Sturm und Drang, including early works by Goethe, Schiller, and their younger contemporaries. Small-group discussion and reflective writing practice will develop students' speaking and writing in German, while a range of audio-visual materials will strengthen reading and listening skills. 

Requisite: GERM 210 or equivalent.

Fall semester. Professor Hunter-Parker.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2017, Fall 2018, Fall 2019, Fall 2020, Fall 2021

316 German Cultural History from 1800 to the Present

A survey of literary and cultural developments in the German tradition from the Romantic Period to contemporary trends. Major themes will include the Romantic imagination and the rise of nationalism in the nineteenth century, the literary rebellion of the period prior to 1848, Poetic Realism and the Industrial Revolution, and various forms of aestheticism, activism, and myth. In the twentieth century we shall consider the culture of Vienna, the “Golden Twenties,” the suppression of freedom in the Nazi state, issues of exile and inner emigration, and the diverse models of cultural reconstruction after 1945. Authors represented will include Friedrich Schlegel, Brentano, Heine, Büchner, Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche, Heinrich and Thomas Mann, Kafka, Brecht, Grass, Wolf, and Handke. Music by Schubert, Wagner, Mahler, and Henze; samples of art and architecture. Conducted in German.

Requisite: GERM 210 or equivalent.

Spring semester: Professor Rogowski.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2009, Spring 2010, Spring 2011, Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Spring 2022

320 Deutsche Fabeln: Fables in German Literature from Aesop to Zarathustra

Short, sweet, and smart, fables are one of the oldest and most successful genres in Western literature, if not the world. Since the eighteenth century, fable collections were the most-read books in the German language after the Bible. Fanciful creatures and a simple moral work to educate and delight audiences. But with these stories’ long success, the question of who gets credit is anything but simple. What is a fable and what is not? Who writes fables, who reads them, and why? How do they reach their audience? Is there such a thing as German fable, or is it all just Aesop redux? Through readings in and on the genre, this course introduces students to key authors and movements in the history of German literature. Students will deepen interpretive skills through discussions of representative historical texts and contexts between the Enlightenment and early-Modernism. Authors include Martin Luther, Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, Sophie von la Roche, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Heinrich von Kleist, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, Adalbert Stifter, Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach, and Friedrich Nietzsche. Conducted in German.

Requisite: GERM 210 or equivalent.

Omitted 2021-22. Professor Hunter-Parker.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2019, Spring 2021

330 Green Germany

Is Germany’s reputation as a global leader in environmental issues warranted? Can a modern industrial nation deliver on the promise, made in 2011, to abandon nuclear energy? This course examines the history of German environmentalism, focusing on, among other topics, the nature worship of the Romantics; the discomfort with nineteenth century industrialization; the Lebensreform efforts around 1900; the “blood and soil” ideology of the Nazis; post-World War II pacifism; the emergence of the Green Party in the 1980s; current initiatives in sustainability practices; as well as the impact of major environmental disasters such as Chernobyl (1986) and Fukushima (2011). Readings by authors such as Hans Magnus Enzensberger, Max Frisch, Peter Härtling, Hermann Hesse, Monika Maron, and Christa Wolf. Films by directors such as Doris Dörrie, Peter Fleischmann, Oliver Haffner, Werner Herzog, and Herbert Selpin. Conducted in German.

Requisite: GERM 210 or equivalent.

Omitted 2021-22. Professor Rogowski.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2020

338 Modern Drama

Why is drama an art form of such tremendous importance to Germans, Austrians, and the Swiss? Few cultures can boast a similar preoccupation with, interest in, and public support of, the theater. This course examines the rich legacy of dramatic innovation and experimentation from about 1890 to the present day, ranging from the scandals surrounding Frank Wedekind’s exposition of sexual hypocrisy to the iconoclastic provocations of present-day Regietheater. We will read and discuss selected plays by authors such as Gerhart Hauptmann, Arthur Schnitzler, Georg Kaiser, Bertolt Brecht, Marie-Luise Fleisser, Peter Weiss, Heinar Kipphardt, Friedrich Dürrenmatt, Max Frisch, Botho Strauß, Marlene Streeruwitz, Elfriede Jelinek and others. Readings will be supplemented by audiovisual materials on artists like Pina Bausch, Johann Kresnik, and Heiner Müller.
Conducted in German.

Requisite: GERM 210 or equivalent.

Fall semester: Professor Rogowski.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2009, Spring 2019, Fall 2021

347 Weimar Cinema: The "Golden Age" of German Film

(Offered as GERM 347 and FAMS 323) This course examines the German contribution to the emergence of film as both a distinctly modern art form and as a product of mass culture. The international success of Robert Wiene’s Expressionist phantasmagoria, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920), heralded the beginning of a period of unparalleled artistic exploration, prior to the advent of Hitler, during which the ground was laid for many of the filmic genres familiar today: horror film (F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu), detective thriller (Fritz Lang’s M), satirical comedy (Ernst Lubitsch’s The Oyster Princess), psychological drama (G.W. Pabst’s Pandora’s Box), science fiction (Lang’s Metropolis), social melodrama (Pabst’s The Joyless Street), historical costume film (Lubitsch’s Passion), political propaganda (Slatan Dudow’s Kuhle Wampe), anti-war epic (Pabst’s Westfront 1918), a documentary montage (Walther Ruttmann’s Berlin – Symphony of a Big City), and the distinctly German genre of the “mountain film” (Leni Riefenstahl’s The Blue Light). Readings, including works by Siegried Kracauer, Walter Benjamin, Lotte H. Eisner, Béla Balázs, and Rudolf Arnheim, will address questions of technology and modernity, gender relations after World War I, the intersection of politics and film, and the impact of German and Austrian exiles on Hollywood.
Conducted in English, with German majors required to do a substantial portion of the reading in German.

Omitted 2021-22. Professor Rogowski.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2010, Spring 2012, Spring 2015, Spring 2020

348 Nazi Cinema

(Offered as GERM 348 and FAMS 325) This course examines the vital role cinema played in sustaining the totalitarian Nazi system. From the visually stunning “documentaries” of Leni Riefenstahl to the tearful melodramas starring Swedish diva Zarah Leander, from the vicious anti-Semitic diatribes of propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels to the ostensibly apolitical “revue films” featuring Hungarian dancer-chanteuse Marika Rökk, the cinema of the Third Reich (1933-45) is fraught with contradiction and complexity. How did the German film industry cope with the exodus of Jewish (or politically suspect) talent after Hitler came to power? What tensions arose between a centralized bureaucracy pursuing an ideological agenda and an industry geared toward profit maximization? How do genre films of the period negotiate the conflict between official notions of a “racially homogeneous” body politic on the one hand and audiences’ pervasive fascination with the exotic on the other? What does the popularity of stars such as Hans Albers, Heinz Rühmann, Lilian Harvey, and Kristina Söderbaum tell us about the private dreams and aspirations of German audiences at the time? Were there pockets of resistance to censorship? Can there be artistic freedom under a totalitarian regime? To answer questions such as these, we will examine films from a wide range of directors, including Willi Forst, Veit Harlan, Helmut Käutner, Wolfgang Liebeneiner, Leni Riefenstahl, Reinhold Schünzel, Detlef Sierck/Douglas Sirk, and Hans Steinhoff.

Omitted 2021-22. Professor Rogowski.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2016, Spring 2021

350 Rilke

The course will explore the rich legacy of one of the greatest poets of the twentieth century. We will examine Rilke’s peculiar background in the German-speaking minority in Habsburg Prague; his situation in the literary world of fin-de-siècle Munich; the significance of his encounter with Lou Andreas-Salomé; the intellectual experiences that shaped his outlook on life and on poetry (Nietzsche; Russia and Tolstoy; Paris and Rodin); his artistic breakthrough in the two-volume New Poems (1907) and the concept of the "Ding-Gedicht"; the existential crisis reflected in the modernist novel The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge (1910); his reflections on the role of poetry in a modern world of uncertainty in texts such as A Letter to a Young Poet (1903); his artistic crisis of the 1910s; and the extraordinary double achievement of 1922, The Duino Elegies and The Sonnets to Orpheus. Conducted in English (no knowledge of German required), with German majors required to do a substantial portion of the reading in German.

Omitted 2021-22. Professor Rogowski.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2010, Spring 2013, Spring 2016, Fall 2019

360 Performance

(Offered as GERM 360, ARCH 360, EUST 360 and FAMS 316) What is performance? What constitutes an event? How can we address a phenomenon that has disappeared the moment we apprehend it? How does memory operate in our critical perception of an event? How does a body make meaning? These are a few of the questions we will explore in this course, as we discuss critical, theoretical, and compositional approaches in a broad range of multidisciplinary performance phenomena emerging from European—primarily German—culture in the twentieth century. We will focus on issues of performativity, composition, conceptualization, dramaturgy, identity construction, representation, space, gender, and dynamism. Readings of performance theory, performance studies, gender studies, and critical/cultural studies, as well as literary, philosophical, and architectural texts, will accompany close examination of performance material. Students will develop performative projects in various media (video, performance, text, online) and deliver a number of critical oral and written presentations on various aspects of the course material and their own projects. Performance material will be experienced live when possible, and in text, video, audio, digital media and online form, drawn from selected works of Dada and Surrealism, Bauhaus, German Expressionism, the Theater of the Absurd, Tanztheater, and Contemporary Theater, Performance, Dance, Opera, New Media, and Performance Art. A number of films, including Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari, Oskar Schlemmer’s Das Triadische Ballett, Fernand Léger’s Ballet Mécanique, and Kurt Jooss’ Der Grüne Tisch, will also be screened. Conducted in English, with German majors required to do a substantial portion of the reading in German.

Limited to 16 students.

Omitted 2021-22. Professor Gilpin.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2009, Spring 2011, Spring 2014, Fall 2017, Fall 2020

363 Traumatic Events

(Offered as GERM 363, ARCH 363, EUST 363, and FAMS 370) How is memory constructed and represented? How is it possible to bear witness, and what exactly is involved? Who is authorized to testify, to whom, when? Whose story is it? Is it possible to tell "the story" of a traumatic event? What are the disorders of testimony, and how and where do they emerge? This course will observe the workings of trauma (the enactment and working-through of collective and individual symptoms of trauma), memory, and witnessing in various modes of everyday life. We will examine notions of catastrophe, disaster, accident, and violence, and explore the possibilities and impossibilities of bearing witness in many forms of cultural production: in fiction, poetry, architecture, critical theory, oral and written testimonies, visual art, monuments, memorials, philosophy, science, cartoons, film, video, theater, social media, and performance, online and in our public and domestic spaces. We will study various representations of trauma, paying particular attention to events in Germany and Europe from the twentieth century, as well as to 9/11, the Covid-19 pandemic and inter/national events of 2020. Material to be examined will be drawn from the work of Pina Bausch, Joseph Beuys, Christian Boltanski, Cathy Caruth, Paul Celan, Marguerite Duras, Peter Eisenman, Shoshana Felman, Florian Freund, Jochen Gerz, Geoffrey Hartman, Rebecca Horn, Marion Kant, Anselm Kiefer, Ruth Klüger, Dominick LaCapra, Claude Lanzmann, Dori Laub, Daniel Libeskind, W.G. Sebald, Art Spiegelman, Paul Virilio, Peter Weiss, Wim Wenders, Elie Wiesel, Christa Wolf, and others. Conducted in English with German majors required to do a substantial portion of the reading in German.

Omitted 2021-22. Professor Gilpin.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2008, Fall 2010, Fall 2014, Fall 2018

365 Making Memorials

(Offered as GERM 365, ARCH 365, and EUST 365) This is a course about what happens to difficult memories: memories that are intensely personal, but made public, memories that belong to communities, but which become ideologically possessed by history, politics, or the media. How are memories processed into memorials? What constitutes a memorial? What gets included or excluded? How is memory performed in cultural objects, spaces, and institutions? What is the relationship between the politics of representation and memory? Who owns memory? Who is authorized to convey it? How does memory function? This course will explore the spaces in which memories are “preserved” and experienced. Our attention will focus on the transformation of private and public memories in works of architecture, performance, literature, and the visual arts, primarily in Germany, Europe, and the United States in the twentieth century, including also 9/11, the COVID-19 pandemic, and inter/national events of 2020. Preference given to German majors and European Studies majors, as well as to students interested in architecture/design, performance, the visual arts, interactive installation and/or the environment. Conducted in English, with German majors required to do a substantial portion of the reading in German.

Limited to 20 students. Professor Gilpin.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2009, Fall 2012, Fall 2016, Fall 2021

368 SPACE

(Offered as GERM 368, ARCH 368, EUST 368, and FAMS 380) This research seminar will explore conceptions of space as they have informed and influenced thought and creativity in the fields of cultural studies, literature, architecture, urban studies, performance, and the visual, electronic, and time-based arts. Students will select and pursue a major semester-long research project early in the semester in consultation with the professor, and present their research in its various stages of development throughout the semester, in a variety of media formats (writing, performance, video, electronic art/interactive media, installation, online and networked events, architectural/design drawings/renderings), along with oral presentations of readings and other materials. Readings and visual materials will be drawn from the fields of literature and philosophy; architectural, art, and film theory and history; performance studies and performance theory; and theories of technology and the natural and built environment. Emphasis on developing research, writing, and presentation skills is a core of this seminar.

Preference given to German majors and European Studies majors, as well as to students interested in architecture/design, performance, film/video, interactive installation, and/or the environment. Conducted in English. German majors will select a research project focused on a German Studies context, and will do a substantial portion of the readings in German. 

Limited to 18 students. Enrollment requires attendance at the first class meeting. Spring semester. Professor Gilpin.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2015, Spring 2018, Spring 2022

490 Special Topics

Independent reading course.

Fall and spring semesters. The Department.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Spring 2022

498, 499 Senior Departmental Honors

Fall semester. The Department.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2017, Fall 2018, Fall 2019, Fall 2020, Fall 2021

Regulations & Requirements

Regulations & Requirements

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German

Professors Martin and Rogowski; Associate Professor Gilpin (Chair); Assistant Professor Hunter-Parker; Senior Lecturer Schrade‡; Visiting Lecturer Rizo Lenshyn.

The German experience, both in its sublime achievements and its tragic derailments, provides students with crucial insights as they strive to become global citizens. The Department of German endeavors to be a resource for enriching the international and cross-cultural awareness of all Amherst College students, in order to prepare them for global interaction within their future professional and scholarly fields. The courses we teach in English, often interdisciplinary in focus, are open to all students and do not require any prior knowledge of German. Placement in courses taught in German is determined on the basis of proficiency, in consultation with the instructor.

Major Program. Majoring in German can lead to a variety of careers in education, government, business, international affairs, and the arts. Our majors attend leading graduate programs, teach or take jobs in German-speaking countries and win domestic and international scholarships. 

The German Studies Major is broadly humanistic and cross-cultural. It develops language and cultural literacy skills and provides a critical understanding of the cultural and literary traditions of the German-speaking countries: The Federal Republic of Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. The Department offers effective preparation for graduate study in German literature and language while also opening up a broad range of interdisciplinary perspectives.

The major requires GERM 210 (or its equivalent), GERM 315 and 316 (German Cultural History), and a minimum of five further German courses. Three of these must be courses in German culture and literature, conducted in German. Majors are advised to broaden their knowledge of other European languages and cultures and to supplement their German program with courses in European history, politics, economics, and the arts.

Students who major in German Studies are expected to enroll in at least one German course per semester. The Department faculty will help majors develop individual reading lists as they prepare for a Comprehensive Examination administered during each student’s final semester.

Study Abroad. German majors are encouraged to spend a summer, semester, or year of study abroad as a vital part of their undergraduate experience. The Department maintains a regular student exchange program with Göttingen University in Germany. Each year we send two students to that university in exchange for two German students who serve as Language Assistants at Amherst College. Faculty can also advise on a variety of other options for study in a German-speaking country. Please also check out the Study Abroad Opportunities link for further program information.

Departmental Honors Program. In addition to the courses required for a rite degree in the major, candidates for Honors must complete GERM 498 and 499 and present a thesis on a topic chosen in consultation with an advisor in the Department. The aim of Honors work in German is (1) to consolidate general knowledge of the history and development of German language, culture, and history; (2) to explore a chosen subject through a more intensive program of readings and research than is possible in course work; (3) to present material along historical or analytical lines, in the form of a scholarly thesis.

Honors students who major with a concentration in German Studies are encouraged to consult early with their faculty advisor about a possible thesis topic. Depending on the topic chosen, their thesis committee will be comprised of Amherst College German Studies faculty who may or may not invite faculty from other departments, or from the Five Colleges to participate as readers. The thesis committee will be chaired by the student’s Department of German thesis advisor.

The quality of the Honors thesis, the result of the Comprehensive Examination, together with the overall college grade average, will determine the level of Honors recommended by the Department.

‡ On leave spring semester 2021-22.

101 Elementary German I

Our multimedia course acquaints students with present day life and culture in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Authentic documents and interviews with native speakers from all walks of life serve as a first-hand introduction to the German-speaking countries. An interactive learning software, as well as related Internet audio-visual materials emphasize the mastery of speaking, writing, and reading skills that are the foundation for further study. Three hours a week for explanation and demonstration, one hour a week in small TA sections.

Fall semester: Lecturer Schrade. Spring semester: Professor Hunter Parker. 

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Spring 2022

102 Elementary German II

A continuation of GERM 101, with increased emphasis on reading of selected texts. Three class meetings per week plus one additional conversation hour in small sections.

Requisite: GERM 101 or equivalent. Fall and spring semesters. Visiting Lecturer Rizo Lenshyn. 

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2009, Spring 2010, Spring 2011, Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Spring 2022

205 Intermediate German

Systematic review of grammar, aural and speaking practice, discussion of video and television programs, and reading of selected texts in contemporary German. Stress will be on the acquisition and polishing of verbal, reading, writing, and comprehension skills in German. Three hours per week for explanation and structured discussion, plus one hour per week in small sections for additional practice with German language assistants.Requisite: GERM 102 or two years of secondary-school German or equivalent. Fall and Spring semester: Professor Gilpin.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Spring 2022

210 Advanced Composition and Conversation

Practice in free composition and analytical writing in German. Exercises in pronunciation and idiomatic conversation. Supplementary work with audio and video materials. Oral reports on selected topics and reading of literary and topical texts. Conducted in German. Three hours per week, plus one hour per week in small sections for additional practice with German language assistants.

Requisite: GERM 205 or equivalent, based on departmental placement decision.

Fall semester: Lecturer Schrade. Spring semester: Professor Hunter-Parker.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2009, Spring 2010, Spring 2011, Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Spring 2022

250 Chivalry: The Life, Death, and Legend of a Medieval Cultural Code

“Chivalry is dead?” Does the current fascination with Game of Thrones indicate that medieval chivalrous codes of conduct are as relevant today as ever? Defenders and critics may argue if and why, and still agree that the time of gallant knights and gentle ladies is long gone. But was chivalry ever alive to begin with? How did medieval societies understand chivalry, and would they recognize its representations today? This course examines the historical literary sources of an enduring cultural concept, and charts the routes of its transmission into the present. Students will be introduced to key narrative traditions such as the chanson de geste, heroic epic and courtly romance from the twelfth through the fifteenth centuries, as well as the conditions for their survival, reception, and adaptation in later centuries. The course objective will be to explore how fictional narratives of the past can be used to critique and historicize received cultural concepts today, from MMORPGs and histo-tainment to contemporary political discourse. In counterpoint, the course also examines how current theoretical discussions can foster more nuanced readings of medieval texts and contexts. Readings include Pfaffe Konrad, Rolandslied; Nibelungenlied; Hartmann von Aue, Iwein; Gottfried von Straßburg, Tristan; Wolfram von Eschenbach, Parzival; Ulrich von Liechtenstein, Frauendienst; Theuerdank. Conducted in English, with German majors required to do a substantial portion of the reading in German.

Omitted 2021-22. Professor Hunter-Parker.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2020

312 Advanced Reading, Conversation, and Composition

This course revolves around sites of memory related to German history – “Erinnerungsorte deutscher Geschichte.” It is based on discussion and close analysis of a wide range of cultural materials, including selections from all types of media. Materials will be analyzed both for their linguistic features and as cultural documents. Textual analysis includes study of vocabulary, style, and selected points of advanced grammar. The class includes round-table discussions, oral reports, and structured composition exercises that enable students to navigate German language and culture successfully. Conducted in German. Three class hours per week, plus an additional hour in small TA-sections. Requisite: GERM 210 or equivalent.

Omitted 2021-22. Lecturer Schrade.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2020

315 German Cultural History to 1800

An examination of cultural developments in the German tradition, from the Early Middle Ages to the rise of Prussia and the Napoleonic Period. We shall explore the interaction between socio-political factors in German-speaking Europe and works of “high art” produced in the successive eras, as well as Germany’s centuries-long search for a cultural identity. Literature to be considered will include selections from Tacitus’ Germania, the Hildebrandslied, a courtly epic and some medieval lyric poetry; the sixteenth-century Faust chapbook and other writings of the Reformation Period; Baroque prose, poetry, and music; works by Lessing and other figures of the German Enlightenment; Sturm und Drang, including early works by Goethe, Schiller, and their younger contemporaries. Small-group discussion and reflective writing practice will develop students' speaking and writing in German, while a range of audio-visual materials will strengthen reading and listening skills. 

Requisite: GERM 210 or equivalent.

Fall semester. Professor Hunter-Parker.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2017, Fall 2018, Fall 2019, Fall 2020, Fall 2021

316 German Cultural History from 1800 to the Present

A survey of literary and cultural developments in the German tradition from the Romantic Period to contemporary trends. Major themes will include the Romantic imagination and the rise of nationalism in the nineteenth century, the literary rebellion of the period prior to 1848, Poetic Realism and the Industrial Revolution, and various forms of aestheticism, activism, and myth. In the twentieth century we shall consider the culture of Vienna, the “Golden Twenties,” the suppression of freedom in the Nazi state, issues of exile and inner emigration, and the diverse models of cultural reconstruction after 1945. Authors represented will include Friedrich Schlegel, Brentano, Heine, Büchner, Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche, Heinrich and Thomas Mann, Kafka, Brecht, Grass, Wolf, and Handke. Music by Schubert, Wagner, Mahler, and Henze; samples of art and architecture. Conducted in German.

Requisite: GERM 210 or equivalent.

Spring semester: Professor Rogowski.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2009, Spring 2010, Spring 2011, Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Spring 2022

320 Deutsche Fabeln: Fables in German Literature from Aesop to Zarathustra

Short, sweet, and smart, fables are one of the oldest and most successful genres in Western literature, if not the world. Since the eighteenth century, fable collections were the most-read books in the German language after the Bible. Fanciful creatures and a simple moral work to educate and delight audiences. But with these stories’ long success, the question of who gets credit is anything but simple. What is a fable and what is not? Who writes fables, who reads them, and why? How do they reach their audience? Is there such a thing as German fable, or is it all just Aesop redux? Through readings in and on the genre, this course introduces students to key authors and movements in the history of German literature. Students will deepen interpretive skills through discussions of representative historical texts and contexts between the Enlightenment and early-Modernism. Authors include Martin Luther, Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, Sophie von la Roche, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Heinrich von Kleist, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, Adalbert Stifter, Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach, and Friedrich Nietzsche. Conducted in German.

Requisite: GERM 210 or equivalent.

Omitted 2021-22. Professor Hunter-Parker.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2019, Spring 2021

330 Green Germany

Is Germany’s reputation as a global leader in environmental issues warranted? Can a modern industrial nation deliver on the promise, made in 2011, to abandon nuclear energy? This course examines the history of German environmentalism, focusing on, among other topics, the nature worship of the Romantics; the discomfort with nineteenth century industrialization; the Lebensreform efforts around 1900; the “blood and soil” ideology of the Nazis; post-World War II pacifism; the emergence of the Green Party in the 1980s; current initiatives in sustainability practices; as well as the impact of major environmental disasters such as Chernobyl (1986) and Fukushima (2011). Readings by authors such as Hans Magnus Enzensberger, Max Frisch, Peter Härtling, Hermann Hesse, Monika Maron, and Christa Wolf. Films by directors such as Doris Dörrie, Peter Fleischmann, Oliver Haffner, Werner Herzog, and Herbert Selpin. Conducted in German.

Requisite: GERM 210 or equivalent.

Omitted 2021-22. Professor Rogowski.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2020

338 Modern Drama

Why is drama an art form of such tremendous importance to Germans, Austrians, and the Swiss? Few cultures can boast a similar preoccupation with, interest in, and public support of, the theater. This course examines the rich legacy of dramatic innovation and experimentation from about 1890 to the present day, ranging from the scandals surrounding Frank Wedekind’s exposition of sexual hypocrisy to the iconoclastic provocations of present-day Regietheater. We will read and discuss selected plays by authors such as Gerhart Hauptmann, Arthur Schnitzler, Georg Kaiser, Bertolt Brecht, Marie-Luise Fleisser, Peter Weiss, Heinar Kipphardt, Friedrich Dürrenmatt, Max Frisch, Botho Strauß, Marlene Streeruwitz, Elfriede Jelinek and others. Readings will be supplemented by audiovisual materials on artists like Pina Bausch, Johann Kresnik, and Heiner Müller.
Conducted in German.

Requisite: GERM 210 or equivalent.

Fall semester: Professor Rogowski.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2009, Spring 2019, Fall 2021

347 Weimar Cinema: The "Golden Age" of German Film

(Offered as GERM 347 and FAMS 323) This course examines the German contribution to the emergence of film as both a distinctly modern art form and as a product of mass culture. The international success of Robert Wiene’s Expressionist phantasmagoria, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920), heralded the beginning of a period of unparalleled artistic exploration, prior to the advent of Hitler, during which the ground was laid for many of the filmic genres familiar today: horror film (F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu), detective thriller (Fritz Lang’s M), satirical comedy (Ernst Lubitsch’s The Oyster Princess), psychological drama (G.W. Pabst’s Pandora’s Box), science fiction (Lang’s Metropolis), social melodrama (Pabst’s The Joyless Street), historical costume film (Lubitsch’s Passion), political propaganda (Slatan Dudow’s Kuhle Wampe), anti-war epic (Pabst’s Westfront 1918), a documentary montage (Walther Ruttmann’s Berlin – Symphony of a Big City), and the distinctly German genre of the “mountain film” (Leni Riefenstahl’s The Blue Light). Readings, including works by Siegried Kracauer, Walter Benjamin, Lotte H. Eisner, Béla Balázs, and Rudolf Arnheim, will address questions of technology and modernity, gender relations after World War I, the intersection of politics and film, and the impact of German and Austrian exiles on Hollywood.
Conducted in English, with German majors required to do a substantial portion of the reading in German.

Omitted 2021-22. Professor Rogowski.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2010, Spring 2012, Spring 2015, Spring 2020

348 Nazi Cinema

(Offered as GERM 348 and FAMS 325) This course examines the vital role cinema played in sustaining the totalitarian Nazi system. From the visually stunning “documentaries” of Leni Riefenstahl to the tearful melodramas starring Swedish diva Zarah Leander, from the vicious anti-Semitic diatribes of propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels to the ostensibly apolitical “revue films” featuring Hungarian dancer-chanteuse Marika Rökk, the cinema of the Third Reich (1933-45) is fraught with contradiction and complexity. How did the German film industry cope with the exodus of Jewish (or politically suspect) talent after Hitler came to power? What tensions arose between a centralized bureaucracy pursuing an ideological agenda and an industry geared toward profit maximization? How do genre films of the period negotiate the conflict between official notions of a “racially homogeneous” body politic on the one hand and audiences’ pervasive fascination with the exotic on the other? What does the popularity of stars such as Hans Albers, Heinz Rühmann, Lilian Harvey, and Kristina Söderbaum tell us about the private dreams and aspirations of German audiences at the time? Were there pockets of resistance to censorship? Can there be artistic freedom under a totalitarian regime? To answer questions such as these, we will examine films from a wide range of directors, including Willi Forst, Veit Harlan, Helmut Käutner, Wolfgang Liebeneiner, Leni Riefenstahl, Reinhold Schünzel, Detlef Sierck/Douglas Sirk, and Hans Steinhoff.

Omitted 2021-22. Professor Rogowski.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2016, Spring 2021

350 Rilke

The course will explore the rich legacy of one of the greatest poets of the twentieth century. We will examine Rilke’s peculiar background in the German-speaking minority in Habsburg Prague; his situation in the literary world of fin-de-siècle Munich; the significance of his encounter with Lou Andreas-Salomé; the intellectual experiences that shaped his outlook on life and on poetry (Nietzsche; Russia and Tolstoy; Paris and Rodin); his artistic breakthrough in the two-volume New Poems (1907) and the concept of the "Ding-Gedicht"; the existential crisis reflected in the modernist novel The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge (1910); his reflections on the role of poetry in a modern world of uncertainty in texts such as A Letter to a Young Poet (1903); his artistic crisis of the 1910s; and the extraordinary double achievement of 1922, The Duino Elegies and The Sonnets to Orpheus. Conducted in English (no knowledge of German required), with German majors required to do a substantial portion of the reading in German.

Omitted 2021-22. Professor Rogowski.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2010, Spring 2013, Spring 2016, Fall 2019

360 Performance

(Offered as GERM 360, ARCH 360, EUST 360 and FAMS 316) What is performance? What constitutes an event? How can we address a phenomenon that has disappeared the moment we apprehend it? How does memory operate in our critical perception of an event? How does a body make meaning? These are a few of the questions we will explore in this course, as we discuss critical, theoretical, and compositional approaches in a broad range of multidisciplinary performance phenomena emerging from European—primarily German—culture in the twentieth century. We will focus on issues of performativity, composition, conceptualization, dramaturgy, identity construction, representation, space, gender, and dynamism. Readings of performance theory, performance studies, gender studies, and critical/cultural studies, as well as literary, philosophical, and architectural texts, will accompany close examination of performance material. Students will develop performative projects in various media (video, performance, text, online) and deliver a number of critical oral and written presentations on various aspects of the course material and their own projects. Performance material will be experienced live when possible, and in text, video, audio, digital media and online form, drawn from selected works of Dada and Surrealism, Bauhaus, German Expressionism, the Theater of the Absurd, Tanztheater, and Contemporary Theater, Performance, Dance, Opera, New Media, and Performance Art. A number of films, including Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari, Oskar Schlemmer’s Das Triadische Ballett, Fernand Léger’s Ballet Mécanique, and Kurt Jooss’ Der Grüne Tisch, will also be screened. Conducted in English, with German majors required to do a substantial portion of the reading in German.

Limited to 16 students.

Omitted 2021-22. Professor Gilpin.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2009, Spring 2011, Spring 2014, Fall 2017, Fall 2020

363 Traumatic Events

(Offered as GERM 363, ARCH 363, EUST 363, and FAMS 370) How is memory constructed and represented? How is it possible to bear witness, and what exactly is involved? Who is authorized to testify, to whom, when? Whose story is it? Is it possible to tell "the story" of a traumatic event? What are the disorders of testimony, and how and where do they emerge? This course will observe the workings of trauma (the enactment and working-through of collective and individual symptoms of trauma), memory, and witnessing in various modes of everyday life. We will examine notions of catastrophe, disaster, accident, and violence, and explore the possibilities and impossibilities of bearing witness in many forms of cultural production: in fiction, poetry, architecture, critical theory, oral and written testimonies, visual art, monuments, memorials, philosophy, science, cartoons, film, video, theater, social media, and performance, online and in our public and domestic spaces. We will study various representations of trauma, paying particular attention to events in Germany and Europe from the twentieth century, as well as to 9/11, the Covid-19 pandemic and inter/national events of 2020. Material to be examined will be drawn from the work of Pina Bausch, Joseph Beuys, Christian Boltanski, Cathy Caruth, Paul Celan, Marguerite Duras, Peter Eisenman, Shoshana Felman, Florian Freund, Jochen Gerz, Geoffrey Hartman, Rebecca Horn, Marion Kant, Anselm Kiefer, Ruth Klüger, Dominick LaCapra, Claude Lanzmann, Dori Laub, Daniel Libeskind, W.G. Sebald, Art Spiegelman, Paul Virilio, Peter Weiss, Wim Wenders, Elie Wiesel, Christa Wolf, and others. Conducted in English with German majors required to do a substantial portion of the reading in German.

Omitted 2021-22. Professor Gilpin.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2008, Fall 2010, Fall 2014, Fall 2018

365 Making Memorials

(Offered as GERM 365, ARCH 365, and EUST 365) This is a course about what happens to difficult memories: memories that are intensely personal, but made public, memories that belong to communities, but which become ideologically possessed by history, politics, or the media. How are memories processed into memorials? What constitutes a memorial? What gets included or excluded? How is memory performed in cultural objects, spaces, and institutions? What is the relationship between the politics of representation and memory? Who owns memory? Who is authorized to convey it? How does memory function? This course will explore the spaces in which memories are “preserved” and experienced. Our attention will focus on the transformation of private and public memories in works of architecture, performance, literature, and the visual arts, primarily in Germany, Europe, and the United States in the twentieth century, including also 9/11, the COVID-19 pandemic, and inter/national events of 2020. Preference given to German majors and European Studies majors, as well as to students interested in architecture/design, performance, the visual arts, interactive installation and/or the environment. Conducted in English, with German majors required to do a substantial portion of the reading in German.

Limited to 20 students. Professor Gilpin.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2009, Fall 2012, Fall 2016, Fall 2021

368 SPACE

(Offered as GERM 368, ARCH 368, EUST 368, and FAMS 380) This research seminar will explore conceptions of space as they have informed and influenced thought and creativity in the fields of cultural studies, literature, architecture, urban studies, performance, and the visual, electronic, and time-based arts. Students will select and pursue a major semester-long research project early in the semester in consultation with the professor, and present their research in its various stages of development throughout the semester, in a variety of media formats (writing, performance, video, electronic art/interactive media, installation, online and networked events, architectural/design drawings/renderings), along with oral presentations of readings and other materials. Readings and visual materials will be drawn from the fields of literature and philosophy; architectural, art, and film theory and history; performance studies and performance theory; and theories of technology and the natural and built environment. Emphasis on developing research, writing, and presentation skills is a core of this seminar.

Preference given to German majors and European Studies majors, as well as to students interested in architecture/design, performance, film/video, interactive installation, and/or the environment. Conducted in English. German majors will select a research project focused on a German Studies context, and will do a substantial portion of the readings in German. 

Limited to 18 students. Enrollment requires attendance at the first class meeting. Spring semester. Professor Gilpin.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2015, Spring 2018, Spring 2022

490 Special Topics

Independent reading course.

Fall and spring semesters. The Department.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Spring 2022

498, 499 Senior Departmental Honors

Fall semester. The Department.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2017, Fall 2018, Fall 2019, Fall 2020, Fall 2021

Amherst College Courses

Amherst College Courses

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German

Professors Martin and Rogowski; Associate Professor Gilpin (Chair); Assistant Professor Hunter-Parker; Senior Lecturer Schrade‡; Visiting Lecturer Rizo Lenshyn.

The German experience, both in its sublime achievements and its tragic derailments, provides students with crucial insights as they strive to become global citizens. The Department of German endeavors to be a resource for enriching the international and cross-cultural awareness of all Amherst College students, in order to prepare them for global interaction within their future professional and scholarly fields. The courses we teach in English, often interdisciplinary in focus, are open to all students and do not require any prior knowledge of German. Placement in courses taught in German is determined on the basis of proficiency, in consultation with the instructor.

Major Program. Majoring in German can lead to a variety of careers in education, government, business, international affairs, and the arts. Our majors attend leading graduate programs, teach or take jobs in German-speaking countries and win domestic and international scholarships. 

The German Studies Major is broadly humanistic and cross-cultural. It develops language and cultural literacy skills and provides a critical understanding of the cultural and literary traditions of the German-speaking countries: The Federal Republic of Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. The Department offers effective preparation for graduate study in German literature and language while also opening up a broad range of interdisciplinary perspectives.

The major requires GERM 210 (or its equivalent), GERM 315 and 316 (German Cultural History), and a minimum of five further German courses. Three of these must be courses in German culture and literature, conducted in German. Majors are advised to broaden their knowledge of other European languages and cultures and to supplement their German program with courses in European history, politics, economics, and the arts.

Students who major in German Studies are expected to enroll in at least one German course per semester. The Department faculty will help majors develop individual reading lists as they prepare for a Comprehensive Examination administered during each student’s final semester.

Study Abroad. German majors are encouraged to spend a summer, semester, or year of study abroad as a vital part of their undergraduate experience. The Department maintains a regular student exchange program with Göttingen University in Germany. Each year we send two students to that university in exchange for two German students who serve as Language Assistants at Amherst College. Faculty can also advise on a variety of other options for study in a German-speaking country. Please also check out the Study Abroad Opportunities link for further program information.

Departmental Honors Program. In addition to the courses required for a rite degree in the major, candidates for Honors must complete GERM 498 and 499 and present a thesis on a topic chosen in consultation with an advisor in the Department. The aim of Honors work in German is (1) to consolidate general knowledge of the history and development of German language, culture, and history; (2) to explore a chosen subject through a more intensive program of readings and research than is possible in course work; (3) to present material along historical or analytical lines, in the form of a scholarly thesis.

Honors students who major with a concentration in German Studies are encouraged to consult early with their faculty advisor about a possible thesis topic. Depending on the topic chosen, their thesis committee will be comprised of Amherst College German Studies faculty who may or may not invite faculty from other departments, or from the Five Colleges to participate as readers. The thesis committee will be chaired by the student’s Department of German thesis advisor.

The quality of the Honors thesis, the result of the Comprehensive Examination, together with the overall college grade average, will determine the level of Honors recommended by the Department.

‡ On leave spring semester 2021-22.

101 Elementary German I

Our multimedia course acquaints students with present day life and culture in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Authentic documents and interviews with native speakers from all walks of life serve as a first-hand introduction to the German-speaking countries. An interactive learning software, as well as related Internet audio-visual materials emphasize the mastery of speaking, writing, and reading skills that are the foundation for further study. Three hours a week for explanation and demonstration, one hour a week in small TA sections.

Fall semester: Lecturer Schrade. Spring semester: Professor Hunter Parker. 

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Spring 2022

102 Elementary German II

A continuation of GERM 101, with increased emphasis on reading of selected texts. Three class meetings per week plus one additional conversation hour in small sections.

Requisite: GERM 101 or equivalent. Fall and spring semesters. Visiting Lecturer Rizo Lenshyn. 

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2009, Spring 2010, Spring 2011, Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Spring 2022

205 Intermediate German

Systematic review of grammar, aural and speaking practice, discussion of video and television programs, and reading of selected texts in contemporary German. Stress will be on the acquisition and polishing of verbal, reading, writing, and comprehension skills in German. Three hours per week for explanation and structured discussion, plus one hour per week in small sections for additional practice with German language assistants.Requisite: GERM 102 or two years of secondary-school German or equivalent. Fall and Spring semester: Professor Gilpin.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Spring 2022

210 Advanced Composition and Conversation

Practice in free composition and analytical writing in German. Exercises in pronunciation and idiomatic conversation. Supplementary work with audio and video materials. Oral reports on selected topics and reading of literary and topical texts. Conducted in German. Three hours per week, plus one hour per week in small sections for additional practice with German language assistants.

Requisite: GERM 205 or equivalent, based on departmental placement decision.

Fall semester: Lecturer Schrade. Spring semester: Professor Hunter-Parker.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2009, Spring 2010, Spring 2011, Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Spring 2022

250 Chivalry: The Life, Death, and Legend of a Medieval Cultural Code

“Chivalry is dead?” Does the current fascination with Game of Thrones indicate that medieval chivalrous codes of conduct are as relevant today as ever? Defenders and critics may argue if and why, and still agree that the time of gallant knights and gentle ladies is long gone. But was chivalry ever alive to begin with? How did medieval societies understand chivalry, and would they recognize its representations today? This course examines the historical literary sources of an enduring cultural concept, and charts the routes of its transmission into the present. Students will be introduced to key narrative traditions such as the chanson de geste, heroic epic and courtly romance from the twelfth through the fifteenth centuries, as well as the conditions for their survival, reception, and adaptation in later centuries. The course objective will be to explore how fictional narratives of the past can be used to critique and historicize received cultural concepts today, from MMORPGs and histo-tainment to contemporary political discourse. In counterpoint, the course also examines how current theoretical discussions can foster more nuanced readings of medieval texts and contexts. Readings include Pfaffe Konrad, Rolandslied; Nibelungenlied; Hartmann von Aue, Iwein; Gottfried von Straßburg, Tristan; Wolfram von Eschenbach, Parzival; Ulrich von Liechtenstein, Frauendienst; Theuerdank. Conducted in English, with German majors required to do a substantial portion of the reading in German.

Omitted 2021-22. Professor Hunter-Parker.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2020

312 Advanced Reading, Conversation, and Composition

This course revolves around sites of memory related to German history – “Erinnerungsorte deutscher Geschichte.” It is based on discussion and close analysis of a wide range of cultural materials, including selections from all types of media. Materials will be analyzed both for their linguistic features and as cultural documents. Textual analysis includes study of vocabulary, style, and selected points of advanced grammar. The class includes round-table discussions, oral reports, and structured composition exercises that enable students to navigate German language and culture successfully. Conducted in German. Three class hours per week, plus an additional hour in small TA-sections. Requisite: GERM 210 or equivalent.

Omitted 2021-22. Lecturer Schrade.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2020

315 German Cultural History to 1800

An examination of cultural developments in the German tradition, from the Early Middle Ages to the rise of Prussia and the Napoleonic Period. We shall explore the interaction between socio-political factors in German-speaking Europe and works of “high art” produced in the successive eras, as well as Germany’s centuries-long search for a cultural identity. Literature to be considered will include selections from Tacitus’ Germania, the Hildebrandslied, a courtly epic and some medieval lyric poetry; the sixteenth-century Faust chapbook and other writings of the Reformation Period; Baroque prose, poetry, and music; works by Lessing and other figures of the German Enlightenment; Sturm und Drang, including early works by Goethe, Schiller, and their younger contemporaries. Small-group discussion and reflective writing practice will develop students' speaking and writing in German, while a range of audio-visual materials will strengthen reading and listening skills. 

Requisite: GERM 210 or equivalent.

Fall semester. Professor Hunter-Parker.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2017, Fall 2018, Fall 2019, Fall 2020, Fall 2021

316 German Cultural History from 1800 to the Present

A survey of literary and cultural developments in the German tradition from the Romantic Period to contemporary trends. Major themes will include the Romantic imagination and the rise of nationalism in the nineteenth century, the literary rebellion of the period prior to 1848, Poetic Realism and the Industrial Revolution, and various forms of aestheticism, activism, and myth. In the twentieth century we shall consider the culture of Vienna, the “Golden Twenties,” the suppression of freedom in the Nazi state, issues of exile and inner emigration, and the diverse models of cultural reconstruction after 1945. Authors represented will include Friedrich Schlegel, Brentano, Heine, Büchner, Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche, Heinrich and Thomas Mann, Kafka, Brecht, Grass, Wolf, and Handke. Music by Schubert, Wagner, Mahler, and Henze; samples of art and architecture. Conducted in German.

Requisite: GERM 210 or equivalent.

Spring semester: Professor Rogowski.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2009, Spring 2010, Spring 2011, Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Spring 2022

320 Deutsche Fabeln: Fables in German Literature from Aesop to Zarathustra

Short, sweet, and smart, fables are one of the oldest and most successful genres in Western literature, if not the world. Since the eighteenth century, fable collections were the most-read books in the German language after the Bible. Fanciful creatures and a simple moral work to educate and delight audiences. But with these stories’ long success, the question of who gets credit is anything but simple. What is a fable and what is not? Who writes fables, who reads them, and why? How do they reach their audience? Is there such a thing as German fable, or is it all just Aesop redux? Through readings in and on the genre, this course introduces students to key authors and movements in the history of German literature. Students will deepen interpretive skills through discussions of representative historical texts and contexts between the Enlightenment and early-Modernism. Authors include Martin Luther, Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, Sophie von la Roche, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Heinrich von Kleist, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, Adalbert Stifter, Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach, and Friedrich Nietzsche. Conducted in German.

Requisite: GERM 210 or equivalent.

Omitted 2021-22. Professor Hunter-Parker.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2019, Spring 2021

330 Green Germany

Is Germany’s reputation as a global leader in environmental issues warranted? Can a modern industrial nation deliver on the promise, made in 2011, to abandon nuclear energy? This course examines the history of German environmentalism, focusing on, among other topics, the nature worship of the Romantics; the discomfort with nineteenth century industrialization; the Lebensreform efforts around 1900; the “blood and soil” ideology of the Nazis; post-World War II pacifism; the emergence of the Green Party in the 1980s; current initiatives in sustainability practices; as well as the impact of major environmental disasters such as Chernobyl (1986) and Fukushima (2011). Readings by authors such as Hans Magnus Enzensberger, Max Frisch, Peter Härtling, Hermann Hesse, Monika Maron, and Christa Wolf. Films by directors such as Doris Dörrie, Peter Fleischmann, Oliver Haffner, Werner Herzog, and Herbert Selpin. Conducted in German.

Requisite: GERM 210 or equivalent.

Omitted 2021-22. Professor Rogowski.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2020

338 Modern Drama

Why is drama an art form of such tremendous importance to Germans, Austrians, and the Swiss? Few cultures can boast a similar preoccupation with, interest in, and public support of, the theater. This course examines the rich legacy of dramatic innovation and experimentation from about 1890 to the present day, ranging from the scandals surrounding Frank Wedekind’s exposition of sexual hypocrisy to the iconoclastic provocations of present-day Regietheater. We will read and discuss selected plays by authors such as Gerhart Hauptmann, Arthur Schnitzler, Georg Kaiser, Bertolt Brecht, Marie-Luise Fleisser, Peter Weiss, Heinar Kipphardt, Friedrich Dürrenmatt, Max Frisch, Botho Strauß, Marlene Streeruwitz, Elfriede Jelinek and others. Readings will be supplemented by audiovisual materials on artists like Pina Bausch, Johann Kresnik, and Heiner Müller.
Conducted in German.

Requisite: GERM 210 or equivalent.

Fall semester: Professor Rogowski.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2009, Spring 2019, Fall 2021

347 Weimar Cinema: The "Golden Age" of German Film

(Offered as GERM 347 and FAMS 323) This course examines the German contribution to the emergence of film as both a distinctly modern art form and as a product of mass culture. The international success of Robert Wiene’s Expressionist phantasmagoria, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920), heralded the beginning of a period of unparalleled artistic exploration, prior to the advent of Hitler, during which the ground was laid for many of the filmic genres familiar today: horror film (F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu), detective thriller (Fritz Lang’s M), satirical comedy (Ernst Lubitsch’s The Oyster Princess), psychological drama (G.W. Pabst’s Pandora’s Box), science fiction (Lang’s Metropolis), social melodrama (Pabst’s The Joyless Street), historical costume film (Lubitsch’s Passion), political propaganda (Slatan Dudow’s Kuhle Wampe), anti-war epic (Pabst’s Westfront 1918), a documentary montage (Walther Ruttmann’s Berlin – Symphony of a Big City), and the distinctly German genre of the “mountain film” (Leni Riefenstahl’s The Blue Light). Readings, including works by Siegried Kracauer, Walter Benjamin, Lotte H. Eisner, Béla Balázs, and Rudolf Arnheim, will address questions of technology and modernity, gender relations after World War I, the intersection of politics and film, and the impact of German and Austrian exiles on Hollywood.
Conducted in English, with German majors required to do a substantial portion of the reading in German.

Omitted 2021-22. Professor Rogowski.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2010, Spring 2012, Spring 2015, Spring 2020

348 Nazi Cinema

(Offered as GERM 348 and FAMS 325) This course examines the vital role cinema played in sustaining the totalitarian Nazi system. From the visually stunning “documentaries” of Leni Riefenstahl to the tearful melodramas starring Swedish diva Zarah Leander, from the vicious anti-Semitic diatribes of propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels to the ostensibly apolitical “revue films” featuring Hungarian dancer-chanteuse Marika Rökk, the cinema of the Third Reich (1933-45) is fraught with contradiction and complexity. How did the German film industry cope with the exodus of Jewish (or politically suspect) talent after Hitler came to power? What tensions arose between a centralized bureaucracy pursuing an ideological agenda and an industry geared toward profit maximization? How do genre films of the period negotiate the conflict between official notions of a “racially homogeneous” body politic on the one hand and audiences’ pervasive fascination with the exotic on the other? What does the popularity of stars such as Hans Albers, Heinz Rühmann, Lilian Harvey, and Kristina Söderbaum tell us about the private dreams and aspirations of German audiences at the time? Were there pockets of resistance to censorship? Can there be artistic freedom under a totalitarian regime? To answer questions such as these, we will examine films from a wide range of directors, including Willi Forst, Veit Harlan, Helmut Käutner, Wolfgang Liebeneiner, Leni Riefenstahl, Reinhold Schünzel, Detlef Sierck/Douglas Sirk, and Hans Steinhoff.

Omitted 2021-22. Professor Rogowski.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2016, Spring 2021

350 Rilke

The course will explore the rich legacy of one of the greatest poets of the twentieth century. We will examine Rilke’s peculiar background in the German-speaking minority in Habsburg Prague; his situation in the literary world of fin-de-siècle Munich; the significance of his encounter with Lou Andreas-Salomé; the intellectual experiences that shaped his outlook on life and on poetry (Nietzsche; Russia and Tolstoy; Paris and Rodin); his artistic breakthrough in the two-volume New Poems (1907) and the concept of the "Ding-Gedicht"; the existential crisis reflected in the modernist novel The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge (1910); his reflections on the role of poetry in a modern world of uncertainty in texts such as A Letter to a Young Poet (1903); his artistic crisis of the 1910s; and the extraordinary double achievement of 1922, The Duino Elegies and The Sonnets to Orpheus. Conducted in English (no knowledge of German required), with German majors required to do a substantial portion of the reading in German.

Omitted 2021-22. Professor Rogowski.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2010, Spring 2013, Spring 2016, Fall 2019

360 Performance

(Offered as GERM 360, ARCH 360, EUST 360 and FAMS 316) What is performance? What constitutes an event? How can we address a phenomenon that has disappeared the moment we apprehend it? How does memory operate in our critical perception of an event? How does a body make meaning? These are a few of the questions we will explore in this course, as we discuss critical, theoretical, and compositional approaches in a broad range of multidisciplinary performance phenomena emerging from European—primarily German—culture in the twentieth century. We will focus on issues of performativity, composition, conceptualization, dramaturgy, identity construction, representation, space, gender, and dynamism. Readings of performance theory, performance studies, gender studies, and critical/cultural studies, as well as literary, philosophical, and architectural texts, will accompany close examination of performance material. Students will develop performative projects in various media (video, performance, text, online) and deliver a number of critical oral and written presentations on various aspects of the course material and their own projects. Performance material will be experienced live when possible, and in text, video, audio, digital media and online form, drawn from selected works of Dada and Surrealism, Bauhaus, German Expressionism, the Theater of the Absurd, Tanztheater, and Contemporary Theater, Performance, Dance, Opera, New Media, and Performance Art. A number of films, including Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari, Oskar Schlemmer’s Das Triadische Ballett, Fernand Léger’s Ballet Mécanique, and Kurt Jooss’ Der Grüne Tisch, will also be screened. Conducted in English, with German majors required to do a substantial portion of the reading in German.

Limited to 16 students.

Omitted 2021-22. Professor Gilpin.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2009, Spring 2011, Spring 2014, Fall 2017, Fall 2020

363 Traumatic Events

(Offered as GERM 363, ARCH 363, EUST 363, and FAMS 370) How is memory constructed and represented? How is it possible to bear witness, and what exactly is involved? Who is authorized to testify, to whom, when? Whose story is it? Is it possible to tell "the story" of a traumatic event? What are the disorders of testimony, and how and where do they emerge? This course will observe the workings of trauma (the enactment and working-through of collective and individual symptoms of trauma), memory, and witnessing in various modes of everyday life. We will examine notions of catastrophe, disaster, accident, and violence, and explore the possibilities and impossibilities of bearing witness in many forms of cultural production: in fiction, poetry, architecture, critical theory, oral and written testimonies, visual art, monuments, memorials, philosophy, science, cartoons, film, video, theater, social media, and performance, online and in our public and domestic spaces. We will study various representations of trauma, paying particular attention to events in Germany and Europe from the twentieth century, as well as to 9/11, the Covid-19 pandemic and inter/national events of 2020. Material to be examined will be drawn from the work of Pina Bausch, Joseph Beuys, Christian Boltanski, Cathy Caruth, Paul Celan, Marguerite Duras, Peter Eisenman, Shoshana Felman, Florian Freund, Jochen Gerz, Geoffrey Hartman, Rebecca Horn, Marion Kant, Anselm Kiefer, Ruth Klüger, Dominick LaCapra, Claude Lanzmann, Dori Laub, Daniel Libeskind, W.G. Sebald, Art Spiegelman, Paul Virilio, Peter Weiss, Wim Wenders, Elie Wiesel, Christa Wolf, and others. Conducted in English with German majors required to do a substantial portion of the reading in German.

Omitted 2021-22. Professor Gilpin.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2008, Fall 2010, Fall 2014, Fall 2018

365 Making Memorials

(Offered as GERM 365, ARCH 365, and EUST 365) This is a course about what happens to difficult memories: memories that are intensely personal, but made public, memories that belong to communities, but which become ideologically possessed by history, politics, or the media. How are memories processed into memorials? What constitutes a memorial? What gets included or excluded? How is memory performed in cultural objects, spaces, and institutions? What is the relationship between the politics of representation and memory? Who owns memory? Who is authorized to convey it? How does memory function? This course will explore the spaces in which memories are “preserved” and experienced. Our attention will focus on the transformation of private and public memories in works of architecture, performance, literature, and the visual arts, primarily in Germany, Europe, and the United States in the twentieth century, including also 9/11, the COVID-19 pandemic, and inter/national events of 2020. Preference given to German majors and European Studies majors, as well as to students interested in architecture/design, performance, the visual arts, interactive installation and/or the environment. Conducted in English, with German majors required to do a substantial portion of the reading in German.

Limited to 20 students. Professor Gilpin.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2009, Fall 2012, Fall 2016, Fall 2021

368 SPACE

(Offered as GERM 368, ARCH 368, EUST 368, and FAMS 380) This research seminar will explore conceptions of space as they have informed and influenced thought and creativity in the fields of cultural studies, literature, architecture, urban studies, performance, and the visual, electronic, and time-based arts. Students will select and pursue a major semester-long research project early in the semester in consultation with the professor, and present their research in its various stages of development throughout the semester, in a variety of media formats (writing, performance, video, electronic art/interactive media, installation, online and networked events, architectural/design drawings/renderings), along with oral presentations of readings and other materials. Readings and visual materials will be drawn from the fields of literature and philosophy; architectural, art, and film theory and history; performance studies and performance theory; and theories of technology and the natural and built environment. Emphasis on developing research, writing, and presentation skills is a core of this seminar.

Preference given to German majors and European Studies majors, as well as to students interested in architecture/design, performance, film/video, interactive installation, and/or the environment. Conducted in English. German majors will select a research project focused on a German Studies context, and will do a substantial portion of the readings in German. 

Limited to 18 students. Enrollment requires attendance at the first class meeting. Spring semester. Professor Gilpin.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2015, Spring 2018, Spring 2022

490 Special Topics

Independent reading course.

Fall and spring semesters. The Department.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Spring 2022

498, 499 Senior Departmental Honors

Fall semester. The Department.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2017, Fall 2018, Fall 2019, Fall 2020, Fall 2021

Five College Programs & Certificates

Five College Programs & Certificates

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German

Professors Martin and Rogowski; Associate Professor Gilpin (Chair); Assistant Professor Hunter-Parker; Senior Lecturer Schrade‡; Visiting Lecturer Rizo Lenshyn.

The German experience, both in its sublime achievements and its tragic derailments, provides students with crucial insights as they strive to become global citizens. The Department of German endeavors to be a resource for enriching the international and cross-cultural awareness of all Amherst College students, in order to prepare them for global interaction within their future professional and scholarly fields. The courses we teach in English, often interdisciplinary in focus, are open to all students and do not require any prior knowledge of German. Placement in courses taught in German is determined on the basis of proficiency, in consultation with the instructor.

Major Program. Majoring in German can lead to a variety of careers in education, government, business, international affairs, and the arts. Our majors attend leading graduate programs, teach or take jobs in German-speaking countries and win domestic and international scholarships. 

The German Studies Major is broadly humanistic and cross-cultural. It develops language and cultural literacy skills and provides a critical understanding of the cultural and literary traditions of the German-speaking countries: The Federal Republic of Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. The Department offers effective preparation for graduate study in German literature and language while also opening up a broad range of interdisciplinary perspectives.

The major requires GERM 210 (or its equivalent), GERM 315 and 316 (German Cultural History), and a minimum of five further German courses. Three of these must be courses in German culture and literature, conducted in German. Majors are advised to broaden their knowledge of other European languages and cultures and to supplement their German program with courses in European history, politics, economics, and the arts.

Students who major in German Studies are expected to enroll in at least one German course per semester. The Department faculty will help majors develop individual reading lists as they prepare for a Comprehensive Examination administered during each student’s final semester.

Study Abroad. German majors are encouraged to spend a summer, semester, or year of study abroad as a vital part of their undergraduate experience. The Department maintains a regular student exchange program with Göttingen University in Germany. Each year we send two students to that university in exchange for two German students who serve as Language Assistants at Amherst College. Faculty can also advise on a variety of other options for study in a German-speaking country. Please also check out the Study Abroad Opportunities link for further program information.

Departmental Honors Program. In addition to the courses required for a rite degree in the major, candidates for Honors must complete GERM 498 and 499 and present a thesis on a topic chosen in consultation with an advisor in the Department. The aim of Honors work in German is (1) to consolidate general knowledge of the history and development of German language, culture, and history; (2) to explore a chosen subject through a more intensive program of readings and research than is possible in course work; (3) to present material along historical or analytical lines, in the form of a scholarly thesis.

Honors students who major with a concentration in German Studies are encouraged to consult early with their faculty advisor about a possible thesis topic. Depending on the topic chosen, their thesis committee will be comprised of Amherst College German Studies faculty who may or may not invite faculty from other departments, or from the Five Colleges to participate as readers. The thesis committee will be chaired by the student’s Department of German thesis advisor.

The quality of the Honors thesis, the result of the Comprehensive Examination, together with the overall college grade average, will determine the level of Honors recommended by the Department.

‡ On leave spring semester 2021-22.

101 Elementary German I

Our multimedia course acquaints students with present day life and culture in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Authentic documents and interviews with native speakers from all walks of life serve as a first-hand introduction to the German-speaking countries. An interactive learning software, as well as related Internet audio-visual materials emphasize the mastery of speaking, writing, and reading skills that are the foundation for further study. Three hours a week for explanation and demonstration, one hour a week in small TA sections.

Fall semester: Lecturer Schrade. Spring semester: Professor Hunter Parker. 

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Spring 2022

102 Elementary German II

A continuation of GERM 101, with increased emphasis on reading of selected texts. Three class meetings per week plus one additional conversation hour in small sections.

Requisite: GERM 101 or equivalent. Fall and spring semesters. Visiting Lecturer Rizo Lenshyn. 

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2009, Spring 2010, Spring 2011, Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Spring 2022

205 Intermediate German

Systematic review of grammar, aural and speaking practice, discussion of video and television programs, and reading of selected texts in contemporary German. Stress will be on the acquisition and polishing of verbal, reading, writing, and comprehension skills in German. Three hours per week for explanation and structured discussion, plus one hour per week in small sections for additional practice with German language assistants.Requisite: GERM 102 or two years of secondary-school German or equivalent. Fall and Spring semester: Professor Gilpin.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Spring 2022

210 Advanced Composition and Conversation

Practice in free composition and analytical writing in German. Exercises in pronunciation and idiomatic conversation. Supplementary work with audio and video materials. Oral reports on selected topics and reading of literary and topical texts. Conducted in German. Three hours per week, plus one hour per week in small sections for additional practice with German language assistants.

Requisite: GERM 205 or equivalent, based on departmental placement decision.

Fall semester: Lecturer Schrade. Spring semester: Professor Hunter-Parker.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2009, Spring 2010, Spring 2011, Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Spring 2022

250 Chivalry: The Life, Death, and Legend of a Medieval Cultural Code

“Chivalry is dead?” Does the current fascination with Game of Thrones indicate that medieval chivalrous codes of conduct are as relevant today as ever? Defenders and critics may argue if and why, and still agree that the time of gallant knights and gentle ladies is long gone. But was chivalry ever alive to begin with? How did medieval societies understand chivalry, and would they recognize its representations today? This course examines the historical literary sources of an enduring cultural concept, and charts the routes of its transmission into the present. Students will be introduced to key narrative traditions such as the chanson de geste, heroic epic and courtly romance from the twelfth through the fifteenth centuries, as well as the conditions for their survival, reception, and adaptation in later centuries. The course objective will be to explore how fictional narratives of the past can be used to critique and historicize received cultural concepts today, from MMORPGs and histo-tainment to contemporary political discourse. In counterpoint, the course also examines how current theoretical discussions can foster more nuanced readings of medieval texts and contexts. Readings include Pfaffe Konrad, Rolandslied; Nibelungenlied; Hartmann von Aue, Iwein; Gottfried von Straßburg, Tristan; Wolfram von Eschenbach, Parzival; Ulrich von Liechtenstein, Frauendienst; Theuerdank. Conducted in English, with German majors required to do a substantial portion of the reading in German.

Omitted 2021-22. Professor Hunter-Parker.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2020

312 Advanced Reading, Conversation, and Composition

This course revolves around sites of memory related to German history – “Erinnerungsorte deutscher Geschichte.” It is based on discussion and close analysis of a wide range of cultural materials, including selections from all types of media. Materials will be analyzed both for their linguistic features and as cultural documents. Textual analysis includes study of vocabulary, style, and selected points of advanced grammar. The class includes round-table discussions, oral reports, and structured composition exercises that enable students to navigate German language and culture successfully. Conducted in German. Three class hours per week, plus an additional hour in small TA-sections. Requisite: GERM 210 or equivalent.

Omitted 2021-22. Lecturer Schrade.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2020

315 German Cultural History to 1800

An examination of cultural developments in the German tradition, from the Early Middle Ages to the rise of Prussia and the Napoleonic Period. We shall explore the interaction between socio-political factors in German-speaking Europe and works of “high art” produced in the successive eras, as well as Germany’s centuries-long search for a cultural identity. Literature to be considered will include selections from Tacitus’ Germania, the Hildebrandslied, a courtly epic and some medieval lyric poetry; the sixteenth-century Faust chapbook and other writings of the Reformation Period; Baroque prose, poetry, and music; works by Lessing and other figures of the German Enlightenment; Sturm und Drang, including early works by Goethe, Schiller, and their younger contemporaries. Small-group discussion and reflective writing practice will develop students' speaking and writing in German, while a range of audio-visual materials will strengthen reading and listening skills. 

Requisite: GERM 210 or equivalent.

Fall semester. Professor Hunter-Parker.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2017, Fall 2018, Fall 2019, Fall 2020, Fall 2021

316 German Cultural History from 1800 to the Present

A survey of literary and cultural developments in the German tradition from the Romantic Period to contemporary trends. Major themes will include the Romantic imagination and the rise of nationalism in the nineteenth century, the literary rebellion of the period prior to 1848, Poetic Realism and the Industrial Revolution, and various forms of aestheticism, activism, and myth. In the twentieth century we shall consider the culture of Vienna, the “Golden Twenties,” the suppression of freedom in the Nazi state, issues of exile and inner emigration, and the diverse models of cultural reconstruction after 1945. Authors represented will include Friedrich Schlegel, Brentano, Heine, Büchner, Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche, Heinrich and Thomas Mann, Kafka, Brecht, Grass, Wolf, and Handke. Music by Schubert, Wagner, Mahler, and Henze; samples of art and architecture. Conducted in German.

Requisite: GERM 210 or equivalent.

Spring semester: Professor Rogowski.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2009, Spring 2010, Spring 2011, Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Spring 2022

320 Deutsche Fabeln: Fables in German Literature from Aesop to Zarathustra

Short, sweet, and smart, fables are one of the oldest and most successful genres in Western literature, if not the world. Since the eighteenth century, fable collections were the most-read books in the German language after the Bible. Fanciful creatures and a simple moral work to educate and delight audiences. But with these stories’ long success, the question of who gets credit is anything but simple. What is a fable and what is not? Who writes fables, who reads them, and why? How do they reach their audience? Is there such a thing as German fable, or is it all just Aesop redux? Through readings in and on the genre, this course introduces students to key authors and movements in the history of German literature. Students will deepen interpretive skills through discussions of representative historical texts and contexts between the Enlightenment and early-Modernism. Authors include Martin Luther, Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, Sophie von la Roche, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Heinrich von Kleist, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, Adalbert Stifter, Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach, and Friedrich Nietzsche. Conducted in German.

Requisite: GERM 210 or equivalent.

Omitted 2021-22. Professor Hunter-Parker.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2019, Spring 2021

330 Green Germany

Is Germany’s reputation as a global leader in environmental issues warranted? Can a modern industrial nation deliver on the promise, made in 2011, to abandon nuclear energy? This course examines the history of German environmentalism, focusing on, among other topics, the nature worship of the Romantics; the discomfort with nineteenth century industrialization; the Lebensreform efforts around 1900; the “blood and soil” ideology of the Nazis; post-World War II pacifism; the emergence of the Green Party in the 1980s; current initiatives in sustainability practices; as well as the impact of major environmental disasters such as Chernobyl (1986) and Fukushima (2011). Readings by authors such as Hans Magnus Enzensberger, Max Frisch, Peter Härtling, Hermann Hesse, Monika Maron, and Christa Wolf. Films by directors such as Doris Dörrie, Peter Fleischmann, Oliver Haffner, Werner Herzog, and Herbert Selpin. Conducted in German.

Requisite: GERM 210 or equivalent.

Omitted 2021-22. Professor Rogowski.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2020

338 Modern Drama

Why is drama an art form of such tremendous importance to Germans, Austrians, and the Swiss? Few cultures can boast a similar preoccupation with, interest in, and public support of, the theater. This course examines the rich legacy of dramatic innovation and experimentation from about 1890 to the present day, ranging from the scandals surrounding Frank Wedekind’s exposition of sexual hypocrisy to the iconoclastic provocations of present-day Regietheater. We will read and discuss selected plays by authors such as Gerhart Hauptmann, Arthur Schnitzler, Georg Kaiser, Bertolt Brecht, Marie-Luise Fleisser, Peter Weiss, Heinar Kipphardt, Friedrich Dürrenmatt, Max Frisch, Botho Strauß, Marlene Streeruwitz, Elfriede Jelinek and others. Readings will be supplemented by audiovisual materials on artists like Pina Bausch, Johann Kresnik, and Heiner Müller.
Conducted in German.

Requisite: GERM 210 or equivalent.

Fall semester: Professor Rogowski.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2009, Spring 2019, Fall 2021

347 Weimar Cinema: The "Golden Age" of German Film

(Offered as GERM 347 and FAMS 323) This course examines the German contribution to the emergence of film as both a distinctly modern art form and as a product of mass culture. The international success of Robert Wiene’s Expressionist phantasmagoria, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920), heralded the beginning of a period of unparalleled artistic exploration, prior to the advent of Hitler, during which the ground was laid for many of the filmic genres familiar today: horror film (F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu), detective thriller (Fritz Lang’s M), satirical comedy (Ernst Lubitsch’s The Oyster Princess), psychological drama (G.W. Pabst’s Pandora’s Box), science fiction (Lang’s Metropolis), social melodrama (Pabst’s The Joyless Street), historical costume film (Lubitsch’s Passion), political propaganda (Slatan Dudow’s Kuhle Wampe), anti-war epic (Pabst’s Westfront 1918), a documentary montage (Walther Ruttmann’s Berlin – Symphony of a Big City), and the distinctly German genre of the “mountain film” (Leni Riefenstahl’s The Blue Light). Readings, including works by Siegried Kracauer, Walter Benjamin, Lotte H. Eisner, Béla Balázs, and Rudolf Arnheim, will address questions of technology and modernity, gender relations after World War I, the intersection of politics and film, and the impact of German and Austrian exiles on Hollywood.
Conducted in English, with German majors required to do a substantial portion of the reading in German.

Omitted 2021-22. Professor Rogowski.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2010, Spring 2012, Spring 2015, Spring 2020

348 Nazi Cinema

(Offered as GERM 348 and FAMS 325) This course examines the vital role cinema played in sustaining the totalitarian Nazi system. From the visually stunning “documentaries” of Leni Riefenstahl to the tearful melodramas starring Swedish diva Zarah Leander, from the vicious anti-Semitic diatribes of propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels to the ostensibly apolitical “revue films” featuring Hungarian dancer-chanteuse Marika Rökk, the cinema of the Third Reich (1933-45) is fraught with contradiction and complexity. How did the German film industry cope with the exodus of Jewish (or politically suspect) talent after Hitler came to power? What tensions arose between a centralized bureaucracy pursuing an ideological agenda and an industry geared toward profit maximization? How do genre films of the period negotiate the conflict between official notions of a “racially homogeneous” body politic on the one hand and audiences’ pervasive fascination with the exotic on the other? What does the popularity of stars such as Hans Albers, Heinz Rühmann, Lilian Harvey, and Kristina Söderbaum tell us about the private dreams and aspirations of German audiences at the time? Were there pockets of resistance to censorship? Can there be artistic freedom under a totalitarian regime? To answer questions such as these, we will examine films from a wide range of directors, including Willi Forst, Veit Harlan, Helmut Käutner, Wolfgang Liebeneiner, Leni Riefenstahl, Reinhold Schünzel, Detlef Sierck/Douglas Sirk, and Hans Steinhoff.

Omitted 2021-22. Professor Rogowski.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2016, Spring 2021

350 Rilke

The course will explore the rich legacy of one of the greatest poets of the twentieth century. We will examine Rilke’s peculiar background in the German-speaking minority in Habsburg Prague; his situation in the literary world of fin-de-siècle Munich; the significance of his encounter with Lou Andreas-Salomé; the intellectual experiences that shaped his outlook on life and on poetry (Nietzsche; Russia and Tolstoy; Paris and Rodin); his artistic breakthrough in the two-volume New Poems (1907) and the concept of the "Ding-Gedicht"; the existential crisis reflected in the modernist novel The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge (1910); his reflections on the role of poetry in a modern world of uncertainty in texts such as A Letter to a Young Poet (1903); his artistic crisis of the 1910s; and the extraordinary double achievement of 1922, The Duino Elegies and The Sonnets to Orpheus. Conducted in English (no knowledge of German required), with German majors required to do a substantial portion of the reading in German.

Omitted 2021-22. Professor Rogowski.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2010, Spring 2013, Spring 2016, Fall 2019

360 Performance

(Offered as GERM 360, ARCH 360, EUST 360 and FAMS 316) What is performance? What constitutes an event? How can we address a phenomenon that has disappeared the moment we apprehend it? How does memory operate in our critical perception of an event? How does a body make meaning? These are a few of the questions we will explore in this course, as we discuss critical, theoretical, and compositional approaches in a broad range of multidisciplinary performance phenomena emerging from European—primarily German—culture in the twentieth century. We will focus on issues of performativity, composition, conceptualization, dramaturgy, identity construction, representation, space, gender, and dynamism. Readings of performance theory, performance studies, gender studies, and critical/cultural studies, as well as literary, philosophical, and architectural texts, will accompany close examination of performance material. Students will develop performative projects in various media (video, performance, text, online) and deliver a number of critical oral and written presentations on various aspects of the course material and their own projects. Performance material will be experienced live when possible, and in text, video, audio, digital media and online form, drawn from selected works of Dada and Surrealism, Bauhaus, German Expressionism, the Theater of the Absurd, Tanztheater, and Contemporary Theater, Performance, Dance, Opera, New Media, and Performance Art. A number of films, including Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari, Oskar Schlemmer’s Das Triadische Ballett, Fernand Léger’s Ballet Mécanique, and Kurt Jooss’ Der Grüne Tisch, will also be screened. Conducted in English, with German majors required to do a substantial portion of the reading in German.

Limited to 16 students.

Omitted 2021-22. Professor Gilpin.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2009, Spring 2011, Spring 2014, Fall 2017, Fall 2020

363 Traumatic Events

(Offered as GERM 363, ARCH 363, EUST 363, and FAMS 370) How is memory constructed and represented? How is it possible to bear witness, and what exactly is involved? Who is authorized to testify, to whom, when? Whose story is it? Is it possible to tell "the story" of a traumatic event? What are the disorders of testimony, and how and where do they emerge? This course will observe the workings of trauma (the enactment and working-through of collective and individual symptoms of trauma), memory, and witnessing in various modes of everyday life. We will examine notions of catastrophe, disaster, accident, and violence, and explore the possibilities and impossibilities of bearing witness in many forms of cultural production: in fiction, poetry, architecture, critical theory, oral and written testimonies, visual art, monuments, memorials, philosophy, science, cartoons, film, video, theater, social media, and performance, online and in our public and domestic spaces. We will study various representations of trauma, paying particular attention to events in Germany and Europe from the twentieth century, as well as to 9/11, the Covid-19 pandemic and inter/national events of 2020. Material to be examined will be drawn from the work of Pina Bausch, Joseph Beuys, Christian Boltanski, Cathy Caruth, Paul Celan, Marguerite Duras, Peter Eisenman, Shoshana Felman, Florian Freund, Jochen Gerz, Geoffrey Hartman, Rebecca Horn, Marion Kant, Anselm Kiefer, Ruth Klüger, Dominick LaCapra, Claude Lanzmann, Dori Laub, Daniel Libeskind, W.G. Sebald, Art Spiegelman, Paul Virilio, Peter Weiss, Wim Wenders, Elie Wiesel, Christa Wolf, and others. Conducted in English with German majors required to do a substantial portion of the reading in German.

Omitted 2021-22. Professor Gilpin.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2008, Fall 2010, Fall 2014, Fall 2018

365 Making Memorials

(Offered as GERM 365, ARCH 365, and EUST 365) This is a course about what happens to difficult memories: memories that are intensely personal, but made public, memories that belong to communities, but which become ideologically possessed by history, politics, or the media. How are memories processed into memorials? What constitutes a memorial? What gets included or excluded? How is memory performed in cultural objects, spaces, and institutions? What is the relationship between the politics of representation and memory? Who owns memory? Who is authorized to convey it? How does memory function? This course will explore the spaces in which memories are “preserved” and experienced. Our attention will focus on the transformation of private and public memories in works of architecture, performance, literature, and the visual arts, primarily in Germany, Europe, and the United States in the twentieth century, including also 9/11, the COVID-19 pandemic, and inter/national events of 2020. Preference given to German majors and European Studies majors, as well as to students interested in architecture/design, performance, the visual arts, interactive installation and/or the environment. Conducted in English, with German majors required to do a substantial portion of the reading in German.

Limited to 20 students. Professor Gilpin.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2009, Fall 2012, Fall 2016, Fall 2021

368 SPACE

(Offered as GERM 368, ARCH 368, EUST 368, and FAMS 380) This research seminar will explore conceptions of space as they have informed and influenced thought and creativity in the fields of cultural studies, literature, architecture, urban studies, performance, and the visual, electronic, and time-based arts. Students will select and pursue a major semester-long research project early in the semester in consultation with the professor, and present their research in its various stages of development throughout the semester, in a variety of media formats (writing, performance, video, electronic art/interactive media, installation, online and networked events, architectural/design drawings/renderings), along with oral presentations of readings and other materials. Readings and visual materials will be drawn from the fields of literature and philosophy; architectural, art, and film theory and history; performance studies and performance theory; and theories of technology and the natural and built environment. Emphasis on developing research, writing, and presentation skills is a core of this seminar.

Preference given to German majors and European Studies majors, as well as to students interested in architecture/design, performance, film/video, interactive installation, and/or the environment. Conducted in English. German majors will select a research project focused on a German Studies context, and will do a substantial portion of the readings in German. 

Limited to 18 students. Enrollment requires attendance at the first class meeting. Spring semester. Professor Gilpin.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2015, Spring 2018, Spring 2022

490 Special Topics

Independent reading course.

Fall and spring semesters. The Department.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Spring 2022

498, 499 Senior Departmental Honors

Fall semester. The Department.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2017, Fall 2018, Fall 2019, Fall 2020, Fall 2021

Honors & Fellowships

Honors & Fellowships

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German

Professors Martin and Rogowski; Associate Professor Gilpin (Chair); Assistant Professor Hunter-Parker; Senior Lecturer Schrade‡; Visiting Lecturer Rizo Lenshyn.

The German experience, both in its sublime achievements and its tragic derailments, provides students with crucial insights as they strive to become global citizens. The Department of German endeavors to be a resource for enriching the international and cross-cultural awareness of all Amherst College students, in order to prepare them for global interaction within their future professional and scholarly fields. The courses we teach in English, often interdisciplinary in focus, are open to all students and do not require any prior knowledge of German. Placement in courses taught in German is determined on the basis of proficiency, in consultation with the instructor.

Major Program. Majoring in German can lead to a variety of careers in education, government, business, international affairs, and the arts. Our majors attend leading graduate programs, teach or take jobs in German-speaking countries and win domestic and international scholarships. 

The German Studies Major is broadly humanistic and cross-cultural. It develops language and cultural literacy skills and provides a critical understanding of the cultural and literary traditions of the German-speaking countries: The Federal Republic of Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. The Department offers effective preparation for graduate study in German literature and language while also opening up a broad range of interdisciplinary perspectives.

The major requires GERM 210 (or its equivalent), GERM 315 and 316 (German Cultural History), and a minimum of five further German courses. Three of these must be courses in German culture and literature, conducted in German. Majors are advised to broaden their knowledge of other European languages and cultures and to supplement their German program with courses in European history, politics, economics, and the arts.

Students who major in German Studies are expected to enroll in at least one German course per semester. The Department faculty will help majors develop individual reading lists as they prepare for a Comprehensive Examination administered during each student’s final semester.

Study Abroad. German majors are encouraged to spend a summer, semester, or year of study abroad as a vital part of their undergraduate experience. The Department maintains a regular student exchange program with Göttingen University in Germany. Each year we send two students to that university in exchange for two German students who serve as Language Assistants at Amherst College. Faculty can also advise on a variety of other options for study in a German-speaking country. Please also check out the Study Abroad Opportunities link for further program information.

Departmental Honors Program. In addition to the courses required for a rite degree in the major, candidates for Honors must complete GERM 498 and 499 and present a thesis on a topic chosen in consultation with an advisor in the Department. The aim of Honors work in German is (1) to consolidate general knowledge of the history and development of German language, culture, and history; (2) to explore a chosen subject through a more intensive program of readings and research than is possible in course work; (3) to present material along historical or analytical lines, in the form of a scholarly thesis.

Honors students who major with a concentration in German Studies are encouraged to consult early with their faculty advisor about a possible thesis topic. Depending on the topic chosen, their thesis committee will be comprised of Amherst College German Studies faculty who may or may not invite faculty from other departments, or from the Five Colleges to participate as readers. The thesis committee will be chaired by the student’s Department of German thesis advisor.

The quality of the Honors thesis, the result of the Comprehensive Examination, together with the overall college grade average, will determine the level of Honors recommended by the Department.

‡ On leave spring semester 2021-22.

101 Elementary German I

Our multimedia course acquaints students with present day life and culture in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Authentic documents and interviews with native speakers from all walks of life serve as a first-hand introduction to the German-speaking countries. An interactive learning software, as well as related Internet audio-visual materials emphasize the mastery of speaking, writing, and reading skills that are the foundation for further study. Three hours a week for explanation and demonstration, one hour a week in small TA sections.

Fall semester: Lecturer Schrade. Spring semester: Professor Hunter Parker. 

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Spring 2022

102 Elementary German II

A continuation of GERM 101, with increased emphasis on reading of selected texts. Three class meetings per week plus one additional conversation hour in small sections.

Requisite: GERM 101 or equivalent. Fall and spring semesters. Visiting Lecturer Rizo Lenshyn. 

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2009, Spring 2010, Spring 2011, Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Spring 2022

205 Intermediate German

Systematic review of grammar, aural and speaking practice, discussion of video and television programs, and reading of selected texts in contemporary German. Stress will be on the acquisition and polishing of verbal, reading, writing, and comprehension skills in German. Three hours per week for explanation and structured discussion, plus one hour per week in small sections for additional practice with German language assistants.Requisite: GERM 102 or two years of secondary-school German or equivalent. Fall and Spring semester: Professor Gilpin.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Spring 2022

210 Advanced Composition and Conversation

Practice in free composition and analytical writing in German. Exercises in pronunciation and idiomatic conversation. Supplementary work with audio and video materials. Oral reports on selected topics and reading of literary and topical texts. Conducted in German. Three hours per week, plus one hour per week in small sections for additional practice with German language assistants.

Requisite: GERM 205 or equivalent, based on departmental placement decision.

Fall semester: Lecturer Schrade. Spring semester: Professor Hunter-Parker.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2009, Spring 2010, Spring 2011, Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Spring 2022

250 Chivalry: The Life, Death, and Legend of a Medieval Cultural Code

“Chivalry is dead?” Does the current fascination with Game of Thrones indicate that medieval chivalrous codes of conduct are as relevant today as ever? Defenders and critics may argue if and why, and still agree that the time of gallant knights and gentle ladies is long gone. But was chivalry ever alive to begin with? How did medieval societies understand chivalry, and would they recognize its representations today? This course examines the historical literary sources of an enduring cultural concept, and charts the routes of its transmission into the present. Students will be introduced to key narrative traditions such as the chanson de geste, heroic epic and courtly romance from the twelfth through the fifteenth centuries, as well as the conditions for their survival, reception, and adaptation in later centuries. The course objective will be to explore how fictional narratives of the past can be used to critique and historicize received cultural concepts today, from MMORPGs and histo-tainment to contemporary political discourse. In counterpoint, the course also examines how current theoretical discussions can foster more nuanced readings of medieval texts and contexts. Readings include Pfaffe Konrad, Rolandslied; Nibelungenlied; Hartmann von Aue, Iwein; Gottfried von Straßburg, Tristan; Wolfram von Eschenbach, Parzival; Ulrich von Liechtenstein, Frauendienst; Theuerdank. Conducted in English, with German majors required to do a substantial portion of the reading in German.

Omitted 2021-22. Professor Hunter-Parker.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2020

312 Advanced Reading, Conversation, and Composition

This course revolves around sites of memory related to German history – “Erinnerungsorte deutscher Geschichte.” It is based on discussion and close analysis of a wide range of cultural materials, including selections from all types of media. Materials will be analyzed both for their linguistic features and as cultural documents. Textual analysis includes study of vocabulary, style, and selected points of advanced grammar. The class includes round-table discussions, oral reports, and structured composition exercises that enable students to navigate German language and culture successfully. Conducted in German. Three class hours per week, plus an additional hour in small TA-sections. Requisite: GERM 210 or equivalent.

Omitted 2021-22. Lecturer Schrade.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2020

315 German Cultural History to 1800

An examination of cultural developments in the German tradition, from the Early Middle Ages to the rise of Prussia and the Napoleonic Period. We shall explore the interaction between socio-political factors in German-speaking Europe and works of “high art” produced in the successive eras, as well as Germany’s centuries-long search for a cultural identity. Literature to be considered will include selections from Tacitus’ Germania, the Hildebrandslied, a courtly epic and some medieval lyric poetry; the sixteenth-century Faust chapbook and other writings of the Reformation Period; Baroque prose, poetry, and music; works by Lessing and other figures of the German Enlightenment; Sturm und Drang, including early works by Goethe, Schiller, and their younger contemporaries. Small-group discussion and reflective writing practice will develop students' speaking and writing in German, while a range of audio-visual materials will strengthen reading and listening skills. 

Requisite: GERM 210 or equivalent.

Fall semester. Professor Hunter-Parker.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2017, Fall 2018, Fall 2019, Fall 2020, Fall 2021

316 German Cultural History from 1800 to the Present

A survey of literary and cultural developments in the German tradition from the Romantic Period to contemporary trends. Major themes will include the Romantic imagination and the rise of nationalism in the nineteenth century, the literary rebellion of the period prior to 1848, Poetic Realism and the Industrial Revolution, and various forms of aestheticism, activism, and myth. In the twentieth century we shall consider the culture of Vienna, the “Golden Twenties,” the suppression of freedom in the Nazi state, issues of exile and inner emigration, and the diverse models of cultural reconstruction after 1945. Authors represented will include Friedrich Schlegel, Brentano, Heine, Büchner, Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche, Heinrich and Thomas Mann, Kafka, Brecht, Grass, Wolf, and Handke. Music by Schubert, Wagner, Mahler, and Henze; samples of art and architecture. Conducted in German.

Requisite: GERM 210 or equivalent.

Spring semester: Professor Rogowski.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2009, Spring 2010, Spring 2011, Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Spring 2022

320 Deutsche Fabeln: Fables in German Literature from Aesop to Zarathustra

Short, sweet, and smart, fables are one of the oldest and most successful genres in Western literature, if not the world. Since the eighteenth century, fable collections were the most-read books in the German language after the Bible. Fanciful creatures and a simple moral work to educate and delight audiences. But with these stories’ long success, the question of who gets credit is anything but simple. What is a fable and what is not? Who writes fables, who reads them, and why? How do they reach their audience? Is there such a thing as German fable, or is it all just Aesop redux? Through readings in and on the genre, this course introduces students to key authors and movements in the history of German literature. Students will deepen interpretive skills through discussions of representative historical texts and contexts between the Enlightenment and early-Modernism. Authors include Martin Luther, Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, Sophie von la Roche, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Heinrich von Kleist, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, Adalbert Stifter, Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach, and Friedrich Nietzsche. Conducted in German.

Requisite: GERM 210 or equivalent.

Omitted 2021-22. Professor Hunter-Parker.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2019, Spring 2021

330 Green Germany

Is Germany’s reputation as a global leader in environmental issues warranted? Can a modern industrial nation deliver on the promise, made in 2011, to abandon nuclear energy? This course examines the history of German environmentalism, focusing on, among other topics, the nature worship of the Romantics; the discomfort with nineteenth century industrialization; the Lebensreform efforts around 1900; the “blood and soil” ideology of the Nazis; post-World War II pacifism; the emergence of the Green Party in the 1980s; current initiatives in sustainability practices; as well as the impact of major environmental disasters such as Chernobyl (1986) and Fukushima (2011). Readings by authors such as Hans Magnus Enzensberger, Max Frisch, Peter Härtling, Hermann Hesse, Monika Maron, and Christa Wolf. Films by directors such as Doris Dörrie, Peter Fleischmann, Oliver Haffner, Werner Herzog, and Herbert Selpin. Conducted in German.

Requisite: GERM 210 or equivalent.

Omitted 2021-22. Professor Rogowski.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2020

338 Modern Drama

Why is drama an art form of such tremendous importance to Germans, Austrians, and the Swiss? Few cultures can boast a similar preoccupation with, interest in, and public support of, the theater. This course examines the rich legacy of dramatic innovation and experimentation from about 1890 to the present day, ranging from the scandals surrounding Frank Wedekind’s exposition of sexual hypocrisy to the iconoclastic provocations of present-day Regietheater. We will read and discuss selected plays by authors such as Gerhart Hauptmann, Arthur Schnitzler, Georg Kaiser, Bertolt Brecht, Marie-Luise Fleisser, Peter Weiss, Heinar Kipphardt, Friedrich Dürrenmatt, Max Frisch, Botho Strauß, Marlene Streeruwitz, Elfriede Jelinek and others. Readings will be supplemented by audiovisual materials on artists like Pina Bausch, Johann Kresnik, and Heiner Müller.
Conducted in German.

Requisite: GERM 210 or equivalent.

Fall semester: Professor Rogowski.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2009, Spring 2019, Fall 2021

347 Weimar Cinema: The "Golden Age" of German Film

(Offered as GERM 347 and FAMS 323) This course examines the German contribution to the emergence of film as both a distinctly modern art form and as a product of mass culture. The international success of Robert Wiene’s Expressionist phantasmagoria, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920), heralded the beginning of a period of unparalleled artistic exploration, prior to the advent of Hitler, during which the ground was laid for many of the filmic genres familiar today: horror film (F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu), detective thriller (Fritz Lang’s M), satirical comedy (Ernst Lubitsch’s The Oyster Princess), psychological drama (G.W. Pabst’s Pandora’s Box), science fiction (Lang’s Metropolis), social melodrama (Pabst’s The Joyless Street), historical costume film (Lubitsch’s Passion), political propaganda (Slatan Dudow’s Kuhle Wampe), anti-war epic (Pabst’s Westfront 1918), a documentary montage (Walther Ruttmann’s Berlin – Symphony of a Big City), and the distinctly German genre of the “mountain film” (Leni Riefenstahl’s The Blue Light). Readings, including works by Siegried Kracauer, Walter Benjamin, Lotte H. Eisner, Béla Balázs, and Rudolf Arnheim, will address questions of technology and modernity, gender relations after World War I, the intersection of politics and film, and the impact of German and Austrian exiles on Hollywood.
Conducted in English, with German majors required to do a substantial portion of the reading in German.

Omitted 2021-22. Professor Rogowski.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2010, Spring 2012, Spring 2015, Spring 2020

348 Nazi Cinema

(Offered as GERM 348 and FAMS 325) This course examines the vital role cinema played in sustaining the totalitarian Nazi system. From the visually stunning “documentaries” of Leni Riefenstahl to the tearful melodramas starring Swedish diva Zarah Leander, from the vicious anti-Semitic diatribes of propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels to the ostensibly apolitical “revue films” featuring Hungarian dancer-chanteuse Marika Rökk, the cinema of the Third Reich (1933-45) is fraught with contradiction and complexity. How did the German film industry cope with the exodus of Jewish (or politically suspect) talent after Hitler came to power? What tensions arose between a centralized bureaucracy pursuing an ideological agenda and an industry geared toward profit maximization? How do genre films of the period negotiate the conflict between official notions of a “racially homogeneous” body politic on the one hand and audiences’ pervasive fascination with the exotic on the other? What does the popularity of stars such as Hans Albers, Heinz Rühmann, Lilian Harvey, and Kristina Söderbaum tell us about the private dreams and aspirations of German audiences at the time? Were there pockets of resistance to censorship? Can there be artistic freedom under a totalitarian regime? To answer questions such as these, we will examine films from a wide range of directors, including Willi Forst, Veit Harlan, Helmut Käutner, Wolfgang Liebeneiner, Leni Riefenstahl, Reinhold Schünzel, Detlef Sierck/Douglas Sirk, and Hans Steinhoff.

Omitted 2021-22. Professor Rogowski.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2016, Spring 2021

350 Rilke

The course will explore the rich legacy of one of the greatest poets of the twentieth century. We will examine Rilke’s peculiar background in the German-speaking minority in Habsburg Prague; his situation in the literary world of fin-de-siècle Munich; the significance of his encounter with Lou Andreas-Salomé; the intellectual experiences that shaped his outlook on life and on poetry (Nietzsche; Russia and Tolstoy; Paris and Rodin); his artistic breakthrough in the two-volume New Poems (1907) and the concept of the "Ding-Gedicht"; the existential crisis reflected in the modernist novel The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge (1910); his reflections on the role of poetry in a modern world of uncertainty in texts such as A Letter to a Young Poet (1903); his artistic crisis of the 1910s; and the extraordinary double achievement of 1922, The Duino Elegies and The Sonnets to Orpheus. Conducted in English (no knowledge of German required), with German majors required to do a substantial portion of the reading in German.

Omitted 2021-22. Professor Rogowski.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2010, Spring 2013, Spring 2016, Fall 2019

360 Performance

(Offered as GERM 360, ARCH 360, EUST 360 and FAMS 316) What is performance? What constitutes an event? How can we address a phenomenon that has disappeared the moment we apprehend it? How does memory operate in our critical perception of an event? How does a body make meaning? These are a few of the questions we will explore in this course, as we discuss critical, theoretical, and compositional approaches in a broad range of multidisciplinary performance phenomena emerging from European—primarily German—culture in the twentieth century. We will focus on issues of performativity, composition, conceptualization, dramaturgy, identity construction, representation, space, gender, and dynamism. Readings of performance theory, performance studies, gender studies, and critical/cultural studies, as well as literary, philosophical, and architectural texts, will accompany close examination of performance material. Students will develop performative projects in various media (video, performance, text, online) and deliver a number of critical oral and written presentations on various aspects of the course material and their own projects. Performance material will be experienced live when possible, and in text, video, audio, digital media and online form, drawn from selected works of Dada and Surrealism, Bauhaus, German Expressionism, the Theater of the Absurd, Tanztheater, and Contemporary Theater, Performance, Dance, Opera, New Media, and Performance Art. A number of films, including Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari, Oskar Schlemmer’s Das Triadische Ballett, Fernand Léger’s Ballet Mécanique, and Kurt Jooss’ Der Grüne Tisch, will also be screened. Conducted in English, with German majors required to do a substantial portion of the reading in German.

Limited to 16 students.

Omitted 2021-22. Professor Gilpin.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2009, Spring 2011, Spring 2014, Fall 2017, Fall 2020

363 Traumatic Events

(Offered as GERM 363, ARCH 363, EUST 363, and FAMS 370) How is memory constructed and represented? How is it possible to bear witness, and what exactly is involved? Who is authorized to testify, to whom, when? Whose story is it? Is it possible to tell "the story" of a traumatic event? What are the disorders of testimony, and how and where do they emerge? This course will observe the workings of trauma (the enactment and working-through of collective and individual symptoms of trauma), memory, and witnessing in various modes of everyday life. We will examine notions of catastrophe, disaster, accident, and violence, and explore the possibilities and impossibilities of bearing witness in many forms of cultural production: in fiction, poetry, architecture, critical theory, oral and written testimonies, visual art, monuments, memorials, philosophy, science, cartoons, film, video, theater, social media, and performance, online and in our public and domestic spaces. We will study various representations of trauma, paying particular attention to events in Germany and Europe from the twentieth century, as well as to 9/11, the Covid-19 pandemic and inter/national events of 2020. Material to be examined will be drawn from the work of Pina Bausch, Joseph Beuys, Christian Boltanski, Cathy Caruth, Paul Celan, Marguerite Duras, Peter Eisenman, Shoshana Felman, Florian Freund, Jochen Gerz, Geoffrey Hartman, Rebecca Horn, Marion Kant, Anselm Kiefer, Ruth Klüger, Dominick LaCapra, Claude Lanzmann, Dori Laub, Daniel Libeskind, W.G. Sebald, Art Spiegelman, Paul Virilio, Peter Weiss, Wim Wenders, Elie Wiesel, Christa Wolf, and others. Conducted in English with German majors required to do a substantial portion of the reading in German.

Omitted 2021-22. Professor Gilpin.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2008, Fall 2010, Fall 2014, Fall 2018

365 Making Memorials

(Offered as GERM 365, ARCH 365, and EUST 365) This is a course about what happens to difficult memories: memories that are intensely personal, but made public, memories that belong to communities, but which become ideologically possessed by history, politics, or the media. How are memories processed into memorials? What constitutes a memorial? What gets included or excluded? How is memory performed in cultural objects, spaces, and institutions? What is the relationship between the politics of representation and memory? Who owns memory? Who is authorized to convey it? How does memory function? This course will explore the spaces in which memories are “preserved” and experienced. Our attention will focus on the transformation of private and public memories in works of architecture, performance, literature, and the visual arts, primarily in Germany, Europe, and the United States in the twentieth century, including also 9/11, the COVID-19 pandemic, and inter/national events of 2020. Preference given to German majors and European Studies majors, as well as to students interested in architecture/design, performance, the visual arts, interactive installation and/or the environment. Conducted in English, with German majors required to do a substantial portion of the reading in German.

Limited to 20 students. Professor Gilpin.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2009, Fall 2012, Fall 2016, Fall 2021

368 SPACE

(Offered as GERM 368, ARCH 368, EUST 368, and FAMS 380) This research seminar will explore conceptions of space as they have informed and influenced thought and creativity in the fields of cultural studies, literature, architecture, urban studies, performance, and the visual, electronic, and time-based arts. Students will select and pursue a major semester-long research project early in the semester in consultation with the professor, and present their research in its various stages of development throughout the semester, in a variety of media formats (writing, performance, video, electronic art/interactive media, installation, online and networked events, architectural/design drawings/renderings), along with oral presentations of readings and other materials. Readings and visual materials will be drawn from the fields of literature and philosophy; architectural, art, and film theory and history; performance studies and performance theory; and theories of technology and the natural and built environment. Emphasis on developing research, writing, and presentation skills is a core of this seminar.

Preference given to German majors and European Studies majors, as well as to students interested in architecture/design, performance, film/video, interactive installation, and/or the environment. Conducted in English. German majors will select a research project focused on a German Studies context, and will do a substantial portion of the readings in German. 

Limited to 18 students. Enrollment requires attendance at the first class meeting. Spring semester. Professor Gilpin.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2015, Spring 2018, Spring 2022

490 Special Topics

Independent reading course.

Fall and spring semesters. The Department.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Spring 2022

498, 499 Senior Departmental Honors

Fall semester. The Department.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2017, Fall 2018, Fall 2019, Fall 2020, Fall 2021