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Level 5

5AAGB702 Talking Back: Voices of Protest in German Culture

Credit value: 15 credits
Module tutor:  Annegret Marten
Assessment: One 3,000-word essay (85%) and one ten-minute individual presentation, followed by a ten-minute discussion with the module tutor (15%).
Teaching pattern: two hours per week

Reassessment: Students are reassessed in the failed elements of assessment and by the same methods as the first attempt

Knowledge of German is not required for this module. For students without a knowledge of German, the primary texts can be studied in English translation.

As seen in recent popular uprisings, outbreaks of civil disobedience, mass-marches, and online campaigns like #MeToo and #TimesUp, diverse forms of public protest are currently undergoing a global resurgence. Under neoliberalism, the question of how to devise meaningful forms of resistance in an era of ‘fake news’ and competitive hyper-individualism is of urgent political concern, particularly in Western democracies. This module examines examples of German-language literature and film to consider how modern writers, film-makers and performance artists have responded to hostile socio-historical circumstances and sought to contest the political status quo during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Primary texts will be accessible to non-German speakers in English translations. The course will be organized through selected topics that focus on particular issues, such as engagements with the legacy of fascism in post-war Austria. Other topics might include highly contemporary issues such as mass-displacement and rising xenophobia, where artists respond to a Europe caught between loudly proclaimed humanitarian tradition on the one hand, and the rush to protect its borders on the other. A further unit treats satiric portrayals of the consequences of neo-liberalism on the individual . Theoretical work from fields such as Critical Theory, Sociology and Gender Studies will be used to assess the political significance of the set-texts. Students will have access to an introductory core reading list when they select the module but, given this module’s focus, its convener makes efforts to include contemporary works in the context of potential author visits or other events. For this reason, the complete core reading list will be confirmed at the start of term.

Educational aims and objectives

The module will:

  • introduce students to major socio-historical moments and political eras in modern Germany and Austria
  • give students insight into significant works of German-language literature and film from the twentieth and twenty-first centuries
  • examine a range of artistic forms, such as theatre text, film, lyric poetry, novel, and assess their political significance
  • enable students’ critical engagement with a range of relevant theoretical approaches and works of secondary literature

Learning outcomes

By the end of the module, students will be able to demonstrate practical and intellectual skills appropriate to a level 5 module, and in particular, they will be able to:

  • demonstrate familiarity with a range of major socio-historical events and political developments in modern Germany and Austria.
  • possess in-depth knowledge of a significant textual corpus drawn from the work of German-language writers and filmmakers.
  • engage analytically with issues of political protest and cultural criticism in German-language works from the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.
  • demonstrate a familiarity with a range of theoretical works and concepts in both German and English.
  • demonstrate a capacity to bring those concepts to bear on the close analysis of selected primary texts and works of criticism.
  • grasp, summarise and evaluate critical arguments on primary sources.
  • independently research a chosen topic, thus developing their skills in managing resources and marshalling and selecting primary and secondary evidence.
  • work collaboratively in group contexts both inside and beyond the classroom
  • present their views orally in class discussions and assessed presentation, as well as in written form in response to essay topics.

Core texts

With the exception of films and poems, students are expected to purchase those texts on the core reading list, though copies will also be available in the library. Students will have access to an introductory core reading list when they select the module but, given this module’s focus, its convener makes efforts to include contemporary works in the context of potential author visits or other events. For this reason, the complete core reading list will be confirmed at the start of term.

Fascist Legacies

         i.        Ernst Jandl, ‘wien : heldenplatz’, in lechts und rinks. gedichte, statements, peppermints (Munich: Luchterhand, 2002), p. 18 (poem)

       ii.        Thomas Bernhard, Heldenplatz (Berlin: Suhrkamp Basisbibliothek, 2012); ISBN-13: 978-3518189245

  • Heldenplatz, trans. by Meredith Oakes and Andrea Tierney(London: Oberon, 2010); ISBN-13: 978-1840029956

     iii.        Ruth Beckermann, Waldheims Walzer (DVD: Hoanzl, 2019)              

  • The Waldheim Waltz (documentary film, 2018)

Displacement and the Nation-State

         i.        Paul Poet, Ausländer raus! Schlingensiefs Container (DVD: Hoanzl, 2002)

  • Foreigners Out! Schlingensief’s Container (documentary film, 2002)

       ii.        Elfriede Jelinek, Die Schutzbefohlenen in Die Schutzbefohlenen. Wut. Unseres. Theaterstücke (Reinbek bei Hamburg: Rowohlt, 2018); ISBN-13: 978-3498032425

  • Charges – The Supplicants, trans. by Gitta Honegger (Calcutta: Seagull Books, 2016); ISBN-13: 978-0857423306

     iii.        José F.A. Oliver: selected poems (bilingual poetry reader supplied)

The Neo-Liberal World Order

         i.        Kathrin Röggla, wir schlafen nicht (Frankfurt a.M.: Fischer, 2006); ISBN-13: 978-3100660558

  • we never sleep, trans. by Rebecca Thomas (Riverside, CA: Ariadne, 2009); ISBN-13: 978-1572411531

       ii.        Maren Ade, Toni Erdmann (DVD: 2016)

The modules run in each academic year are subject to change in line with staff availability and student demand so there is no guarantee every module will run. Module descriptions and information may vary depending between years.

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