FUBiS Term II: Berlin, 1900-2017: Literature, Culture, and Politics
(Course # 2.08)
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The course is open to all students who are interested in deepening their experience of Berlin through this interdisciplinary exploration of the city. No prior knowledge required. Students must be willing to participate actively in class discussions and field trips to museums and other sites around the city. Attendance is crucial; no unexcused absences.
“Berlin, the greatest cultural extravaganza that one could imagine,” exclaimed the artist David Bowie, who lived in the divided city in the 1970s. To determine whether Bowie was indeed right, we will explore Berlin’s rich artistic production from the turn of the twentieth century to the contemporary. Taking a cultural studies approach, the course draws on a wide range of materials—including literary and philosophical texts, films, and works of visual arts—to examine various responses to the city and to explore, at the same time, how these works have shaped the ways in which we experience the city today. Thus, our focus will be both historical, focusing on the immense creative output that the city has spurred in the twentieth century, and directed at the contemporary moment to examine the lasting effect of these works. Moreover, we will also direct our attention to new ways of living and artistic forms that have emerged in the Berlin Republic.
The course starts with the methodological question of how to experience a city and traces modes of urban exploration; then we will follow a roughly chronological trajectory from the Weimar Republic to the reunified city, focusing on questions such as the city in relation to the individual and the masses; modes of narrating the city in film and literature; and gendered urban spaces.
In a series of field trips that will take us to canonical sites in Berlin, including the Brecht-Weigel-Museum, the Wall Memorial, the former airport Tempelhof, and the famous department store KaDeWe, as well as to lesser-known destinations such as the Siemensstadt, we will gain first-hand experience with the places that assume importance in the works that we read, watch, and analyze. The aim of this course is to provide students with tools how to read and make sense of a city in its historical dimensions and to gain familiarity with the city in relation to its artistic representations.
Minimum language proficiency of B2 in English is required. No German is required for this course. All readings, course materials, and discussions will be in English.
For the successful completion of the course, students have to (1) attend the course and participate actively in class discussions and field trips; (2) write three two-page response papers and present them in class; (3) take a final exam in form of a take-home essay.
- Attendance, participation, preparation: 30%
- Short essays: 30%
- Presentations: 15%
- Final exam: 25%
A reader will be provided at orientation.