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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of History, Classics and Archaeology : History

Undergraduate Course: Sex, Decadence and Decay in Weimar Germany (HIST10496)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of History, Classics and Archaeology CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 4 Undergraduate) AvailabilityNot available to visiting students
SCQF Credits40 ECTS Credits20
SummaryExploring the transformative period in European history, this course examines the turbulent Weimar Republic (1918-1933) through the lens of Berlin's 'roaring twenties' and with particular reference to the history of sexuality and the life of the Jewish sex reformer Magnus Hirschfeld, who travelled the globe as the 'Einstein of Sex' and who became a prime target of Nazi oppression as the Weimar Republic collapsed in the early 1930s. Weimar Berlin offers an illuminating window onto Europe's past and present ambivalences regarding democracy, liberalism, modernity, social and sexual change.
Course description Weimar Berlin was a peculiar place. It was where deep cultural pessimism after a crushing defeat in World War 1 existed alongside an intoxicating atmosphere of novelty and daring experimentation. Along with art and entertainment, 1920s Berlin became (in)famous as the sexual capital of Europe. This course will use the debates and dynamics concerning sex in this period as lens through which to understand the wider history of interwar Europe, modernity, democracy and totalitarianism. Its first half will focus will the history and historiography of Weimar Germany and Berlin in which films from the period will play a leading role. The second half of the course will zoom in on the life, work and sociotope of Magnus Hirschfeld, the gay, Jewish and socialist sex reformer who championed sexual rights in general and those of the queer and trans communities more particularly.

Content note: The study of History inevitably involves the study of difficult topics that we encourage students to approach in a respectful, scholarly, and sensitive manner. Nevertheless, we remain conscious that some students may wish to prepare themselves for the discussion of difficult topics. In particular, the course organiser has outlined that the following topics may be discussed in this course, whether in class or through required or recommended primary and secondary sources: fascism, racism, antisemitism, homophobia, orientalism, violence, rape, war, murder, Holocaust, nudity, sexualities (queer and straight), non-binary and trans genders, abortion, sex work, pornography. While this list indicates sensitive topics students are likely to encounter, it is not exhaustive because course organisers cannot entirely predict the directions discussions may take in tutorials or seminars, or through the wider reading that students may conduct for the course.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements A pass in 40 credits of third level historical courses or equivalent.

Students should only be enrolled on this course with approval from the History Honours Programme Administrator.
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2024/25, Not available to visiting students (SS1) Quota:  0
Course Start Full Year
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 400 ( Seminar/Tutorial Hours 42, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 8, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 350 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 40 %, Coursework 40 %, Practical Exam 20 %
Additional Information (Assessment) Coursework:
2500 word Historiographical Essay (20%)
3000 word Primary Source Analysis (20%)

Written Exam:
Three-hour Exam (40%)

Non-Written Skills:
Film review group work (Videocast + 1,500 word script) (20%)
Feedback Students are expected to discuss their coursework with the Course Organiser at least once prior to submission, and are encouraged to do so more often. Meetings can take place with the Course Organiser during their published office hours or by appointment. Students will also receive feedback on their coursework, and will have the opportunity to discuss that feedback further with the Course Organiser.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Situate the history of Weimar Germany within the history of 20th-century democracy in Europe and its relevancy today.
  2. Understand how the history of sexuality is entangled with the wider history of culture, politics, economics, and can serve as a useful lens through which to study changing societies at large.
  3. Grasp how a variety of different primary sources allows us to illuminate different historical and historical actors' perspectives. Alongside narrative sources, these will include images, architecture, artwork and, above all film as tools instruments in the historian's toolbox.
  4. Appreciate the selectivity and the constructed nature of both historiography and memory, and how both are inflected by politics.
Reading List
DOSE Ralf, Magnus Hirschfeld. The Origins of the Gay Liberation Movement, New York: Monthly Review Press, 2014.

EVANS Richard J., The Coming of the Third Reich, London: Penguin, 2004.

HARRIS Victoria, Selling Sex in the Third Reich. Prostitutes in German Society, 1914-1945, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010.

GORDON Mel, Voluptuous Panic. The Erotic World of Weimar Berlin. Expanded Edition, Los Angeles: Feral House, 2000.

HENIG Ruth, The Weimar Republic, 1919-1933, London and New York: Tyale & Francis and Routledge, 1998.

MARHOEFER Laurie, Sex and the Weimar Republic. German Homosexual Emancipation and the Rise of the Nazis, Toronto, Buffalo and London: University of Toronto Press, 2015.

MOSSE George L., The Image of Man. The Creation of Modern Masculinity, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996.

ROOS Julia, Weimar Through the Lens of Gender. Prostitution Reform, Women's Emancipation and German Democracy 1919-33, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan, 2010.

SUTTON Katie, The Masculine Woman in Weimar Germany, s.l.: Bergahn Books, 2011.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Skills in research development and analysis

Oral communication skills, through seminar participation

Audio-visual communication skills, through the creation of a videocast

Group work as part of the videocast assignment and seminar collaborations

Written communication skills

Empathy through role-playing exercises
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Wannes Dupont
Tel: (01316) 503838
Course secretaryMrs Lindsay Scott
Tel: (0131 6)50 9948
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