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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures : European Languages and Cultures - German

Undergraduate Course: Culture, Modernity and the City in the Weimar Republic (ELCG08013)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Literatures, Languages and Cultures CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 8 (Year 2 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits10 ECTS Credits5
SummaryThis course examines how encounters with the modern city are represented in Weimar Republic culture, focusing on a selection of Bertolt Brecht's poems (1918-32), Fritz Lang's film 'M: Eine Stadt sucht einen Mörder' (1931) and Irmgard Keun's novel 'Das kunstseidene Mädchen' (1932). The course prepares students for Honours-level study by training them in how to analyse these cultural representations and how to contextualize them using primary and secondary materials, including some materials that they have located independently.
Course description In the Weimar Republic, urbanization was accompanied by rapid technological change and modernization, with the growth of motorized transport, the advent of the radio and the spread of cinema, and an increasingly sophisticated advertising industry. We will investigate how Brecht, Lang and Keun depict the modern city as a site of opportunity, risk and danger; how the characters in their works navigate its streets; what these characters' experiences reveal about gender, class and power relations; and how the characters and/or their communities deal with existential threats, ranging from the fight for economic survival to serial murder. We will investigate how Brecht's political poetry takes a clear stance in favour of Communism, alongside the more subtle ways in which the economic dislocation and political instability of the final years of the Weimar Republic are reflected in Lang's film and Keun's novel.

Students will learn how to analyse the style and themes of literature and film from the Weimar Republic, and how to contextualize them using primary sources in print collections and digital databases (the Bundesarchiv picture database; Deutsches Historisches Museum: Lebendiges Museum Online). Students will be trained in these research techniques in a workshop in week 2, before applying the techniques in their group presentation and end-of-course essay. The course thus prepares students for Honours-level study, including the independent research that they will undertake for long essays and dissertations.

Course schedule:

1. The Coldness of the City: Course Introduction and Bertolt Brecht's Poetry

2. Workshop on Researching Weimar Culture: Sources and Contexts
Core text: Brecht's 'Ballade von der Kindesmörderin Marie Farrar'.

3. Poverty and Politics: Bertolt Brecht's Poetry
We will analyse a selection of the following poems in class: 'O Falladah!', 'Die Nachtlager', and the cycle 'Proletarische Wiegenlieder' (comprising four poems). Students will be asked to think about how they might contextualize these poems using the resources introduced in week 2.

4. Poetry in Context: Group PowerPoint Presentations

Additional session in week 4: screening of Fritz Lang, 'M: Eine Stadt sucht einen Mörder'

5. Crime, Surveillance and Detection: 'M: Eine Stadt sucht einen Mörder'

6. The Murderer as Victim? 'M: Eine Stadt sucht einen Mörder'

7. Female Agency, Fashion and Film: Part I of Irmgard Keun's 'Das kunstseidene Mädchen'

8. Female Experiences of Berlin: Part II of 'Das kunstseidene Mädchen'

9. Performing Domesticity: Part III of 'Das kunstseidene Mädchen'

10. Comparative Criticism: Essay Preparation Session
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites Students MUST also take: German 2 Language (ELCG08008)
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
Pre-requisitesStudents should have German-language skills at CEFR level B1 or above. Entry to this course may be subject to a language test on arrival and is at the discretion of the course organiser. Visiting Students must also take German 2 Language (ELCG8008) as a co-requisite.
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2024/25, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  0
Course Start Semester 1
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 100 ( Seminar/Tutorial Hours 22, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 2, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 76 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) Students will be graded on their group PowerPoint presentation and their performance in the post-presentation Q&A (20%).

Each student will produce an individual 1,250-word essay at the end of the course (80%), EITHER on the film or the novel OR examining how a theme of their choice is depicted in two or more of the genres studied on the course.
Feedback Students will receive feedback on their group PowerPoint presentation and performance in the presentation Q&A, and on their end-of-course essay.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Construct clear and coherent arguments about culture, modernity and the city in the Weimar Republic;
  2. Illustrate these arguments using close analysis of the themes, form and style of cultural representations;
  3. Contextualize and critique these cultural representations using primary and secondary sources;
  4. Tailor the presentation of their research to different formats (PowerPoint presentations and essays);
  5. Present their research orally and respond judiciously to such research undertaken by others.
Reading List
A. Set texts and film:

Keun, Irmgard, Das kunstseidene Mädchen (Munich: Claasen, 1992) ESSENTIAL

Lang, Fritz, M: Eine Stadt sucht einen Mörder (1931) ESSENTIAL

If you wish to buy the film on DVD, the following version has English subtitles and comes with a good deal of useful documentary material (including an audio commentary, an essay by a film historian, and an interview with Fritz Lang):

M: A Film by Fritz Lang, dir. Fritz Lang, Eureka Entertainment Ltd (2003)

A handout with selected poems by Bertolt Brecht will be made available on LEARN. ESSENTIAL.

B. Secondary literature on Brecht:

Brady, Philip, 'Aus einem Lesebuch für Städtebewohner: On a Brecht Essay in Obliqueness', German Life and Letters, 26 (1972), 160-72 FURTHER

Geppert, Hans Vilmar, '"Wenn ich mit dir rede kalt und ungemein"? Bert Brechts Lesebuch für Städtebewohner im Kontext von Rundfunk, Film und Roman der 20er Jahre', in Brechts Lyrik: neue Deutungen, ed. Helmut Koopman (Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann, 1999), pp. 49-73 FURTHER

Kittstein, Ulrich, Das lyrische Werk Bertolt Brechts (Stuttgart and Weimar: J. B. Metzler, 2012), esp. pp. 104-19 on Aus dem Lesebuch für Städtebewohner FURTHER

Knopf, Jan, Brecht Handbuch, 5 vols (Stuttgart and Weimar: J. B. Metzler, 2001), II: Gedichte. See entries on individual poems and Aus dem Lesebuch für Städtebewohner FURTHER

Kuhn, Tom, 'Introduction', in Empedocles' Shoe: Essays on Brecht's Poetry, ed. Tom Kuhn and Karen Leeder (London: Methuen, 2002), pp. 5-36 RECOMMENDED

Midgley, David, 'The Poet in Berlin: Brecht's City Poetry of the 1920s', in Empedocles' Shoe: Essays on Brecht's Poetry, ed. Tom Kuhn and Karen Leeder (London: Methuen, 2002), pp. 89-106 RECOMMENDED

Speirs, Ronald, '"Of Poor B.B." and Others', in Empedocles' Shoe: Essays on Brecht's Poetry, ed. Tom Kuhn and Karen Leeder (London: Methuen, 2002), pp. 37-52 FURTHER

Whitaker, Peter, Brecht's Poetry: A Critical Study (Oxford: Clarendon, 1985) FURTHER

C. Secondary literature on Fritz Lang, M:

Evans, Richard J., Rituals of Retribution: Capital Punishment in Germany, 1600-1986 (Oxford: OUP, 1996), pp. 572-610 RECOMMENDED

Gandert, Gero, ed., Fritz Lang: M, Cinemathek 3 (Hamburg: Marion von Schröder, 1963) FURTHER

Gunning, Tom, The Films of Fritz Lang: Allegories of Vision and Modernity (London: British Film Institute, 2000), esp. pp. 163-202 FURTHER

Hoffheimer, Michael H., 'Artistic Convention and Natural Law: Didactic Treatment of Justice and Authority in Works of Fielding, Hawthorne, and Fritz Lang', Temple Law Review, 63 (1990), 483-509 (esp. pp. 502-9) FURTHER

Kaes, Anton, M, rev. edn (London: British Film Institute, 2001) RECOMMENDED

Kracauer, Siegfried, From Caligari to Hitler: A Psychological History of the German Film, rev. edn (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2004), pp. 218-22 FURTHER

Lange, Horst, 'Nazis vs. the Rule of Law: Allegory and Narrative Structure in Fritz Lang's M', Monatshefte, 101.2 (Summer 2009), 170-85 FURTHER

Ostrowicz, Philipp A., 'M und die Ordnungen des Films', in Schattenbilder- Lichtgestalten: Das Kino von Fritz Lang, ed. Maik Bozza and Michael Herrmann (Bielefeld: transcript, 2015), pp. 173-90 FURTHER

Roper, Katherine, 'Sounds of the City in M and Emil und die Detektive', Colloquia Germanica, 44.3 (2011), 303-29 FURTHER

Tatar, Maria, Lustmord: Sexual Murder in Weimar Germany (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995), pp. 153-72 RECOMMENDED

D. Secondary literature on Keun, Das kunstseidene Mädchen:

Ankum, Katharina von, 'Ich liebe Berlin mit einer Angst in den Knien: Weibliche Stadterfahrung in Irmgard Keuns Das kunstseidene Mädchen', German Quarterly, 67.3 (1994), 369-88 FURTHER

Ankum, Katharina von, 'Material Girls: Consumer Culture and the "New Woman" in Anita Loos' Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and Irmgard Keun's Das kunstseidene Mädchen', Colloquia Germanica: Internationale Zeitschrift für Germanistik, 27.2 (1994), 159-72 RECOMMENDED

Ankum, Katharina von, Women in the Metropolis: Gender and Modernity in Weimar Culture (1997) FURTHER

Boa, Elizabeth, 'Warring Pleasures and their Price: Sex in the City in Irmgard Keun's Das kunstseidene Mädchen and Andrea Maria Schenkel's Kalteis', German Life and Letters, 62 (2009), 343-58 RECOMMENDED

Feldhaus, Julia, 'Not Without My Mommy: The New Woman¿s Mother Figure in Irmgard Keuns Novels Gilgi: eine von uns (1931) and Das kunstseidene Madchen (1932)', Monatshefte, 108 (2016), 510-34 FURTHER

Lensing, Leo A., 'Cinema, Society, and Literature in Irmgard Keun's Das kunstseidene Mädchen', The Germanic Review, 60.4 (1985), 129-41 FURTHER

McBride, Patrizia, 'Learning To See In Irmgard Keun's Das kunstseidene Mädchen', The German Quarterly, 84 (2011), 220-38 RECOMMENDED

Smail, Deborah, White-Collar Workers, Mass Culture and Neue Sachlichkeit in Weimar Berlin: A Reading of Hans Fallada's 'Kleiner Mann, was nun?', Erich Kästner's 'Fabian' and Irmgard Keun's 'Das kunstseidene Mädchen' (Frankfurt/Main: Peter Lang, 1999) FURTHER

E. General Reading (including Collections of Primary Sources) on the Weimar Republic:

Eckardt, Wolf von, and Sander L. Gilman, Bertolt Brecht's Berlin: A Scrapbook of the Twenties (1993) FURTHER

Fulbrook, Mary, History of Germany 1918-2000: The Divided Nation, 4th edn (Chichester: Wiley Blackwell, 2015), pp. 15-56 RECOMMENDED

Gleber, Anke, The Art of Taking a Walk: Flanerie, Literature and Film in Weimar Germany (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1998). Chapter 10 is on Keun. FURTHER

Kaes, Anton, Martin Jay, and Edward Dimendberg, The Weimar Republic Sourcebook (1994) RECOMMENDED

Kosta, Barbara, 'Cigarettes, Advertising, and the Weimar Republic's Modern Woman', in
Visual Culture in Twentieth-Century Germany: Text as Spectacle, ed. Gail Finney (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2006), pp. 134-153 FURTHER

McElligott, Anthony, The German Urban Experience, 1900-1945: Modernity and Crisis, Routledge Sources in History (London and New York: Routledge, 2001) FURTHER

Petro, Patrice, Joyless Streets: Women and Melodramatic Representation in Weimar Germany (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1989) FURTHER

Ward, Janet, Weimar Surfaces: Urban Visual Culture in 1920s Germany (2001) FURTHER

Weitz, Eric D., Weimar Germany: Promise and Tragedy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2007) FURTHER

Willett, John, Art and Politics in the Weimar Period 1917-1933: The New Sobriety, rev. edn (New York: Da Capo, 1996) - RECOMMENDED
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills During this course, students will further develop graduate attributes and personal and professional skills in the following areas:

Research and enquiry: problem solving; analytical thinking; critical thinking; knowledge integration and application; handling complexity and ambiguity.

Personal and intellectual autonomy: self-awareness and reflection; independent learning and development; creative and inventive thinking.

Personal effectiveness: planning, organising and time management; team working; assertiveness and confidence; flexibility.

Communication: interpersonal skills; verbal and written communication; presentation; IT skills (PowerPoint presentations, use of online databases).
Special Arrangements Students may take up to two 10-credit German option courses with German 2. If additional spaces are available, students on the MA in German may request permission from the Course Organizers to take four 10-credit German option courses with German 2.
KeywordsWeimar Republic,City,Culture,Bertolt Brecht,Irmgard Keun,Fritz Lang
Course organiserProf Laura Bradley
Tel: (0131 6)50 3634
Course secretaryMr Callum Lennie
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