GERMAN 322 A: Introduction to German Cultural Studies

Spring 2024
MW 1:00pm - 2:20pm / MEB 237
Section Type:
Syllabus Description (from Canvas):

UPDATED March 27

GERMAN 322: Introduction to Cultural Studies: Cultures of Memory in Germany and Beyond

Professor Jason Groves (he/him) / / Office Hours by appointment in person or over Zoom


Through readings in literature, film, visual art, and music, this courses explores how individuals and communities in Germany relate to German history, as well as how the memory of the past informs the imagination of the future. In a word, the topic of this course is cultural memory. This class will explore cultural memory in Germany (and beyond) through the fields of memory studies and cultural Studies, the latter being a field that asks how “culture” became a central concept in contemporary life. The course readings invite us to adopt a relational approach to cultural memory in Germany, which is to say, they ask us to reflect on  practices of cultural memory in the U.S. while considering those in Germany. The course ends with a survey of recent debates concerning multidirectional memory and the future of Germany’s memory discourses.


This course is taught in English and there are no prerequisites. German language texts will be available for those interested. All texts will be made available in PDF format. The course LMS is Canvas; all class activities and assignments for each week will be grouped as a module on Canvas. Some of our readings deal with violent pasts, though for the most part they do not involve explicit representations of violence. I will try to give notice in advance, and please let me know if you need support negotiating any of the course materials.



  • Encounter contemporary debates in German memory culture
  • Practice critical interventions into memory culture
  • Develop a cultural studies essay project on cultural memory



Dialogue as Inquiry: You will be expected to participate actively in your own learning process. This means you must complete all assigned reading in advance of class and come prepared to engage points made in class as well as your own ideas about the assigned materials.

In-class participation: 20%

Weekly hypothesis social annotation: 25%

3 Discussion forum posts: 5%

Case Studies as Inquiry: You will write two essays (ca. 4 pages each) analyzing a cultural keyword and a cultural object. This essay will explain the chosen keyword and object as they relate to the course reading.

Keyword essay #1: 25%

Keyword essay #2: 25% 



Attendance and Participation: The general method of instruction is through lectures and classroom discussions, which will take place in English. Readings of up to 50 pages of text are assigned for every class meeting. Assignments are due at the beginning of class on the day assigned. Because of the heavy emphasis on discussion, daily participation is expected.

Names and Pronouns: If you go by a different name or gender pronoun than the one under which you are officially enrolled, please inform me. Students are expected to refer to each other by preferred names and pronouns during class.

Inclusion Commitment: I seek to ensure all students are fully included in each course. If you find that there are aspects of course instruction, subject matter, or classroom environment that result in barriers to your inclusion, please contact your instructor (me) or an advisor outside of the German Studies department.



I expect you to know and follow the university's policies on cheating and plagiarism, and the SPH Academic Integrity Policy. Any suspected cases of academic misconduct will be handled according to University of Washington regulations.  Please don’t copy and paste (or paraphrase) text from online (incl. ChatGPT) or printed resources when doing your own written assignments.



Your experience in this class is important to me. If you have already established accommodations with Disability Resources for Students (DRS), please communicate your approved accommodations to me at your earliest convenience so we can discuss your needs in this course. If you have not yet established services through DRS, but have a temporary health condition or permanent disability that requires accommodations, you are welcome to contact DRS at 206-543-8924 or



Washington state law requires that UW develop a policy for accommodation of student absences or significant hardship due to reasons of faith or conscience, or for organized religious activities. The UW’s policy, including more information about how to request an accommodation, is available at Religious Accommodations Policy (



Any Changes to the Syllabus Will be Announced in Class and Updated on Canvas


In-Class Lecture and Discussion Topics

Reading due at the start of class

Other homework





Week One: Introduction: Cultures of Remembering and Forgetting in Germany and Beyond




Bahati, “We are here!”



Historical comparison; Vergangenheitsaufarbeitung;

Susan Neiman, “On the Use and Abuse of Historical Comparison” (2019)

Forum #1

Week Two: Collective Memory, Holocaust Memory, and the Limits of Representation



collective memory; literature as a medium of cultural memory; Holocaust memory

Aleida Assman, “Transformations between History and Memory” (2008)

Paul Celan, “Death Fugue” (1948)

Hypotheses #1


cultural studies; keywords

Bruce Burgett & Glenn Hendler, “Keywords: An Introduction”

George Yúdice, “Culture” (2018)


Week Three: The Inability to Mourn and the Refusal to Remember in Postwar Germany



Postwar silences; public/private; gender

Ingeborg Bachmann, “Among Murderers and Madmen” (1963)

Hypothesis #2


Air war; postwar silences cont.

W.G. Sebald, excerpt from “Air War and Literature” (1999)



*Lecture by Max Czollek on memory culture and the rise of the radical right in Germany*

Suggested reading: Max Czollek, “The Theater Of Memory: Staged Remembrance”

2:30 p.m., Denny 359

Week Four: Memorial Culture and Counter-Memorial Culture in Monuments and Visual Art



Monuments and Counter-Monuments; Audre Lorde in Berlin

James Young, “The Counter-Monument: Memory against Itself in Germany Today” (1992)

Audre Lorde, “This Urn Contains Earth from German Concentration Camps” (1986)

Hypothesis #3



Postwar German Art

Stephanie D'Alessandro, “History by Degrees: The Place of the Past in Contemporary German Art” (2002)

Forum #2

Week Five: Racism, Resistance, and Quotidian Memory in Reunified Germany



May Ayim; Afro-German Perspectives on Reunification; Audre Lorde

May Ayim, “1990: Home/land and Unity from an Afro-German Perspective” and poems (“blues in black and white,” insignificant,” “soul sister,” “Germany in Autumn”);

Audre Lorde, “poetry is not a luxury” (1986)

Hypothesis #4


palimpsestic memory; Berlin’s colonial history; local memory

Watch: Hito Steyerl, The Empty Middle (1998)

Alt: Goodbye Lenin

Essay #1

Week Six: Migration and Memory; The Limits of Comparison



Migrant memory

Michael Rothberg & Yasemin Yildiz, “Memory Citizenship” (2011)

Hypothesis #5


Zafer Şenocak; the “Turkish-German-Jewish triangle”; touching / comparing

Zafer Şenocak, “May One Compare Turks and Jews, Mr. Şenocak?” (1995); “Paul Celan” (1995)

Damani J. Partridge, “Comparison Limits” (2022)


Week Seven: Decolonizing Memory, Decolonizing Museums?



multidirectional memory; Humboldt Forum

Rothberg, excerpt from “Multidirectional Memory” (2009)

Priya Basil, “Locked in, Locked Out” (2020)

Hypothesis #6



Genocide of the Herero and Nama; Black feminist performance as memory work

Otobong Nkanga, “Reflections of the Raw Green Crown” (2015)

Ayasha Guerin, “Matter and Memory: Black Feminist Poetics and Performance in Berlin, Germany” (2023)


Week Eight: The Holocaust-Nakba Nexus



Trauma, Holocaust, Nakba; Germany and Israel/Palestine

Ashtan and Galor, Moral Triangle (2020), 1-3

Hypothesis #7


Anti-semitism & Islamophobia; Berlin as a refuge; points of intersection

Ashtan and Galor, Moral Triangle, 8-10

Brent Hayes Edwards, “Diasporas”



Week Nine: Queer Memory, Critical Fabulation



Insurgent remembrance

Simone Stirner, "Memory in the Closet? Queer Memorials after National Socialism"

optional: Siobhan B. Somerville, “Queer” (2014)

 Hypothesis #8


LGBTQ victims of the Holocaust; critical fabulation

Watch: Eldorado, dir. Benjamin Cantu and Matt Lambert

 Forum #3

Week Ten: Wrap-Up



Memorial Day *no class*




Learning from the Germans?




*no class; essay due*


Essay #2


Catalog Description:
Questions addressed include: What is "German culture," how has it been defined and contested, and how and why do we study it? Interdisciplinary methods and readings.
GE Requirements Met:
Arts and Humanities (A&H)
Last updated:
June 23, 2024 - 2:20 am