GERMAN 285 A: Representation and Diversity

Winter 2024
T 11:30am - 12:50pm / SMI 313
Th 11:30am - 12:50pm / * *
Section Type:
Joint Sections:
Syllabus Description (from Canvas):

Honors 210B/ German 285A                                                                                                                 Winter 2024

Tuesdays 11:30 a.m.-12:50 p.m., Smith 313; Thursdays via Canvas


Diversity in the Middle Ages

Instructor: Prof. Annegret Oehme (

Office hours: Tuesdays 1:30-2:30 p.m. (in person: Denny Hall 330), Thursdays 2-3 pm (via Zoom); please sign up via


Teaching Assistant: Detlev Weber (

Office hours: Mondays and Wednesdays, 10:30-11:20 am (in-person: Denny Hall 328).


This course is a hybrid course.

Each week consists of an in-person meeting (Tuesdays, Smi 313) and an online module on Canvas (opens Tuesdays 11:59 p.m., closes Sundays 11:59 p.m.).


Course Description:

In pop culture, especially TV shows and movies, the Middle Ages are often whitewashed and portrayed as ‘Dark Ages’ (best represented by Game of Thrones). Yet, a closer look reveals to us that medieval society tackled issues of diversity in positive and negative ways. We can learn from the Middle Ages that religious and cultural diversity was and is an essential feature of societies and that it is up to the people of each epoch to embrace or reject societal plurality.

This seminar will provide you with a new understanding of the “not-so-dark” Middle Ages through the topic of diversity. It introduces you to discourses from the Middle Ages through primary and secondary literature. But you won’t just learn about the Middle Ages. Rather, this class gives you an opportunity to critically review your own understanding and perception of diversity through learning about medieval ways of engaging with heterogeneous societies. You will gain direct knowledge about the Middle Ages and use it to critically review our modern understanding of diversity and our modern realities.

In class, we discuss certain aspects of diversity. The general diversity aspects that are being addressed in class sessions are: race and racism, religion (specifically Islam, Judaism, and Christianity), disability, and gender. We discuss these topics in context of literature and art, museums, pop culture, and traveling and cultural exchanges.



This seminar uses a broad variety of pedagogical approaches (ranging from brief written reflections, over Think-Pair-Share to a role play scenario) to foster your critical approach to the topic but also to strengthen essential skills (teamwork, responsibility, and most importantly the ability to ask questions). Material that you will prepare for this class includes readings on contemporary scholarship and medieval literature. You will also read the UW diversity blueprint to become familiar with UW’s understanding of diversity and the implementation of equity efforts. This class approach teaches you about the Middle Ages but also relates the medieval discourses on diversity to our times and enables you to perceive your own contexts through a critical distance. By the end of this class, you have learned not just more about the Middle Ages but also about UW.





Thursday (Canvas)

Week 1 (01/04)


Module 1: Intro Middle Ages

Week 2

(01/09; 01/11)

Read: “Lanval” and the biography of Eleanor of Aquitaine

Slides 01/09

Module 2: The Belt

Week 3

(01/16; 01/18)

Read: “Mary / Marinos”

Slides 01/16

Module 3: Medieval Medicine

Week 4

(01/23; 01/25)

Listen: Medieval Disabilities Podcast

Podcast as Video with Subtitles

Slides 01/23

Module 4: Medieval Representations of Race

Week 5

(01/30; 02/01)

Read: “Maurice”

Slides 01/30

Module 5: Medieval Diversity in Pop Culture

Week 6

(02/06; 02/08)

Read: Museum article

slides 02/06

Group Project

Week 7

(02/13; 02/15)

Presentations group project

Module 6: Medieval Travelers

Week 8

(02/20; 02/22)

Read: Nwain, chapter 1-2 (start until page 53)

slides 02/20

Group Project

Week 9

(02/27; 02/29)

Read:1) Summary of Volsungs

2) Selected Episodes  

Slides 02/27 (Detlev Weber)

Module 7: Werewolves and Medieval Society

Week 10

(03/05; 03/06)

Project Presentation: Medieval_ized Superhero*ines

Module 8: Diversity Conundrums


Requirements and Grading

In addition to reading and preparing all material before class and within modules, you are expected to:

  • participate in class and online discussions and team activities on a regular basis
  • complete all the assignments described below


Your course grade will be calculated in the following way:

  • Curated Museum Exhibit: 25%
  • Medieval_ized Superhero*ines: 25%
  • (Brief) Canvas quizzes: 15%
  • All other Canvas assignments (discussions, collaborative readings, etc.): 35%


Special Assignments

  • Medieval_ized Superhero*ines: In this project, you will conceive of a fantasy figure that has a connection to the Middle Ages (being of medieval origin or acting/ living in the Middle Ages). This project will help you transfer the idea of medieval saints to our contemporary world. Doing so requires you to contemplate the role of the Middle Ages in our contemporary world and the role of heroic figures.
  • Curated Museum Exhibit: As a group/ portfolio project, you will conceptualize a special exhibit for the MoPOP in your team. This project will make you rethink the perception of diversity in fantasy that is grounded in the Middle Ages. The project will be submitted on Canvas and presented in class. This assignment will help you explore the role of museums in the formation of knowledge and public education.


Team Learning

This class is taught based on the team learning approach. You will join teams of 4-5 members and work together as a cohesive learning team throughout the quarter. We will use a variety of interactive formats in class, including lectures, class discussions, team debates, and presentation of team projects. A large amount of class time will be devoted to the discussion of the readings and task-based team assignments. Team members will evaluate each other’s contributions in a peer assessment process.

Participation and Classroom Environment

The success of this class depends on you sharing your thoughts and questions. Don’t be shy and share your insights with all – this (physical and virtual) classroom serves as a space to discuss and learn together. To ensure success and provide a safe environment for everybody, all discussions are expected to be conducted in a respectful manner. Diverse experiences and perspectives have an important place in our physical and virtual classroom. We intend to present material in a respectful way regarding gender, sexuality, disability, socioeconomic status, age, culture, ethnicity, race, and disability. Let’s create a welcoming and respectful learning environment together. By participating in this class, you commit to establishing this classroom as a safe environment for everybody. No discriminatory or disrespectful behavior will be tolerated. 


All material assigned for that day needs to be completed before class begins; all assignments are due at the time specified on the syllabus.



UW is committed to providing an equal educational opportunity for all students. If you have documented physical, psychological, or learning disability on file with UW, you may be eligible for reasonable academic accommodations to help you succeed in this course. If you have a documented disability that requires accommodation, please notify me within the first two weeks of the semester so that we may make appropriate arrangements early in the semester. (Additionally, if you have not done so, please register with DRS


Communication and Office Hours

  • I will communicate with you via Canvas and per email. Please set your notifications on your account accordingly to get notified about important messages.
  • I will do my best to respond to your messages within 24 hours of receipt between Monday and Friday. If I have not, don’t be hesitant to follow up with me! I will not respond to emails on the weekend.
  • Please set up office hours with the reason for your visit with me individually:


Academic Integrity

In a case of plagiarism or cheating, I will follow UW’s procedures and report the case.  


Religious Accommodation

“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 ( Accommodations must be requested within the first two weeks of this course using the Religious Accommodations Request form (”





Catalog Description:
Studies of culture and ethics with aesthetic, literary, and philosophical tools of analysis, with special attention to issues of identity, diversity, civil rights, environmental justice, and multiculturalism. Readings and discussions in English.
GE Requirements Met:
Diversity (DIV)
Social Sciences (SSc)
Last updated:
May 24, 2024 - 8:13 pm