Spring 2018 Course Descriptions

Submitted by Michael Neininger on
Course Descriptions Spring 2018

English Language Courses:


GERMAN 285 A: Representation and Diversity

The Queerness of Love 


Meeting Time: MWF 12:30pm - 1:20pm

Location: JHN 111

SLN: 14760

Joint Sections: C LIT 251 A, ENGL 242 A, CHID 270 A

Instructor: Richard Block, View profile

GE Requirements: 

Diversity (DIV); Individuals and Societies (I&S)

Credits: 5.0

English is the language of instruction and course readings.


The words "I love you" may come from the heart, but they are nonetheless a citation, even a cliché.  What the heart would speak is no more than a commonplace.  Utterances of love, it might be said, are always already somebody else's.  What is dearest and most heartfelt is thus rendered wholly unoriginal and certainly not one's own.  The nature of love is thus self-estrangement; the lover, if (s)he truly is in love, can be nothing other than queer.  But queer is not an easy term to define.  If the term is embedded in the politics of gender, just as certainly does queer describe a relationship in which lover and loved do not relate.  They remain inexplicably something "other" to each other and to themselves.


In this course, we will attempt to trace the limits and possibilities of queer love in the West, particularly since around 1800.  Is it the absolute form of love Plato describes in the "Symposium" and what the 18th and 19th centuries smugly referred to as “platonic”or is it simply monstrous as in Frankenstein?  To explore these possibilities we will look at works from the Harlem Renaissance to the indie film circuit to Barry Jenkins’s Moonlight. We will conclude the course with a discussion of the AIDS quilt.  What is the nature of love in the face of inexpressible loss?  How do the assembled panels of strangers who died of a "queer's disease" overcome the ambiguity of the words, "I love you"?


Students can expect to learn the following from the course: an understanding of the historical contingencies that shape any expression of love, skills for close, analytical reading of a text, and ability to shape a convincing argument based on evidence collected from a close reading.


Texts and discussion are all in English.  


GERMAN 293 A: Introduction to Contemporary German Culture

Gegenkultur: The Art of Protest


Meeting Time: TTh 1:00pm - 2:20pm

Location: SMI 404

SLN: 14761

Joint Sections: LIT 298 A; CHID 270 B


Instructor: Jasmin Krakenberg, View profile

GE Requirements: Diversity (DIV); Individuals and Societies (I&S);

Visual, Literary, and Performing Arts (VLPA)

Credits: 5.0

English is the language of instruction and course readings.


Focusing on the culture of today’s German speaking world, the course reflects on the role of visual arts, film, music, prose, poetry, and drama in responding to conflict. Its goal is to understand the role of protest and dissent in the 20th and 21st century. How do writers, artists, and filmmakers adopt new communication strategies to resist dominant narratives? And how effective is art as a form of protest and a conduit of change?

In search for better understanding how culture is created, resisted, and appropriated, we will focus on independent, unpopular, and marginalized voices, including the wide range of social movements (e.g. feminism, LGBT, civil rights, and environmentalism). To rethink evolving notions of “canon,” we will look at works by Afro-German writer May Ayim and Japanese writer Yoko Tawada, protest songs by poet Wolf Biermann, artworks by Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei and German visual artist Hito Steyerl, performances by Russian punk-rock group Pussy Riot and electro-pop musician Bernadette La Hengst, underground literature and publishing, hip-hop and punk music in Hamburg and Berlin, street art, graphic novels, and films associated with the new avant-gardes. The course will offer students opportunities to explore ways in which communities address issues of cultural inclusion and dissonance through the arts. Students will explore a wide range of texts, engage with archival materials (on-line and on-site), and evaluate the legitimacy of sources of information. They will also consider how close readings and textual analysis can translate across genre and medium.

Learning Goals

The course encourages critical self-awareness, helping students identify and apply a variety of approaches and questions to the study of contemporary German culture. It provides substantive writing experiences to further develop writing and thinking competencies. The students' responses will take the forms of written reflections and textual analysis. In addition, students will actively participate in class discussions and debates, group presentations, and multimodal publications.

Readings and discussions will be in English.



GERMAN 385 A: Rhetoric and Social Justice

Cultures of Extinction


Meeting Time: MWF 1:30pm - 2:20pm

Location: THO 125

SLN: 14766

Joint Sections: LIT 298 B, ENGL 379 A, ENVIR 495 A

Instructor: Jason Groves, View profile

GE Requirements: Diversity (DIV)

Visual, Literary, and Performing Arts (VLPA)

Credits: 5.0

English is the language of instruction and course readings.



This course explores the widespread fascination with the end of the world in literature, art, and film. Amidst the superabundance of contemporary post-apocalyptic and dystopian fictions we will focus on texts that address, whether directly or indirectly, one of the more wicked problems of the 21st century: The Sixth Extinction. Rather than approaching this mass extinction event solely as a biological phenomenon, this course looks at how current threats to bio-diversity are implicated in and connected to threats to cultural diversity, such as the loss of language and traditional ecological knowledge. We will seek to understand how the discourse of extinction, beginning from its “discovery” in the eighteenth century, is related to fraught histories of colonialism and imperialism, whose ecological effects extend into the present and threaten to shape the future.

Amidst all of the doom and gloom we will explore what a recent anthology calls “the arts of living on a damaged planet.” While the course seeks to grasp the scale of the Sixth Extinction, it will also critically reflect upon, and propose alternatives to, the dominant apocalyptic narratives in which extinction is framed in the popular imagination. Fiction and nonfictional texts drawn from across the humanities, arts, and social sciences will explore and critique framings of “the end” with an eye toward reclaiming a more socially and environmentally just future. Course materials are wide-ranging and will encompass works of popular science (e.g. Elizabeth Kolbert’s Pulitzer Prize-winning The Sixth Extinction), activist primers (e.g. Ashley Dawson’s Extinction: A Radical History), memorials to species loss (e.g. Maya Lin’s What is Missing), Afrofuturist film (e.g. Wanuri Kahiu’s Pumzi), Native American literature (e.g. Gerald Vizenor’s Dead Voices), and German, Swiss, and Austrian ecofeminist fictions (e.g. Marlen Haushofer’s The Wall). Coursework will be multi-disciplinary and collaborative and will involve analytical and creative assignments.

English is the language of instruction and course readings



GERMAN 303 A: Conversation and Writing Skills


Meeting Time:  MWF 11:30am - 12:20pm

Location: SAV 132

SLN: 14763

Instructor: Klaus Brandl, View profile

Catalog Description: 

Language skill development (speaking, writing) using materials selected to broaden understanding of German-speaking countries. Offered: Sp.

GE Requirements: Visual, Literary, and Performing Arts (VLPA)

Credits: 3.0


GERMAN 304 A: Contemporary German Play

German Humor: Playing for Laughs and Tears


Meeting Time:  MWF 1:30pm - 2:20pm

Location: DEN 359

SLN: 14764

Instructor: Ellwood Wiggins, View profile

Catalog Description: 

Reading, analysis, and performance of one play by a contemporary German author. Taught in German. Performance scheduled for last week of quarter. Prerequisite: GERMAN 203. Offered: Sp.

GE Requirements: 

Visual, Literary, and Performing Arts (VLPA)

Credits: 5.0


In this course we will spend most of our time producing choreographed readings of the play under study. During the quarter you will have the words of one of the greatest German dramatists, Georg Büchner, before your eyes, in your mouth, and in your ears. Our objective will be, by reading scripts, discussing texts, acting out parts, directing others in scenes, and viewing film and video versions of the play, to refine and extend your command of the written and spoken language.

Georg Büchner died at 23, the age when many US college graduates are just beginning their “real” lives, yet in his brief life he revolutionized the important literary theatrical and narrative genres of his time. In this course, we will engage in a sustained reading and production of his comic masterpiece, Leonce und Lena. It is at once a spoof of romantic comedy, Shakespearean drama, and the ultimate fairy tale. You can think of it as the 19th-century Princess Bride. During the first weeks of class, we will carefully read and discuss the play together; during the second part of the quarter, we will prepare and then put on a production of the play.

Requirements: participation in class discussions and activities; memorization of lines for roles; and preparation for and performance in the final production before a live audience.

Readings and performance in German; discussions in German and English.



GERMAN 311 A: Introduction to German Literary Studies

Forms of Desire: Critical Approaches to German Literature


Meeting Time: MWF 11:30am - 12:20pm

Location: PAR 213

SLN: 14765

Instructor: Ellwood Wiggins, View profile

GE Requirements: 

Visual, Literary, and Performing Arts (VLPA)

Credits: 5.0

Goals: This course is intended to introduce you to the basic techniques of literary discussion, to develop your ability to interpret by close reading of German literature, and to refine your writing skills. To do so, we will read and discuss a wide range of texts across three centuries (18th-20th) and three genres (lyric, prose narrative, drama).

Theme: Despite this variety, each of our texts will focus in a different way on the nature of human desire. In each case, we will reflect on the ways that the form of the text at hand inflects and shapes its representation of desire.

Thus, we’ll use the lens of love to examine a variety of works of German literature. The works we will discuss approach the theme of desire from different directions and with different emphases. The course will explore the following questions, always taking the texts at hand as observational proving grounds for our ideas: What is desire? Is it different from love? (If so, then how, exactly?) Why does desire play such an important role in cultural artifacts like novels, poetry, plays, operas, music, film, etc.? Why do so many of the best and best-preserved love stories end badly? What are the social uses of cultural representations of desire over time? What historical, cultural and philosophical shifts have occurred in German culture’s use of love? How should we understand desire philosophically? Most fundamentally, what is the relation between desire and its (literary) representations?


GERMAN 423 A: Studies in Twentieth-Century Literature and Culture:

Writing Travel: Migration, Translation, Memory


Meeting Time: MWF 9:30am - 10:20am

Location: DEN 359

SLN: 14767

Instructor: Jason Groves, View profile

GE Requirements: 

Visual, Literary, and Performing Arts (VLPA)


“Every story,” writes cultural critic Michel de Certeau, “is a travel story.” In this course we will consider the intimate link between travel and narrative, in the context of the postwar migration to and from Germany. We will focus on the German-language literature and film of those who—through exile, travel, immigration, emigration, or other forms of movement—have challenged and reimagined traditional conceptions of German national and cultural identity. We will encounters forms including lyric poetry, novella, essay, collage, and memoir, and special attention will be given to questions of translation, understood broadly as a literary and cultural practice that fosters understanding as well as creative misunderstanding. The goal of the course is to obtain knowledge through primary and secondary texts on issues of immigration and emigration, identity, multilingualism, gender, and transnational and cross-cultural concerns regarding Germany, Europe, and the world.



GERMAN 583 A: Seminar in Prose

Fashioning the Absent Self: German Jewish Autobiography


Meeting Time: W 2:30pm - 5:20pm

Location: MLR 316

SLN: 14772

Joint Sections: ENGL 540 B, C LIT 596 C

Instructor: Richard Block, View profile

Catalog Description: 

Open topics seminar with varying content.

Credits: 5.0


Either everything is autobiography or nothing is, so Paul de Man reminds us.  As readers, we insinuate ourselves into every text; what we understand about a text often tells us more about our own interpretive experiences than what is actually written on the page.  And those texts that mean to narrate something other than the author’s life also serve as neat allegories for the author’s experiences.  What further renders the genre questionable is the necessary death of the author, or so Maurice Blanchot warns. That is, the subject of autobiography must be arrested in time in order to be narrated or, similarly, the author must step outside of their life to speak of it. 


In the first part of this course we will attend to the nagging theoretical questions that plague autobiography and memoirs of any kind: who is writing whom and who is reading whom.  To that end, we will read essays by Paul de Man and Jacques Derrida.  We will also read Blanchot’s short text, “The Instant of My Death.”


For most of the course, we will consider how primarily German Jews, lacking any self or identity in a hostile, nascent nation state fashion an autobiographical subject? What does it mean to write a memoir when traditional markers of that subject’s existence are lacking or questionable?  And what about Jewish women who are prisoners of two traditions, a German and a Jewish one?


To enlarge our perspective, we will conclude with works by James Baldwin and Nella Larsen.  How does the subject of African American autobiography intersect, context, enrich our understanding of German-Jewish writings.


In addition to Baldwin and Larsen, readings also include works by Salomon Maimon, Rahel Varnhagen (Hannah Arendt), Franz Kafka, Walter Benjamin, Fanny Lewald, and Jakob Wassermann.


Readings in German are also available in English. Discussion in English.




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