Courses by semester
Courses for Spring 2023
Complete Cornell University course descriptions are in the Courses of Study .
FWS: From Fairy Tales to the Uncanny: Exploring the Romantic Consciousness
How did bawdy tales of peasants using magic to climb the social ladder get transformed into moral lessons for children? The answer lies in Romanticism and its appropriation of the imagination as a force for social transformation. As Romantics edited older tales for juvenile consumption they wrote new ones for adults. This new fiction created the matrix for modern pop genres like fantasy, science-fiction, murder mysteries, and gothic horror. To understand this paradigm shift in modern culture, we will read, discuss, and write about a variety of texts the Romantics collected, composed, or inspired, including poetry and film, in addition to classic fairy tales and academic scholarship on the topic.
Full details for GERST 1109 - FWS: From Fairy Tales to the Uncanny: Exploring the Romantic Consciousness
|GERST1121||FWS: Writing Berlin Berlin is a city that reinvents itself by rewriting itself. In this writing seminar, we'll study a variety of literary, visual, and sonic texts to create a mythical map of the city from its emergence as modern metropolis in the 1920s, reduction to rubble in World War II, refuge for the disaffected in the 1980s, and rebirth in the 21st century. As we make our way through the linguistic, visual, and aural landscape of its ever-changing topography, we'll create our own stories of a mythical Berlin in dialogue with texts written by the displaced persons who breached its walls and navigated its illicit economies. We'll also become more critical readers and viewers, as well as better writers.||Fall, Spring.|
FWS: Romanticism on Film: International Horror Cinema
This course introduces students to the legacy of Romantic thought in the context of international horror cinema. Students will gain skills in formal film analysis and cultural criticism by watching movies such as Get Out, Midsommar, and A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night. Assignments will cover genres such as personal essay, textual and film analysis, and op-ed column writing.
Full details for GERST 1123 - FWS: Romanticism on Film: International Horror Cinema
FWS: Writing Between: Here, There, Everywhere, Nowhere
This course introduces students to literature, film, and media produced by migrants in contemporary German-language contexts. Students will gain skills in literary analysis and cultural criticism by reading works by writers who have migrated in and out of the German language, such as Emine Sevgi Özdamar, Yōko Tawada, and Herta Müller. Assignments will cover genres such as personal essay, textual and film analysis, and op-ed column writing.
Full details for GERST 1124 - FWS: Writing Between: Here, There, Everywhere, Nowhere
|GERST1125||FWS: Media Studies What is a medium? How do new media relate to old media? What differentiates information contents from medial containers, aesthetic forms, and technical formats? To address such questions, media studies brings together multi-disciplinary expertise about culture and technology across the humanities and sciences. Studying media requires expanding our sense of what counts as a medium, from familiar mass media, such as radio, cinema, newspapers, and television, to individual mediums designed for information, entertainment, or communication—and beyond. In this seminar, students will be reading and writing (in English) about classic examples of media, including books, libraries, paintings, computers, and algorithms, using materials drawn primarily but not exclusively from the rich, vibrant, and dynamic tradition of German media studies.||Spring.|
|GERST1170||FWS: Marx, Nietzsche, Freud A basic understanding of Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud is a prerequisite for participating in critical debates in the humanities and social sciences. Our seminar will explore key terms in the revolutionary models of critical analysis these thinkers pioneered: historical materialism, post-metaphysical philosophy, and psychoanalysis. This will mean articulating points of contrast as well as convergence. Discussions and writing exercises will focus on texts that created the discursive framework for critiquing society and culture today. Our method will proceed from the premise that critical reading, thinking, and writing are inseparable moments in the same operation of critique. The question that guides that method will be: Do alternative ways of thinking exist in opposition to the ones we view as natural, inevitable, or universal?||Fall, Spring.|
|GERST1210||Exploring German Contexts I Students develop basic abilities in listening, reading, writing, and speaking German in meaningful contexts through interaction in small group activities. Course materials including videos, short articles, and songs provide students with varied perspectives on German language, culture, and society.||Fall, Spring.|
|GERST1220||Exploring German Contexts II Students build on their basic knowledge of German by engaging in intense and more sustained interaction in the language. Students learn more advanced language structures allowing them to express more complex ideas in German. Discussions, videos, and group activities address topics of relevance to the contemporary German-speaking world.||Fall, Spring.|
|GERST1230||Expanding the German Dossier Students continue to develop their language skills by discussing a variety of cultural topics and themes in the German-speaking world. The focus of the course is on expanding vocabulary, reviewing major grammar topics, developing effective reading strategies, improving listening comprehension, and working on writing skills. Work in small groups increases each student's opportunity to speak in German and provides for greater feedback and individual help.||Fall, Spring.|
Germany: Intercultural Context
Students examine important aspects of present-day German culture while expanding and strengthening their reading, writing, and speaking skills in German. Materials for each topic are selected from a variety of sources (fiction, newspapers, magazines, and the Internet). Units address a variety of topics including studying at a German university, modern literature, Germany online, and Germany at the turn of the century. Oral and written work and individual and group presentations emphasize accurate and idiomatic expression in German. Successful completion of the course enables students to continue with more advanced courses in language, literature, and culture.
Full details for GERST 2000 - Germany: Intercultural Context
Perspectives on German Culture
This course aims at sharpening your awareness of personal and cultural subjectivity by examining texts in a variety of media against the backdrop of cultural, political, and historical contexts. We will focus on improving your oral and written expression of idiomatic German by giving attention to more sophisticated aspects of using enriched vocabulary in a variety of conversational contexts and written genres. Materials will include readings in contemporary prose, newscasts, research at the Johnson Art Museum, and interviews with native speakers on a topic of contemporary cultural relevance.
Full details for GERST 2040 - Perspectives on German Culture
|GERST2060||German in Business Culture Learn German and understand German business culture at the same time. This is a German language course that examines the German economic structure and its major components: industry, trade unions, the banking system, and the government. Participants will learn about the business culture in Germany and how to be effective in a work environment, Germany's role within the European Union, the importance of trade and globalization, and current economic issues in Germany. The materials consist of authentic documents from the German business world, TV footage, and a Business German textbook.||Spring.|
|GERST2703||Thinking Media From hieroglyphs to HTML, ancient poetry to audiotape, and Plato's cave to virtual reality, "Thinking Media" offers a multidisciplinary introduction to the most influential media formats of the last three millennia. Featuring an array of guests from across Cornell, including faculty from Communication, Comparative Literature, German Studies, Information Science, Literatures in English, Music, and Performing & Media Arts, the course will present diverse perspectives on how to think with, against, and about media in relation to the public sphere and private life, archaeology and science fiction, ethics and aesthetics, identity and difference, labor and play, knowledge and power, expression and surveillance, and the generation and analysis of data.||Spring.|
German Language Across the Curriculum (LAC)
This 1-credit optional course aims to expand the students' vocabulary, and advance their speaking and reading skills as well as enhance their knowledge and deepen their cultural understanding by supplementing non-language courses throughout the University.
Full details for GERST 3013 - German Language Across the Curriculum (LAC)
|Offered on demand.|
|GERST3080||German Digital Culture This course is aimed to increase your linguistic competencies in German, your cultural awareness, as well as your critical thinking skills. We will discuss internet-relevant topics from a German perspective, and examine different cultural aspects of the German Internet. The highlight of the course will be an intercultural encounter with students from the Bielefeld Universität in Germany.||Spring.|
Performance Theater and Politics
With Schiller's famous treatise on the stage as moral institution, the theater starts to fulfill a moral, pedagogical, public task. The landscape of German theater is unique because of a political commitment to (and subsidies for) this, the maybe most social art form. The course will explore the particular history of German theater and the texts that form its aesthetic and theoretical basis (Schiller, Brecht). How does the form of the drama change with historical and political changes (from identification or catharsis to alienation and participation)? How does theater change when not "text" but "performance" becomes a focus, pushing against the 4th wall, and spilling onto the streets? Authors/performers include: Friedrich Schiller, Bertolt Brecht, Heiner Müller, Elfriede Jelinek, Kathrin Röggla, Christoph Schlingensief, René Pollesch, She She Pop, LIGNA, Geheimagentur, Rimini Protokoll.
Full details for GERST 3215 - Performance Theater and Politics
|GERST3590||Kant An intensive study of the metaphysical and epistemological doctrines of the Critique of Pure Reason. Some editions of the course may also consider Kant's ethical views as laid out in the Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals and related works.||Spring.|
|GERST3610||Fables of Capitalism This course examines the stories, literary examples, and metaphors at work in elaborating capitalist society and its "hero," the modern economic subject: the so-called "homo oeconomicus." We will examine the classic liberal tradition (e.g., Locke, Smith, Mill) alongside its later critiques (e.g., Marx, Nietzsche, Weber, Brecht) as well as more recent feminist, Black, and indigenous interventions (e.g., Federici, Davis, "land-grab university" research). Throughout we will create a dialogue between texts, both across centuries (e.g., Locke on Property with Indigenous Dispossession; Balzac's Pere Goriot with Piketty's Capital in the 21st Century) as well as across genres (e.g., Nomadland with Geissler's Seasonal Associate). At stake are the narrative and figurative moments in theoretical texts as well as crucial literary sources (novels, novellas, and plays) as they collectively develop the modern economic paradigms of industry, exchange, credit-debt, and interest – as well as the people they often leave out: women, people of color, the working class. The seminar will include working with an archive, collection, or museum at Cornell.||Spring.|
Dealing with the Devil: Music's Faustian Bargain with Literature
What would you be willing to give up in exchange for infinite knowledge? (Just think—no more required readings, no more memorization, no more Saturday nights spent studying for prelims!) For one student, the title character of Goethe's 1806 drama Faust, no price is too high: when the devil offers him erudition beyond belief, Faust signs away his soul without a second thought. This cautionary tale of scholarly folly captured the musical imagination of the nineteenth century, giving rise to myriad musical adaptations of the Faust legend. Through engagement with literary, musical, and scholarly texts (ability to read music not required, though previous musical experience is recommended), this seminar explores the interaction between music and text in compositions by Schubert, Berlioz, Liszt, and Mahler, asking: what happens when literature becomes song, opera, or symphony, and crucially, what is at stake in the process of transformation? As music and text cleave inextricably to one another, what is the price each pays in order to gain new life—in other words, what is the Faustian bargain they make?
Full details for GERST 3642 - Dealing with the Devil: Music's Faustian Bargain with Literature
|GERST4290||Spinoza and the New Spinozism Spinoza was excommunicated, wrote under death threats, and has remained a scandal to philosophy, psychoanalysis, politics, ethics, literature. "Every philosopher has two philosophies, his own and Spinoza's" (Bergson); and "the savage anomaly" (Negri) exerted profound influence on Marx, Nietzsche, Freud. We will introduce Spinoza and his legacy, from the "atheism controversy" in the eighteenth century to today's "New Spinozists," who have been developing anti-Kantian and anti-Hegelian formulations of burning contemporary questions. With Spinoza, we ask: "What is freedom, and whose power does it serve?" (Leo Strauss)-especially if "The new world system, the ultimate third stage of capitalism is for us the absent totality, Spinoza's God or Nature, the ultimate (indeed perhaps the only) referent, the true ground of Being in our time" (Jameson).||Spring.|
|GERST4413||Walter Benjamin This extraordinary figure died in 1941, and his death is emblematic of the intellectual depredations of Nazism. Yet since World War II, his influence, his reputation, and his fascination for scholars in a wide range of cultural and political disciplines has steadily grown. He is seen as a bridging figure between German and Jewish studies, between materialist critique of culture and the submerged yet powerful voice of theology, between literary history and philosophy. We will review Benjamin's life and some of the key disputes over his heritage; read some of the best-known of his essays; and devote significant time to his enigmatic and enormously rich masterwork, the Arcades Project, concluding with consideration of the relevance of Benjamin's insights for cultural and political dilemmas today.||Fall.|
|GERST4520||Independent Study Undergraduate student and faculty advisor to determine course of study and credit hours.||Spring.|
|GERST4530||Honors Research The Reading Course is administered by the director of the honors thesis. It carries 4 hours credit, and may be counted towards the work required for the German Major. The reading concentrates on a pre-determined topic or area. Students meet with their honors advisor about every two weeks throughout the term. Substantial reading assignments are given, and occasional short essays are written.||Multi-semester course: (Fall, Spring).|
|GERST4540||Honors Thesis The thesis is to be written on a subject related to the work done in GERST 4530. A suggested length for the thesis is 50-60 pages.||Fall, Spring.|
Jews in German Literature and Culture Since 1945
Amidst widespread discussion of Holocaust memory as a globalized phenomenon, this seminar explores Jewish literature written in German since 1945. For these writers and their texts, the historical encounter with National Socialism remains pivotal to diverse aesthetic strategies for representing the complexity of Jewish life in West, East, and unified Germany. Readings by authors such as Ilse Aichinger, Nelly Sachs, Paul Celan, Hans Keilson, Wolfgang Hildesheimer, Peter Weiss, Jurek Becker, Edgar Hilsenrath, Barbara Honigmann, Esther Dischereit, Ruth Klüger, Grete Weil, Maxim Biller, Wladimir Kaminer, Olga Grjasnowa, Sasha Marianna Salzmann, Max Czollek, and others. The course also considers how these literary works and cultural frameworks pertain to transnational cultural studies in memory, diaspora, intersectionality, globalization, and the aesthetics of representation.
Full details for GERST 6150 - Jews in German Literature and Culture Since 1945
|GERST6221||Topics in Modern Philosophy Advanced discussion of topics or authors in "modern" Western philosophy (circa the 17th and 18th centuries).||Fall, Spring.|
|GERST6320||Reading Academic German II Emphasis on development of the specialized vocabulary of student's field of study.||Spring.|
|GERST6413||Walter Benjamin This extraordinary figure died in 1941, and his death is emblematic of the intellectual depredations of Nazism. Yet since World War II, his influence, his reputation, and his fascination for scholars in a wide range of cultural and political disciplines has steadily grown. He is seen as a bridging figure between German and Jewish studies, between materialist critique of culture and the submerged yet powerful voice of theology, between literary history and philosophy. We will review Benjamin's life and some of the key disputes over his heritage; read some of the best-known of his essays; and devote significant time to his enigmatic and enormously rich masterwork, the Arcades Project, concluding with consideration of the relevance of Benjamin's insights for cultural and political dilemmas today.||Fall.|
|GERST6511||Illness as Metaphor What is illness? What is health? The human body seems to vacillate between these dichotomous versions of its existence. This seminar traces the cultural/historical developments/traditions that define illness, disease, well-being, treatment, cure and approaches to death. We will approach the topic at the intersections of medicine, philosophy, psychology and literature. Authors will include: Herodot, Socrates, Aristotle, Plato, Galen, von Bingen, Burton, Paracelsus, Kant, Novalis, Herder, Hegel, Stifter, Dostojevskij, Tolstoj, Nietzsche, Rilke, Thomas Mann, Kafka, Freud, Foucault, Susan Sontag et al.||Spring.|
Aesthetic Theory: The End of Art
This course investigates the emergence of aesthetics as its own philosophical discipline at the end of the eighteenth century. In a first phase, we will examine the rationalist articulation of aesthetics in Baumgarten's work and the empiricist theory of taste, particularly Burke's Enquiry. Drawing on the findings of these two traditions, Kant's Critique of Judgment (1790) inaugurated a preoccupation in German philosophy around 1800 with the philosophical status of the beautiful and of art. Especially in Romantic theory and practice, art was meant to provide a solution to the philosophical dilemmas in the wake of Kant's critical philosophy. However, already in Hegel's Phenomenology, and more explicitly in the Encyclopedia and the Lectures on Aesthetics, art lost this elevated position vis-à-vis philosophy. Taking this observation as a guiding thread, the main part of the course is structured around in-depth readings that may include Kant, Schiller, Schelling, the Schlegels, Novalis, Hölderlin, and Hegel. Further readings may include writings by contemporary philosophers and theoreticians--such as Adorno, Allison, Danto, Deleuze, Derrida, Ginsborg, Guyer, Lyotard et al.--whose work on aesthetics takes its starting point from the philosophical issues surrounding the emergence of aesthetic theory only to transcend these historical confines and formulate contemporary positions on the status of the aesthetic and of art. The following questions will be addressed: What are the conditions for the move from the subjective judgment of taste (Kant) to objective beauty (Romantics, Hegel)? How is the relation of art and nature reconceived by the Romantics? What is the relation of aesthetic theory and the history of art? Is philosophy the end of art?
Full details for GERST 6560 - Aesthetic Theory: The End of Art
|GERST6600||Visual Ideology Some of the most powerful approaches to visual practices have come from outside or from the peripheries of the institution of art history and criticism. This seminar will analyze the interactions between academically sanctioned disciplines (such as iconography and connoisseurship) and innovations coming from philosophy, psychoanalysis, historiography, sociology, literary theory, mass media criticism, feminism, and Marxism. We will try especially to develop: (1) a general theory of "visual ideology" (the gender, social, racial, and class determinations on the production, consumption, and appropriation of visual artifacts under modern and postmodern conditions); and (2) contemporary theoretical practices that articulate these determinations. Examples will be drawn from the history of oil painting, architecture, city planning, photography, film, and other mass media.||Spring.|
|GERST7540||Independent Study Graduate student and faculty advisor to determine course of study and credit hours.||Spring.|
|GERST7541||Colloquium The course consists of a bi-weekly workshop series focusing on a range of interdisciplinary topics and sponsored by the Institute for German Cultural Studies (IGCS). Speakers include prominent scholars in the field of German Studies (understood in a wide, interdisciplinary sense) and advanced graduate students, who discuss their work-in-progress based on pre-circulated papers. Besides attending the workshops, course participants meet with the instructor for two additional sessions devoted to pursuing the ties between the topics and disciplinary fields showcased by the speakers and the students' own work. The course is thus intended both as a survey of disciplinary approaches in German and Humanities Studies and as a framework that allows graduate students to hone professional skills (presenter and panel respondent, newsletter contributor, etc).||Spring.|