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GERM-042 Women and Nazi Culture
Spring for 2014-2015
Faculty:
  • Sieg, Katrin
  • This course focuses on women’s relationship to Nazi culture both historically (focusing on Germany, but also including references to Austria and Italy) and by examining the kinds of images and meanings that the phrase ‘Nazi women’ suggests to us as contemporary Americans. These contemporary meanings seem to revolve around paradoxical assumptions about women’s nature: while some assert that Nazi societies made women into passive breeding-machines, reducing them to a biological function, others claim that Nazi societies deformed female citizens into unnatural, violent killers.
    Societies that defined themselves as opposed to Nazism thus concluded, equally paradoxically, that Nazism was the epitome of patriarchy and should be combated by alternative notions of the family, or that Nazism posed the opposite of the traditional patriarchal family, which must therefore be strengthened in order to produce properly democratic citizens. These paradoxes are explored in three units: the first segment of the course will examine the question of how historical Nazi cultures got women to go along with and even advocate a political system that severely restricted their social, economic, and political opportunities. The second unit challenges the assumption that all women equally embraced the Nazi state, and looks at the differences that were enforced between ‘desirable’ and ‘undesirable’ women, many of whom engaged in resistance of various kinds, prompting us to question and perhaps revise our understanding of ‘resistance’. The final portion of the course asks how some contemporary artists in Europe and North American use Nazi symbols and ideas to portray and criticize aspects of our society today, and examines the lessons contemporary democracies have drawn from Nazi culture, how to recognize it, and how to combat it. Readings are drawn from literature, historical scholarship, and social theory; we will also look at films and visual art about Nazi culture and women’s victimization and resistance.

    As a gateway course (taught in English) focusing on twentieth-century German culture, the class interlinks close literary and visual analysis with theoretical questions concerning Nazism, gender, and power, while paying attention to changing historical and geographical contexts. The course will be conducted as a seminar requiring students’ active preparation for and participation in the discussion of assigned texts, which includes regular reading responses. In addition, they will work in pairs on oral presentations on assigned topics (this should include a hand-out), and facilitate class discussions. In the course of the semester, they will write four papers: a précis of a theoretical text (3 pages), a reflection paper about changing notions of resistance (3 pages); a paper that compares and contrasts German and Anglo-American cultural rhetorics of Nazism (5 pages), and a historically contextualized, theoretically informed analysis (5 pages) of a contemporary literary or cinematic text.

    Books (available at the Bookstore):
    Koonz, Claudia. Mothers in the Fatherland
    Slane, A Not so Foreign Affair: Fascism and the Cultural Rhetoric of American Democracy
    Fischer, Aimee+Jaguar
    Herzog, Sex after Fascism

    Additional readings will be made available via Electronic Reserves.

    Course Schedule

    Week 1-2: Terminology: Nazism, Fascism, Patriarchy, and Sexual Politics

    Key questions: How did contemporaries’ theories of Nazism and fascism address sexuality? And what role did sexual norms play in the construction of antifascist politics?
    Jan 13 Welcome and Introduction
    Jan 20 Reich, Mass Psychology of Fascism (excerpts)
    Lorenz, Sex after Fascism, chapter 1
    How to write a précis.

    Jan 25 Horkheimer, “Authoritarianism and the Family.”
    Jan 27 Koonz, Mothers in the Fatherland (Intro); Mosse, Nationalism and Sexuality (chapter on the Nazi woman)

    Week 3-5: Nazi Women
    Key Questions: What kind of women were attracted to the Nazi movements, whose gender ideology was based on biologistic beliefs about women as primarily caretakers, and which excluded women from many public realms and activities? What compromises did women make, and what incentives and rewards did they receive to participate in an essentially sexist form of government?

    Feb 1 Koonz, chapters on women in Nazi movement and “Second sex in 3rd Reich.” Precis of Mosse or Koonz due.
    Feb 3 2 short stories by Pickering-Iazzi by Italian women

    Feb 8 Koonz, chapters on Protestant and Catholic women
    Feb 10 2 stories by Kerschbaumer on Austrian women

    Week 6-8 Female Modes of Resistance
    Key Questions: what opportunities did women have to resist the Nazi state? Is there a specifically female mode of resistance? How does that notion of resistance prompt a reconsideration of traditional notions of political resistance?

    Feb 17 Koonz, 2 chapters on ‘women who resisted’ and ‘Jewish women’
    Bridenthal, How Biology became Destiny (excerpt)

    Feb 22 Rescuers: Fogelman, Conscience and Courage (excerpt)
    Stoltzfuss, Resistance of the Heart (excerpt)
    Schneider, “Saving Konrad Latte”
    Feb 24 Schoppmann, Days of Masquerade (excerpts)

    Mar 1 Anne Frank Reconsidered
    Mar 3 Anne Frank Reconsidered. Reflection paper due about changing notions of resistance due.

    Week 9-11: Postwar democratic rhetorics in Germany

    Mar 15 Lorenz, Sex after Fascism
    Mar 17 Weil, My Sister, My Antigone (novel, excerpt)
    Mar 22 Fischer, Aimee and Jaguar (documentary novel, 1995)
    Mar 24 Fischer, Aimee and Jaguar
    Mar 29 Fischer, Aimee and Jaguar

    Week 12-14: Democratic rhetorics in England and North America
    Key questions: how did the historical enemies of Nazism who later became allies in the second world war (the UK and USA) construct images of Nazis as the Other of democracy? What emphases and elisions did this “democratic rhetorics” require (and why should we be troubled by them)? What sexual politics followed from Anglo-American democratic rhetorics?

    Apr 7 Slane, Antifascism as Cultural Rhetoric of American Democracy (Introduction and chapter on Hitler’s Children)

    Apr 12 Hitler’s Children (film)
    Apr 14 Burdeken, Swastika Night (novel excerpt; UK 1940)

    Feminist Critiques of Fascism
    Key questions: How did feminist artists in the Anglo American world construct parallels between Nazism and patriarchy? What was the rhetorical aim of theorizing women’s subjectivity and agency through images and stories of Nazism? Why, when, and how did feminists come to address the problem of female (masochistic) desire and political complicity?

    Apr 19 Plath, “Daddy;” (1962) Sontag, “Fascinating Fascism” (1974)
    Apr 21 Judy Chicago, Holocaust Project (Paintings, 1993)

    Apr 26 Handmaid’s Tale (film; Canada, 1990)
    Apr 28 Handmaid’s Tale. Compare/contrast paper due about German vs. Anglo-American democratic rhetorics

    May 3 Overview of course.
    May ? final paper due.
    Credits: 3
    Prerequisites: None
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