GERM-342 German Genders in Literature, Performance, and Film
Fall for 2014-2015
The course explores the forces and ideas that shaped Germans’ distinct notions of gender and sexuality in the long twentieth century. German culture has furnished us with images and stories of strong, eccentric, and creative women artists and activists—from socialist revolutionary Rosa Luxemburg to glamorous filmstar Marlene Dietrich and Nobel Prize winner Elfriede Jelinek. But it has also given us the phrase ‘Kinder, Küche, Kirche,’ which emphases women’s domesticity and ‘natural calling’ towards nurturing. The sexual revolution’s radical rejection of the churches’ prerogative to define morality and family values in the 1960s, the drastic refashioning of private life and exploration of alternative lifestyles and anti-authoritarian pedagogy, and the intense commercialization of sexuality during subsequent decades, have led many contemporary Germans to believe that they are among the most tolerant and liberated denizens of a cosmopolitan world that is no longer marked by gender inequality or sexual repression. Others feel prompted to reimagine the meaning of gender/sexual politics for our times, whether through activism or art.
We will trace first, second, and third wave feminists’ ideas about gender roles and relations, as well as study important theoretical terms and concepts in gender and queer theory, from the question of a feminist aesthetic to contemporary debates about gender performativity. History and theory will then help us analyze and interpret key texts (literary and cinematic) that illuminate central issues concerning gender and sexuality, including queer transgender practices and experiences; tensions between German and immigrant concepts of gender and sexuality; and performativity and parody.
Using literature, film, and the press, we will examine important moments and key social debates in the history of this struggle.
Primary course readings will be in German (approximately 70 pages per week). Class discussion will be conducted in German, and all written work will be submitted in German.
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