Germanic Languages | Seminar in German Literature: Languages of Dissent and Distinction:
G825 | 22136-22137 | C. Breger
This seminar explores contemporary German avant-garde and avant-
garde-inflected cinema, comparing works from three different
contexts: 1. New (West-) German Cinema from the 1960’s and 1970’s,
2. a number of aesthetically unusual (and often also politically
oppositional) films produced by the East German DEFA and, 3. the
post-unification ‘New Berlin School’. As the title announces, the
guiding idea is to look closely at the relations between poetics and
politics, studying film languages in terms of the cultural critique
they perform. In doing so, we will cover a lot of heterogeneous
ground (marked, nonetheless, also by correspondences and overlap).
For example, we will study the ways in which concepts of realism,
the documentary and authenticity on the one hand, ‘theatrical’
stylistic excess on the other are configured in the (Marxist,
feminist, queer) counter-cultures emerging from the West German
student movement and the artistic production of East German
directors struggling for political articulation space. Similarly, we
will compare the critique of ‘classical’ narrative forms in films
from the seventies and the recent ‘New Berlin School’ which has also
been labelled as a ‘nouvelle vague allemande’.
By thus connecting film productions from East, West and post-
unification Germany, we will revisit notions of national cinema,
while also studying the transnational flows which feed into the
aesthetics of our different films. Exploring links between ‘dissent
and distinction,’ we will discuss the ways in which ‘entertainment’
vs. ‘art’ or ‘avant-garde’ boundaries are employed, as well as
challenged and redrawn, for example through the re-use of popular
genres. Films to be discussed are not yet finalized, but might
include R.W. Fassbinder, Katzelmacher or The Third Generation, Wim
Wenders, Kings of the Road, Helke Sander, REDUPERS: Die allseitig
reduzierte Persönlichkeit, Ulrike Ottinger, Freak Orlando, Alexander
Kluge, The Patriot, Frank Gerhard Klein, Berlin – Schönhauser
Corner, Beyer, Carbid and Sorrel, Konrad Wolf, Der geteilte
Himme/Divided Heaven, Evelyn Schmidt, The Bicycle, Benjamin
Heisenberg, Schläfer, Thomas Arslan’s Kardesler/Geschwister,
Christian Petzold, Wolfsburg (or whatever recent films I can get my
hands on in subtitled versions by early fall).
The class is offered for students in Germanic Studies, Communication
and Culture and Cultural Studies. All materials will be available in
English/with English subtitles. General reading assignments will be
individualized to some degree to compensate for different
backgrounds. Thus, students in German will be focusing on film
theory and analysis while students in film will be focusing on
German cultural history. Of course, individualized combinations of
various items from both categories will be possible as well,
depending on your needs. Together, we will read more specific texts
pertaining to our individual films and their aesthetic strategies.
1. A course reader (on e-reserve).
2. Robert Stam. Film Theory: An Introduction (Paperback) Blackwell
Publishing Limited (February 1, 2000) ISBN-10: 063120654X/ISBN-13:
978-0631206545 (especially for students without sustained background
3. Fulbrook, Mary. History of Germany, 1918-2000: The Divided Nation
(Blackwell Classic Histories of Europe) (Paperback). Publisher:
Blackwell Publishing Limited; 2 edition (March 1, 2002) ISBN-10:
0631232087/ISBN-13: 978-0631232087 (especially for students without
sustained background in German).
4. Fowler, Catherine. The European Cinema Reader (Paperback).
Routledge; 1 edition (September 13, 2002). ISBN-10: 0415240921/ ISBN-
5. The German Cinema Book (BFI Modern Classics) (Paperback)
by Tim Bergfelder (Editor), Erica Carter (Editor), Deniz Göktürk
(Editor). British Film Institute (February 3, 2003). ISBN-10:
085170946X/ ISBN-13: 978-0851709468.