West European Studies | Special Topics in W Eur Studies: German Film and Popular Culture
W406 | 20881 | Petrescu, M


11:15AM-12:45PM on MW and 5:45PM-8:45PM T   3 cr.
Obtain on-line permission for above section from department
Above section carries Culture Studies credit
Above class meets with GER-G 418

Starting with a 16th century case of identity theft and con-artistry
and ending with tort litigation (“Schadenersatzklage”) in the face of
incomprehensible tragedy, this course explores the cinematic angle on
legality in modern Germany. Our approach will be both thematic and
cinematic. We consider what legality means when we displace it from
familiar contexts into other eras and other state forms. What does
due process (“ordentliches Gerichtsverfahren nach Recht und Gesetz”)
look like in a dictatorship? Is euthanasia or the death penalty, for
example, necessarily more objectionable in a Nazi regime than in a
liberal state? What happens when due process is in conflict with a
just revolt? When we judge an action in a vast crisis like that of
prewar German depression or postwar German division, what is more
important—individual intention or social circumstances? We engage
such questions, however, not as expert judges or morally impassioned
jury members, but as a scholarly film audience, asking how the drama
of legality is staged and filmed. Our criteria are as much montage
and monologue as morality and precedent. How, for example, do we
reprsent villainy or heroism—especially when our perpetrators seem
to be uncinematographic pencil pushers (“Schreibtischtäter”) or when
motives are mixed and unclear even to the accused? What soundtrack
does the pursuit of justice have and is different from that of the
pursuit of illicit gain? Do we admit narrative forms like comedy,
irony and tragedy into our representations of “the right”? Or, if
doing the right thing regularly stands in an ironic relationship to
the idea of justice, is a sincere, passionate portrayal of
urisprudence the most reckless depiction of all?

We will view one film a week, seeing works by some of the most
prominent (or notorious) German directors, but also prize-winning
films from France, Japan, Canada and the United States. Readings are
in German and English. Discussions are primarily in German (with
English explication of technical terms). We will conclude by making 4
short films of our own.

Required textbook:
Anna Seghers, Der gerechte Richter und andere Erzählungen (Berlin:
Aufbau, 2000) ISBN: 3746651786