Cultural Studies | Special Topics in Cultural Studies MEDIA, POLITICS & POWER
C701 | 15909 | Breger

When the Berlin wall came down in 1989, and Germany found itself in
the geo-political center of a much broader, transnational transition
from the Cold War order into the contemporary age of globalization,
questions and tropes of gender shaped the contested process of
unification on various levels. Thus, contemporaries discussed not
only in which ways socialist society (with, for example, its
extensive daycare systems and relatively liberal abortion
legislation, but virtually invisible queer subcultures) could – or
could not – be called more progressive in matters of gender and
sexuality, but also whether the Eastern working class ideologies and
lifestyles had generated a concept of ‘hegemonic masculinity’
qualitatively different from its Western counterpart. On yet another
plane, political commentaries as well as 1990’s literature and film
multiply figured the process of unification as a (hetero-)sexual
union between a masculine West and a feminine (as well as often
Orientalized) East.
Looking more closely at the emergence and development of postwar
societies and cultures since the mid-twentieth century, this course
explores these multi-faceted gender matters by studying films,
literary fiction and (to the degree possible, given the English-
language availability restriction) socio-political materials from
both sides of the wall as well as post-unification society (with an
emphasis on Germany, but excursions onto larger European terrain).
The inclusion of a range of gender and queer theory materials from
the 1970s through the 2000s, as well as selected background reading
on film and literary aesthetics, will help us to unpack, and
conceptualize, the different ways in which gender matters – in their
multifaceted overlaps with sexuality, race and class – have played
out as a key element of the ‘differential modernities’ constructed
in the East and West – not least through images of each other, as
indicated by socialist representations of ‘dark’ effeminate Nazis
and excessively masculine cowboy capitalists or Western media
reports on masculinized female athletes and de-sexualized workforces
in the East. Against the background of the (shared) legacy of the
bourgeois gender order of European modernity, we will focus on
complexities and changes, for example through the formation of
women’s and sexual emancipation movements in the West and their
(more individualized, but not necessarily less radical) echoes in
the sex change stories of East German feminists, as well as the re-
assemblages of gender(ed) identities in today’s post-Cold War

Films and literary texts discussed could include (very tentatively;
for the moment in historical order): Wolfgang Staudte, The Kaiser’s
Lackey (1951), Wolfgang Koeppen, The Hothouse (1953) ; Heiner
Müller, Correction (1957), Frank Beyer, Trace of Stones (1966);
Joachim Hasler, Hot Summer (1968), Rosa v. Praunheim, It Is Not the
Homosexual Who Is Perverse, But the Society in Which He Lives
(1970), Ingeborg Bachmann: Malina (1971), Rainer Heiner Carow, The
Legend of Paul and Paula (1972), Christa Wolf, Self-Experiment
(1972); Irmtraud Morgner, Life and Adventures of Trobadora Beatriz
(1974; excerpts), Werner Fassbinder, Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (1974),
Wim Wenders, Kings of the Road (1976), Elfriede Jelinek, The Piano
Player (1983), Heiner Carow, Coming Out (1989), Ingo Schulze: Simple
Storys [sic, 1998], Antje Ravic Strubel, Snowed Under (2001), Dorota
Maslowska, Snow White and Russian Red (2002).
This course is offered for students in Germanic Studies, Gender
Studies, Communication and Culture and Cultural Studies. All
materials are available in English or with English subtitles; thus,
German language skills are not required. However, students in
Germanic Studies (or fulfilling graduate language requirements) are
asked to read literary texts in the original German.