Spring 2020

German(ic) (morpho)syntax (GER 514)

Prof. Michael Putnam (mtp12@psu.edu), T/TH 10:35 - 11:50 AM

This course explores the structural properties of German and its closest relatives, with a primary focus on contrastive differences between German and English. We will survey a wide range of empirical phenomena, including (but not limited to) the structure of nouns and verbs, core elements of sentence structure, and the formation of complex questions. A core component of this course aids students in gaining experience interpreting empirical data through the lens of a theoretical framework. We will discuss how formal approaches to grammar enhance our understanding of (micro)variation across and within languages and how they can assist in refining experimental and pedagogical studies. This course assumes no prior background in either theoretical syntax or a knowledge German and related languages.

German Modernisms 1900-1945 (GER 571)

Prof. Samuel Frederick (smf35@psu.edu), T 6-9 PM

This seminar surveys and introduces German literature and media from the first half of the twentieth century. Its focus will be on different—and often conflicting—conceptions of “the modern,” as articulated by various aesthetic movements and post-1960s theory. How did writers, filmmakers, and artists conceive of their own modernist projects and how has more recent theory revised our understanding of their interventions? How has the history of German modernism been differently written from that of Anglo-American (or Soviet or French) modernism? What vectors of influence are at play? We will look at different—and sometimes competing—modernist programs, including Aestheticism, Futurism, Expressionism, Dada, and New Objectivity, as well as fascist forms of modernism, all with an eye to the relation between politics and aesthetics. We will primarily focus on literary texts, but will also spend some sessions on collage, painting, film, and photography.

Readings/viewings may include works by: Gottfried Benn, Alfred Döblin, Irmgard Keun, Bertolt Brecht, Robert Musil, Walter Benjamin, Else Lasker-Schüler, Robert Walser, Ernst Jünger, Hannah Höch, Lotte Reiniger, Walter Ruttmann, F.W. Murnau,  Emmy Hennings, Kurt Schwitters, Hugo Ball, Georg Trakl, Rainer Maria Rilke, Hugo von Hofmannsthal, Arthur Schnitzler, Karl Kraus, Elias Canetti, Franz Kafka, Carl Einstein, Maria Lazar, Marie-Luise Fleißer.

Introduction to Visual Culture (VSTUD 501)

Prof. Daniel Purdy (dlp14@psu.edu), T/TH 4:35 – 5:50 PM

Introduction to Visual Culture covers theories of the visual and visualization from ancient formulations in Roman rhetoric in the memory arts and ekphrasis to modernist forms of the book arts, graphic novels in particular, material culture (from popular consumer culture to high-design fashions and objects), architecture and urban spaces, film and television. Our overarching aim will be to understand the theoretical texts that define the field of Visual Studies. Our discussions will include the work of the Frankfurt School, French post-structuralism, feminist psychoanalytic film theory, and contemporary German media studies. The course will engage with avant-garde aesthetics as a mean of understanding the visual potentials provided by twentieth-century technologies.

German Horror VSTUD / GER 597

Prof. Kobi Kabalek (kabalek@psu.edu), W 6-9 PM

The seminar surveys various depictions and concepts of horror in the different German societies. We will read theoretical and empirical studies from various disciplines to ask what constitutes horror as an emotion and genre in each case and how it is expressed through a mixture of the fantastic and the real. The materials include horror films and thrillers, artworks, photography, and literature, but also visual and textual depictions of the monstrous and shocking in descriptions of criminality and the political language of Imperial Germany, during WWI, in the Weimar Republic, in Nazi propaganda before and during WWII and the Holocaust, in postwar memories of Nazism, as well as in various conceptualizations of the respective social and political menace in East, West, and unified Germany. The course thus suggests looking at diverse experiences and realities in Germany using a cultural prism that combines emotion and imagination.

The Politics of Color in Visual Culture (VSTUD / GER 597)

Prof. Sabine Doran (sud28@psu.edu), M 6-9 PM

This seminar explores the politics and aesthetics of color in visual and literary media. Whether associated with particular moods or mental states (“red with anger,” “pale white”), with particular ideologies (Communist red, the environmental Greens) or with particular races (black for African Americans, white for Caucasians, red for Native Americans, yellow for Asians), color has always been seen as an index of meaning. Yet the broad cultural significance of specific colors is rarely been addressed. Reduced to its symbolic – that is, highly conventionalized – function, color is typically understood as a fixed system of reference that is easily decoded. However, this approach to color obscures its dynamic nature, its culturally conditioned ambiguities and dualities. “Every hue, real or imagined, bodes a world,” writes Jeffery Cohen in his introduction to Prismatic Ecology. Ecotheory beyond Green (2013) and it is in the in the vibrant worlds of colors that climate changes, both politically and ecologically, emerge as they energize movements (from “Black Panther” to the “Yellow People Revolution”) and reflections on the color of skin, contaminants, plants, atmospheres. Readings and viewings include Goethe’s Color Theory, Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow, Maggie Nelson’s Bluets, Lynch’s Blue Velvet, Kieslowski’s Color Trilogy, Kurosawa’s Ran and Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing – to look at perspectives that recognize the complex nature of color and its inscriptions in political networks.