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BA Film Studies and German

Year of entry: 2020

Course unit details:
Revolution and Reaction in German Culture

Unit code GERM10350
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 1
Teaching period(s) Full year
Offered by German Studies
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


This course unit explores developments in German culture, principally literature and film, in terms of a dynamic of revolution and reaction during the making, unmaking and remaking of the modern German world. Spanning the eighteenth century to the present day, the course highlights moments of radical rupture in the development of German culture alongside persistent continuities. It begins with the German Enlightenment as an intellectual precursor of the French Revolution that challenges established hierarchies of authority. It examines progressive and revolutionary thinking, together with authoritarian reaction, in art and politics during the 19th-century struggle for civil rights, and national and individual self-determination. The birth of psychoanalysis is foregrounded in the early 20th century, as are ideas of radical subjectivity, which are explored in Expressionist art, overthrowing confidence in the rational self. Despite the extreme reactionary destructiveness of National Socialism, the cultural repercussions of early 20th-century achievements remain tangible today in second wave feminism and beyond. Similarly, the revival of revolutionary thinking and anti-imperialism characterized the Student Movement of 1968, which will be compared with the post-1989 critique of neo-liberal capitalism. The overthrow of the East German state is also viewed as a revolution. However, the renewed growth of populist politics in the light of the triumph of global capital has created its own form of nationalist reaction.  



Available on which programme(s)?

All programmes including German


Available as Free Choice (UG) or to other programmes (PG)?

Available as Free Choice



Pre-requisite units



Co-requisite units





  •  To develop knowledge and understanding of modern German culture
  • To develop critical thinking and higher order conceptual reasoning and analytical skills
  • To develop advanced skills of written and verbal communication

Learning outcomes

  • On successful completion of this course unit, students will have dev knowledge and understanding of German culture (see below)
  • a range of intellectual skills (see below)
  • a range of practical skills (see below)
  • a range of transferable skills (see below)
  • a range of employability skills (see below)


Semester 1 (NB each block will contain primary reading/viewing and some core related scholarship)

Block I: Aufkärung, Vormärz and Marxism: This block considers the impact of the intellectual revolution of the Enlightenment, and why it did not result in a political revolution as in France. It introduces politically progressive writers such as Büchner and Heine against the backdrop of both the writings of Marx and Engels, and the authoritarian politics of Prussia and the other German states. We look at the failed 1848 revolution and its aftermath, including unexpected connections with Manchester.

Primary Texts may include: Immanuel Kant, ‘Was ist Aufklärung’ 1784 (excerpt); Georg Büchner, Woyzeck 1837; Friedrich Engels, Die Lage der arbeitenden Klasse in England 1845 (excerpts); Heinrich Heine, poetry and Ideen: Das Buch Le Grand (excerpts).

Additional learning activity: visit to Chetham’s Library and historic walk to sites described by Engels in 1845.

Block 2: Psychoanalysis, Expressionism, Radical Subjectivity. This block considers the significance of the new discipline of psychoanalysis from the early to the late twentieth century. Already in the nineteenth century Georg Büchner had explored the fragility of the human psyche, but now it was scientifically documented and better understood. As we will see Freud’s ideas on the centrality of sexuality continue to resonate throughout the century, in the writings of second wave feminism and beyond.

Primary materials may include: Art of ‘Die Brücke’/’Der blaue Reiter’; Sigmund Freud, ‘Über Psychoanalyse’ 1910; Georg Heym, ‘Der Irre’ 1913; Ingeborg Bachmann, ‘Ein Schritt nach Gomorrha’ 1961; Verena Stefan, Häutungen 1975 (excerpt)



Semester 2

Block 3: Student Movement, New Left, Neo-Liberalism. This block examines the New Left thinking that emerged in the 1960s, especially as manifested in the 1968 Student Movement. In the FRG this was connected to the young generation’s reaction against their parents’ responsibility for National Socialism, but the legacy of New Left thinking can also be seen in more recent critiques of Neo-liberal capitalism. The films in this block are contemporaneous but exemplify very different film aesthetics: genre cinema and Berlin School. Primary material may include the films:

Uli Edel, Der Baader Meinhof Komplex 2008; Christian Petzold, Yella 2007; Harun Farocki, Nothing Ventured 2004


Block 4: Uunification: Revolution and Normalisation. This block looks at the consequences of the overthrow of the socialist German state for a united German identity. After the initial euphoria reunification unleashed a great deal of debate about the competing cultural memories giving rise to German identity, and about the position of immigrant populations in the new Germany.

Primary texts may include: Stefan Heym, ‘Auf Sand gebaut’ 1990;  Günter de Bruyn, ‘Unzeitgemäßes’ 2001;

Zafer ¿enocak, ‘Gedanken zum 8. Mai 1995’  2001; Jadé Kara, Selam Berlin 2003 (excerpt); Günter Grass, Im Krebsgang 2002 (excerpt) 

Teaching and learning methods

Lectures and Seminars


Visit to Chetham’s Library

Historic walk

Knowledge and understanding

On successful completion of this course unit, students will have a knowledge and understanding of:

  • important intellectual and cultural developments in the modern German-speaking world
  • the work of key writers, artists and film makers in this period
  • basic textual and film-analytical methods


Intellectual skills

  • Critical thinking – capacity to abstract, analyse and make critical judgements
  • Synthesis and analysis of data and information
  • Critical reflection and evaluation
  • Expression – able to make a reasoned argument for a particular point of view
  • Decision-Making – able to draw reasoned conclusions

Practical skills

  • Using library, electronic and online resources
  • Essay writing and exam technique

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Information Retrieval – ability independently to gather, sift, synthesise and organise material from various sources (including library, electronic and online resources), and to critically evaluate its significance
  • Presentation – present information, ideas and arguments, orally and in writing, with due regard to the target audience
  • Literacy – the capacity both to make written presentations using appropriate language for a target population and to collect and integrate evidence to formulate and test a hypothesis
  • Time Management – ability to schedule tasks in order of importance and work to deadlines
  • Improving own Learning – ability to improve one's own learning through planning, monitoring, critical reflection, evaluate and adapt strategies for one's learning

Employability skills

Analytical skills
demonstrate powers of analysis
Group/team working
participate constructively in group activities
Project management
manage time and work to deadlines
Oral communication
assess the relevance and importance of the ideas of others
Written communication
present information, ideas and arguments, orally and in writing, with due regard to the target audience

Assessment methods


Assessment task

Formative or Summative


Weighting within unit (if summative)



1,000 words (Week 7)


Examination (also a commentary)


1.5 hour (January)


Essay (Sem 2)


2,000 words (Mon Week 13)


Presentation (Sem 2)


Each student participates in one 10-minute presentation during Sem 2




2,000-word essay

 Submitted in summer resit period



Feedback methods


Feedback method

Formative or Summative

  • Comments made during class discussion regarding the relevance and coherence of student responses/participation in discussion


  • Comments on commentary


  • Advice on revision and exam preparation


  • Post-exam feedback

Summative and formative

  • Advice on essay


  • Comments on essay

Summative and formative

  • Oral and written comments on presentation

Summative and formative


Recommended reading

Abel, Marco, The Counter-Cinema of the Berlin School, Rochester NY: Camden House, 2013

Allinson, Mark, Germany and Austria 1814-2000 2nd Ed., London: Bloomsbury, 2014

Assmann, Jan, ‘Collective Memory and Cultural Identity’, trans. John Czaplicka, New German Critique, 65 (1995), 125-133

Burns, Rob, German Cultural Studies: An Introduction, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995

Cooke, Paul, Chris Homewood, New Directions in German Cinema, London: I.B.Taurus, 2011

Diner, Dan, ‘Restitution and Memory: The Holocaust in European Political Cultures’, New German Critique, 90 (2003), 36-44

Petropoulos, Jonathan, Irene Kacandes, Scott D. Denham, A User’s Guide to German Cultural Studies, Ann Arbor MI: University of Michigan Press, 1997

Taberner, Stuart (ed), Contemporary German Fiction: Writing in the Berlin Republic, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007

Taberner, Stuart, Frank Finlay (ed), Recasting German Identity: Culture, Politics and Literature in the Berlin Republic, Rochester NY: Camden House, 2002

Wilds, Karl, ‘Identity, Creation and the Culture of Contrition: Recasting “Normality” in the Berlin Republic’, German Politics, 9 (2000), 83-102

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 11
Seminars 11
Independent study hours
Independent study 178

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Corinne Painter Unit coordinator
Christina Littler Unit coordinator

Additional notes



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