BA Politics and German

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Revolution and Reaction in German Culture

Course unit fact file
Unit code GERM10350
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 1
Teaching period(s) Full year
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 to all programmes including German.



  • 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 

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  

  • Textual analysis, Essay writing  


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

On successful completion of this course unit, students will be able to: manage time and work to deadlines participate constructively in group activities assess the relevance and importance of the ideas of others present information, ideas and arguments, orally and in writing, with due regard to the target audience demonstrate powers of analysis

Assessment methods

Assessment task  

Formative or Summative 

Weighting within unit (if summative) 

Commentary (Sem 1)



Essay (Sem 2) 



Presentation (Sem 2) 




Resit Assessment

Assessment task  

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 discussionFormative
Comments on commentaryFormative
Comments on presentation Summative and Formative
Advice on essayFormative
Comments on essaySummative 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 16
Seminars 17
Independent study hours
Independent study 167

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Matthew Jefferies Unit coordinator

Additional notes

Language of Instruction: English- materials are available both in German (post-A-Level) and English (Beginners in German)

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