BA Film Studies and Arabic / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Spectres of Fascism: Literature, Film and Visual Arts in Germany and Austria since 1945

Course unit fact file
Unit code GERM20902
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


In his seminal 1959 essay ‘The Meaning of Working Through the Past’, the philosopher Theodor Adorno makes the following claim: ‘National Socialism lives on, and even today we still do not know whether it is merely the ghost of what was so monstrous that it lingers on after its own death, or whether it has not yet died at all’. Against the backdrop of this stark assessment, this course unit sets out to investigate by what means and to what effect literature, film, and the visual arts have sought to confront the spectre of fascism in Germany and Austria since 1945: from the founding of the German Democratic Republic in the East to the ‘economic miracle’ in the West; and from Austria’s late reckoning with its Nazi past to recent controversies surrounding memorial culture in Vienna and Berlin. An indicative list of primary works includes: literature by survivors of Nazi persecution (from Anna Seghers to Nelly Sachs); visual arts in East and West Germany (from Elisabeth Voigt to Gerhard Richter); the student movement and the Frankfurt School (from Theodor Adorno to Angela Davis); the films of the ‘New German Cinema’ (from Fassbinder to Herzog); and cultural responses to Austria’s ‘Waldheim Affair’ (from Alfred Hrdlicka to Rachel Whiteread).


  • To develop knowledge and understanding of German and Austrian history, particularly of the post-war period
  • To develop key competencies in the critical analysis of post-war cultural production in Germany and Austria
  • 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 developed:

  • knowledge and understanding of German and Austrian history (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)

Knowledge and understanding

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

  • the principal movements and some key figures in German and Austrian literature, film, and visual art between 1945 and the present.
  • the key themes and forces that shaped German and Austrian society in the post-war period, especially the legacy of National Socialism.
  • the manner in which cultural production both shapes and reflects wider social and political processes across Germany and Austria.

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 oral presentation techniques

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

- 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  

Weighting within unit 






Resit Assessment


Feedback methods

  • Written commentary/essay feedback
  • Post-essay tutorials, if desired

Recommended reading

Set texts:                         Primary texts will be made available on VLE.


Recommended texts: Beller, Steven, A Concise History of Austria (Cambridge: C.U.P., 2006); Burns, Rob (ed.), German Cultural Studies: An Introduction (Oxford: O.U.P, 1995); Eckmann, Sabine, Gillen, Eckhart & Mathews, Francine (eds.), Art of Two Germanys (New York: Abrams, 2009); Elsaesser, Thomas, The New German Cinema: A History (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press); Fulbrook, Mary, A Concise History of Germany (Cambridge: C.U.P., 2004); Gordon, Peter, Hammer, Esper & Honneth, Axel, The Routledge Companion to the Frankfurt School (London: Routledge, 2020); Kolinsky, Eva & van der Will, Wilfried (eds.), The Cambridge Companion to Modern German Culture (Cambridge: C.U.P, 1998); Watanabe O’Kelly, Helen (ed.), The Cambridge History of German Literature (Cambridge, C.U.P, 2004).

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 11
Seminars 22
Independent study hours
Independent study 167

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Sebastian Truskolaski Unit coordinator

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