From the Other Side of the Wall: Reconstructing and Representing East German Identity
This course is a core offering designed for majors and minors in Germanics and will provide students with an understanding of how culture is defined, contested and how (and why) we study it. German 322 is also suitable for non-majors and students outside of the department, who will also receive writing credits for this class.
The focus of this course is the representation of East German culture and the construction of identity. Through an interdisciplinary examination of a range of literary and historical texts, film and other visual arts, students will gain insight into the social, historical and political context of Germany behind the Mauer. The divide between the two Germanies is an essential aspect to understanding and reflecting critically on modern German cultural identity. 25 years after reunification, Ostalgie and affection for East German culture remain prevalent. While popular films such as Goodbye Lenin and The Lives of Others provide perspectives on East Germany from West German directors, this course will strive to provide a more nuanced account of East German culture and identity through an exploration of perspectives from the other side of the wall. Overarching themes such as cultural and political taboos, gender and sexuality in the DDR and the representation and deconstruction of the 'unknown' East and DDR identity will be explored through an analysis of forbidden films, texts by female authors such as Christa Wolf and Monika Maron and the theater of Heiner Müller. We will examine both the minutiae of everyday life as well as the broader cultural and historical framework in order to understand and critically approach East German identity and the nature of life behind the wall, as well as the impact of the DDR and the Wende on the culture of contemporary Germany.
Requirements for the course include a midterm, journal entries and other short writing assignments, and a team project consisting of a final presentation and a written report. Readings and discussions are in German and English.