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Topics Courses Offered, Spring 2022

Topics courses cover a wide variety of content, allowing students to explore different subject matter while fulfilling the requirements for the major or minor.

GRMN 295 / WLIT 215 Topics: German Jewish Literature, Prof. Howard Pollack-Milgate
In this course, we will examine the rich and ongoing story of the encounter between German and Jewish culture, including its highest points, the so-called “German-Jewish symbiosis,” its tragic catastrophes, and its improbable next chapter(s).  We will investigate this story by reading literary (and, occasionally, other) texts of its key participants, including Lessing, Moses Mendelssohn, Heine, Kafka, Freud, Celan, and Arendt.  We will begin with the literary announcement of the ideals of emancipation and assimilation in the Jewish Enlightenment; discuss the struggle for both acceptance and maintenance of a separate identity in the 19th century; examine older and newer forms of anti-Semitism, including narratives of Orientalism, race, and blood; attempt to understand the traumatic events of the Holocaust; and survey the complexities of the recent revival of Jewish life in Germany, including its at times tense relationship with Islam.    Emphasis will be placed on vital aspects of contemporary Judaism which originated in a German-language context (such as the Reform movement and Zionism), as well as the profound influence of German-Jewish intellectuals on German and world culture.
We will investigate questions such as:  How acculturated can one become while retaining other parts of one’s identity, and how does literature function as a means of announcing and enacting such assimilation and separateness?  How did literature portray and motivate anti-Semitic stereotypes of Jewish men and women?  What, if any, sort of literature can mourn the trauma of the Holocaust?  How do contemporary writers incorporate and transcend the long history of German-Jewish relationship? 
HIST 300 Topics: Black Germany, Prof. Julia Bruggemann

This course will introduce students to the world of Black Germans. People of African descent have lived in Europe and Germany since antiquity and have been a part of Central European and German history and culture. We will consider the legacies of antiquity, the medieval conception of race, nineteenth century experiences of African in Germany, German colonialism, the rise of the Nazis, and the varied experiences of Afro-Germans after the World wars. Along the way, we will have the opportunity to critically examine the changing definitions of race, the impact of racism and nationalism, and the lived realities and responses of Black and White Germans to these developments.

We will read scholarly texts, but also excerpts of biographies and other media that will allow students to examine and empathize with the experiences of Black people in Germany as well as understand the persistence of racism and nationalism. We will also encounter Black German activism and compare it to BLM and other US domestic developments.