Sign In   |   View Cart   |     |   Help
Email to a friend


Brecht in Exile: Emphasizing Women in his Work and Life   

Marion Gerlind Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956) was a prominent German playwright and poet in the 20th century. In this interactive seminar, we’ll explore a selection of his most famous plays written in exile as well as reflect on some of his popular poems, intended to be understood by ordinary people. We’ll discuss his “epic theater” and Verfremdungseffekt, a term he used to describe the technique to prevent audiences from passively identifying with the characters. Taking a closer look at the female figures in Brecht’s plays in particular, we’ll examine whether the roles of women were depicted as gender stereotypical or emancipatory. We’ll also give credit to the women who collaborated with Brecht, mostly behind the scenes, and whose creative gifts contributed significantly to “his” masterpieces, especially Helene Weigel, Elisabeth Hauptmann, Margarete Steffin, and Ruth Berlau. Conducted in English, this seminar is comprised of short lectures, guiding study questions, close reading and discussion in small groups, and facilitated whole group discussions. First Week: Señora Carrar’s Rifles and other texts A play about the widow, Señora Carrar, is torn between protecting her sons at home and letting them go to the front in the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939). Second Week: Mother Courage and Her Children, a classic play of the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648). Third Week: The Causasian Chalk Circle Set in the Soviet Union after World War II, members of two kolchos villages meet toresolve a dispute about the rights to a valley. Fourth Week: Women in Brecht’s Work and Women’s Work with Brecht Germany in 1935: Judith Keith, a Jewish woman, decides to leave her home, country, and her Christian husband and move into exile as she experiences the threat of Nazism. Fifth Week: Life of Galileo Italian Renaissance scientist Galileo Galilei struggles for freedom from authoritarian dogma. Sixth Week: Brecht’s Poems Although Brecht is best known in the USA for his theater work, many of his poems are famous and taught in German-speaking countries. He combined poetic sensibility and social consciousness Marion Gerlind, Ph.D., founded and currently directs the Gerlind Institute for Cultural Studies, a community-based educational organization, in Oakland. Originally from Hamburg, Germany, Marion has taught university-level courses in German and English more than 20 years. She is especially interested in German literature and history of the 20th and 21st centuries, gender and diversity studies, oral history, popular culture, and film. It is highly recommended that you study assigned texts in preparation for each session (80-100 pages per week). Texts and additional resources in electronic format will be made available to the class. A course reader (hard copy) will also be available and may be purchased for $21.00 plus tax at Instant Copying & Laser Printing, 2138 University Ave, Berkeley, CA 94704, Telephone (510) 704-9700. Email to be connected with course material.


  • Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at San Francisco State University
    835 Market Street, Sixth Floor, San Francisco, CA 94103
    Phone: (415) 817-4243 Website: