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

Course Catalog

German Literature and Film of the Weimar Republic  

Marion Gerlind, Ph.D. In this interactive seminar we will read and reflect on literature as well as watch and discuss films of the Weimar Republic (1919–33), one of the most creative periods in German history, following the traumatic Word War I and revolutionary times. Many of the critical issues and challenges during these short 14 years are still relevant today. The Weimar Republic was not only Germany’s first democracy, but also a center of cultural experimentation, producing cutting-edge art. We’ll explore some of the most popular works: Hermann Hesse’s Indian poem Siddhartha, Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill’s musical play, The Threepenny Opera, Irmgard Keun’s bestseller The Artificial Silk Girl, Leontine Sagan’s classic film Girls in Uniform, Joseph von Sternberg’s original film The Blue Angel, Anna Seghers’ novel The Revolt of the Fishermen, as well as compelling poetry by Else Lasker-Schüler, Gertrud Kolmar, and Mascha Kaléko. This course will be conducted in English. Active participation and preparation is highly encouraged! Participants are asked to study text(s) in preparation for each session. Your instructor will provide study questions and introduce the (con)texts in short lectures; the class will have the opportunity to discuss the literature/film in small and large groups. Authors’ biographies will be considered in the socio-historical background of their work. A course reader (hard copy) can be acquired for $35 + tax. Works are in English translation. Week 1 - Literature: Siddhartha (1922) - “Wisdom cannot be passed on.” This famous novel recounts the spiritual journey of a Brahmin’s son named Siddhartha living in India at the time of Buddha. Hesse began writing Siddhartha in exile in 1919, only one year after the end of World War I, which had devastated Europe. Week 2 - Literature/Play: The Threepenny Opera (Die Dreigroschenoper). “Borrowing” from John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera, dramatist Bertolt Brecht and composer Kurt Weill’s play became a huge success in Berlin in 1928, commonly regarded as the first play of the so-called epic theatre (which Brecht later called dialectical theatre). “Food is the first thing — morals follow on.” Week 3 - Film: The Blue Angel (1930) - An adaptation of Heinrich Mann’s 1905 novel Professor Unrat (Professor Garbage), The Blue Angel is transposed into the Weimar Republic at the end of its “wild” years. “Falling in love again ... I can't help it.” Week 4 - Literature: The Artificial Silk Girl (1932) - This novel, published in 1932, became a bestseller right away. Will Doris, the young protagonist, succeed in starting a new life and becoming ein Glanz (a glamour) in the “golden twenties” as she ventures out to the big city: Berlin? “I’m going to be a star, and then everything I do will be right...” Week 5 - Film: Mädchen in Uniform (Girls in Uniform) - Fourteen-year old Manuela von Meinhardis (Hertha Thiele), who lost her mother at a young age, is sent to a boarding school for girls where authoritarian Prussian discipline stifles the students. Drama unfolds when Manuela falls in love with a kind and affectionate teacher. “Don’t think! Obey!” Week 6 - Literature/Novel: The Revolt of the Fishermen of Santa Barbara - In Anna Seghers’ novel, the fishermen are resisting their employers’ exploitative working conditions. However, looking deeper into their and their families’ impoverished lives, the fishermen are fighting desperately not only for livable wages but also for humanity. “A three-fifths share and a new tariff rate!” Week 7 - Literature/Poetry: Multiple works - Despite their prominence in Germany, Mascha Kaléko, Gertrud Kolmar and Else Lasker-Schüler’s works are not well known in the English-speaking world. All three lived in Berlin during the Weimar Republic, making a name for themselves as German poets of Jewish heritage (Kaléko as a Polish-Jewish immigrant). "You hear me speak. But do you hear me feel?" Marion Gerlind, Ph.D., is the founder and executive director of the Gerlind Institute for Cultural Studies, a community-based and community-supported educational organization in Oakland. Originally from Hamburg, Germany, Marion has taught courses in German and English language, literature and culture at college and community settings for more than 20 years. She is especially interested in gender and diversity studies, oral history, popular culture, and film of the 20th and 21st centuries. An experienced facilitator, she creates, and thrives in, interactive classrooms where everyone’s participation is encouraged.


This class is not available at this time.