Thursday, May 3, 2012

Looking for a Summer Culture Studies Class? Consider GER-E 121 Freaks, Geeks, and Misfits: An Introduction to German Cultural History


My name is Chris Chiasson, and I will be teaching) the Introduction to German Cultural History (GER-E 121) in the first summer session.  The course fulfills IUB GenEd World Culture Credit, the COLL S&H Breadth of Inquiry Credit, or the COLL Global Civ and Culture Credit in the first summer session.

GER-E 121 Freaks, Geeks, and Misfits: An Introduction to German Cultural History

Loners, gypsies, hopeless romantics, losers, & punks---they are the core

material of German culture, but why? The misfit has a unique place in German cultural history because s/he represents Germany (and German-ness) itself: Germany did not achieve the status of a nation-state until 1871, centuries after France, England, and Spain had done so, and Austria did not emerge from the medieval bureaucracy and quasi-statehood of the multi-ethnic Austro-Hungarian Empire until 1918. Germans have both taken pride in their difference and been ashamed of their “backwardness,” often at the same time. The figure of the misfit thus embodies their own relationship to their more “enlightened” neighbors to the west.

In this class, we will follow the figure of the misfit in various forms, guises, and media from the emergence of German national consciousness in the 1770s to today. We will start from the question: how are the normal and the everyday defined, and how is the abnormal created? Looking at literary, sociological, medical, biological, psychological, philosophical, and political texts, as well as art and architecture, film and music (if people are willing), and one graphic novel, we will consider in a broad sweep the fate of the outsider in German culture, whether it is the revolutionary of the 1840s, the hysteric of the 1890s, the terrorist of the 1960s, or the Turkish minority of today.

Students will write two 3-5 page papers, make one presentation, and take a final exam.

The two texts that students need to purchase are:

Goethe, Johann Wolfgang. The Sorrows of Young Werther. Trans. Burton Pike. Modern Library Classics, 2004.

ISBN: 978-0812969900

Lutes, Jason. Berlin: City of Stones. Drawn and Quarterly, 2001.

ISBN: 978-1896597294

All other readings will be available either through Oncourse or e-reserve and should be printed out and brought to class. Any questions regarding this course should be addressed to Chris Chiasson at