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Durham University

School of Modern Languages and Cultures: German Studies

Picturing the Past of the German-Speaking Countries

Academic year 2018-2019

The turbulent past of German-speaking Europe has always generated a wide range of responses and interpretations, and continues to do so. This module focuses on visual and material culture, setting out to examine the relationship that visual art, film, photography, memorial art, architecture, and other related media have to the past. What do pictures tell us about the past? Why should we employ visual and material culture to shed light on the past? How does visual culture reflect, illuminate, and interpret key events of the German past – such as the various revolutions of the modern era, the World Wars, the Weimar republic, the catastrophe of National Socialism and the Holocaust, division and reunification, the fall of the Berlin wall? How are the legacies of the past represented and worked through in films, images, monuments, memorials? How do cultural artefacts shape the perception and understanding of the past? In attending to these questions, this course reflects on both the visualization of history and the history of visual culture in the German-speaking countries.

Films/text likely to be studied in 2018-19 include:

  • Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari
  • Nosferatu
  • Metropolis

Recommended secondary reading:

  • Thomas Elsaesser (2000), Weimar Cinema and After: Germany's Historical Imaginary, London: Routledge
  • Anton Kaes (2009), Shell Shock Cinema. Weimar Culture and the Wounds of War, Princeton; Oxford: Princeton University Press
  • Sabine Hake (2002), German National Cinema, London: Routledge

Module Coordinators

Dr Benjamin Schaper, Room A14, Elvet Riverside I

Further details of pre-requisites, co-requisites, aims, contact hours and assessment