Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Academic Year
Intended for use in future years

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Lecture 11 hours
Seminars / Tutorials 9 hours
Workload Breakdown Formal tuition: 20 hours; preparation specifically for classes: 40 hours; assessment (preparation and writing): 80 hours; private study: 160 hours.


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment Continuous Assessment Written:  1 x 4,000 word essay  75%
Semester Assessment Continuous Assessment Oral:  2 x oral presentations (20 mins.) on topics of students choice  25%
Supplementary Assessment Written:  Essay on a different topic (=75%), and / or, if C/A is failed because of failure of oral component only, a piece of written work (1500 words) to be submitted in lieu of oral work (=25%). 

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:

1. Demonstrate an understanding of key political events in German 20th century history and their depiction in different media (journalism, arts);
2. Analyse the complexity of the relationship between arts and politics and its extreme forms in 20th century Germany;
3. Engage critically with the content and style of a wide range of literary and journalistic texts as well as films;
4. Engage critically different theoretical approaches to the study of culture, relate general theoretical issues to particular case studies in a critical fashion, discuss and evaluate critically the pros and cons of various approaches and frameworks used to study culture and be able to articulate their own stance on these debates;
5. Express themselves clearly, coherently and in a logical fashion, orally and in writing.


This module is designed to be an optional module in the new MA in Modern European Culture scheme. It explores the much-discussed relationship between politics and the arts. The module focuses on analyzing a variety of texts, including literature, newspapers and magazines, as well as films. It will investigate how political events have been 'staged' by politicians, and the main reasons for, as well as the consequences of, this aesthetization of politics. The module will also scrutinise the correlation between fascism and political aesthetics that Walter Benjamin claimed to be unique, and identify hidden and not-so-hidden aesthetic 'persuaders' (Vance Packard) that are used to shape people's perceptions of political events. Moreover, artistic discussions seeking to define a 'political aestheticism' and consider the consequences of such an approach for art will be explored.

Brief description

During the 20th century, Germany experienced a series of core political events:

1. the first World War, the end of the Kaiserreich and the attempted Communist revolution
2. the eventful years of the Weimar Republic
3. the National Socialist dictatorship and the Second World War (1933-45)
4. the split of Germany and the establishment of the Communist state of the GDR (1949-89)
5. in the FRG the students' revolution of 1968
6. unification in 1990

Each of these events was commented on by artists of the time, but, just as importantly, political developments were accompanied and even shaped by aesthetic ideas. Both the aesthetic ambition in politics and the political commitment of art, particularly literature and film, will be looked at. Areas of investigation range from the cultural debates of the Weimar Republic, the self-presentation of National Socialism, anti-fascist aesthetics both during and after World War II, to the aftermath of unification.


Week 1: Introduction: On the relationship of art and politics in Germany (2 hours (lectures))

Week 2: How to deal with modernity. Aesthetic strategies for political problems in the Weimar Republic (2 hours (1 lecture, 1 seminar))
Case study: Bert Brecht/Slatan Dudow, 'Kuhle Wampe' (1932)

Week 3: Theory of Art and Politics. Walter Benjamin's 'Das Kunstwerk im Zeitalter seiner technischen Reproduzierbarkeit' (1936) (2 hours (1 lecture, 1 seminar))

Week 4: The Aesthetics of Fascism (2 hours (1 lecture, 1 seminar))
Case Study: Leni Riefenstahl, 'Triumph des Willens' (1935)

Week 5: The Aesthetics of Anti-Fascism (2 hours (1 lecture, 1 seminar))
Case Study: Expressionismus vs. Realismus: The political-aesthetical debate in German Exile Journals (1937-39)

Week 6: The Aesthetics of Communism - The GDR (2 hours (1 lecture, 1 seminar))
Case Study: Socialist Realism: Christa Wolf, 'Der geteilte Himmel' (1963) Cultural Politics in the GDR

Week 7: The Aesthetics of Communism - The GDR (II) (2 hours (1 lecture, 1 seminar))
Case Study: Cultural Politics in the GDR

Week 8: The Aesthetics of Democracy - The FRG (2 hours (1 lecture, 1 seminar))
Case Study: The Aesthetics of Revolution: 'Unter den Talaren' - 1968; Politics in Sneakers: How the Green Party changed German politics

Week 9: The Aesthetics of Democracy - The FRG (II) (2 hours (1 lecture, 1 seminar))
Case Study: Politics in Sneakers: How the Green Party changed German politics

Week 10: The Aesthetics of Unification and Beyond (2 hours (1 lecture, 1 seminar))
Case Study: A New German Patriotism? Media coverage of the 2006 Football World Cup

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Application of Number n/a
Communication Participating in seminars, delivering an oral presentation, and writing of essay will require student to express their ideas clearly, cogently and coherently.
Improving own Learning and Performance Independent preparation for essay and seminars, independent research for essay and seminars.
Information Technology Students will be required to access bibliographical information and to submit word processed essays. (indirectly assessed)
Personal Development and Career planning Student will be expected to show an ability to manage their own time effectively and to engage in independent lines of research in preparing their essays. (indirectly assessed)
Problem solving Selection of reading material, answering questions posed by written assessment, seminar work.
Research skills By relating literary texts to historical, cultural and theoretical contexts and by synthesising information in an evaluative argument.
Subject Specific Skills Developed by engaging both in English and German with historical, political, literary and cultural issues encountered in a range of German cultural productions of the twentieth century.
Team work This will apply in the seminars.

Reading List

Essential Reading
Brecht, Bert and Slatan Dudow Kuhle Wampe (Film) Primo search Riefenstahl, Leni Triumph des Willens (Film) Primo search German Exile Magazines (covering of Expressionism debate) Primo search Journalistic coverage in the German-language Media of the following topics: 1968; the Green party; Patriotismus/WM. Primo search Benjamin, Walter Das Kunstwerk im Zeitalter seiner technischen Reproduzierbarkeit (excerpts) Primo search Wolf, Christa Der geteilte Himmel Primo search
Recommended Text
Barck, Karlheinz und Richard Faber (Hg.) (1999) Ästhetik des Politischen - Politik des Ästhetischen Würzburg Primo search Berg Schlosser, Dirk (1993) Political Culture in Germany New York Primo search Fulbrook, Mary (ed.) (2001) Twentieth-Century Germany: Politics, Culture and Society since 1918 London and New York Primo search Hartung, Günter (1984) Literatur und Ästhetik des deutschen Faschismus Berlin Primo search Herf, Jeffrey (1984) Reactionary Modernism. Technology, Culture and Politics in Weimar and the Third Reich Cambridge (MA) Primo search Huyssen, Andreas (1995) Twilight Memories: Marking Time in a Culture of Amnesia New York Primo search Kösser, Uta (2006) Ästhetik und Moderne. Konzepte und Kategorien im Wandel Erlangen Primo search Richard, Lionel (1982) Deutscher Faschismus und Kultur München Primo search Stamp Miller, Ann (2004) The Cultural Politics of the German Democratic Republic Boca Raton Primo search


This module is at CQFW Level 7