melzer-photoUndergraduate Courses

GERMAN 0868 German Society in Literature and Film
This course looks at literature and film to learn about German culture (in English: you don’t need to speak German to take this course!). Some of the issues that we discuss include family structures and how they are changing, gender relations, national self-perceptions, pivotal moments in history, economic issues, social change and diversity. We read fiction and non-fiction and view feature and documentary films to learn about elements of German culture and its relationship to its European neighbors. Students completing this course learn to identify the major trends in German society today and to evaluate and compare issues and problems in German and American society.

GERMAN 1001, 1002, 1003: Introduction to German I, II, III
I. Classroom work devoted to understanding and speaking German and the reading of graded texts. Laboratory and videotape work stress pronunciation, aural, and oral drills based on an elementary workbook, aimed at communication.
II. Emphasis on understanding, speaking, reading, and writing German. Laboratory and videotapes stress communication skills.
III. Review of grammar. Reading and discussion of texts of intermediate difficulty.

GERMAN 2041: Reading I
This course focuses on developing reading strategies for the advanced intermediate student. Through theory and practice using a broad range of documents, this course provides a bridge from foundation courses to those dealing with more sophisticated primary texts. The topic of the course “The Stranger and the Lover” aims at providing a thematic context and narrative coherence between the texts. Both terms are broadly defined as they appear in the readings and hopefully will address a variety of interests. We will read texts defining the terms “fremd” and “Liebe” and their diverse meanings. We will read about the social alienation and marginalization of specific groups (such as within Nazi Germany and contemporary German society), as well as investigate the relationship of East- and West-Germans after unification. Love during war times as well as the love of the (cultural) other are topics and we end the semester with student presentations on the topics of stranger/lover. In addition to reading German pieces we will also watch two German films.

GERMAN 3221 German Culture Through Film                                                                              This course examines German cinema in the context of its relationship to German culture and history with particular focus on how social differences such as gender, class and race are constructed through film. Because film is an art form of creative expression as well as a vehicle for promoting awareness of social concerns, the course will introduce techniques of viewing, analyzing, and evaluating films as expressions of the contemporary culture. Basing our work on films of historical significance and those by premier directors, the course will explore the beginnings of the film industry, Nazi propaganda, the impact of the Obernhausen Manifesto, New German Films, and issues of gender and politics since the Wende. The primary purpose of the course is to learn about aspects of German culture of the past 100 years through representations in film. Students gain insight into German culture by discussing the films’ representations of historical events, political developments and social conflicts. Analytical categories that provide a framework for our readings of the film include among others gender, race, class, sexuality and nationality. Weekly readings provide background information that assists us in understanding the context of the films’ production and reception, as well as the impact they have/had on German culture.

GERMAN 4140 Seminar in Special Topic
Race, Gender, Sexuality and Nation in Weimar Culture                                                       (cross-listed with GSWS 4000)                                                                                                     How could Hitler come to power in a country that was considered to have the most advanced science, technology, literature, philosophy and art of its time, and whose Jewish citizens contributed to all areas of society? How could a repressive and homophobic regime emerge from a culture that also brought about the progressive Institute for Sexology? How did a new consumerism contribute to the complacency of many Germans in the face of a violent fascism? This class explores the contradictions in German culture during the Weimar Republic (1918-33), with particular attention to its urban centers: Berlin was considered the European capital of artistic and experimental subcultures as well as the hotbed for radical politics, whose decadent Bohemian culture of sexual experimentation, drug use, women’s liberation and cabaret existed side by side with abject poverty and street violence. We will explore the explosive forces of the German Weimar Republic whose immense cultural and scientific achievements were influential worldwide. Thereby we will pay attention to how concepts of race, gender, sexuality and nation shaped the debates of the time. We will watch movies, read literature and graphic novels, and learn about the Weimar Republic’s complicated political landscape and history. All films are subtitled and readings are in English. Insights of this class will help us understand a global historical moment that shaped the history of the world. Course material include historical readings, art, films, literary and other cultural texts.

German Minorities and Cultural Identities: Gendered Dimensions
(cross-listed with GSWS 3000)                                                                                                Germany has vibrant migrant communities, with ethnic and racial groups from places as diverse as Turkey, Italy, Greece, Morocco, East Africa and Russia. This course looks at the presence of minority communities in Germany today, their history and cultural influences as well as economic contributions. Our main analytical leans is gender – how the German host culture is shaped by concepts of femininity and masculinity, sexuality, family and a gendered divisions of labor and how these concepts are challenged and/or shored up by various ethnic communities. We look at both the perception of migrants by white/native Germans (how are they portrayed in the media, film and politics?) and we explore the voice of the “Other”, i.e. minority communities experiences living in Germany and how this influences their own cultural identities. Questions we ask include: How does the experience of im/migration affect the identity of minorities living in Germany? What does “deutsche Kultur” (German culture) mean today? Our focus will be on how gender shapes and underlies much of these discussions on minorities in Germany as well as their negotiations of conflicting expectations of community and larger “German” culture. Course material include critical readings, films and other cultural texts.

GSWS 3722 Women and Political Violence                                                                                This course examines the debate on gender and political violence, with particular focus on the participation of women in left terrorist and other militant groups, who often identify as revolutionaries and/or freedom fighters. Female terrorists in various cultural settings are generally demonized as being more dangerous and violent than their male counterparts or their roles are de-politicized as misguided, seduced lovers of the “real” male terrorist. They inspire a gendered discourse that reflects a cultural unease around the notion of women participating in political violence. This unease is mirrored in feminist theories on women and violence that emerged in the 1970s and were cemented during the peace movement in the 1980s, in which women’s political resistance was defined as non-violent. We discuss this contradiction between the feminist definition of women’s political strategies as “naturally” non-violent and the conscious employment of political violence by women from the 1950s until today. During the course of the semester, we discuss women’s participation in (mainly left) militant groups in regard to three major themes, which can be understood as components of the gendered debate on political violence:

  1. theories of revolutionary violence and how they are gendered;
  2. selected case studies of groups’ political actions and motivations, and women’s participation within them;
  3. cultural responses to women’s employment of political violence.

We encounter these themes throughout the semester, not necessarily in chronological order. Instead, we will investigate how these three components of the debate interact and shape each other.

GSWS 2051 Critical Race Theory and Feminist Implications
Building from the ground breaking critical race theory texts that emerged within legal academia during the early 1990’s this course will consider the historical underpinnings of this literature and its implications for future feminist theory and practice. The course will investigate the limits of liberal legal remedies in addressing the severe social realities faced by many women of color. We will pay particular attention to the persistence of structural, institutional, representational and everyday racism despite the rejection of race as a viable biological concept with regards to the human species. The experiences and cultural representations of women and men, and sexual identity will be discussed alongside feminist theories of intersectionality and the limits of those. The course will consider how core concepts from critical race theory are deployed within transnational feminist thought and activism.

GSWS 2002/LGBT 2400 Sexual Difference in the Cinema                                                     This is an introductory class on how women and female (homo)sexuality are represented in U.S. film. The focus of the class lies on the Hollywood movie’s construction of both femininity and masculinity as dominant ideal gender identities, and the social context around these representations. In our discussions of how social categories such as gender, race, and class construct representations of (same-sex) desire in film, we draw on mainly feminist and queer theories. While we watch movies in chronological order of their respective production year, this is not a survey course on (queer) U.S. film. Instead, the films are selected as examples for representations that inform our understandings of, and resistances to, social norms of femininity and female sexuality. In general, the course is discussion based (seminar style), and active participation of students is strongly encouraged. The primary objective of the course is to expand our understanding of how notions of femininity and female sexuality are produced in cinematic productions in the U.S., as well as develop critical reading skills of the texts in questions.

GSWS 3236 Gender and Technology in Popular Culture
The wider context of this seminar is how science and technology influence and shape the world we live in. The focus is on gender related approaches – in what way does technology and its representations shape gender identity – and how this is reflected in popular culture, such as in the science fiction novel and film. Some points of discussion are feminist critiques of technology, reproductive technologies, virtual reality, and alternative technologies as they are developed as theoretical concepts on the one hand, and are mirrored in science fiction, on the other.

GSWS 3000 Topics in Women’s Studies                                                                                   Transnational Feminisms: An Introduction
This course explores the diverse ways in which gender “works” in different cultural and national contexts, and the feminist practices and resistance that evolve within those contexts. “Gender” indicates the ways in which our social lives are organized around categories of male and female – in relation to work, family, sexuality, culture, and nation. We will investigate how these historically and geographically situated workings of gender are affected by globalization. The course aims at dismantling notions of a “Western” feminism as the “original” feminism that is spreading to the rest of the world, especially “Third World” countries. Instead, we investigate the complex strategies employed by women in responding to specific gendered experiences: how do “global feminisms” develop through the connections between gendered ideologies, national infrastructures, transnational migrations, and global capitalism? As we analyze the workings of power and gender in different cultural settings and within international feminist debates, we explore the ways in which women have organized and expressed political and social resistance.

GSWS/LGBT 2405 Gay and Lesbian Lives                                                                                    In this course we read autobiographical accounts (memoirs, essays, diaries, and poems) and other cultural texts in which a significant portion of the narrative focuses on same-sex erotic attraction and/or gender difference, identified in contemporary society by the label Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender/Intersex or Queer. The works were selected both to examine how gay and lesbian lives have been defined and altered over the course of the last sixty years and to provide a perspective of national, ethnic, religious, and racial diversity. Our main focus in the classroom is discussion of these texts and their contexts.

Other undergraduate courses taught
Introduction to Women’s Studies
Living for Change: Narratives of Women in Radical Social Movements
International Women’s Writing
Border Crossings: Gendered Dimensions of Globalization
Foundations in Women’s Studies
Feminist Theory
Queer Theory

Graduate Courses

GSWS 8001 Introduction to Feminist Studies
This course is designed to introduce students to feminist theories and debates surrounding their conceptual claims and how they have shaped the academic field of women, gender, and feminist studies. We read and critically discuss feminist approaches to analyzing and criticizing gender relations that have inspired feminist interventions into disciplinary methodologies. Central to our feminist inquiries is how gender oppression relates to other systems of oppression, such as economic and social privilege, normative sexualities, and imperialism and racism. The objective of this course is twofold: to familiarize students with the major currents and debates in the interdisciplinary field of feminist studies, and to give them the tools to identify and participate in debates around gender and sexuality in their discipline. Theories, and how their analysis of power extends to methodologies, production of knowledge and claims of “truth,” are the central focus of this course.

GSWS 9991 Seminar in Feminist Research
Colloquium-style research seminar. Students present research on topics related to gender and feminist theory. Discussions depend on common readings on what constitutes feminist research and focus on an analysis and critique of the papers presented.

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